How Queen Charlotte’s Natural Hair in the Bridgerton Sequel is Changing the Narrative of Black Women in Royalty

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Netflix

In the Shonda Rhimes’ prequel to Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte, viewers are applauding the show’s styling team for their exquisite work of showcasing Charlotte, played by India Ria Amarteifio, with her hair coifed beautifully in its natural state.

Co-costume designers Laura Frecon and Lyn Paolo are mainly responsible for her fashionable looks and stunning hair selections, which underpin the protagonist’s elegant yet spunky spirit.

Paolo and Frecon recall showing Rhimes sketches of how they envisioned Charlotte’s hair for the show; they both knew they wanted her hair to be natural and wanted the distinction to the elaborate wigs to advance the queen’s portrayal in the show by driving her story of becoming a powerful ruler.

“We all agreed that it would be a journey,” hair and makeup designer Nic Collins told Hollywood Reporter. “She’s not coming in as this big personality with these large wigs. She starts with natural hair. She’s in a foreign land, she’s in an arranged marriage that she doesn’t want to be in. It must have been terrifying for her. Those were the things we were considering.”  

In one scene, the protagonist quips about her extravagant dress. “I am wearing lyonnaise silk encrusted with Indian sapphires working with an overlay of 200-year-old lace,” she says. “Apparently too much movement can cause the sapphires to shred the lace. If that were not enough, the gown sits atop a bespoke underpinning made of whalebone.”

Frecon said the inspiration behind Charlotte’s look was to mix antiquity with modernity.

“We wanted it to be history meets high fashion,” Frecon told Hollywood Reporter.

“We had worked all day on Bridgerton and then were holding up mood boards to the computer trying to explain what our plan would be, should we be lucky enough to be invited to do the show,” Paulo added. “Halfway through, Shonda was like, ‘Yeah, love it. Thank you. Great. Let’s do it,’” laughing. “That was a great gift from Shonda.”

For most of the first episode, Charlotte’s hair is styled naturally in free-flowing textured updos. And in another scene, her full head of coils is emphasized by a line of curls that perfectly frames her face.

“We wanted to show the afro and its beauty,” Collins said. “That was important. It’s her decision, it’s her choice. It’s like she’s just let her hair down and it sits in its glory.”

Working with natural hair can be a challenge on film sets, according to Hollywood Reporter journalist Brande Victorian, who effectively reported on the hair and fashion choices on the show. Specifically, natural hair can “lose [its] shape and texture on camera” but “we said we’ll do whatever it takes to do it,” Collins said.

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