Style

20 Times Black Celebrities Hit the Red Carpet in Their Natural Hair

By Ariel Wodarcyk - March 18, 2020
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The versatility of natural black hair styles can’t be overstated—which is why we get so excited when stars rock these looks on the red carpet. “We’ve always known natural hair was beautiful, but celebrities are finally showcasing it,” says Jihan Thompson, the cofounder of Swivel Beauty,  a database that lets black women find and book appointments with stylists based on their hair type. Keep scrolling for Thompson’s tips on how to achieve some of the most stellar natural red carpet looks.

 

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Shiny, voluminous curls like Taraji’s start with a healthy scalp. Henson relies on her own hair care line, the new TPH by TARAJI to get it. Her collection is small but powerful, with a minty conditioner that stimulates the scalp to promote hair growth and nix buildup. It also includes a hydrating scalp oil and detangling leave-in conditioner.

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When you add extensions like The Hate U Give actress Amandla Stenberg did here, harsh bleach and dyes aren’t necessary to make a drastic hair change. “This blue is so stunning!” says Thompson. “A style like this really shows the versatility of natural hair and how much fun you can have by weaving in braiding hair.”

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Just look at how lush Viola Davis’s curls are here! She has type 4C hair—which means it’s densely packed, tightly coiled and very delicate—so moisturizing is key. Davis’s hairstylist, Jamika Wilson, told Refinery29  that Davis applies a combination of As I Am Doublebutter Cream and Curling Jelly Definer at night, and then uses Shea Moisture Red Palm & Cocoa Butter Curl Stretch Pudding to stretch her curls in the morning.

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Adding adornments like the ones in Washington’s gold hoops and sparkling conch shells makes any braid look special. “This is such a great way to have fun with a braid and keep the hair off your face,” Thompson says. “It really shows that adding braiding hair to a natural style can amp up the look.”

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The key to getting a slicked back faux hawk like Issa Rae’s? A heavy-duty edge controller that doesn’t leave behind any sticky residue, says Thompson. The Cantu Extra Hold Edge Stay Gel has over 700 rave reviews on Amazon.

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Singer Janelle Monae achieved her sculptural updo by twisting her braids around bent wires for a space-age halo effect. “This is so fun,” Thompson said. “This showcases how you can really think outside the box with natural hair.”

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If you’re bleaching your natural hair the way Solange did, it’s important to add moisture and protein to help protect the hair. “A lot of women just focus on deep conditioning, but forget about putting protein treatments in the hair,”

Thompson says. “It’s important to strike a balance.” She recommends asking a stylist to do a strand test—pull a strand down and see how it bounces back. If the hair snaps, it needs more protein. If it stretches and then snaps, it’s craving moisture.

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The key to romantic, wispy tendrils like these is super moisturized, healthy curls. If your coils are falling limp due to lack of moisture, Thompson recommends spritzing them with a little water and finger-curling them.

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Thompson recommends starting with a loose blowout before arranging the hair into a ‘40s-inspired updo like Nyong’o’s. “You don’t even need a flat-iron; just use a blow-dryer and a comb attachment, or whatever tool you normally use to blow out your hair, and low heat,” she says. "As long as the hair is stretched, you'll be able to create the volume necessary for this upswept look."

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Thompson looks to the brand BabyTress  for edge-specific hair brushes that she says “slick and swoop your edges” into beautiful designs, like the spirals seen here on Keys. (Of course, a classic toothbrush works too.)

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Willow’s side braid waterfalling into a high ponytail is proof of how versatile locs can be. “Don’t be afraid to try a different look with locs,” says Thompson. “You don’t just have to wear them down in the expected way.”

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We have just two words for Angela Basset’s voluminous mane: Awe-inspiring. Fluff up your curls with a loose blowout and a good brush-through. For those of us who aren’t blessed with hair that so beautifully rises to the heavens, Thompson recommends finding a natural-looking wig or doing a natural sew-in. “There are so many out there nowadays that aren’t just your straight styles,” she said.

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For the 2019 LACMA Art + Film Gala, KiKi Lane’s hairstylist Larry Sims twisted the actress’s two-toned faux locs into two ethereal, gravity-defying rings.

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If you’re thinking about cutting bangs on natural hair, Thompson recommends getting a curly cut. If your stylist cuts bangs while the hair is straightened and blow-dried, the shrinkage will not be cute. We especially love the length of Black-ish star Shahidi’s fringe.

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If you’re considering the big chop, a cut with a little length up top, like the one actress Danielle Brooks is sporting here, is the way to go, says Thompson. “This is an easy style to achieve for anyone who’s new to being natural and wants to start fresh,” she says. You can still experiment with styling, and allow your curls to flourish.

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Gabrielle Union made her classic box braids into a royal stand out with the addition of teeny-tiny rhinestones and a waterfall effect into loose waves.

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Zendaya looked like a goddess with her auburn-tinted faux locs at the 2015 Academy Awards. “We’re starting to see that locs are incredibly red carpet worthy,” Thompson says. “A lot of women are getting this style because it's so chic and beautiful.” Faux locs also protect hair because they’re low maintenance and long lasting. “It doesn’t take very long to do either, so it’s a great protective style for women with natural hair who want to switch up their look.”

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To mimic Jill Scott’s beautiful, full-bodied curls, start with a loose blowout. Or get a little help from some natural-looking extensions that pump up the volume and a bejeweled hair clip for a little extra glitz.

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For a look like this, Thompson recommends asking for super small, knotless box braids. Knotless braids put less stress on your hair and scalp, and create a more seamless, natural look.

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“Whether you’re wearing your natural hair or adding in pieces to create an updo like this, you’re going to want to seal it with a lot of hairspray,” Thompson says. Try the Ouidad Finishing Mist—it’s infused with jojoba oil for medium hold and a lot of moisture.