Theoretically, after a runway show or red carpet, you could buy one of the designer dresses you saw. You can even find the makeup artist online and shop the products used for a celebrity look (if they've shared the breakdown). But a hairstyle? That's a form of art, passed from a hairstylist's talented hands to someone's hair, fleeting and momentary until a shower washes products down the drain or a night spent tossing and turning on a pillow musses it out of place. Which is why it's vital to follow Black hairstylists in particular on Instagram: There, artists whose work is systematically underrepresented in the industry share stories behind their one-of-a-kind looks, giving you a peek inside both their mind and into the fashion world itself.
Because it really is less about the gel or comb used to create any style, and more about the display of artistry and talent, which often can't be replicated on your own without major skill. (Though there are looks on this list you'll want to attempt, stat.) Below, five Black hairstylists behind some of the most iconic — and recent — hairstyles in fashion, both on the runway and across the red carpet.
Lacy Redway / @lacyredway
The look: Tessa Thompson at the 2018 Met Gala, "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination."
The story: "Babies first met gala and she did not come to play with y’all!" wrote hairstylist Lacy Redway on an Instagram post featuring Thompson's three-tiered, pearl-studded bun, which she wore to the 2018 Met Gala. (Was it a coincidence when pearl hair accessories took over soon after? Probably not.) This May, Redway shared more behind-the-scenes photos of the heavenly look, showing how the pearls neatly cascaded from Thompson's updo down her body. "I ended up placing the pearls vertically down the back of her buns to line up perfectly with the pearls along her back," the stylist explained.
Yusef Williams / @yusefhairnyc
The looks: The 2019 Savage x Fenty show at New York Fashion Week.
The story: The hairstylist behind magazine covers of both Rihanna and Lizzo, Yusef also served as a creative force at the NYFW 2019 Savage x Fenty show — turned Amazon extravaganza — creating close to 100 looks with his team. "I had the challenge of taking on 90+ models and of course with The help from my amazing assistances team," the stylist wrote on Instagram following the show. "We all push through and got the job done!"
Nikki Nelms / @nikkinelms
The looks: Janelle Monáe and Zoë Kravitz at the 2019 Met Gala, "Camp: Notes on Fashion."
The story: "I had to have both of these beauties ready, comfortably, for the carpet AT THE SAME TIME! (Keep in mind their hotels were 20+ streets apart.)," shared hairstylist Nikki Nelms on her Instagram page, beneath a photo of both Kravitz (with immaculate cornrows) and Monae (with a lip-accented braid) together at the gala. "Besides both Zoe and Janelle looking AMAZING, my favorite moment from MET 2019 was both of them saying to me 'How, in the hell, did u do that?'"
Nigella Miller / @nigella.nyc
The looks: The Pyer Moss Spring/Summer 2020 show, "Sister."
The story: When natural textured hair is still highly politicized, beginning a show with a model wearing an Afro is a powerful statement; one created at the Spring/Summer 2020 show by Pyer Moss' hair creative director, Nigella Miller. "Thank you @kerbito for trusting me with hair creative direction, and opening up a lane for talented Black Hairstylists like me in the Industry. Words can’t explain how happy I am. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to show-case the @pyermoss vision," Miller later wrote on Instagram. "Idk if you guys can imagine what it’s like, wanting to show the industry what black hair is suppose to look like as opposed to being over looked. Yesterday I was able to express that on so many levels."
Vernon François / @vernonfrancois
The look: Lupita Nyong'o at the 2019 Met Gala, "Camp: Notes on Fashion."
The story: Inspired in part by Marie Antoinette and Lauren Kelley's 2007 self-portrait "Pickin'", Lupita Nyong'o's sculptural Afro at the 2019 Met Gala exuded elegant power. "Our goal is to continue to demonstrate the power of our hair #texture that it is the most moldable and luxurious #hair texture there is," hairstylist Vernon François noted on Instagram.