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In an Instagram post Thursday evening, Nyong’o shared the original stills from her shoot alongside the image that actually ended up appearing on Grazia‘s cover. In the originals, Nyong’o has her hair pulled back into what looks like a low bun. In the final version, the bun portion of her hairstyle has been photoshopped away, creating the appearance of a fully shaved head. Nyong’o couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to alter her hair might have had something to do with the fact that she keeps it at its natural texture (without straightening it or chemically treating it)—a choice that often gets stereotyped as “messy” or “unprofessional.”
“I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too,” Nyong’o wrote. “Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are.
“Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.”
She ended the post with the hashtag #dtmh, referencing Solange‘s song “Don’t Touch My Hair” off her recent album A Seat at the Table. Just last month, Solange had her hair Photoshopped out by the London Evening Standard magazine. At the time, she wrote simply on Instagram “dtmh.”
As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too. Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women's complexion, hair style and texture. #dtmh
A post shared by Lupita Nyong'o (@lupitanyongo) on
In reply, Grazia released a statement of its own Friday morning. It didn’t exactly apologize for running the photo, but it accepted accountability for not being more hands-on during the photo’s editing process.
“Grazia magazine would like to make it clear that at no point did they make any editorial request to the photographer for Lupita Nyong’o’s hair to be altered… nor did we alter it ourselves,” the statement read. “But we apologise unreservedly for not upholding the highest of editorial standards in ensuring that we were aware of all alterations that had been made.”
— Grazia UK (@GraziaUK) November 10, 2017
This isn’t the first time Nyong’o has challenged the fashion institution’s ignorance toward Black hair. Back in 2016, she checked Vogue for not citing the correct inspirations for her Met Gala hairstyle.
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.