From Cleopatra’s beaded headdress to Diana Ross’s iconic afro, hair has been an emblem of power, rebellion, and pride throughout history. In our new series, Stranded, we’re profiling people whose strands tell a story.
If you’re lucky, you’ll experience at least one moment in your life that will make you believe in fate—something that proves your existence isn’t a series of random, disconnected events, but rather small puzzle pieces that eventually fit together to create a whole, finished product reflective of your life’s greater purpose. It can happen in a way that feels earth-shattering or as mundane as bumping into a stranger at a bar who ends up being so much more. For Sasha Lane, it happened while she was sunbathing.
The Texas State University psychology undergrad was lying out in the balmy Florida heat during spring break when director Andrea Arnold spotted her and decided in that moment she had found the perfect lead for her movie, American Honey (Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough had already been cast). Whatever Arnold spotted in Lane during that crucial, sun-drenched moment—was it her beauty, a mixture of innocence and knowledge, or the rawness of someone so completely unaware of her own magnetism?—translated through her camera lens.
Lane was praised by critics for her mesmerizing portrayal of Star, a dreadlocked teen who escapes her troubled home life and finds love and heartbreak in a vagabond group selling magazine subscriptions in the Midwest.
Speaking of dreadlocks, it’s hard not to describe Sasha Lane without mentioning her hair. Piled on top of her head, braided, or twisted into two buns, her locks feel like an extension of her very being. She talks to them, nurtures them, and feels “connected” to them. She had them when Arnold spotted her sunbathing, kept them throughout the movie as part of Star’s persona, and tells us she literally can’t imagine living without them. With a rich history that spans biblical times and Rastafarian culture, dreadlocks nowadays often come with negative connotations for the unschooled (who can forget Giuliana Rancic’s ignorant remark about Zendaya’s dreadlocked hair reminding her of “patchouli and weed”?).
But for Lane, they represented something else entirely: beauty. “I remember watching this movie, 10,000 BC, and I saw they all had locks, and I was like, yo, that’s beautiful,” she reminisces. “It was just so beautiful to see, like, a tribe of them—all of these locks.” She hasn’t changed her hair since.
Even though she feels like she came into her own after donning dreads, the puzzle pieces didn’t just instantly start fitting together—the opposite, actually. Lane has been vocal about the crushing anxiety and depression she experienced in the days following her “greater-purpose” moment that catapulted her from college student to Cannes darling. Even today as she gears up for new projects (she’s starring alongside Chloë Grace Moretz in the upcoming drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post), sits front-row during Fashion Week, and amasses a fan base that looks up to her and her mixed heritage and dreadlocks as a hopeful sign that finally—finally—Hollywood might be widening its narrow beauty ideal, it's not all smooth sailing.
She admits that there are days when it’s all still a struggle to get out of bed, when having two breakdowns before lunch isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s this honesty that makes Lane part of the new school of celebrities—ones who are flawed, complicated, messy, and human like the rest of us, and aren’t afraid to own it; ones who prove that you can be broken and fragile but also strong, ferocious, and altogether unapologetic.
Heads-up to the haters: Sasha Lane and her locks aren’t going anywhere.
Keep scrolling to read Lane’s hair journey in her own words.
[Before watching 10,000 BC], I would just usually see men with locks, and I think that was the first time I saw a chick with locks, like in a movie and stuff. I had already been thinking about it, but after seeing that, I was like, you know, I really want this. I had so much stress about my hair because it’s really curly and thick, and so it was always a constant. Unless my hair was straightened or slicked the fuck back, I didn’t look proper, I didn’t look ready to go to work or school, I looked messy, all of that shit.
I never gave a fuck about doing my hair or putting on makeup and all of that. I want my hair to be as I feel. And so I was like, maybe I’ll lock it up. I asked my mom about it, and she was like, absolutely not. So then I told my friend Ashton Fletcher on my basketball team in high school and was like, yo, I’m thinking about locks. I thought she was the coolest chick—she was so cool to me, so when she was like, yo, do that shit, I was like, she told me to do it, I’m going to do it. She gave me the confidence.
So I decided, okay, I’m going to go to Houston to get them because my mom won’t see. So I went to Houston with my brother. I went to go see my dad, and I was like, I’m going to get my hair done, and he didn’t really pay attention to me, so I was just like whatever, Dad, bye. I researched so much. I called so many people because I wanted my hair to be a specific way. I want locks for me—I don’t need them to look a certain way. I want them for me, and this is how I want them. And so I found a chick who ended up being in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest nails.
Yo, she is that chick, which cracked me up, but she can still do my locks.
I first got them and they looked awful of course in that first beginning stage. And I came back home and my mom of course was like, what the fuck? But it was just cool because I started slowly being like this is me, you know? This is my hair. I feel good. I feel like myself. I could just wake up and shake my hair out and I feel good and ready to go. And then I started talking to my hair. I love talking to my hair. I always talked to my hair, but with locks, I just feel more connected. And it’s truly flourished them. Now it’s just like, yeah, this is how I live; this is me; this is my lifestyle. I feel like if someone were to try and snip my hair, it would cut a part of me.
I had a lot of hair, and it was already kind of long at that point, so it took about 10 hours to lock my hair. I was in the shop from the morning to nighttime, and it was so crazy. I was out in the Third Ward, so it was like goddamn. I’m just trying to get my hair done, and there are people out there just shooting and getting me to try on arm jewelry. It was funny. They shrink up in the beginning, which is annoying. That beginning stage was me having to be like, I don’t like how I look right now, but it’s going to be worth it.
