Black History Month is the perfect time to reflect on memorable Black hair moments on the big screen.
Films have long served as a reflection of the beauty and versatility of Black hairstyles, with Black characters rocking natural textures and wide-ranging ’dos.
From the prominent Afros featured in Blaxploitation films to the box braids and high-top fades celebrated in the 1990s, here are some highlights of Black hair in all of their glory in cinema that fill us with nostalgia and joy.
Dorothy Dandridge’s 1950s ’do
“Carmen Jones,” released in 1954, showed its leading actor, Dorothy Dandridge, wearing her hair in a short and curly hairstyle popular in the 1950s, when Black women were hardly represented in leading roles on the big screen.
Richard Roundtree’s striking sideburns
Richard Roundtree had prominent sideburns with his mini ’fro when he starred as the celebrated Black action hero in “Shaft.” The film was released in 1971, when Afros were popular following the civil rights and Black Power movements.
“With the black power ethos came a different way of looking on screen,” Christine Acham, a cinematic arts associate professor at the University of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times last year, adding that “there was a lot of movement around Angela Davis’ image on her FBI poster, and we could see it translate over to film.”
Pam Grier’s picked-out Afro
Pam Grier starred in her iconic role in 1974’s Blaxploitation film “Foxy Brown,” in which she sported her perfectly rounded and picked-out Afro. She was one of the first high-profile stars to popularize Afros on the big screen, celebrating Black hair textures and rejecting Eurocentric standards of beauty.
Prince’s bouncy curls
Prince played “The Kid” in “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie that had the same name as his Grammy-winning album. He donned loose, curly locks that made his fans go wild.
Kid ’n Play’s high-top fades
In “House Party,” released in 1990, Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin of hip-hop duo Kid ’n Play rocked their signature high-top fades, which were hugely popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ice Cube’s Jheri curl
Ice Cube starred as Darrin or “Doughboy” in the 1991 classic “Boyz N the Hood.” The rapper/actor featured a wavy Jheri curl under his black cap. The Jheri curl became more accessible and affordable in the 1980s after entrepreneur Comer Cottrell’s hair care company, Pro-Line, created the at-home product known as the Curly Kit. Cottrell “democratized the Jheri curl,” Lori L. Tharps, co-author of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America,” told The Washington Post in 2014.
Eddie Murphy’s stylish part
Eddie Murphy shined in 1992’s “Boomerang” with a prominent part, which has made a comeback as a popular hairstyle feature.
Janet Jackson’s timeless box braids
Janet Jackson memorably wore versatile box braids in the 1993 film “Poetic Justice.” The iconic singer wore the fashionable protective style in various ways in the film, like in a high ponytail or under a black hat.
Halle Berry’s and Natalie Desselle’s unforgettable updos
Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle starred in 1997’s “B.A.P.S.,” in which they memorably rocked extravagant updos for a music video audition in Los Angeles.
Chris Tucker’s platinum look
Chris Tucker unforgettably donned a platinum blond unicorn hairstyle in 1997’s “Fifth Element.”
Nia Long’s sleek cut
Nia Long, who played Jordan in the 1999 romantic comedy “The Best Man,” wore a stylish and sleek pixie cut in the film. The actor had a similar look when she portrayed Will Smith’s girlfriend, Lisa, in the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The ‘Black Panther’ cast’s wide-ranging and versatile looks
Lupita Nyong’o sported twisted knots as Nakia, and Letitia Wright, who portrayed Shuri, wore her braids in various styles in the 2018 film, which was widely praised for its celebration of the African diaspora and Black culture.
Danai Gurira and Florence Kasumba radiated as they flaunted their shaved heads as members of the Dora Milaje.
Michael B. Jordan memorably donned locs with shaved sides as Erik Killmonger.
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