By Kay of Kaymontano.com
Bafta winning actress Thandie Newton and I first met on a Vogue shoot about 6 years ago. It didn’t take long before I felt that I’d always known her. She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met and I’ve been fortunate enough to make-up, wax lyrical and travel with her ever since. I have made her up more than anyone else in my whole career, in an entirely different way each time.
We often discuss what it is like to be mixed race, our experiences, what it means to us, what we continue to discover and most importantly perhaps, find ways of celebrating it. Our hair is not easy hair. It frizzes, it tangles and it knots and takes a lot to understand. There is still much stigma with a large ‘hair culture’ surrounding it, plus a multi-million dollar industry supplying women with ways of taming it.
Thandie has been growing out her hair relaxer for the last year and she’s now 100% Lye-free, (the controversial chemical in black hair straightening products) and is finding that wearing it big and natural is extremely liberating.
Your hair looks so different, what made you decide to go natural?
Its taken about 2 years to fully grow out my relaxer. I always thought I would go back to curly, because I didn’t want my daughters to judge their beautiful curls. I assumed they’d want to be like their Mum, and they’ve only ever known me with straight hair. However, it turns out they’re so secure in who they are as individuals that I don’t think it occurs to them to be like anyone else, and that includes me.
What inspired you to allow your hair return to its natural state?
So, the ultimate personal wake up call was when I saw Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, and saw how the active ingredient–Lye (that’s in all black hair relaxing products)- can melt a Coke can. Also the fact that the FDA takes no responsibility with harmful chemicals when it comes to beauty products. Scary.
Thandie in Alexander McQueen at one of the many Bafta’s we’ve done together
How does having wilder looking, bigger hair make you feel as opposed to the elegantly-on-trend hairstyles we’re used to seeing you with on the red carpet?
I have to feel comfortable with having ‘all eyes on me‘, which I do when I work, less so in life. Ironically I don’t want to draw attention to myself because of celeb spotting, but my big hair, for a time will work as a disguise! Straight hair has been ‘on trend’ for years and years, so having big-ass curly hair means “I’m stepping outside the mould, outside what’s accepted and applauded”. It takes a little courage to do that.
Mainly, I want to wear it natural because it looks amazing!
Do you think cultural attitudes within the black community are changing with regards their hair?
The kinky-haired Afro has been practically ironed out (pun intended!) within the mainstream black community. Now, black women have silkier, smoother longer hair than any other women. And there’s no stigma attached to black women and false hair (weaves, extension, wigs) whereas if a white woman wore false hair they’d seem more of a phony and inadequate. That’s changing a lot, but men certainly don’t expect white women to have false hair, whereas black boys know that there’s ‘No touching above the neck!’ And there’s no embarrassment about it.