Cicely! Diana! All the Iconic Women Behind This BlacKkKlansman Star’s Red Carpet

“Laura’s a chameleon. She can do no wrong!” the hairstylist Lacy Redway declares. She’s talking about the breakout actress Laura Harrier, who proves the point—with the help of a screen-filling, cloud-like Afro—as the Black Power activist Patrice in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, out today. Like the movie, which knits together almost unbelievable truth and narrative flash, Harrier’s fictional character draws on powerhouse women in the movement, including Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver (both of whom sported and resolve in outsize proportions). History, you could say, is the mother of invention.

Offscreen, to judge from the transformative looks that Redway has given Harrier during the BlacKkKlansman press tour—culminating in a fresh set of

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Most of us remember iconic moments from the 90’s of seeing Janet Jackson with box braids in Poetic Justice or Brandy in Moesha ...but how many of you guys know that Braids can be traced back more than 5000 years ago to about 3500 B.C. ? Braids started in Africa among the Himba Tribe in Namibia Who have been braiding their hair for centuries ( see slide ) . Braids were used to symbolize your tribe , marital status , wealth, or power . Historians have also found traces of box braids on a woman buried in Egypt 3000 years ago . Today we love and wear braids as a protective hairstyle or just because they are beautiful 😊. Tonight at the LA premiere of #Blackkklansman, @lauraharrier celebrate the history and culture of box braids . Makeup @ninapark styled by @daniellenachmani #braidsbylacyredway #hairbylacyredway assisted by @ladawndozierhair #lauraharrier

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for the Los Angeles premiere this week—there’s the same impulse to honor real-world legends through a modern lens. It all starts with research, the hairstylist explains. But what began as a deep dive into ’70s codes quickly snowballed to include a sweep of iconic black women who offered “different ways to tell a story through hair,” Redway says. Stories, that is, with women in the driver’s seat, as she details in this slideshow of her five inspirations. In recent weeks, with Harrier as a willing accomplice and muse, Redway has re-created soft, shoulder-sweeping
à la Foxy Brown’s knockout heroine Pam Grier; the longer disco-worthy
is a nod to early-’80s Diana Ross. Harrier’s crisp set of
evokes the actress Cicely Tyson, whose commitment to cultural accuracy on camera led her first to shave off her chemically relaxed hair and later to adopt cornrows—a pioneering move—for her Oscar-nominated performance in 1972’s Sounder.

How 5 Iconic Women Became Hair Muses for the BlacKkKlansman Star Laura Harrier

Cicely Tyson in 1973. For the 1972 film Sounder, she adopted cornrows in keeping with her character’s Southern upbringing. “At the time, most African-American women were relaxing their hair,” says Redway, but “she wanted to make sure it was authentic.”

Cicely Tyson in 1973. For the 1972 film Sounder, she adopted cornrows in keeping with her character’s Southern upbringing. “At the time, most African-American women were relaxing their hair,” says Redway, but “she wanted to make sure it was authentic.”

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Cicely Tyson in 1973. For the 1972 film Sounder, she adopted cornrows in keeping with her character’s Southern upbringing. “At the time, most African-American women were relaxing their hair,” says Redway, but “she wanted to make sure it was authentic.”

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Janet Jackson in the 1993 movie Poetic Justice. “The ’90s kind of put box braids on the map,” says the Jamaican-born Redway, who grew up wearing the hairstyle. But she points to the long tradition of braiding across Africa. “I really want to bring back the essence of where hairstyles arrived from.”

Janet Jackson in the 1993 movie Poetic Justice. “The ’90s kind of put box braids on the map,” says the Jamaican-born Redway, who grew up wearing the hairstyle. But she points to the long tradition of braiding across Africa. “I really want to bring back the essence of where hairstyles arrived from.”

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Janet Jackson in the 1993 movie Poetic Justice. “The ’90s kind of put box braids on the map,” says the Jamaican-born Redway, who grew up wearing the hairstyle. But she points to the long tradition of braiding across Africa. “I really want to bring back the essence of where hairstyles arrived from.”

