Queen Charlotte’s natural curls reign supreme.
With the arrival of Netflix’s Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, we’ve been once again swept up into a Bridgerton fantasy — one in which the tale of Queen Charlotte’s ascension to the throne is accompanied by all the enchanting elements of pomp, pageantry, and risqué romance that we love about the original series. Only this time, the Queen and her natural hair help to propel the story in a way we hadn’t yet experienced in a period drama before.
This prequel winds back the clock and introduces us to a young Queen Charlotte (portrayed by India Amarteifio) and King George III (played by Corey Mylchreest), as the origin of their romance unfolds in six binge-worthy episodes. If you’ve seen any of the Bridgerton episodes, then you’re already acquainted with the gossip-loving Queen Charlotte and her sky-high wigs intricately interwoven with diamonds, pearls, and of course, crowns. Though when we first meet young Charlotte in episode one of the new series, she is not yet a Queen.
Set to marry the King, she arrives in England in the first episode with her natural curls pulled up into an updo, still visible beneath a blue satin headpiece. This textured updo remains for the majority of the episode — that is until her first run-in with her future husband George — who she is actively trying to escape at the time of their meeting — moments ahead of their wedding. Following a surprisingly warm first encounter in which the King leaves the decision to wed entirely in Charlotte’s hands (after having seen her attempt to climb a literal *wall* to escape her marital duty), the soon-to-be Queen is left with a newfound sense of agency. In one of her first power moves of the show, she abandons her former updo and arrives at the wedding ceremony with a perfectly picked out afro and defined curls around the perimeter of her face topped with a flower ornamented tiara. With that, she weds the King on her own terms — natural hair on full display.
The first season of Bridgerton, where Queen Charlotte rules over the ton at a much older age, is set in 1813 London. So we can surmise that Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story takes place during the latter half of the 1700s. Typically, when we think of other period piece dramas set around the same English Regency era, we envision women like Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice with elegant coiffures and Marie Antoinette-esque bouffants accompanied by forced curls. Bridgerton is known for its diversity and inclusion, and this limited series is no exception. Much like many of the characters of colour in the Bridgerverse, Queen Charlotte and her naturally textured tresses are a welcome anomaly in this genre. The decision to embrace her curls is not only a major statement about Black women and their hair in film, but it also helps us to understand the type of character Queen Charlotte will become. “We wanted to show the afro and its beauty,” says hair and makeup head of the new series Nic Collins in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Despite Amarteifio (who has blown us away with her recent press tour hairstyles) having a full head of beautifully defined coils, it may surprise you to learn that every single hairstyle Queen Charlotte wears is a wig. Why then, would a show with such an adamant focus on embracing natural hair, not embrace its leading lady’s natural curls? As a curly girl myself, I take this as a sign of a hair team that is well-versed in the workings of textured hair — one that understands our hair is delicate and more prone to breakage. They are aware of the fact that our curls may not necessarily be able to withstand rigorous daily styling in the ways other hair types can. “If it’s not their natural hair, all characters are wearing wigs because we wanted to be cautious and not damage the lead’s natural hair,” Collins tells the Los Angeles Times. The use of wigs runs deeper than mere on-screen representation — is a careful consideration of the actors’ hair in real life, which is just as crucial.
As the show rolls on, we’re offered up a spectacular array of elaborate hairstyles that evolve as Queen Charlotte does. We observe her hair wrapped up before bed (as we natural-haired folks do), in ornate updos, and worn in an abundance of afros adorned with jewels and crowns that capture the regal essence of the show. Collins tells Netflix that the hair stylists used a collection of unorthodox tools like thin skewers and wire cages within the wigs to help create shape and convey various textures — because some of us can only dream of achieving hair that big and bodacious.
In the final episode, young Charlotte’s ‘fro is fuller than ever, and she is ready to reign as the mature monarch we all know her to be. Closing out the series having embraced all her kinks and coils, Queen Charlotte reminds us all that wearing a head full of curls is a crown in and of itself.