I would keep it in a bun or whatever. Just that beginning phase was hard.
[For upkeep], I just use oils—coconut oil, Morrocanoil, all of that. But my hairstylist, Nai’vasha, I never know what she is using, but she always has really good stuff. Whatever brand that she uses on my hair is good for the texture of it and moisture. She uses really natural products.
Sometimes I want [to try] other [hairstyles], but absolutely not am I going to cut this. No, man, no. I just can’t imagine me not having it, because I feel like it is me. And maybe that’s too much connection, but whatever. It would be fun to try colors. It’s fun—Nai’vasha makes me feel even better about my hair because she plays with it so much. She puts diamonds from wooden pushpins to, like, yarn. She is so creative with it. It’s almost like I do get to fun different things all the time.
I’ve always felt shitty about my hair [growing up] because my mom, being from New Zealand, when she and my dad separated, she didn’t know what hair shops to take to me to. When I would go into the hair salon, these women would look at me like, oh my God there is a fucking forest on her hair. I’m terrified of her hair. They didn’t know what to do with me. They made me feel ugly as a little girl. Then I would go to black salons, and they would be like, who the fuck is doing your hair? Why aren’t there oils in your hair? What is this?
They would almost belittle me, make me feel like… like I was a child. Nobody taught me that I’m supposed to have this. And I don’t want to make my mom feel bad about it, because it’s not her fault. I mean, she needs to learn, to maybe think about it, but she’s a single mom with two mixed kids, and a first-time parent.
It was always making me feel bad, so to go into the acting world… These are professional hairstylists who cater to people. You don’t think you are supposed to maybe Google whose fucking hair you are about to do? And then I’m like, I know they probably did look me up before they booked it because they do that anyway, so as a person, if you look at me and go, oh, she has locks. I don’t know how to do locks. Maybe I shouldn’t take this job. Because when you show up to my hotel room early in the morning when I’m already anxious, I have to spend all day with you, and you just go, I don’t really know what to do with your hair, and you make a face as if you are scared, you just ruined my entire fucking day.
Why are you here? I wish somebody else was getting paid and not you. Just move—I’ll do it my fucking self. It’s annoying. I used to feel bad, but it’s like, no. You walked into the job, study your job, research your job, and also admit if you can’t do the job, because you are not about to make me feel bad about this shit. And I had to tell people. Now an email is always sent out: Do not put chemicals and fucking hair spray into her hair. It’s like, I have locks! Why are you putting fucking hair spray all up in my shit?
I can’t wash it every day. I can’t just wash it out. So it was a learning process with that and it was surprising that I had to teach people that.
My entire family is every shade, literally every shade. I mean my black father has red hair even. My sisters have a darker father, so they are darker than me and have different hair textures. My brother is even different than me, so I’ve just grown up seeing every single blend within my family. And of course, your family to you is beautiful, so I always throughout everyone was beautiful. I guess that it helped me, being biracial and open to that.
I hope [my fans know to] just live your truth because that’s what I’m trying to do. I hope by them seeing me do that, they feel good enough to do that.
I think what I’m consistent with is just being open [about my mental health] and like, in my house, this is my house and how I want it—which is going to be an open, fucking vibey-ass place, no judgment. Don’t make me feel a certain way about how I am. It’s my house. So having my brother live with me is so cool because he’s gotten to see every shade of me and this person loves me like no other, so he allows me to just be open and talk to him and communicate, and in return, he started to communicate with me about things.
We’re literally just like… I can be feeling just crazy and be like, Sergio, I just need to bang my head into a wall. If I’m freaking out. Like yesterday, my outfit didn’t fit right when I was about to go out, and I just flipped a bitch and started almost bawling and yelling at my brother and I was having anxiety. And he was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” And I was like, I know it sounds crazy, but when you are depressed, sometimes the smallest things that seem silly will make you feel awful, and I’m sorry that I went off on you for that—that’s just how it is.
And he was like, “Thank you for telling me that. Okay, I’m aware now.” That’s how I control my anxiety—I’m aware I can talk about it. Because I have established that with all of my friends, everything. I’m going to be straight-up with how I feel, even when I go to work. If I go somewhere and I’m like, [I’ve had] two breakdowns already. This is what you are about to get today. Hi, everyone! That’s how I keep myself calm. We don’t have to go talk about it in a corner. I will say it out loud: Bitch is crazy today, or I feel great today, so let’s do stuff!
So yeah, talking—talking just helps so much.
I paint and write, and that usually makes me feel better [on off days], but maybe an instant smile is putting on pink. Like, legit if I throw on pink, I’m good. I feel great today. And just paint my nails or something. Or if I do something for my brother. It’s weird. I’m like, can I help you? That’s what can make me feel good.
People will never truly know me unless they are with me. People think they can pinpoint how I feel or act, but that’s that day; this is this day; the next day is going to be another day. So let me be all of that. So yeah, that’s probably the biggest [misconception people have], thinking, oh, we know who this girl is. No, you don’t.
There is no way that [my career] is luck or coincidence. The things that have happened in my life and the way they’ve connected and added up—no one can convince me that this shit was luck.
[My biggest hope is that] my voice affects others—that my being affects others in a good way. And whichever way that is—like, everyone needs something different. I hope that I can do as much while I’m here as I’m supposed to.