The Importance of Braids

Maybe you’ve already seen Elle’s viral video series Braid Star — short makeover videos that show stars like Justine Skye and Yvonne Orji getting their hair intricately braided. They’re fun to watch, but seized the opportunity to take the conversation a step further with a short film, Braided. It went live yesterday and features actress Lupita Nyong’o, rapper Young M.A., and Ayana Byrd, author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, discussing the power of braids. Filmed in Harlem and Inglewood, the film touches on the history of braids, the effect of cultural appropriation (from Bo Derek to the Kardashians), as well as the subjects’ first fond memories of braiding.

Interdisciplinary artist and hair braider Shani Crowe said of appropriation in the video, “The number of black women who are just so into braids and natural hair right now is so great a number that it kind of outweighs the feeble, trendy, quick gimmick-type deal.” Watch the 20-minute doc below.