The Women Of Wakanda Have Evolved (& So Has Their Hair)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s hair lead breaks down the film’s iconic moments.
While the late Chadwick Boseman is undoubtably the heart of Black Panther, it’s clearer than ever that the women of Wakanda are truly the backbone of this beloved universe. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, leaders, warriors, and friends. They are a vision of strength and power, and yet, they share their vulnerability in ways that are deeply humanizing and empowering. And in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, opening on November 11, the lens is rightfully fixated on their stories — beginning in the aftermath of a painful loss that was felt around the world.
Having played a major part in developing the women of Wakanda’s hair throughout the Black Panther franchise, hair lead Camille Friend is responsible for telling a story through the lead characters’ eye-catching updos and intricately braided masterpieces — a process which she considers a “total collaboration.” “I always start with [the film’s director Ryan Coogler], as he has his ideas and opinions,” she says. “I [mock-up] hairstyles before meeting with the actors, and we work collaboratively from there.” When it comes to her creative process and artistic choices, Friend treats the hair looks as a direct reflection of each character’s growth and evolution. “What is the hair story of the characters?,” she says. “[The women] are in grieving, and their journey and hair story needs to be in sync [with that evolution].”
As for knowing when they’ve nailed the look? Friend says, “That transformational moment is almost like magic.” Ahead, she breaks down the film’s standout hair moments, the inspiration behind them, and the products she used during filming.
In the case of Letitia Wright’s character Shuri (who portrays Chadwick’s younger sister), Friend notes that her hair reflects her journey from “kid and jokester” to a woman stepping into her power. “[She] is now in a more mature role, because she has to step up and be a leader,” she says. In the original film from 2018, Shuri’s hair very much mimicked her tech-driven job, with intricate braids usually shaped into complex designs; the overall vibe felt youthful and fun. Yet in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, she has been forced into a leadership role out of survival and grown along the way — and her hair matches that sentiment. Friend notes that it’s much less structural and playful in the new installment, and now reads a bit more mature with some no-fuss two-strand twists with a 4c curl pattern.
As for the products she used on the star? Design Essentials’ Almond & Avocado Curl Enhancing Mousse easily set her twists, and she praises UNITE’s 7SECONDS Detangler for being “liquid gold.”
As for Nakia, a character masterfully played by Lupita Nyong'o, her evolution translates a bit differently. “Nakia has left Wakanda, she has been on her own, she has been teaching in Haiti — she has evolved,” says Friend. “How do we see her now? She let her hair grow, and she has the beautiful locs — but still in her signature color red [that the audience is used to seeing]. Looking at her grieving process of losing T’Challa, who is the love of her life, you see the maturity and mourning.”
Considering growth is major theme throughout this film, it makes sense that a product touted with incredible hair growth properties would be an on-set fave — and Friend shares that Better Not Younger’s (aptly named) Superpower+ Serum was used at length throughout filming.
With Angela Bassett’s character Ramonda (who is already receiving Oscar buzz for the role), there is a major change that aligns with their grieving process after losing her son, T’Challa. Friend explains, “The first thought we had in grieving was that Ramonda would cut her hair off, so when you saw her after everything had happened, you would see her hair in a shorter version, but still keeping her in the same white, grey, and silver color.”
Okoye, the fierce warrior played by a spear-wielding Danai Gurira, fully embraces her role as the head of the Wakandan armed forces — in Wakanda Forever, she sports designs on her head that are directly reflective of the ones seen in the comic books.
With every single character in the Black Panther films, Friend offers a masterclass on just how powerful hair can be; it changes, develops, and reflects one’s identity. And with every hand that has worked on this highly-anticipated sequel, it is crystal clear that there is such a deep-seated purpose at the root of every single decision, from seemingly small to larger than life.
And without any spoilers, Friend leaves Bustle (and Marvel fans) with this sentiment: “Just get ready for the first 10 minutes.”
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