Kenyan-Mexican actor Lupita Nyong’o just made quite the fashion statement at the opening night of the musical version of Indian director Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. Her look consisted of a beautiful sari by a Pakistani designer but even more importantly, beautiful mehndi by a Pakistani artist — on her head.
The mehndi was the work of an artist who goes by the name of Henna by Sabeen on Instagram. She is a desi creator based in New York. The Black Panther star was introduced to her by Pakistani artist Misha Japanwala whose wedding mehndi she did.
“I met Henna by Sabeen last year at a wedding in Pakistan. She did the henna design for the bride and I was ASTOUNDED by the INTRICACY and BEAUTY of her work. There was something unique about the way she expressed herself in henna art. And I promised myself, ‘One day I will have a reason to work with Sabeen,’” she wrote on Instagram.
The wedding in question was Japanwala’s for which the actor travelled to Karachi in February 2022.
A year and a half later, she said she was scrambling at the last minute to find something to wear. She borrowed a sari and jewellery from Japanwala — the sari was from a Pakistani designer Demesne Couture — but felt the look wasn’t complete.
“And then, in the middle of the night, an image SHOT into my mind of a henna design covering my bald head!!! I could do something special and different, to celebrate the culture using the canvas readily available to me! I was so excited by the idea that I could not go back to sleep. Misha connected me to Sabeen, and we were ON OUR WAY,” Nyong’o wrote.
The artist, Sabeen, hadn’t designed mehndi for a head before nor had Nyong’o had mehndi done on her head before, so they were in for a challenge. “My only prompt to her was that I wanted a widow’s peak (homage to the bindhi, borla / maang tikka), the rest was ALL HER INNOVATION. She suggested jagua, a natural dye from the jagua fruit of South America that would be dark enough to give good contrast to my dark skin,” she wrote.
“We were both excited and terrified. What if it went wrong or looked funny??? Well, I thought, I can always wear a head wrap.”
But the end result was something both of them were proud of. “We stopped now and again so that I could give her feedback because she was DETERMINED to leave me a happy client. And Sabeen was METICULOUS. She did not stop until it was perfect. When we looked at the finished head… we were both GRINNING!”
The 12 Years A Slave star said it takes about 24 hours for the dye to really show up. “And when it came in, in FULL CONTRAST the next day, I was simply MOVED. It was beautiful. It was bold and elegant; it had a point of view. We had not played it safe, and it had paid off. And I had found a new way to express myself without hair!” she wrote.
“So the moral of this story is: DARE YOURSELF TO SEEK OUT BEAUTY IN NEW WAYS. And, Sabeen, thank you for bestowing on me the beauty of your hand and history!”
We love seeing people appreciate desi culture — read: appreciate not appropriate. Nyong’o was both respectful and appreciative of the entire look and she looked amazing!