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‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Lead Hairstylist, Camille Friend, Talks Showcasing Black Beauty Through Film

For “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” lead hairstylist Camille Friend spares no effort in her mission to spotlight Black beauty in all of its forms. This time, she’s partnered with natural hair care brands My Black Is Beautiful and Gold Series to amplify her mission.

When the time to commence filming for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” rolled around in 2020, the first thing director Ryan Coogler did was take the film’s cast and crew to visit Chadwick Boseman’s gravesite. 

“Something magical happened there,” said Camille Friend, lead hairstylist for the “Black Panther” film series. “We got to pray and dance and sing, there were drummers — I think that moment healed everybody’s heart and allowed us to be like, ‘OK, we’re going to make ‘Wakanda Forever’ — we’re going to do this for Chadwick.’”

Boseman, who passed away in August 2020 due to stage-four colon cancer, played the titular role of the Black Panther, or T’Challah, in the series’ first film, which premiered in 2018. 

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Landing in theaters this Friday, the second film depicts the people of fictional east African land, Wakanda, picking up the pieces following the loss of their king, with the trailer hinting at the rise of a new, female Black Panther. 

Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Eli Adé

“The first thing me and Ryan [Coogler] started talking about was Shuri and Ramonda,” said Friend of T’Challah’s sister and mother, played by Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett, respectively. “His thought was that they would have shaved their heads in mourning of T’Challah dying.” 

To signify the characters’ grieving, Friend and Coogler ultimately decided on shorter hair for both, with Shuri sporting a curly, high-top fade and Ramonda bidding adieu to her long, silver-gray locs. 

“With Nakia, who is played by Lupita [Nyong’o], I knew her hair was going to change because she had left Wakanda, had come into her own and was living in Haiti,” said Friend, who added locs to Nakia’s signature red hair, which was styled in bantu knots — which Friend coined as “Wakanda knots” — in the first film. 

“A lot of factors went into figuring out the design this time around — we wanted to demonstrate the passage of time, and how each character would have evolved since the first film,” said Friend, who is the multicultural hair care brand influencer for Procter & Gamble’s natural and curly hair care brands, My Black Is Beautiful and Gold Series. 

When she joined the first movie, Friend had no idea the resounding cultural impact it would have. It wasn’t until her Instagram DMs began blowing up following initial press screenings, and even more once the film was released to the public, that she realized the significance of the film. 

“You never know what kind of impact a movie is going to make,” said Friend. “’Black Panther’ was a pleasant surprise — all I knew then was that I was a Black woman, and I told Ryan Coogler we will not be using any curling irons, we’re going to do it all-natural, and he was like, ‘Go for it.’”

In her creative direction for “Wakanda Forever,” Friend sought to continue combining historical African inspirations — such as Senegalese warriors, whom the film’s Jabari tribe was loosely based on — with experimental, futuristic stylings to bring the influence of the first film to new heights. 

“I don’t have any superhero powers, but I know I’m a superhero because it’s how I walk — it’s how I talk and what I bring forth,” said Friend, for whom the most meaningful impact of “Black Panther” was showing Black people, through all the film’s world-building, futuristic wonders and depictions of Black excellence, that they can break free of limitations placed upon them by others. 

Camille Friend
Camille Friend courtesy photo

“I love when people send me pictures of their children at Halloween, and they want to be Nakia or the Black Panther. That representation that happens in ‘Black Panther’ is so important because when children and people see themselves in movies, they think, ‘I can do that — I can be that.’” 

It is this mission that united Friend with hair care brands My Black Is Beautiful and Gold Series, with whom the hairstylist has teamed to launch limited-edition “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” product packs now available at Target, Walmart and Kroger. 

“What makes this partnership so amazing is that you can’t be more Black, and more Black joy, than what Black Panther is,” said Lela Coffey, vice president of North American hair care and multicultural hair brands at Procter & Gamble. 

The specialty pack containing products from My Black Is Beautiful’s Golden Milk Collection retails for $19.99, while the Gold Series Core Collection pack costs $10.99, both catering to the needs of natural and curly hair. 

With My Black Is Beautiful striving to bring Black joy to the fore, and Gold Series having been formulated by Black scientists, the brands found a natural synergy with Camille’s purpose and the “Black Panther” realm. 

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“What’s great about ‘Black Panther’ is not just that it’s a Marvel movie — it’s a chance for young Black men and women to see themselves as kings and queens on the big screen, doing things that aren’t the typical lived experience that many people think about Black people,” said Coffey.

“To me, ‘Wakanda Forever’ is even better than the first film,” said Friend. “I want people to know and feel that our hair is beautiful, however you wear it. I don’t care if it’s straight, natural, if you wear a weave or wig — whatever you do, I want you to know that you’re beautiful.”