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Actress Thandie Newton Talks About her Transition to Natural Hair

• Feb 1, 2012

By Kay of

Bafta winning actress Thandie Newton and I first met on a Vogue shoot about 6 years ago. It didn’t take long before I felt that I’d always known her.  She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met and I’ve been fortunate enough to make-up, wax lyrical and travel with her ever since. I have made her up more than anyone else in my whole career, in an entirely different way each time.

We often discuss what it is like to be mixed race, our experiences, what it means to us, what we continue to discover and most importantly perhaps, find ways of celebrating it. Our hair is not easy hair. It frizzes, it tangles and it knots and takes a lot to understand. There is still much stigma with a large ‘hair culture’ surrounding it, plus a multi-million dollar industry supplying women with ways of taming it.           

Thandie has been growing out her hair relaxer for the last year and she’s now 100% Lye-free, (the controversial chemical in black hair straightening products) and is finding that wearing it big and natural is extremely liberating.

Your hair looks so different, what made you decide to go natural?
Its taken about 2 years to fully grow out my relaxer. I always thought I would go back to curly, because I didn’t want my daughters to judge their beautiful curls. I assumed they’d want to be like their Mum, and they’ve only ever known me with straight hair. However, it turns out they’re so secure in who they are as individuals that I don’t think it occurs to them to be like anyone else, and that includes me.

What inspired you to allow your hair return to its natural state?
So, the ultimate personal wake up call was when I saw Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, and saw how the active ingredient-Lye (that’s in all black hair relaxing products)- can melt a Coke can. Also the fact that the FDA takes no responsibility with harmful chemicals when it comes to beauty products. Scary.

Thandie in Alexander McQueen at one of the many Bafta’s we’ve done together

How does having wilder looking, bigger hair make you feel as opposed to the elegantly-on-trend hairstyles we’re used to seeing you with on the red carpet?
I have to feel comfortable with having ‘all eyes on me‘, which I do when I work, less so in life. Ironically I don’t want to draw attention to myself because of celeb spotting, but my big hair, for a time will work as a disguise! Straight hair has been ‘on trend’ for years and years, so having big-ass curly hair means “I’m stepping outside the mould, outside what’s accepted and applauded”. It takes a little courage to do that.
Mainly, I want to wear it natural because it looks amazing!

Do you think cultural  attitudes within the black community are changing with regards their hair?
The kinky-haired Afro has been practically ironed out (pun intended!) within the mainstream black community. Now, black women have silkier, smoother longer hair than any other women. And there’s no stigma attached to black women and false hair (weaves, extension, wigs) whereas if a white woman wore false hair they’d seem more of a phony and inadequate. That’s changing a lot, but men certainly don’t expect white women to have false hair, whereas black boys know that there’s  ‘No touching above the neck!’ And there’s no embarrassment about it.

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26 Comments on "Actress Thandie Newton Talks About her Transition to Natural Hair"

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I love this article. Thank you Kay and BGLH! It was fascinating on so many levels especially how we perceive the hair of others. I would have never thought that Thandie “needed” a relaxer (of course no one needs a relaxer) but the lye runs deep.

Thank you ladies!


I love her. Thanks for the article!

Chocolate Mom

She is such a beautiful person, and I love her comments on her daughters.


She looks so much like Zoe Saldana!


Very enjoyable interview! I enjoyed reading her perspective.


Thanks for the interview! Its fun to hear about natural hair experiences from celebrities.


I must say I’m surprised that she used a relaxer because
with her type of hair — all she needs to do is blow dry it.
And the curls turn straight.


I think that i it is a bit of a misconception that hair that is loosely curly/wavy is can just be blow dried and it will be straight. I have hair like this 2c-3a and sooo many people have said this to me, but it is simply not true. A flat iron or relaxer is definitely needed if you want that silky straight (pin straight) look. Maybe one of those superheated crazy Dominican blow dryers that fry the scalp but a regular one will just yield semi-straight lightly wavy hair.


Exactly @ Cia, my mother was a 2c and it was so coarse, thick, and frizzy the only way to get it pin straight and silky was to relax it. She started doing it as an adult.


I think that is a braid/twist out.….…


But I’d like to add that she looks quite lovely with
her hair, curly, naturally.


She looked great with straight hair, but it’s amazing how natural hair frames her face beautifully!! Nature is so wise!


OMG! Her reasons for going natural were the SAME as mine. When I saw Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” movie, particularly the Coke can melting in the lye, I decided to stop getting a relaxer, because I never wanted my daughter to feel she needed to relax her beautiful curls.

Kay Montano

Thrilled that the piece was received so well, women of colour are so under represented in the mainstream beauty press, get heard ladies, shout louder, love what makes you special.
Kay X


Thank you Kay! =)


Newfound respect for this wonderful actress!!


Her hair is gorgeous! I think the day is approaching where fake hair AND relaxers will be a stigma in the black community. We have a long way to go, but I think it is going to happen. I am seeing more and more naturals of all hair types who are proudly wearing their hair without fake hair attached.


NEVER have I seen her with her hair in its natural state, Thandie is a very beautiful woman so it was very refreshing to see this.


I love this interview. I am not surprised to hear her mother is from Zimbabwe because she has very southern African features.


This is a great article! I always loved her hair and to know she is natural now is a beautiful thing! I read this article this morning on CN and it’s good to know BGLH has a article too!!!!

I don’t like the article. The interviewer sounded negative. She says stuff that relaxed folks who really don’t like your hair say, “oh, your hair looks so different” & “How does having wilder looking, bigger hair make you feel as opposed to the elegantly-on-trend hairstyles we’re used to seeing you with on the red carpet?” (author described straight hair as elegant and on trend as opposed to Thandie’s hair which was “wild”)& “What inspired you to ‘allow” your natural hair to go to its natural state” Person used “allow” as if Thandie’s hair doesn’t grow out of her head like… Read more »

If she was straightening it, she wasn’t allowing to be in it’s natural state at all. I don’t see what’s wrong with the wording at all.


I’m just not buying it that her her is all natural now. If you read the full interview she said her Mum used home perm kits to loosen her curls from the age of 14 so her in her early films her hair looked practically like it does now because the curl pattern had been chemically altered. Her daughters’ hair looks tighter than hers is now and their Dad is white. My 3 children have a white father( I am mixed black/white)none of them have hair that is tighter than mine!

Torie Amza

Genes are a funny thing… Ya never know how they will work. My sis is like two shades lighter than both of our parents. Other than her color, she’s the spitting image of our dad’s, so I know she’s his, lol! Genes do their own thing.

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