Today isn’t just a regular Friday—it’s February 16—which is the day we’ve all been waiting for: Marvel's Black Panther is finally in theaters!
Luckily, I had the chance to see the movie on Valentine’s Day (shout out to Lexus and Lexus of Manhattan for the tickets and an epic ride in a tricked out Lexus GX SUV)—and was in complete awe of citizens of Wakanda! Beyond the jaw-dropping special effects, there’s something else—other than the all-Black cast—that makes this a pivotal moment in pop culture history, it's truly a love letter to natural hair.
Textures, twists, braids and locs are weaved into every single scene, and it’s not by accident. Hair department head Camille Friend (who’s also worked on movies like Django, The Help, and Dream Girls) was very intentional about representing the continent in an unforgettable way.
“It is a look at Africa like you've never seen before, because Wakanda is a country that’s so technologically advanced,” she explained in an exclusive interview with BET Style. “Wakanda has things that you can't even imagine that you will ever see or even exist. It’s showing Africa in a way that's never been seen on film before.”
When it came to creating the epic looks that took six months to conceptualize, the sky was the limit. “I have to say kudos to Marvel. I have been a part of the Marvel family for a long time,” explains Camille. “And, as a hair designer, the one thing I love about them is that they give you everything you need to create great movies, great characters and also to be a great artist. This film was really like having a blank canvas.
“We had a lot of wiggle room to create and decide what we're going to do. For me, I thought that the natural hair was something that we had to do and we have a great staff of hairstylists who I know who can do it. I said, ‘Let us create this world in a total natural sense,’ especially with the whole natural movement of hair within the Black community. It’s such an exciting time for us. It’s something I wanted to see in a movie.”
Below Camille breaks down each female lead’s look along with the inspiration. Let us know your favorites in the comments section!
Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia
“She had main two looks. I think the look that people really like that is something that I coined was the ‘Wakanda Knot.’ We took a custom-made wig and we colored it before twisting it. We roll the hair into itself and brought it down into the shape of a cinnamon roll. Then, we allowed it to dry and pull it apart.
Her secondary look is when she goes to the casino—think James Bond Casino Royale vibes. For this look, we flat-twisted her wig and shook it loose. Then we cut the hair into a more wedge-shaped style, which looks amazing with her dress.”
Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda
“In the movie, she has about 20 dreadlocks, which was made as a custom wig with dreadlocks which we put together. We used about four different shades and each of the locks are handmade individually, then inserted into a wig base. It’s completely customized.”
Letitia Wright as Shuri
“She is the princess. She is the technological leader, so she comes with all the gadgets and rules Wakanda when it comes to technology. She’s super smart and super cutting-edge, so we wanted to reflect that in her hair. We were trying to figure out how we could give her something that would keep her looking young, hip, cool and stylish but also something that we could change. I thought, ‘Why don't we just give her individual braids?’ Because if you gave her individual braids you can wear it up, down, ponytail it and add accessories. That’s how we came up with that.”
Danai Gurira as Okoye
“I don't think any girl would be happy to shave their head. [Editor’s Note: Danai previously shared her initial hesitation of chopping her hair]. It was a tedious process because there was a lot of conversation about it even before we started. Once the girls knew they were coming in, it was one of those days where we knew we had to be very supportive. There were some tears, so we went slow, held hands and in that moment I said, ‘If you don't want to do it we can't force you to do it.’
Afterward, it was almost like a sisterhood came together. It really worked out in the end —those girls are so happy. I spoke to a few of them and this was a great role for them. In the scalp design you see, they call it a tattoo transfer, which the makeup team handled.”
With rumors of Black Panther 2 already swirling, Camille reminds us that support is key for more films like this to make headway.
“People going to the box office is going to make all the difference,” she explains. “It is going to bring the attention to the studios and everyone else that Black people are a viable commodity in this business, we are a viable commodity on screen and our people do want to see us on screen. So, I think all these things work together to encourage more Black films.”
Best believe I'll be seeing this movie two (or three times) to help the cause. Seriously though, #WakandaForever!
(Photo: Courtesy Marvel/Disney)
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