Lupita Nyong’o’s beauty routine wasn’t always without a challenge. The Mexican-Kenyan actress stars on the cover of March’s Allure Magazine where she celebrates the versatility of her hair, while also reflecting on her time living in Mexico. “Oh, yeah, the beauty standards had nothing to do with me in Mexico,” the Black Panther star shared, “It was such a bizarre, dire time for my hair. I was living in a small town where there was not any semblance of African community. I’d have to take the bus to Mexico City to find a woman who could braid by hair. That was two and a half hours away.”
The 34-year-old actress was born in Mexico City, but raised in Kenya, until her parents sent her back to the country at the age of 16 to learn Spanish at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s Learning Center for Foreigners. Lupita noted, "Outside of Kenya, when people ask me where I’m from, I say, 'I’m from Kenya.' That’s how I identify, unless ethnicity becomes more of a thing, and then I would say 'I’m Luo,' which is my ethnic group."
Lupita, who revealed that she was completely bald for a period of time, admitted that like in Mexico, she encountered difficulty with her hair when she moved to the United States to continue her education. She shared, "Moving to the U.S. was very difficult because I didn’t have the same kind of support system. [Braiding] services were not readily available in Amherst, Massachusetts."
“For a long time I would braid my hair in Kenya and then spend months with the braids in when I got to the States so that I didn’t have to worry about my hair. Also, my hair did something very different in freezing weather, which I didn’t know how to handle," the Oscar winner continued. “My hair needs moisture. It needs warmth. All of a sudden I was in this very cold environment, and my hair was bristly and dry and really hard to manage. One of the summers I went back home, I asked my aunt to teach me how to braid hair because I wanted to be able to do my own hair. I worked in her salon, and she taught me cornrowing, and twisting and plaiting.”
Today, Lupita has her hairstylist to thank for the many elegant and flawless red carpet looks — and for helping her embrace her longer tresses. “My hair is the longest it’s been in over a decade. A lot of that is because I have an amazing hairstylist in Vernon François,” the 12 Years a Slave star said. "He’s been so helpful, helping me learn how to maintain my natural hair texture."
Lupita added: "Now I love my hair. I love it because I’ve also been able to really embrace the stuff it can do. It’s like clay in the right hands. Clay can be dirt in the wrong hands, but clay can be art in the right hands. Being able to have that kind of playtime with Vernon to create different things has inspired me.”