Beauty

Lupita N’yongo’s hair stylist reveals secret to amazing afro hair

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Megan Murray
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Stylist spoke to hair dresser of the moment, Vernon François, about the new trends for afro-textured hair and why the media is still failing to represent this hair type. 

The most in-demand
 stylist this awards season, Vernon François is shattering the stereotypes
 of afro-textured hair. Working with Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles and Serena Williams, he’s responsible for the new wave of textured hair looks. 

According to François, bigger is better. Speaking to Stylist’s Jo Hoare, he notes that for 2018 hair on the catwalks will have an “emphasis on height and volume” irrespective of hair type, but that it’s particularly empowering to “see models of ethnicity with big hair instead of sleek hair”. 

That’s right, more is more and if you’re struggling to give your ‘do the umph it needs, he recommends “Kevin Murphy Body Builder Mousse (£21) is great for a voluminous blow-out at home.”

If you love looking to the catwalks for inspiration, François thinks you can expect to see more gold-tones for afro-textured locks, as well as playful experimentation with identity. He says: “With colour, we’re moving towards golds for afro- textured hair but people like to change things up, which is why I also think we’ll see more wigs. And wigs moving away from being just a cover-up and instead being a way of changing identity.”

It’s also time to wave goodbye to the fail-safe formula of long hair equalling typically sexy. François’ advice is “be bold, go short”. He says: “we’re definitely seeing shorter cuts – even [number] ones. I don’t think long hair is sexy any more.”

Vernon François at a Vivienne Westwood event

For those unsure of what style to go for, the celebrity hairdresser has some very simple advice; don’t feel pressured to adhere to a trend, stay true to what suits you. “When clients say, ‘I want something really current’, I say, ‘Find the right haircut for you and you will always be relevant.’”, François explains.

And how do you discover what works for you? For afro-textures its all about getting better acquainted with yourself.

His best advice is: “play with your hair. Spend time touching it, educate yourself about it, understand its structure. And give products time. Try them in combinations for a few months so you can refine what works,” François says.

Alongside this, his extensive experience has taught him the importance of giving your hair a good base to work with, which means avoiding the toxins carried in tap water as much as possible. 

“Water from taps can be full of things like iron, copper and
 zinc that damage hair, so getting under the shower less makes 
a big difference. I created my Mist Nourishing Water (£12) so women with all hair textures can wet and style their hair without having to go near a tap.”

François continues, “Also, it’s
 a misconception that afro-textured hair is dry and needs oil. There’s
 a difference between 
moisture and hydration.
 It’s not one size fits all.”

Although afro-textured hair is getting increasing exposure in the fashion world, François rightfully points out there’s still a long way to go - and it starts with the people at the top. 

“The media still has a way to go with its portrayal of afro-textured hair. What do the people around the table making the decisions look like? How diverse are they? I use the analogy of a fruit bowl – if it’s all apples in the bowl everything’s going to come out green and shiny. We need some mangoes, kiwis and bananas in the conversation.”

It’s also hair stylists like him that can play a huge part in highlighting the versatility of afro-textured hair and the importance of paying homage to its heritage; a role that François is happy to take on. 

Using the red carpet as an example, he explains how crucial creating a dialogue around this subject is: “I’d like to continue making looks that create a conversation – looks that are authentic to heritage, that question what’s appropriate for a red carpet and are inspired by sculpture, movement and shapes [such as Lupita Nyong’o’s towering bun at the 2016 Met Gala].”

 Lupita Nyong’o’s sky-high hair at the 2016 Met Gala

Of course, Nyong’o didn’t always have Francois on hand for hair advice - and she recently admitted that she struggled to love her hair when she was a teenager.

Speaking to Allure magazine, Nyong’o confessed that as a teenager she felt jealous of other girls her age that had “thicker, longer hair”. 

“I didn’t love my hair when I 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.”

After having a “rough time with being teased” Nyong’o’s mum relented and allowed her to get her hair relaxed, which says made her feel more “acceptable”. 

“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,” she explained to the magazine. 

But a few years later when she was 18, Nyong’o made the decision to shave it all off. One that in a way, set her free and paved the way to her embracing her natural texture. 

“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.”

“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.”

Nowadays, Nyong’o is not just famed for being one of the world’s most talented actresses: she’s also made headlines for her gorgeous crowning glory and the exquisite, creative styles she wears it in. 

No wonder so many have praised her for embracing the beauty and versatility of her “African kinky hair” - and thanked her for giving them the confidence to do the same.

Images: Rex Features

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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