Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lupita Nyong’o's Met Gala 2016 Hairstyle & Its African & African American Inspirations

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents excerpts from five articles about the hairstyle that Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o wore at the 2016 Met Gala.

Media attention to the hairstyle that Lupita Nyong’o wore at that fashion event was largely driven by a Vogue magazine article which suggested that that African actress' hairstyle was influenced by White American actress Audrey Hepburn instead of wore as Lupita Nynog'o herself indicated were her inspirations-
certain traditional African hairstyles and certain hairstyles that African American singer Nina Simone wore. Although Lupita Nyong'o didn't say this, Nina Simone's conical hairstyles (hair worn in a cone shape on the top of her head) were undoubtedly inspired by those above mentioned traditional African hairstyles.

Information about the Met Gala is also included in this post. Two videos of Lupita Nyong'o at the 2016 Met Gala are included in this post. A video of traditional African female hairstyles, and a video of traditional Yoruba (Nigerian) hairstyles are also included in this post along with two video of Nina Simone with a similar hairstyles to some of those African hairstyles.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Lupita Nyong’o for her positive socio-cultural influences. Thanks to all who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these featured videos on YouTube.

"The Met Gala, formally called the Costume Institute Gala and also known as the Met Ball, is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City. It marks the grand opening of the Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibit. Each year's event celebrates the theme of that year's Costume Institute exhibition, and the exhibition sets the tone for the formal dress of the night, since guests are expected to choose their fashion to match the theme of the exhibit. Each year the event also has honorary celebrity event day chairpersons....

[The theme for 2016 was] "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology".

These articles are given in no particular order. I've assigned numbers to them for referencing purposes only.
Excerpt #1:
Lupita Nyong'o Claps Back at 'Vogue' for Saying Audrey Hepburn Inspired Her Met Gala Hair
Claire Lampen, May 04, 2016
"Lupita Nyong'o is not the new Audrey Hepburn, and she's letting Vogue have it for suggesting so.

Iconic though the two actresses may be, the latter wasn't the intended reference for the very cool updo Nyong'o sported at Monday's Met Gala, as Vogue suggested. Noting that the Eclipsed actor cited Nina Simone as one of the inspirations behind her updo, the fashion magazine attributed her hair to a much less likely source.

"The sculptural style is also reminiscent of the updo Audrey Hepburn sported in a 1963 Vogue shoot with Bert Stern," the article reads.
As Black Girl With Long Hair[blog] reported, the comparison is "baffling, because sculptural updos are a distinctly African style."

Given white culture's tendency toward appropriation, it seems more likely that Hepburn's coif borrowed from precisely these "distinctly African styles." Regardless, Nyong'o quickly and politely corrected the misattribution in an Instagrammed slideshow of her real hair influences.
"Hair Inspiration. Check. @vernonfrancois @voguemagazine #metball2016," she captioned her post. An understated and emphatic "nope."
Here's a hyperlink to Lupita's instragram:

"Clapback" (also given as "clap back) is an Africa American Vernacular English term for a quick, pointed, and sometimes clever retort to an insult (diss).

Excerpt #2
... "as Lupita Nyong’o stated on the red carpet, it [her hairstyle] was inspired by all kinds of references celebrating black womanhood and beauty, ranging from Nina Simone to traditional styles from around Africa.

But according to Vogue, Lupita wasn’t emulating any of this icons of black beauty. Nope, she was entirely inspired by Audrey Hepburn.

Vogue published an article post-Met-Gala with the headline: ‘Is Lupita Nyong’o the new Audrey Hepburn? Celebrating the star’s Met Gala hair’.

Which may seem totally innocuous and complimentary. Audrey Hepburn is a brilliant source of style inspiration. Plenty of parallels can be drawn between her grace and elegance and Lupita’s.

