Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o for her new blockbuster film Black Panther. On my way to interview the smart and stunning actress I met her hairstylist Vernon François. Vernon is one of the most creative and celebrated hair stylists in the biz and has a wicked sense of humor!

It’s a great treat to share both his and Lupita’s interview regarding styling the Allure cover shoot with braids, dazzling jewels and voluminous curls as well as talking culture and the shifting sands of social change.

Lupita Nyong’o on shaving her head as a teenager:

“I went into the hair salon, and I said, ‘Let’s cut it off.’ It was almost a dare to myself: Can I live without hair? He shaved it right off. It was so scary but so liberating because I went completely bald.”

 Nyong’o on the language of hair:

“I like the term ‘kinky.’ Some people don’t like that term, but when I think about my hair, I think of it as African kinky hair.”

Nyong’o on Black Panther:

“On set, it was just such an inspirational experience because so much thought was put into this film, and every single aspect of it was rich and beautiful and just arresting, actually. To see this aspirational African world that actually becomes an example for the whole wide world was spellbinding. We were all very much aware that we were in something extremely special.”

Nyong’o on fame:

“What fame does is there is an illusion of familiarity that is cast into the world. So it’s about negotiating with that illusion because oftentimes you encounter people who have encountered you, but you haven’t encountered them. It’s a little weird to find your footing. I have to be aware of that possibility, not imprisoned by it. It’s like, how do I find freedom within that awareness?”

Nyong’o on keeping up with the news:

“It’s such a weird time because the news cycles can be so demoralizing. There are just so many opportunities to feel helpless when you keep up with what’s happening, a kind of helplessness that can make you kind of numb. I try hard not to get numb because in numbness you’re passive, and then things can happen that end up being dangerous to you and your community.”

Hairstylist Vernon François on how he and Nyong’o approached the looks for this shoot:

“Lupita and I wanted to show that coil-y or kinky hair has many strengths and can be worn in lots of different ways, celebrating its beauty and versatility. Loving your true texture is important.”

 François on Nyong’o’s Allure cover look:

“We wanted to make them traditional, forward-thinking, and honest, which is exactly what we did. Lupita and I have wanted to create a braid look like this for some time, and having the chance to do it for Allure was a dream come true.”

 François on collaborating with Nyong’o:

“It’s always a collaborative, creative process when Lupita and I work together. We bounce ideas around and get excited about the possibilities—and about resetting expectations for hair.”


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