8 Most Iconic Celebrity Braids Of All Time
Braids have been around for a long time; thousands of years, in fact. And yet, in recent decades they have been championed often by African American stars, and the occasional Caucasian. Here are eight of the best, ranging from actresses to singer songwriters, to child stars. It might or might not be something you’ll want to replicate yourself, but you can stand back in admiration.
Singer and actress Brandy made microbraids the big trend back in the 1990s when she had them throughout her hit TV show ‘Moesha’. She was a huge star in that decade, and many girls went for it. And what are they? Well, they are miniscule, delicate braids that are braided very tightly into your hair, sometimes using hair extensions to make the effect even more striking. These tiny braids are woven tightly into the hair and can last for many months. With a woman with frizzy hair it can render she more stream-lined and sleek. It can also bring out the unique features of your face. This kind of braids can last for up to 3 months if you put extensions in your hair. Before you do micro braids, though, you need to consider whether you want to commit to them and whether your hair is healthy enough for the braids because they can damage your hair.
Beyoncé is perhaps the most iconic singer songwriter of our times. She has gone from talented girl-band debutante to innovative artiste extraordinaire. Her song ‘Formation’, followed by her album Lemonade in 2016, catapulted her to fame, when her long blonde Fulani braids became known as ‘Lemonade braids’. A whole generation of Beyoncé wannabes have been imitating the look ever since. But what are Fulani braids, I hear you say. Well, they are uniquely patterned braids that have thinnish but very tightly plaited braids. They are close to the scalp and then taper into hair extensions of varying lengths, depending on how long your hair is. Occasionally they are known as ‘Bo Braids’ or ‘braids with beads’.
Actually, there’s more to it than that. The Fulani people or Fula or Fulany are an ethnic group in the Sahel and West Africa, and Fulani women decorate their hair with bead hair accessories and cowrie shells. They might also add silver coins and amber to those braids as ornaments. Traditionally some of these coins are passed down in the family. Beyoncé was thus tapping into something far bigger than her own celebrity.
3. Janet Jackson
Box braids have been around for a while, and yet Janet Jackson’s look from the movie ‘Poetic Justice’ raised their profile and led to many women trying it for the first time. These long braids can be used with Janet Jackson’s signature white headband, or they can be worn up or down, curled, colored, twisted, or even in a cute pixie cut. They’re incredibly versatile and take far less time to achieve that other forms of braiding. To do box braids, you begin by parting your hair down the center into four equal sections. Then, clip three of the sections so they’re out of your way and leave the remaining section down to start with. Then, working one section at a time, braid strands of synthetic hair that are 1-2 inches thick into small strands of your natural hair. Voila. Box braids!
4. Stacey Dash
‘Clueless’, another iconic film from the 1990s featured Stacey Dash, playing Dionne, who wore box braids, cheetah print, and posh hats to place her in the hall of fame of braid coolness. The other thing about box braids is that they have that relaxed look about them, which makes you look equally at home on campus or in your favorite coffee shop downtown. They’re attractive without being overbearing or aggressive.
5. Lauryn Hill
This Grammy-award winning singer is well-known for wearing dreadlocks, and she wore her braids in a high pony, hanging loose on the side of her face in another cinematic classic ‘Sister Act 2’. The key to making your own dreadlocks is to section your hair into one-inch sections, and gradually weave it, using these clumpier, super-sized braids. There’s actually a fascinating history behind dreadlocks. They go all the way back, 3600 years, to the Minoan Civilization, a very early European civilization based on what is modern-day Crete, now a part of Greece. Ancient Egyptians even wore them, and some examples of Egyptians wearing locked hairstyles and wigs can be seen on bas-reliefs and other artifacts. So they’re not just a modern phenomenon, although Lauryn Hill has made them seem chic and stylish.
6. Alicia Keys
In the 2000s, this Grammy Award winning singer would often be seen sporting cornrows and beads, something which would go on to influence a whole generation of young women, and even some men. Cornrows or braids, called canerows in the Caribbean, are a style of braiding whereby the hair is braided very close to the scalp, using an underhand, upward motion to make a continuous, raised row. Cornrows, like Fulani braids, originate in Africa, and the name implies farming, planting, and exhausting labor. Critics have been quick to criticize white celebrities who try to jump on the ‘cornrow bandwagon’, viewing this as inauthentic and even a little insulting. However, fashion is global and needs no excuses, so it could be the right look for anyone willing to give it a try.
7. Bo Derek
The actress Bo Derek was perhaps more famous for her iconic Fulani braids used in the
in the 1979 film ‘10’ than for her acting ability. The stunning braids were a key feature in the film, in which the Dudley Moore character was captivated by her look. More recently, Kim Kardashian West has caused a stir by re-creating the same look and calling them ‘Bo Derek’ braids, rather than Fulani braids. She downplayed any hint of prejudice or ignorance, and paid homage to Bo Derek’s unique contribution to the long history of braids. It also goes to show how international and timeless this style has become.
The iconic singer from the 1980s was famous for her smooth and cool vocals, but also for her slicked back hair, which is a more understated interpretation. She allowed her long luscious braid with slicked back hair to become her look, and captured the self-confident, sleek zeitgeist of the decade. Young women, like actress Yara Shahidi, are still inspired by it, even today.
These are eight of the most memorable braids, looking back, but looking forward you might consider getting your stylist, or a local braiding stylist, to give you your own braided look. It can be a really hassle-free of keeping your hair in place for at least a few months, maybe longer. If you maintain them, moisturizing and scalp cleansing, then they will look great. However, you shouldn’t go much beyond three months because your hair can start to become brittle and break. Overall, though, braids are a great way to protect your hair, and they are tapping into something which is both cool and historical. It could be the bold new look that will lead to a bold new you!