People aren't just excited for Black Panther, which finally comes out on February 16, because it's a big-budget Marvel film with Michael B. Jordan's abs and Chadwick Boseman's charm. From the moment the trailer surfaced late last year, people of colour of all ages took note of the kings, queens, and warriors of Wakanda (a fictional East African nation) that look just like us, with rich brown skin and textured hair.
This major moment of beauty representation required painstaking detail from hair department head Camille Friend and makeup designer Joel Harlow, who were among the group of creatives on the Atlanta-based set who took direct inspiration from African tribes along with the original comic books. "It's a very empowering film. I hope that aside from being very entertaining, there is a message here," Harlow tells Refinery29. "I hope that message is received and embraced. Certainly that was first and foremost, being respectful and honouring the heritage we were drawing from. We didn't go down a path for our makeup looks simply because they looked interesting and cool. There's meaning behind all of it, and we were very conscious about making sure that came first."
And with that meaning, there's an intentional message: "Black is beautiful. It doesn’t matter to me what you do with your hair — if you wear it straight, or curly, or nappy, or a weave, or an Afro. We’re all beautiful," Friend says. "In this movie, we have the greatest opportunity to showcase natural hair and showcase Africa. Africa has never been seen culturally like this."
Of course, there's hope for a Black Panther sequel, but the behind-the-scenes beauty team hopes that the film's impact goes far beyond the Marvel universe. "We hope that this spurs more Black-generated movies, too," she says. "I think Black Panther doing well economically at the box office shows that there is an audience for this type of movie. As people of color, if we support, we'll hopefully see more movies like it."
Ahead, get the spoiler-free details on Lupita Nyong'o's "Wakanda knots," Danai Gurira's head tattoos, and much more.