If you have yet to see Beyoncé’s Black Is King, you are monumentally missing out, also what is wrong with you? Get your stuff together and get Disney+. The film, which is an extension of the 2019 The Lion King: The Gift album, is a composition of artistry and brilliance; from the music, to the fashion, to the hair, oh my!
As to only be expected from Queen Bey, she had a distinct vision of how she wanted the music to be depicted visually. So when it came to conceptualizing the elaborate hairstyles, only one person would do, Bey’s personal longtime hairstylist, Neal Farinah. The Trinidadian stylist worked with B on five world tours, and helped shape her natural look for Vogue’s September 2018 cover.
Lucky for us, Farinah chatted with Vogue and spilled all the behind the scenes dish we’re all dying to know. For Black Is King, Farinah strived to honor Black beauty and heritage by way of floor-length braids, silky weaves, and Bantu knots. “To African women throughout history, [hair] was something spiritual. Your hairstyle represented your power.”
Farinah noted that everything happened pretty quickly after Beyoncé initially reached out about the project, duh, Beyoncé makes moves. He recalled Bey sat him down to discuss the creative process, he even remembered the day it happened (it was a Wednesday). She said, “Neal, this is my baby. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, and this is the right moment.” She then showed him “all of these references of traditional African hairstyles. I was blown away.” After taking two days to put together and present his finally presentation Farinah was instructed to gather a team. On his roster was a list of beyond talented hairstylists including Xia Charles, a Brooklyn-based hairstylist, Nakia Rachon, a hair artist based in L.A., and Nicole Newland, who works with the likes of Issa Rae and Iman, nbd or whatever.
Even with his rise to success in the industry, the monumental opportunity for both him and the Black community was not lost on Farinah, “It was one of the greatest moments [in my career] to work with all these people,” said Farinah. “I felt like I had the pie, and this was finally my moment to share my pie. I wanted to give other young Black women and Black dudes in this industry a moment to shine.”
At it’s core, the film is a love letter to Africa. With every style Farinah, B and his team paid extra special attention to the details of the hair. Adamant to offer insight into African culture, they pulled references from African royalty and customs of different tribes across the continent. Neil shared a few of his style choices on his Instagram page, showcasing the historical references they were inspired from.
“Horned head and lip plates worn by the Dinka and Mursi Tribes were signs of Presige & Honor”
“Senegalese Twist: Paying homage to Senegal, Africa. In Dakar, Senegalese Twist represent not only fashion but a status symbol.”
“ORISHA BUNMI. Nigerian women worn this hairstyle to special events in 1968-1985”
As far as Farinah is concerned, “this is a time for us to educate, this is a time for us to embrace culture.” And shared that since becoming a part of. and the release of Black Is King, he has been on “cloud nine.”
“I’m living my purpose. I always wanted to make a movie, and if I was to do a movie, I wanted to do a movie with Beyoncé in it. It’s a movie that inspires many cultures around the world. It’s for everyone because it’s so educational.” His hope is for the deliberate styling in Black Is King to inspire “Black women to feel free to wear their hair however they want to and to not worry about being judged or what someone else would say. To be free, and set yourself free. To embrace your beauty, your texture, and to wear your crown proudly.”