'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' Lead Hairstylist Camille Friend on What Inspired the Looks

Every style tells a story.

ALL NATURAL: Black Panther Wakanda Forever Hair Department Head Camille Friend Shares Her Inspiration Behind the Film’s Looks

Courtesy/ InStyle

As a Hollywood hair artist, founder of Hair Scholars educational program, member of Prose haircare’s first-ever Haircare Advisory Board, and the Hair Department Head for both Black Panther films, Camille Friend is used to being know as "the woman behind the hair."

Her impressive resume includes a plethora of Marvel films, as well as The Hunger Games, Us, Dreamgirls, and 2019’s Charlie’s Angels just to name a few. She was also the Hair Designer and personal stylist for Hailey Bailey for the upcoming The Little Mermaid film. (That red hair people can’t stop talking about? It's all Friend).

So creating the unforgettable looks we've seen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is just another day at work for the skilled artist. But for the sequel, she wanted to focus on one demographic in particular.

“From the very beginning speaking with [director] Ryan Coogler, we said, ‘This movie is about the women,’” shares Friend. “Our inspiration was the mother, the sister, and all the women in the Black Panther support group, and their hair is an important part of the art of telling the entire story. When we see them again, they have been grieving. Wakanda has taken a hit, but they are still standing and holding down the fort. So we need to see their strength, integrity, and the importance of family and tradition.”

That said, Friend and her team needed to ensure audiences would see the depth of the storyline come to life in the actors's hairstyles.

“In the first film, Shuri [Letitia Wright] was a fashionista and had so many different looks, but one constant was her braids,” says Friend. “For this film, her head would have been shaved during her mourning, so we kept the sides and back of her hair shaved, and then gave her a combed out 4C texture on the top.”

As for Angela Bassett’s character Ramonda, through much of the film she wears hats and headdresses, but when we do see her hair, it is fit for a queen. “We kept Ramonda in the same vein as the first film, but we went in and made all the hair shorter,” says Friend. “The other person who had a huge change was Lupita Nyong’o. A huge transition happened for her character as she went from living in Wakanda and being a Wakandan war dog, so we kept her signature red hair color, but now we have her in 18-inch locks.”

All of these styles were created with wigs and hair pieces, which were crafted by Hollywood wigmaker Natascha Ladek, who is renowned for her impeccable work on countless films. “I would go by every few days to check in on the creative process and see if anything needed to be tweaked as Ryan and I talked more,” says Friend. “Once we started filming, there was more tweaking, because that’s what we get to do as hair artists is constantly look for opportunities to tweak and make things look better in the moment, and this is the type of movie that really does showcase the hair and our work."

Of course, the lead actors were not the extent of the hair team’s work on the film. “We really got to explore more tribes of people for this film, and I loved researching and designing those looks,” Friend shares.

“The Talokanil [a tribe of people who live in a hidden underwater land] were inspired by Mesoamerican and Mayan culture, and just as much care as we took creating the culture of Wakanda the first time around, we took in creating this culture, too," the hairstylist continues. "Even down to the hair accessories that we used. We couldn’t find things that looked authentic, so we got wire and all the materials we needed to make the hair accessories, and we weaved them into the hair, and we built the look of this culture from the ground up.”

On days working with just the primary actors, Friend had a hair team of five or six people, but when filming large scenes that included extras portraying large tribes of people, the hair team had up to 30 members. “To not only create an entire tribe of people, but also have them be underwater was a huge undertaking from a hair standpoint,” shares Friend. “Water is a living, breathing entity that can be really difficult to work with, and for us to create beautiful hair in these tanks with divers and stunt doubles; I’m just really proud of the wonderful job the team did in a tough situation.”

Of course, the process of doing Black women’s hair is much more than the final style. So behind-the-scenes, Friend used Design Essentials soon-to-launch African Chebe Growth Collection on the actors’ hair.

“Being a part of that product launch is so exciting for me, because historically women have been using Chebe for years to grow their hair,” she shares. “I always start with myself when I try new products, and I really liked it, so then I moved on to certain actors, and everyone really loved it. It doesn’t matter if we’re using a wig or hairpiece or extensions, it’s important to maintain the integrity of the hair underneath, so I used the hair mask and put it on their hair before putting on a wig cap, so all day, they were getting a hair treatment under their wig. It’s so important for me to leave actors’ hair in better condition than when we started, and this helped me do that!”

'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' is in theaters now.

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