LaWanda Pierre brings Black girl hair magic to Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’

From placing Blow Pops in hair buns as a kid to creating afro wigs with personality for Spike Lee’s upcoming film, LaWanda Pierre makes it clear that hair styling is a form of artistic expression. Born in Houston and Brooklyn-bred, Pierre, 37, proudly claims that when it comes to hair, she’s “always been really good at it.” At 13, Pierre began styling her own hair, from pulling off Shirley Temple curls to stuffing hair buns. Although her hair was relaxed at 15, Pierre preferred to experiment with wigs and weaves rather than go to the hair salon. Soon, Pierre’s routine with hair morphed into weekend side-gigs as she did natural braids and styled weaves.

After graduating from Baruch College, Pierre pursued a career in business and marketing. However, when she wanted to do more than settle in the corporate world, Pierre returned to her long-standing passion of doing hair by attending beauty school in Manhattan. Although Pierre was involved in previous projects with Spike Lee, her recent work marked her first time managing an entire department for a major film. She described the experience of working in the film industry with people of color as like being in a family setting. “There’s something nice about working with other people of color,” said Pierre. “You don’t really see it anywhere else.”

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For “BlacKkKlansman,” Pierre’s main goal was to make sure that every hairdo looked authentic. The movie showcases the true story of an African-American detective who exposes the Ku Klux Klan while serving in the Colorado Springs Police Department in 1970s. Heading the film’s hair department, Pierre was in charge of creating the hairdos of every character, from the strictly contained afro of detective Ron Stallworth to the blond, slick waves of KKK ringleader David Duke.

To create hairstyles true to the film characters, Pierre studied everything from the hair aesthetics of John Travolta to the hairdos of “Soul Train.” In the entertainment industry, hair is predominantly done by white stylists, and white stylists doing Black hair as part of the norm. However, with Pierre in charge of the hairdos of all the film’s characters, she broke from the norm by being a Black woman who created authentic styles for both Black and white characters. In addition, by making the afro styles of the characters serve as a reflection of their personality, Pierre challenged the misconception behind the uniformity of afro hairdos. “All the afros show different textures, colors and shades,” Pierre noted. “I know what texture is supposed to be.”

Currently, Pierre is working on hairstyles on the Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” starring DeWanda Wise. However, in the mix of celebrity hair appointments and running her salon in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hall, Pierre explained that her main focus is her family. When asked about her next big move, Pierre said, “God is my agent. I believe that the right project will come.”