Lupita Nyong’o on the Moment She Ditched Her Relaxed Hair

"It was so scary but so liberating because I went completely bald."

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Lupita Nyong'o hair
Lupita Nyong’o has become well known for her natural hair. (Patrick Demarchelier)

Black Panther” actress Lupita Nyong’o may seem like the pinnacle of confidence when it comes to her hair, but it wasn’t always that way. As a teen, she became jealous of girls with longer hair and begged her mom for a relaxer — but when she cut it off it was “liberating.”

“I didn’t love my hair when I was a child,” she confessed to Allure magazine, which also contains several shots of Nyong’o’s natural hair in various styles. “It was lighter than my skin, which made me not love it so much. I was really kind of envious of girls with thicker, longer, more lush hair. In my tween years, I started begging my mother to have my hair relaxed. She wouldn’t allow it, though her hair was relaxed. She felt that that was a decision I could come to when I was maybe 18.

“Around 13 or 14, I had such a rough time with being teased and feeling really unpretty,” Nyong’o continued. “My dad intervened and spoke to my mom about my hair, and she finally agreed. She took me to the salon in the middle of the school day, and I got my hair relaxed. I felt so much better because it was easier to tame. All the girls in my class had their hair relaxed. Very few had natural kink, so I felt a lot more acceptable.”

But the actress explained that the upkeep for relaxed hair was very involved. Wrapping her hair every night and sleeping above the headboard so as not to damage her curls proved uncomfortable. And it cost a pretty penny to maintain the straightness.

“So I was once asking for some more money to get my hair done and my dad joked, ‘Why don’t you just cut it all off?’ And a few months later, I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I?’ 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.”

And while her mother was initially “horrified” — a feeling that made Nyong’o “scared that I had done the wrong thing” — she eventually came around. Meanwhile, it took her father two weeks to notice” the change.

“That was definitely a liberating stage,” she said. “I had nothing to hide behind. I had my hair short for a very long time after that.”

Now, Lupita says she loves her hair.

“I love it because I’ve also been able to really embrace the stuff it can do,” she said. “It’s like clay in the right hands. Clay can be dirt in the wrong hands, but clay can be art in the right hands. Being able to have that kind of playtime with [celebrity natural hairstylist] Vernon [Francois] to create different things has inspired me.”

Online, fans have been applauding her spread.

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