The Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong’o has accused Grazia magazine of editing her hair on the front cover of its latest edition to “fit a more Eurocentric notion of what beautiful hair looks like”.
Nyong’o posted an image of the Grazia front page on social media alongside what appears to be the original image. While the cover of Grazia shows Nyong’o with short and smooth hair, the original image shows that some of her hair has been removed.
“Disappointed that Grazia UK edited out and smoothed my hair to fit a more Eurocentric notion of what beautiful hair looks like,” Nyong’o said on Twitter.
Nyong’o’s tweet generated more than 34,000 likes and 19,000 retweets, while a longer post on Instagram attracted more than 170,000 likes.
Nyong’o starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and 12 Years A Slave, for which she won the best supporting actress Oscar in 2014. She was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and grew up in Kenya.
In a post on Instagram, Nyong’o explained her disappointment with the changes. “As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too,” she said.
“Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfils me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are. I am disappointed that Grazia UK invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like.
“Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hairstyle and texture.
Grazia UK apologised “unreservedly” to Nyong’o but said it did not alter the photos itself. A statement said: “Grazia is committed to representing diversity throughout its pages and apologises unreservedly to Lupita Nyong’o.
“Grazia magazine would like to make it clear that at no point did they make any editorial request to the photographer for Lupita Nyong’o’s hair to be altered on this week’s cover, nor did we alter it ourselves. But we apologise unreservedly for not upholding the highest of editorial standards in ensuring that we were aware of all alterations that had been made.”
The photo was taken by the An Le Studio, which has been responsible for the covers of many fashion magazines. An Le has been approached for a comment.
Nyong’o’s comments come after Solange Knowles criticised the London Evening Standard for digitally altering an image of her for the cover of its weekly magazine.
ES Magazine removed a braided crown from the singer’s head in its cover image. Knowles subsequently published the original image, including the braids, on Instagram with the caption “dtmh”, an abbreviation of Don’t Touch My Hair, the name of a song on her latest album. Nyong’o put “dtmh” at the end of her social media posts.
Knowles posted excerpts from the interview on social media, including her quotes about braiding. The piece described braiding as “important” to Knowles and quoted her as saying that it is an “act of beauty, an act of convenience and an act of tradition” and that it is an “art form”.
The journalist who interviewed Knowles has asked for her name to be removed from the article and publicly disowned it.
In a series of tweets, Angelica Bastien said: “The entire piece was a fiasco despite my efforts.
“I told my editors to take my name off of the byline because they distorted my work and reporting in ways that made me very uncomfortable, which was heartbreaking given how much work I put into it and my interest in Solange as an artist.”
The Standard later apologised for altering Knowles’s hair, saying it was a “matter of great regret”. It added: “The decision to amend the photograph was taken for layout purposes, but plainly we made the wrong call and we have offered our unreserved apologies to Solange.”
A BBC news presenter said she “sighed” when she read that Nyong’o’s hair had been digitally altered and that she had been advised in the past about changing her hair.
Lukwesa Burak, a presenter on BBC East Midlands and formerly of Sky News and al-Jazeera, said on Twitter: “When are we going to move on? But then again, I paused before chopping off my hair and going natural after ‘advice’ I’d received in the past about black hair and the media – ie loss of work. #dtmh”