What I don’t like is seeing braided wigs on television — they kind of irritate me. But when you shoot a movie, you can’t necessarily put so many beads on the actor’s hair every day. I had to find a way to make it look like it was their hair, so I decided to do a half wig for the look. I made a few versions of the wigs for the tennis doubles, camera doubles, and the actresses. We started by braiding the front of the hair. That only took 20 to 30 minutes. Then, we would put the wig on the back. Venus’s character had individual braids in the front and Serena’s character’s hair was not really cornrowed, it was braided more like an onion — it went up.
We didn’t count all the beads we used for the wigs, but there were way over 200 for each one. We used a wire hook to put the beads on in the front, hooking on maybe two to three at a time. The wigs were really heavy. [The actors] really needed to have strong necks. It took approximately eight hours to create the wigs, and a team of three people: myself, Lily Bryerson, and a braider I use, who is @dollfacedreaa on Instagram.
To style the hair and wigs, we used three products: the Nairobi Wrapp-It Shine Foaming Lotion, the Krystal Eco Syler gel, and the Lock N Gel, which I found out about when I was doing Coming 2 America. Venus and Serena both were on set one day and talked about the different hair looks. [When they saw the wigs,] they complimented us and said they really liked what we had done.
You don’t see the beaded looks until the end of the movie. [Director] Reinaldo Marcus Green wanted to have that moment at the end because it is at a crucial time. It was a rite of passage. The beads were part of the journey, it was very symbolic.
To be able to portray the Williams sisters, who are such an inspiration for African-American girls and women meant everything. Richard Williams had no knowledge of this sport and he was able to learn it in a way that we’ve never seen before, that allowed his children to win — and they are still winning to this day. He is an amazing man and I’m so glad that we are able to have this movie in our history.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2021/2022 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.
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