But by ignoring the inspirations Lupita actually referenced and focusing entirely on the Audrey similarities, Vogue effectively whitewashed the rich cultural significance of Lupita’s ‘do. Which is not only madness, but also a bloody shame – exploring all of her references could have been a really interesting write-up.
Lupita noticed the article, and quietly fired back by sharing a mini video on her Instagram, showing her style side-by-side with the real inspiration for her Met Gala look.

And yes, she tagged Vogue. Just to make her message really clear.

Bravo to Lupita. Not just for her awesome hair, but for taking a stand and refusing to let Vogue’s article slide."
"refusing to let [something] slide" = refusing to ignore something (Another way of saying this using African American Vernacular English is "not playing pass [something].

Excerpt #3:
From "Lupita Nyong’o Puts 'Vogue' in ‘Check’ About Her Met Gala 2016 Hairstyle"
By Khalea Underwood, May 4, 2016
"Fact check! Lupita Nyong’o’s gravity-defying hairstyle stopped traffic on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Gala 2016 carpet. The 12 Years a Slave star, 33, had longtime hairstylist Vernon Francois sweep her natural locks into a sky-high segmented bun for the evening. And while some tweeters didn’t understand her statement-making 'do, a certain high-fashion magazine took a misguided stab at explaining it.

Even though Nyong’o told Vogue that the source of her inspiration was “sculptural hairdos from all around the continent,” as well as Nina Simone, they came up with another theory. In a May 3 web post titled “Is Lupita Nyong’o the New Audrey Hepburn? Celebrating the Star’s Met Gala Hair,” the magazine declared that “the sculptural style is also reminiscent of the updo Audrey Hepburn sported in a 1963 Vogue shoot with Bert Stern.”
As an aside, the African American Vernacular English term "putting someone in check" means "to verbally put someone in his or her place" (rebuke that person for something he or she has said or done). Another way of saying that in African American English is "schooled" that person.

Also, both the word “in” and the word “check” should be have quotation marks (or whatever the singular quotation mark is called) as the slang term is made up of both of those words. And "fact check" and "putting someone in check" don’t mean the same thing.

Excerpt #4:
From "Lupita Nyongo's Met Gala Hair is A Homage To Africa, Not Whoville" by Tanya Basu", May 3, 2016
"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 outlets described as "Whoville hair," a reference to the quirky hairdos in the town Dr. Seuss invented in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Nyong'o's hair was piled tall and straight, with four segments, each sculpted into a bubble. It instantly was filed as a meme, with comparisons to The Simpsons' Marge….
Lori Tharps, an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University and co-author 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 looking around, [and while] I don't definitively think [the hairstyle] has resonance in Kenyan culture, it's African," Tharps says.

In the African past, sculptural formations of hair signaled status and wealth. "There's that sense of adornment, but it can have meaning," Tharps says. A towering hairdo has historically signified a person's tribal background, rank in society — or a wife's ability to live a life of leisure because of her husband's wealth. Some of these styles can be seen in the late Nigerian photographer J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere's anthology of nearly 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 usually cropped short, so Tharps believes extensions were 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 in the 1400s, when men would cut off their wife's hair and weave it into their own to impress others in society with their hairy power.

Today, tall hairstyles like Nyong'o's aren't an everyday phenomenon in most parts of Africa — "it's costly and not necessarily the best thing for one's hair," Tharps notes — but it's a tradition that continues in many African societies."

Excerpt #5:
From Lupita Nyong’o Wore A Nina Simone-Inspired Hairstyle To The Met Gala, Dana Oliver, 5/3/2016

"We think Miss Simone would be proud.

In an interview with André Leon Talley for, the Eclipsed actress revealed that her natural hairdo, styled by Vernon Francois, was inspired by “women all around the continent.” With an intellect steeped in fashion and beauty history, Talley noted that he could see elements of Nina Simone in Nyong’o’s updo.

