It's both Black History Month and awards season, which means it's also undoubtedly the best season for beauty inspo. That means there's a lot for us to celebrate. Hair is a huge part of Black culture, and Black celebrities have created countless unforgettable red carpet moments, serving and slaying in designer outfits, expertly-painted makeup, and, of course, impeccable 'dos. Whether it's the Grammys, the Emmys, the Oscars, or even just a random red carpet rolled out on the street, you know you can expect excellence every time.
Black is beautiful and always has been — any chance to celebrate that beauty is A-OK in my book. So let's do it, then: Let's celebrate Halle Berry's pixie cut, Grace Jones's iconic top fade, and Zendaya's goddess-status locs. Let's celebrate the red carpet hair moments Black celebrities have given us, in spite of the fact that even to this day, Black hairstyles are politicized, policed, and derided (at least, until they're worn by nonblack folks). Let's relish in the uniqueness and versatility of Black hair, and pay homage to the people who deserve the celebration, too.
Hattie McDaniel, 12th Academy Awards, 1940
2020 marks the 80th anniversary of Hattie McDaniel becoming the first Black Oscar winner for her performance in Gone With The Wind, and accepting the award in a segregated hotel in Los Angeles. For the occasion, McDaniel famously wore white gardenias in her hair.
Diahann Carroll, 47th Academy Awards, 1975
Who doesn't love a bouffant? Call us biased, but we think Diahann Carroll wore the style better than anyone else. When she walked the red carpet as an Oscar nominee for Best Actress for her performance in Claudine, she — wearing a gorgeous, dramatic bouffant and fur coat — came out a winner, either way.
Grace Jones, 25th Grammy Awards, 1983
It's not a hairstyle per se, but Grace Jones always brought the noise with her avant-garde red carpet style. Wearing a wicker hat in lieu of her signature tapered fade to the 1983 Grammys was still on brand for the singer/model/total badass.
Tina Turner, 27th Grammy Awards, 1985
Tina Turner is known for turning (no pun intended) it out on the RC. By the 1985 Grammy Awards, she was in the middle of a massive career resurgence, so this was her moment, with a capital M. She ran away with awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “What's Love Got To Do With It,” but what we'll remember most is that iconic head of hair. It's not quite a shag, but not nearly a mullet — you'd have to be Tina Turner to pull a look like that off.
Diana Ross, 30th Grammy Awards, 1988
Can we even make a red carpet list without mentioning Diana Ross? She oozes glam wherever she goes, especially at awards shows. Her signature long, voluminous, fluffy crown turned the 30th Grammy Awards into the Diana Ross Hair Show.
Janet Jackson, 35th Grammy Awards, 1993
Janet Jackson has had many memorable hairstyles, but this look from the 1993 Grammy Awards is one of our favorites. Her box braids are pulled into a high ponytail, topped off with a headband-turned-ponytail-holder that is so cool, it's making us want to run out and get one ourselves.
Halle Berry, 74th Academy Awards, 2002
Reminder: Halle Berry is the first and only Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Monster's Ball. The first. And only. No one will ever forget the dress she wore that night, the styling, or her tears of joy. Halle Berry's pixie cut defined an era; Black women everywhere were taking her photo to the hair salon to try to claim some of that magic.
Solange Knowles Promotes Samantha Thavasa Disney Collection, 2009
Solange is virtually synonymous with excellent hair looks — on and off the red carpet. But if we're talking her step-and-repeats of note, this sticks out as one of the most impactful. The singer surprised everyone, walking the red carpet with a freshly-cropped style. Her “big chop” created a cultural moment, showing just how chic the process of growing out your natural hair can be. For Black women everywhere, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
Mo'Nique, 82nd Academy Awards, 2010
Mo'Nique paid homage to Hattie McDaniel for her turn at the Oscars — she wore her hair pulled back with white gardenias, just as McDaniel did all those years ago. Both actresses also accepted their Oscars wearing shades of blue.
Viola Davis, 84th Academy Awards, 2012
We're still reeling from Davis's Oscars snub for The Help (Seriously, Academy? Come on) but the gorgeous TWA the actress wore on the red carpet is our sole comfort. We've seen an uptick of 4B and 4C curl patterns on the red carpet in more recent years, but in 2012, this was a real shake up.
Zendaya, 87th Academy Awards, 2015
When Zendaya hits a red carpet, you know she's going to be like Postmates: She'll serve and deliver. And so she did at the 2015 Academy Awards, in gorgeous, waist-length faux locs. The style unfortunately lead to some ignorant and flat-out racist comments about them looking like they smell like “weed and pachouli” from the hosts from of E!'s Fashion Police, namely, Giuliana Rancic.
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