Amandla Stenberg has been on the big screen since she was 12-years-old, playing Rue in The Hunger Games and then continuing to work and become the great actress we’ve come to know and love. Most recently, Stenberg shared an intimate essay with InStyle about something that affects many black women — hair and hair acceptance.
Amandla touches on being "endlessly frustrated by her hair" and praying to God every night for looser, wavier curls like her sister — she thought of her sister’s hair as 'princess hair.' Stenberg wore her natural hair in a fro’ and twists until she was ten. Once she hit ten-years-old, she dealt with the complex of having to attend a predominantly white school in which boys would tell her that her hair wasn’t cute, "even when it was twisted." This led her to chemically processing her hair, which was a quick fix that led to permanent damage.
As her career began in 2012, while she was in The Hunger Games, the actress and activist mentioned that the styling team on the film didn’t know what to do with her hair:
"Between every take they’d drench my hair with water and try to pat it down or make it look less 'frizzy.' As a result my hair was soaking wet the entire time. They also openly expressed frustration about how it was too challenging. I wasn’t all that self-conscious, but I remember very clearly feeling that my hair wasn’t acceptable, that something was wrong with it."
There did come a point in which Stenberg began loving her hair — at 16, she got a curly cut which brought out her natural curls in the best of ways. According to Stenberg, it was definitely a game-changer for her.
"At first I had a very big, curly ’fro that kind of became a symbol of my self-acceptance. It was me loving my blackness: It was the hair growing out of my head, so there was nothing wrong with that! As soon as I got tired of that [look] being my identity, I cut my hair shorter. I was curious how that might affect people’s perception of my gender too, so I kept cutting it shorter and shorter. I wanted a hairstyle that felt less feminine," she shared with InStyle.
One of her most recent films, Where Hands Touch, required her to play a biracial teen in Nazi Germany in which she would have to shave her head. This was something she agreed to almost instantly.
"Shaving my head was wild. I felt a sense of complete neutrality. It was so freeing. This summer I came out as gay, and I must say, having no hair made me feel even more comfortable with my gender and sexuality," said Stenberg about her newest cut and gender roles.
With the sense of freedom she’s gained from cutting her hair, Stenberg seems excited to see what comes next for her crown. Most of all, she’s happy that it's ultimately her decision.
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