Lupita Nyong’o is giving fans a closer look at the henna design on her newly bald head. The “Black Panther” star explained the henna artwork and what led to the decision to have it applied. In a post to her Instagram account, Nyong’o says she met the artist responsible for her henna last year at a wedding in Pakistan. At the time, the artist applied henna to the bride and Nyong’o says she was blown away.
” I was ASTOUNDED by the INTRICACY and BEAUTY of her work. There was something unique about the way she expressed herself in henna art,” Nyong’o wrote on IG.
The actress says she promised herself at that wedding that one day she would have a reason to work with the self-taught artist who goes by Sabeen on social media.
Nyong’o says a year and a half later she finally had her chance. As she was preparing for the opening night of a friend’s musical, the actress says she felt her look for the night wasn’t complete. Then, she had a flash of inspiration.
“[I]n the middle of the night, an image SHOT into my mind of a henna design covering my bald head!!!” Nyong’o wrote.
The Decision to Go Bald
On May 10, Nyong’o shared her new haircut with the world on social media. Writing, “Happy without hair!!!” Over the years, the actress has been willing to experiment with different hair styles. The decision to go bald prompted an array of comments under her post. Some questioned the reason. Other’s asked why hair should ever cause a stir. Five days later Nyong’o shared the first of two posts flaunting her henna art.
I could do something special and different, to celebrate the culture using the canvas readily available to me!” Nyong’o wrote in the latest post about the henna art on her head.
According to the New York Times, the musical Nyong’o was preparing for centers on an arranged marriage that brings together two vastly different Indian families. For the musical’s opening night, the actress wore a sari and jewels and ultimately felt the addition of henna would be the perfect final touch.
Henna’s Cultural Significance
According to St. Thomas University, henna art has been practiced in Pakistan, India, Africa, and the Middle East for over 5000 years. Today, Henna is mostly used for celebrations such as wedding and birthdays. The look is achieved by applying a temporary dye to the skin’s surface. Though these designs are often referred to as “henna tattoos” they are not permanent.
While Nyong’o was excited about her choice to have henna applied to her head, the decision wasn’t without some concerns. Partially because this was the artist’s first time ever designing for a head.
“We were both excited and terrified. What if it went wrong or looked funny??? Well, I thought, I can always wear a head wrap,” the actress wrote.
Nyong’o explained that she only had a few requests for the artist.
“My only prompt to her was that I wanted a widow’s peak (homage to the bindhi, borla / maang tikka),” she wrote.
In the end, a natural dye from South America was used. A choice specifically made to work with Nyong’o’s skin tone.
“She suggested #jagua, a natural dye from the jagua fruit of South America that would be dark enough to give good contrast to my dark skin,” the actress wrote.
Despite any initial reservations, Nyong’o says the outcome was incredible. According to Nyong’o it took 24 hours for the dye to really show up and when it did she was moved. She says it may have been easier to play it safe, but taking a risk paid.
“I had found a new way to express myself without hair!” Nyong’o wrote. “So the moral of this story is: DARE YOURSELF TO SEEK OUT BEAUTY IN NEW WAYS.”