Exclusive: Actress Cleopatra Coleman on How Shaving Her Head Changed Her Career

Photo:

Silke Labson

“The future is female and it doesn’t involve styling products.” This phrase underscores a meme that began circulating the internet in the spring of 2018. The images feature screengrabs of three fictional characters from Black Panther, Stranger Things, and Mad Max, as well as teen activist Emma González—all of whom have shaved heads. Though the meme stirred some controversy (after all, the length of your hair doesn’t have much to do with your strength), the image of powerful women sporting nontraditional beauty looks has been inspiring for thousands of women.

The latest badass Hollywood figure to join the ring of strong, hairless females is actress Cleopatra Coleman. You may know the Australian performer for her role as Erica on the just-ended Fox series The Last Man on Earth. She might be hard to recognize now, however—Coleman had a full head of hair while filming the show but decided to shave it all off after seeing Black Panther a total of three times in theaters and resolving that styling products were no longer for her either.

Coleman, who is half Jamaican and half Australian, grew up in Wentworth Falls, Australia. There, she started her performing career (as both an actor and a dancer), before moving stateside to catch her big break. Her hometown was picturesque but also fairly whitewashed—as one of the only mixed-race folks in the community, Coleman “definitely felt like the odd one out a lot of the time," she says.

Now age 30, Coleman has spent the past few years learning how to move past not only the beauty standards of her birthplace but of Hollywood too. “I’ve struggled with how much I want to lend myself to the industry and how much I want to lend myself to my own life,” she says. “Being an actress, I’ve sometimes felt like my body wasn’t my own.” Shaving her head felt like a symbol of self-reclamation for Coleman. A bold aesthetic move to match a bold professional one, the change coincides with the release of the first project Coleman ever wrote, executive-produced, and starred in: a “feminist sci-fi” feature film called Hover, which will be available in select theaters June 29 and several online streaming platforms July 4.

Naming Solange and model Adwoa Aboah as her two ultimate beauty icons, Coleman says that the shaved head has only helped her career—not injured it. She’s optimistic that women of all backgrounds and professions are becoming increasingly freer to experiment with unorthodox beauty looks. “It’s a really cool, exciting time,” she says. “I feel like we have such inclusivity in Hollywood now. Women should just do what the fuck we want.”

We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Coleman about the relationship between hair and power, her next daring beauty move, and more. Keep scrolling to read our full conversation.