Have you ever wondered how Lupita Nyong’o manages to achieve amazing hair on every red carpet and photo? Sure, she’s beautiful and sophisticated almost to perfection, but what makes her strands radiate with #blackgirlmagic each time? Vernon François, who is possibly one of the most sought-after hair stylists in the U.K., is responsible for most of her hairstyles when she’s traveling abroad. He’s also styled Kerry Washington, Emeli Sandé, and Eve, but you’re probably most familiar with the Instagram video of him steaming Lupita’s hair with an iron. (He promises it didn’t hurt her. “It’s just steam!” he says.) Here, he reveals the details of her hair in her second Vogue photoshoot, and, more importantly, why styling Black hair is a true honor.
ESSENCE.com: What was the Inspiration for the look?
Vernon François: The entire theme of the article was ‘couture’ so this was our chance to demonstrate the beauty of natural Afro hair in this context and to show that you don’t have to put in extensions to pull of a high fashion look. Once Lupita and I saw the incredible dresses that the team at Vogue chose we were able to establish what height or shape we wanted her hair to be [the best] fit with the dress. It’s all about collaborating. [If you look at the cover] you are drawn first to her lips and skin which was the focus for that shot so keeping the hair tight at the sides with the volume at the back created a striking and powerful image.
ESSENCE: What are the products and tools used to create the look?
François: The most important tool was my hands. As you can see from the images I’ve gone for shapes and texture, and the best way to achieve this is to use your fingers to mold and bring out the definition of the hair. When styling Afro hair, less is more. But, other basic tools used include: moisturizing spray, a hair dryer, gel, a wide toothcomb, hairspray and a ventilation brush.
ESSENCE.com: How are you managing her hair while trying to grow it out?
François: Lupita knows how to manage her hair and she knows how to keep her hair in great condition. It’s so great having a client that loves her hair as much as I do. We are often on the phone or WhatsApp discussing home treatments and when I see her we’ll always do a deep condition. Before I start any work on her hair I always use massage oils on her scalp to soften the texture and make it more responsive. Lots of my clients love this as it gives them a moment to relax.
ESSENCE.com: What’s an easy way for women at home to get the same look?
François: Every look we do together is designed to achievable [at home]. Not every thing you see is going to suit you, but it should act as an inspiration. So, tear out the image, take it to your salon and chat to your stylist about how you can achieve this or something similar yourself. Natural hair has so many strengths, is so versatile. The hair journey that Lupita and I are on is only at the beginning!
ESSENCE.com: What does it mean for you to have a woman of color on the cover of Vogue with natural hair?
François: The first time I worked on someone with natural hair I was 8-years old. I knew then that I discovered my vocation. I’m incredibly happy to be part of the movement. How fortunate am I that my job surrounds me with so many beautiful and intelligent Black women from all over the world and all walks of life. That is a true honor that I will never take for granted.
ESSENCE.com: What do you want women to know about their natural hair?
François: It’s a genetic gift that needs unlocked. My desire is for women to gain a better understanding of how to manage their own hair at home and to feel confident about it’s remarkable versatility. Women share stories with me everyday on email, Facebook and Instagram about how embracing their natural hair has changed their lives; it’s made them feel more confident, more beautiful and more present.
Check out the entire Vogue article here.