Black Panther is out today, and like many people I am seriously stoked. Watching the teasers, I was absolutely electrified to see such inspiring representations of Black women on screen.
Growing up half Jamaican, I wasn’t used to seeing myself in TV shows and movies. On the rare occasions when I did see powerful Black female characters, like The Dreamettes (Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose and Beyoncé) in Dreamgirls, or Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) in Akeelah and the Bee, I felt proud to see people I kinda sorta resembled; I was proud to have thick, curly hair; and most importantly, I was proud to be Black. But it was also in those moments when I realized more acutely what I’d been missing.
While there are a million and one reasons why I’m elated to hit the movie theatre this weekend, probably the biggest among them is the fact that all of the stars in Black Panther rock their natural hair throughout the entire film. That’s right: varying forms of natural, kinky, curly Black hair will be on glorious showcase for *two hours and 14 minutes* on the big screen. Needless to say, this is HUGE, and so incredibly empowering.
In a recent interview with The Cut, Camille Friend, the head of Black Panther’s hair department, said that it was important for her that all of the stars wore their hair naturally for the film, which is something that rarely happens.
“There’s no press and comb in this movie. No relaxers, no nothing!” Friend said. “That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair.”
Friend said she aimed for three different styles among the characters: traditional looks inspired by the Zulu, Maasai and Hima tribes, styles inspired by Afropunk and styles of the modern natural hair movement. From Lupita Nyong’o’s twist knots to Letitia Wright’s braids, the looks are absolute FIRE and it has me wondering, why the hell we never seen them on screen?
In a beautifully radical way, Black Panther is opening up a bigger, more honest conversation about Black beauty standards. It’s not *just* hair, just as Black Panther is not *just* another superhero movie—it’s part of a conversation in a powerful movement toward representing Black culture in an honest, nuanced and overall positive, celebratory way—something that sadly doesn’t happen often, and that we desperately need.
In her cover interview for Allure’s March issue, Lupita Nyong’o opens up about her own struggle to embrace her hair as a child, saying she felt out of place because no one in her school had kinky hair like her.
“Now I love my hair,” she says. “I love it because I’ve also been able to really embrace the stuff it can do.” I can’t help but grin thinking about how amazing it must feel for her, as an actor, to represent for so many millions of young Black women what she as a child, much like myself, longed to see.