Q&A: Lupita Nyong’o’s Hair Stylist on That Oscars Headband and Her Double Hair Mountains

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Photo: Jason LaVeris/WireImage

It's been a fairytale awards season for newly minted Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, and she certainly looked the part last night in her Prada princess gown and (rather controversial) sparkly headband. But that diamond Fred Leighton headband caused a bit of a last-minute headache for Nyong'o's hair stylist, Larry Sims, who has been responsible for many of her most creative styles (including those double hair mountains) over the last few months.

After the Oscars, Sims talked to the Cut about the headband, how the pair decided on her many playful styles, and how he hopes his work will send a message to women with short hair.

What was your jumping-off point for tonight's look? Did you start with the dress? 

About three weeks ago, her stylist, Micaela [Erlanger], showed me the dress. We really didn’t know it was going to be the dress yet. They showed me like five different ideas of what it could be. As the weeks went by, they landed on the dress they have now. It’s Prada and made especially for her. With that in mind, I started thinking about ideas of where the hair was going to go, but it changed as of last night because her stylist showed me this gorgeous headband. It was optional, and she told me, You don’t have to use it. But I was so blown away by the headband and the diamonds. It’s a gorgeous piece. I said, I’m going to have to implement this.

What were you originally thinking before you saw the headband?

A headband holds your hair down in place in a certain way. The hair I was going for originally was a bit freer; it had volume in it. This hair has volume in it, too, but in order to make the headband work I had to change the direction as far as the shape of the hair was concerned. 

How did you make sure the headband would stay on? During the Pharrell dance, I was getting worried.

It fit like a glove. When she popped it on last night with no hairstyle, it fit beautifully — her hair surrounded it. It will stay on. 

Did you have to shave her hair? It looks shorter on the sides

I shaved the sides and back of her hair all the way around. To add volume, I used a combination of Go Pro Curls products on her damp hair and blew it out with a diffuser. [The products] help elongate and define the curl. I can get a lot of fullness out of her hair texture. 

Is that all her real hair behind the headband?

What’s so amazing about her hair and the different styles is that people don’t know how I’m able to pull it off, so I don’t want to give too much away.

I know you haven’t done all of her red-carpet styles, but a lot of yours have been very edgy. Is that something you had to convince her to do?

It’s definitely something that I brought to the table. Lupita is young, she’s fun, we hung out in Paris and partied together, we danced together. As far as the styles I give her, they’re really complementary to our relationship. She trusts me. I come from a dancer’s background, I have a flair for style and edge, and she trusts my opinion. It feels great to have a muse that’s so iconic already — so early in the game. We just go in and we create, and if we feel good about it, that’s what it is. 

How did you guys meet and start working together?

I had worked with Lupita once before. I was Gabrielle Union’s guest at Paris Fashion Week last year and we were at a dinner for Prada and I was actually seated at the same table as Lupita. We both then remembered that we had actually worked together once before and hit it off. We had so much fun, and that set the tone for what our working relationship is now.

Were there any looks you gave her that either you or she hated? 

We haven't done anything where I’ve been like, This is a disaster. There have been things that have been questioned — people were kind of questioning her NAACP [double mountain] look. It was a love-hate sort of thing for people. People are invested in this girl! On Instagram and Twitter they were like, Do not put those mounds on her head again! But for every comment that was bad, we had 50 other people who said, It’s so stylish, it was a moment in fashion, it was statement hair. The next day, we kind of laughed about it. She thinks it’s all hilarious. She was like, I loved our hair!  

What's it been like working with Lupita?

It’s been a roller-coaster ride, and it’s so refreshing and so amazing to be able to work with someone who's such a style icon so early. I’m just proud to be a part of her journey. And I want to continue to inspire women to know that there is versatility in short, natural hair.