Vernon François Shares How He and Willow Smith Emulated ‘African Royalty’ for the 2024 Met Gala


For singer Willow Smith’s 2024 Met Gala hairstyle, celebrity hairstylist Vernon François was inspired by beauty of the Mangbetu tribe from Central Africa. François wrote on Instagram, “I was completely captivated by the traditional craftsmanship of binding raffia, banana fiber, or hair around the head, and weaving natural hair into rattan frames. This inspired me to extend Willow’s structures while honoring this rich cultural tradition.” The effect was nothing short of regal.

The Tease connected with François about the look and he generously shared insights including the intention behind the final hairstyle as well as the styling techniques, including the OLAPLEX products which were essential. “When crafting this look, I didn’t adhere strictly to transient trends. Instead, I focused on accentuating specific features to ensure a timeless appeal while infusing an element of allure and sophistication. The intention was to evoke a sense of tradition intertwined with seduction, ultimately embodying elegance and romance.”

Image courtesy of Vernon Francois via Instagram

How Vernon Prepped with OLAPLEX

  1. OLAPLEX Nº.3 Hair Perfector: Applied as a pre-treatment to strengthen and repair the hair. François said, “I love this product. It’s a staple in my kit.”
  2. OLAPLEX Nº.6 Bond Smoother: Applied to damp hair to provide moisture and protect against heat damage. François added, “I genuinely use this on most of my clients. It’s a great preset.”
  3. OLAPLEX Nº.7 Bonding Oil: This product serves multiple purposes: besides massaging it into the scalp, it acts as a finishing touch, enhancing shine and smoothing where necessary, all while offering protection against environmental damage. He said, “Keep this close to you!”
  4. OLAPLEX Nº.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo: As a personal touch, I love applying dry shampoo at the end of the styling process. It not only refreshes the hair but also adds a subtle, natural finish. François said, “I particularly enjoy using it on hair extensions, especially curly ones, to tone down any excessive shine. This technique works wonders for red carpet looks and special events, giving the style that perfect finishing touch.”

Get the Look:

  1. Braiding Backwards: Start by braiding the hair backwards, focusing on creating a clean look from the front and leave out the low back section.
  2. Pulling Up the Back Section: Pull up the loose hair at the back into the braided section of the hair to maintain a neat appearance, this creates a defined shape.
  3. Using Rectangle Polystyrene Circles: Employ lightweight Polystyrene circles as stencils to shape the hairstyle, maintaining precision and structure.
  4. Hair Doughnut Placement: Wrap natural kinky hair around hair doughnuts and place them strategically to add volume and shape to the hairstyle.
  5. Binding with Cotton: Bind the entire head with 100% cotton, incorporating loose Afro kinky straight hair for a realistic look and securing the shape of the hairstyle.
  6. Sculpting and Weaving: Sculpt the hairstyle further as needed and weave Afro kinky straight hair extensions, through the cotton binding to add texture and dimension.

If you attempt to recreate this hairstyle, whether for a client or for yourself, we want to see it. Tag @readthetease on Instagram or TikTok!

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