The actress’s choice to wear natural afro hair in the film was supported by director Jordan Peele.
In her latest starring role, Lupito Nyong’o plays Adelaide Wilson (and Red) in Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film, Us, wearing natural afro styles for both characters.
Camille Friend, her hairstylist, spoke to Page Six detailing why Lupita was keen for that to happen. “We came up with the sisterlock [hairstyle] because she wanted to do something that was natural, plus I love it because it’s nothing that has been seen on camera before,” says Friend.
Sisterlocks are thinner than traditional locks and are created using a special tool in a technique that was trademarked by Dr JoAnne Cornwell in 1993. Nyong’o wore sisterlocks to play Adelaide, the supposed goody plagued by her evil twin.
Red, the malevolent double, wears shorter, brushed out afro hair, also styled by Friend, while appearing behind Adelaide throughout the film. The silhouette of Red’s hair is the key distinguishing feature, which plays on the uncanny, popular concept of things being almost the same, but not quite.
“We’re always trying to push the envelope and do things that are different, even within the natural [hair] genre,” says Friend, who created both looks. Sisterlocks haven’t been seen much on screen before, and very rarely - if at all - by a leading actress.
“Jordan is one of the best filmmakers of our time,” says Friend, “but a lot of my dialogue for Lupita’s look was really with her.” The director’s support for the actress and stylist to create the visual identity of the characters gave them space to realise the looks they wanted to create.
Nyong’o has previously spoken out about her relationship with her hair, telling Allure in 2018 that she ‘didn’t love’ her hair when she was a child.
“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 explained. At first, Nyong’o’s mother said no, explaining that she wanted her daughter to make the decision when she was older.
But when she was a teenger, Nyong’o revealed she had a ‘rough time with being teased and feeling really unpretty’.
“My dad intervened and spoke to my mom about my hair, and she finally agreed,” Nyong’o explained. She visited a salon and 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.”
Nyong’o notes that the upkeep for relaxed hair was extensive and expensive. “When I was about 18 or 19, I didn’t have a job or anything, so it was really my parents paying for my hair,” she says.
“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.”
Talking about the beginning of her career, Nyong’o recognises that it was different to most as she didn’t have to do a lot of auditioning but when she does, she acknowledges, “there are going to be characters that have relaxed hair or whatever different hairstyles”.
There have been shockingly few examples of black women in film wearing natural styles. But for her first leading role, Nyong’o chose to use the platform to normalise afro hair in Hollywood. Here’s hoping more actors are given the chance the space to create the looks they want on the big screen.
Main image: Getty