From where we were sitting, the magic of Wakanda came straight from the screen to the Oscars red carpet last night, and to say that we were impressed is a major understatement. After spotting nominee Daniel Kaluuya in his copper suit, Chadwick Boseman decked out in a luxurious embroidered ensemble, and Danai Gurira sporting an intricate haircut inspired by tribal design, we knew it was only a matter of time before we were stunned by whatever gorgeous look Lupita Nyong'o had in store for us.
Predictably, the actress did not disappoint. Together with celebrity hairstylist Vernon François, Nyong'o brought the ancestral spirit of African beauty to the red carpet with a new spin on a traditional Rwandan hairstyle that had all the viewers at home buzzing.
François spoke exclusively to Refinery29 about the inspiration behind the show-stopping updo, carved into crescent-shaped pieces and accented by a gold thread. "As we have traveled around the world for the Black Panther opening, creating looks of empowerment that showcase the strength of African heritage has been our priority," François explained. "For Lupita’s Academy Awards look, we knew that we wanted a structured hairstyle with a strong identity, and [we were] drawn to Amasunzu hairstyles.”
Traditionally worn by men and unmarried women, the elaborately sculpted Amasunzu hairstyles are used to represent different roles and status in Rwandan communities. François shared the specific images he and Nyong'o used to bring their vision to life, seen above. "For this look, we spent some time trying to figure out how we could create a beautiful, yet strong, look given the structure and integrity of the hairstyles," he says.
To create the inspired style on Nyong'o, François first washed his client's hair with his Pure~Fro Shampoo and Conditioner. He then prepped with his Mist Nourishing Water and Scalp Nourish~Ment Braids and Locs Spray to protect from heat damage before smoothing her hair with a flat iron — leaving the natural texture of her roots intact — and using his hands to mold it into shape. And to put the last, most magical touch on Nyong'o's look, François used a classic stitching technique to weave a golden thread throughout her hair. Needless to say, we'll be tweeting about this one for years to come.