We couldn’t agree more, as it reminded us of the image below of the late jazz singer, circa 1968. But we can’t ignore Nyong’o’s statement that her hair is a true reflection of international women. It’s also worth noting that it bares a striking resemblance to the hairstyles worn by Zulu women of South Africa.

Her hairstylist, Vernon Francois, told The Huffington Post, “There’s not one particular visual reference which inspired the look. Strong bold structures have always been prevalent in African history and our goal is always to show just how versatile textured hair is. Nina Simone is a excellent cultural reference point, as she was someone who was always very confident with how she wore her hair. We wanted to ensure that the look on the carpet last night was a modern and creative take on traditional style.”...

Video #1: Lupita Nyong'o at Manus X Machina - The 2016 Met Gala

FirstLook Published on May 2, 2016

Lupita Nyong'o at Manus X Machina - The 2016 Met Gala. To see all the attendees and photos from this event go to:

Video #2: Lupita Nyong'o on Her Matrix and Nina Simone-Inspired Look | Met Gala 2016

Vogue Published on May 2, 2016

Lupita Nyong'o talks to Vogue's André Leon Talley on the Met Gala red carpet about what inspired her look for the ball.
Here's a comment from that video's discussion thread:
Phronesis7, May 5, 2016
"He misheard her. She said "all around the CONTINENT" (because hair art has always been a big part of African beauty. Check her instagram for the pics), and he heard "all around the world". Nina was inspired by the same.
Lupita Nyong’o said this in response to André Leon Talley's question "What inspired your beautiful coiffure?" (couiffure = hair style)

Video #1: Ancient African Hair styles

Jahdid2, Uploaded on Jun 11, 2011

Je tiens particulièrement à rendre hommage à un photographe comme le nigérian Okhai Ojeikere qui a pris le soin d'immortaliser cette pratique esthétique ancestrale. Et tant que des images existeront pour témoigner de notre patrimoine culturel, il restera accessible.

Google translate from French to English: I particularly want to pay tribute to a photographer as the Nigerian Okhai Ojeikere who was careful to capture this ancient aesthetic practice. And as images exist to show our cultural heritage, it will remain accessible.
The background music in this video "Sira" by Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze. The featured instrument is the kora.

Video #2: Yoruba Female Hairstyles: History, Classification, Taboos & Hair-Care Culture

Yorùbá Sessions with Aderonke, Published on Apr 29, 2015

I have given detailed information about hair-dressing in Yoruba 'land', from the earliest periods in Yoruba history. Thanks for watching!

Video #1: Nina Simone - Four Women

NinaFestival, Uploaded on Aug 16, 2010

Harlem Cultural Festival 1969

Video #2: Nina Simone: Blues For Mama

Nina Simone Published on Feb 2, 2013

"Blues For Mama" by Nina Simone. Recording session: August 25, 1967 in Berlin.
Gala evening on German television for the inauguration of color broadcasting. The gala was a two-days live show from the 25th Funkausstellung IFA in Berlin intended to showcase the new technology of color TV and international artists including Gigliola Cinquetti, Freddy, Juliette Greco, Mahalia Jackson, Al Martino, Mireille Mathieu, Ulrik and Ulla Neumann, Ester and Abi Ofarim, Nini Rosso, Sonny and Cher.

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  1. In the 1960s United States, a hairstyle that was similar to the traditional hairstyle that Lupita Nyongo'o wore at the 2016 Met Gala was called a "beehive".

    Click for information about that conical shaped hairstyle.

    Also, click"> for pictures about the animated character "Marge Simpson". Here's a quote from that article "As a teen, Marge had waist length hair that she always wore down, but got the idea to wear it in her trademark beehive for senior prom".

    And click pictures of female hairstyles from a movie of Dr. Seuss' "Whoville".

  2. The hairstyle that actress Lupita Nyong’o's wore for the 2016 Met Gala is similar to the hairstyle that is worn in the beginning still for the video given as Example #3.6 in a post that I just published about traditional Owo culture in Nigeria.

    Here's the link to that post: