From Angela Bassett‘s changing crown and Lupita Nyong’o‘s new dreadlocks to Letitia Wright‘s braids, the film’s sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — which hit theaters on Friday, November 11 — is filled with symbolic hair images that took a lot of research, dedication and respect.
First and foremost, Friend wanted to pay homage. “We took inspiration from the Zulu tribe, the Masai tribe and the Senegalese Warriors,” she told Us Weekly exclusively ahead of the second installation’s release. “I always like to start with the traditional because that’s the basis. That’s where everything comes from.”
Secondly, Friend worked to highlight the versatility of Black hair. “The greatest thing about our hair is that you can do anything. I always say wear your hair however you want. You want to wear it straight, do it. You want to wear a weave, do it. You want to wear a relaxer, go for it. We have freedom.”
She continued: “[Our hair] is ever evolving and when you see Wakanda Forever, that will be evident.”
Wakanda Forever follows the leaders of the fictional country as they fight to protect their nation following the death of King T’Challa, who was portrayed by Chadwick Boseman in the first film. The Golden Globe winner died in August 2020 at age 43 following a private battle with colon cancer. Director Ryan Coogler revealed after Boseman’s passing that he decided not to recast the role.
“When I started talking to Ryan, I quickly understood that this movie is about the women,” Friend told Us. “So, with Queen Ramonda (Bassett) — she’s a mother in mourning, so keeping in line with tradition she would have cut her hair and we’re finding them at a time where it’s growing back out. So, we’re getting an understanding of grief through her hair journey. It’s in its natural state, we’re seeing texture.”
As for Shuri (Wright), “We kept the back of her head shaved but it was done in a more mature way because with everything’s that happened, she has to grow up now,” the beauty guru explained. “In the first, she had braids and would rock playful buns but now she’s got this edgy cut … it’s a hairpiece we used, and we would double strand twist it and then pick it out.”
Nyong’o’s Nakia also experienced a transformation. “She stepped away from Wakanda, she stepped away from being a war dog and now we see this much softer, gentler version of her, and we wanted her hair to reflect that, so she let her hair grow.”
To bring the many styles to life, Friend relied heavily on an array of trusted beauty products. “One of my favorite products is by Better Not Younger and it’s called the Super Power Hair & Scalp Duo. It really helps stimulate your scalp and hair growth. I used it every day.”
She also leaned on Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Curl Enhancing Mousse, Prose Styling Gel, Hask Curl Care Curl Defining Cream, Unite 7Second Detangler and Shine N’ Jam-Edge Magic as well as Sexy Hair’s Hard Up Gel.
Making her work even more special, Friend has watched as the hair in the film has influenced the real world.
“When we did the first movie, you couldn’t find hair that came in a 4A, B or C texture. We had to make everything. We permed everything. Fast forward to now, you can buy it all. I call it the Black Panther influence. Hair brands understand they have to do more, do better. People are feeling empowered. We won’t settle for something that isn’t right for us. We’re being heard.”