My Fair Hair
The hit of Monday night’s Met Gala was clearly actress Lupita Nyong’o’s hair.
Nyong’o, who was raised in Kenya, styled her hair into what some shops described as “Whoville hair,” a reference to the quirky hairdos in the city Dr. Seuss invented in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Nyong’o’s hair was piled tall and straight, with 4 segments, every sculpted right into a bubble. It instantly was filed as a meme, with comparisons to The brazilian hair review Simpsons’ Marge.
“We surprise, what is going on underneath all of the hair to keep it up ” a USA Today reporter asked. “How did she travel to the event with that on top of her head Or, maybe these should simply remain vogue mysteries.”
Lori Tharps, an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University and co-writer of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, finds this sort of commentary “insulting .. as if Africa fell off the map.”
“I’ve been trying around, [and whereas] I do not definitively think [the hairstyle] has resonance in Kenyan tradition, it is African,” Tharps says.
In the African previous, sculptural formations of hair signaled standing and wealth.
“There’s that sense of adornment, but it will probably have which means,” Tharps says. A towering hairdo has traditionally signified a person’s tribal background, rank in society — or a spouse’s ability to dwell a life of leisure due to her husband’s wealth. Some of these types might be seen within the late Nigerian photographer J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s anthology of practically 1,000 Nigerian women’s hairstyles: elegant, braided, complex, architectural masterpieces.
The design of the hair itself is an arduous process, involving hair extensions and styling to sculpt the hair. Nyong’o’s hair is normally cropped quick, so Tharps believes extensions had been used to erect her Met Gala showstopper.
Hair extensions themselves are deeply ingrained in African society: In Hair Story, Tharps and her co-author, Ayana Byrd, wrote about extensions within the 1400s, when males would cut off their wife’s hair and weave it into their own to impress others in society with their bushy energy.
At the moment, tall hairstyles like Nyong’o’s aren’t an on a regular basis phenomenon in most components of Africa — “it’s costly and never essentially the best thing for one’s hair,” Tharps notes — however it is a tradition that continues in lots of African societies.
So Tharps is surprised that the dialog round Nyong’o’s hair hasn’t paid a lot consideration to its African origins. Indeed, Nyong’o herself has shied away from referencing her African background as a trend inspiration, pointing to Audrey Hepburn and Nina Simone as role models in a pink carpet interview with vogue critic Andre Leon Talley.
“It strikes me as loopy,” Tharps said, wondering why folks appear oblivious to the roots of Nyongo’s Met Gala coiffure.