You may have noticed that for her many big-screen roles, magazine covers, and red carpet appearances appearances, Lupita Nyong'o pretty much always opts to wear her natural hair. In the Fall 2018 issue of Porter magazine, for which she serves as the cover star, Nyong'o shared that there's a very good reason why. Not only is she pushing back on historically racist and sexist ideas, but she's also spreading a message of self-acceptance to young people with hair and complexions like hers.
"My hair is something that, historically, has been shunned," the Oscar winner said. "I mean, how often do you hear, 'You can't get a job with hair like that'?" Very often, she confirmed, adding, "Natural, African, kinky hair — it's often been painted as uncivilized or wild."
That's why it was so important for Nyong'o to speak out when her hair was photoshopped off the cover of U.K. magazine Grazia last year, she said. At the time, she posted the original and altered images on Instagram and wrote, "Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women's complexion, hairstyle, and texture." She finished her statement with "#dtmh," shorthand for "don't touch my hair."
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The Black Panther star told Porter that, besides setting an example with her own hair, she's also written a children's book that encourages people of color to embrace their own natural beauty. Sulwe, scheduled to arrive in early 2019, is the story of a young girl's journey to self-acceptance, an idea that was sparked by the speech Nyong'o gave at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood awards in 2014. "It was about having dark skin in a world that favors traditional Western standards of beauty — light complexions and silky hair — and my own journey from insecurity to a place of self-acceptance," she recalled. "I was touched by how it had resonated with so many people of color, and not just black Africans. I started to realize that there was a demographic that really needed to hear this message but wouldn't hear my speech. I wanted to get to kids before they reach an age where the world is telling them they are not as valuable."
For our own cover earlier this year, Ngong'o and her longtime stylist Vernon François came up with the incredible looks she wore for Allure's first-ever Culture of Hair issue, including a stunning beads-and-braids style for one portrait and a gorgeous voluminous Afro in another. “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,” François told Allure of the shoot. “Loving your true texture is important.” We couldn't agree more.
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