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Pam Grier, styled with voluptuous waves, in 1974. The star of that year’s blaxploitation film Foxy Brown radiates her own kind of power as a black woman, explains Redway. “She showed that you can be strong—and if you choose to be sexy, too, that’s your prerogative.”

Pam Grier, styled with voluptuous waves, in 1974. The star of that year’s blaxploitation film Foxy Brown radiates her own kind of power as a black woman, explains Redway. “She showed that you can be strong—and if you choose to be sexy, too, that’s your prerogative.”

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Pam Grier, styled with voluptuous waves, in 1974. The star of that year’s blaxploitation film Foxy Brown radiates her own kind of power as a black woman, explains Redway. “She showed that you can be strong—and if you choose to be sexy, too, that’s your prerogative.”

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Diana Ross in 1981. “She’s a complete icon. For me, you can’t reference the ’80s without referencing Diana Ross,” says Redway, calling out the singer’s voluminous, cascading hair. There’s a renegade spirit, too: “She broke away from her group and showed that she can stand on her own.”

Diana Ross in 1981. “She’s a complete icon. For me, you can’t reference the ’80s without referencing Diana Ross,” says Redway, calling out the singer’s voluminous, cascading hair. There’s a renegade spirit, too: “She broke away from her group and showed that she can stand on her own.”

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Diana Ross in 1981. “She’s a complete icon. For me, you can’t reference the ’80s without referencing Diana Ross,” says Redway, calling out the singer’s voluminous, cascading hair. There’s a renegade spirit, too: “She broke away from her group and showed that she can stand on her own.”

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Sade, with her signature long braid, in 1984. “She has a way of being her authentic self,” Redway says, remembering hearing her music on the radio. “Her songs have this nostalgic feel because it brings you back to this time period where you were young and didn’t know that the world was crazy.”

Sade, with her signature long braid, in 1984. “She has a way of being her authentic self,” Redway says, remembering hearing her music on the radio. “Her songs have this nostalgic feel because it brings you back to this time period where you were young and didn’t know that the world was crazy.”

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Sade, with her signature long braid, in 1984. “She has a way of being her authentic self,” Redway says, remembering hearing her music on the radio. “Her songs have this nostalgic feel because it brings you back to this time period where you were young and didn’t know that the world was crazy.”

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At a time when Instagram makes it easy to poach references without due credit, Redway has made a point to trace the lines. “I really wanted to use my platform in a smarter way,” she says, calling it a “teachable moment” to be able to highlight the intricate styles of Namibia’s Himba tribe, or the braiding techniques in ancient . “It’s not just about gathering likes—although, you know, Laura’s a gorgeous girl, so obviously . . .” she trails off, laughing. Besides, those inspiration images are at the ready, being an integral part of the creative process when working with an actress like Harrier. “Hair is is so personal, where I can describe a certain curl pattern in a way that you might not be able to articulate,” she says. “Visual references, that’s like the universal language.”

Still, there are some styles so synonymous with their wearer that you hardly need to summon a picture: Sade in that single waist-grazing plait, or Janet Jackson in her Poetic Justice box braids, which turned out to be one of the touchstones for Harrier’s latest look. “I’m an ’80s baby, but I grew up in the ’90s,” says the Jamaican-born Redway, calling the decade’s R&B—which accompanied her move to the States—“my vibe.” But the hooks delivered in music videos and movies at that time weren’t the only messages that stuck. “Having women like Janet Jackson show that you don’t have to straighten your hair to look beautiful was so important for me as a young girl growing up,” says Redway, who took to wearing similar braids herself; later on, as she earned her stripes working backstage with fashion’s megawatt stylists (Guido, Odile Gilbert, and others), her lightning-fast braiding skills caught people’s attention. “That ability has opened doors for me,” she says. Indeed it has, to survey the talents sitting in her chair:

,
,
,
. Any familial relation to, say, the Diana Ross on her mood board is an added bonus. “She’s a complete icon,” Redway says. “Every time Tracee tells me stories, I’m at the tip of my seat!”

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