BLACK VOICES
08/06/2018 12:55 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2018

Lupita Nyong'o On Black Hair Being 'Painted As Uncivilized'

“My hair is something that, historically, has been shunned,” the Oscar winner said.

As a black woman, Lupita Nyong’o knows just how important it is to speak up about her hair. 

“My hair is something that, historically, has been shunned,” the “Black Panther” actress told Net-a-Porter for Porter Magazine’s fall fashion issue. “I mean, how often do you hear, ‘You can’t get a job with hair like that’?” 

Nyong’o, 35, told Porter’s Carolyn Kormann that she still hears that microaggression often. 

“Natural, African, kinky hair ― it’s often been painted as uncivilized or wild,” Nyong’o added. 

The Oscar winner is no stranger to talking about the racist remarks she receives about her hair. Last year she called out British magazine Grazia for editing out the kinky part of her hairstyle on the magazine’s cover. 

“Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are,” Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico City and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, wrote in November 2017. 

“I am disappointed that [Grazia] invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like,” she continued. “Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.”

Nyong’o added the hashtag #dtmh — a shortened version of “don’t touch my hair,” an iconic phrase made famous by Solange Knowles. (Grazia later apologized.)

In her Porter interview, Nyong’o also discussed her recent film “Black Panther” and what it has meant to so many black people around the world.  

“We’d never seen something like this,” Nyong’o said of herself and her castmates. “We knew it was going to be dope. But we could not have predicted just how clamorous and passionate the response would be. There was just an ownership!”

She added, “People grabbed that film and ran with it: paying for strangers to go see the film; dressing up for the cinema; embracing their culture, and not just African culture. In South Korea, all the interviewers for our press junket came dressed in their national garb from all around Asia.” 

Nyong’o said the film started a much-needed conversation about the shared experiences of Africans and African-Americans. 

“I was in Nigeria not long after the film came out ... and one man said to me, ‘How are my cousins, Boseman and Jordan?’” she said, referring to actors Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. “I had never heard that sentiment come out of an African’s mouth. It started a long overdue conversation about our shared identities.”

Head over to Net-a-Porter to read Nyong’o’s full interview. 

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