I was pleasantly surprised to see singer/actress Brandy rocking her old school signature braids this week. Considering it comes hot on the heels of both Solange Knowles and Kim Kardashain sporting the style, it makes me wonder if the long plaited look is making a comeback in the showbiz world.
Even though the style is still worn by mainy today, I personally had my share of braided extension moments in the 90s and early noughties. I’m sure those of you ladies who have shared this experience will note it is very convenient to get up and go with. Although it can also be a b**** to take out the extensions, especially if they are thin and plenty (micro braids).
In the 90s, Brandy was the celeb most known for wearing braids. From the moment she burst onto the scene with her infectious debut I Wanna Be Down in 1993, that was the only style she messed with. And props to her as she kept this up for about a decade (including her acting debut on TV show Thea, prior to her music career), which was no doubt an inspiration to many young girls and women, due to her (and her stylist’s) creative knack for coming up with alternative ways to jazz up the look. From ponytails, bunches, fat plaits, skinny plaits, emphasising the baby hair, buns, different colours… I could go on and on, as I remember always looking forward to seeing what she would come with next. Below is the video for I Wanna Be Down. But just one question before you click ‘play’, was I the one who found the lead guy in this soooo cute? That wink!!!! LOL!
Another celebrity who made the braided look popular in the 90s was Janet Jackson, when she wore them for the film Poetic Justice in 1993. In the flick, directed by John Singleton, Janet plays Justice a young hairdresser who is also a gifted poet. The bulk of the movie follows her as she takes a road trip, from her home of South Central, Los Angeles to Oakland, with her friend Iesha (Played by Regina King), Iesha’s boyfriend and his boy, postal worker Lucky (played by Tupac Shakur). Justice is still getting over the murder of her boyfriend (played by Q-Tip), but during the trip sparks fly between her and Lucky. Janet looked real cute with her jumbo braids, which she accessorised with a flat cap (as seen on the film’s poster) and in another part of the movie she wore a hairband to sweep it into an up-do(as seen in the clip below).
If I had to pick another ‘celebrity’ who defined braids in the 90s, it would have to be the female r&b group Jade. The trio only had one major hit, Don’t Walk Away (1992), but it was such a smash that it still gets played in the clubs today. Its enduring popularity means the accompanying video (below), where the girls wear ultra-long sexy braids and fling them all over the shop, is also extremely well known.
I should also give a special mention to UK girl band Cleopatra, also a trio, who all wore braids throughout their career as a band. The Manchester-born teens burst on the scene in 1998, and scored a handful of top five singles (notably the UK number three and US number 26 single Comin’ Atcha (Cleopatra’s Theme), below), a TV show and a hit album. They also impressed superstar Madonna enough for her to sign them to her label Maverick and launch them in the US, where they also enjoyed success. Props to lead singer Cleo, who had a nice little voice on her!
People still so try and give credit to actress Bo Derek (for the hairstyle she rocked in the 1979 flick, 10) for the popularity of the braided look, and although she certainly made the style more appealing to white women, the historics of braiding hair like this is certainly something deeply rooted in black tradition and culture.
But before Brandy, Janet and co were having their locks plaited up, the first person I remember wearing braids of any kind on TV was Playschool and Play Away Presenter Floella Benjamin. Trinidad-born Floella, who got her gig children’s TV presenting gig in 1976, often wore them with beads which she became synonymous for.
In the early 80s, I was still very young, so it was pretty exciting to see a style, myself and many of my school friends had, on TV in a show which everybody in school watched. Although she became a household name from the show, it’s weird to think that Floella (who has an OBE) is now a peer in the House of Lords. Who would have thought it back then????
DID YA KNOW?
Floella Benjamin made history as the first woman to be allowed to appear fully pregnant on television. She was on air up to about three weeks before her son Aston was born. This was such a big deal at the time, it even made the headlines on CBS News in America.