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When Rihanna debuted butt-length faux locs in the fall of 2016, most of us assumed it was just another case of the star experimenting with her ever-evolving beauty look. Turns out, the hair change was actually for her role in Oceans 8 — but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t personal. It was Rihanna who requested to wear locs in the film, and who else would do them other than her longtime hairstylist, Yusef Williams?

“We thought it would be strong,” Williams tells Refinery29 exclusively. “Her locs would maintain that tie to Africa. She’d keep her accent. She wasn’t just going to be some American girl in this movie. Nine Ball is still a Caribbean girl that just happens to be in America.”

Creating a bold moment of representation is nothing new for the mastermind behind Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty. Now, Rih is using her star power to show worldwide audiences that locs areappropriate for work, glamorous enough for the Met Gala, and cool enough to land a leading role in a summer blockbuster. “All in all, the locs are just really badass,” Williams says. “I couldn’t imagine her character without them.”Learn more about Nine Ball’s glorious hair, ahead.

In the eight days leading up to this summer’s first women-led blockbuster, we’re spilling everything you want to know about it — from Rihanna playing a hacker to the great Met Gala heist.

Creating Nine Ball

“Before they actually filmed the movie, I went in for a meeting [with director Gary Ross and Rihanna] so we could all figure out who this girl is, what she looks like, what she dresses like, and how she wears her hair. We had a lot of references, and dreadlocks were something that we always wanted to do.

“Production gave us a lot of freedom to create her character visually and play with her look. Gary and wardrobe trusted that we would just nail it. We wanted this girl to be cool, chill, and very minimal. She would wear the same things over and over again. But I think the one thing she probably cared about the most was her hair. When people have locs, it’s kind of like their crown. It’s their pride and joy. It’s like a flower… you gotta nourish it and watch it grow. Hair played a really big part in who Nine Ball came to be.”

Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images.

Installing Her Locs

“I had to fly my assistants to Paris, and all four of us were putting in locs, because we needed to get her done within three hours. That is really a lot of work that would probably take 10 hours for one person to do. It’s braiding the foundation and then wrapping and coiling the hair. We finished at 2 a.m., then we got on a plane and started taping Ocean’s.

“We didn’t use Marley hair, which is a little bit more refined, pretty. Instead, we went with a kinkier, looser textured hair for a reggae feel. We didn’t do too much parting, either; when you start to part and make sections, the hair becomes a little bit unrealistic. We haven’t relaxed Rih’s hair for years now, so we wanted a lighter, natural-textured hair to match.”

Photo: Via @badgalriri.

Filming With Locs

“As we filmed, we had to thin the locs out. People that grow locs have been with them, and have time during the growth process to strengthen their core and whatnot. When you just throw 12 years of locs on somebody overnight, it feels like you have a fucking Toyota on your head.

“We used tons of Shea butter and black seed oil to keep her hair strong. Those are our go-to’s: olive oil, lotion, anything to keep the hair moisturized. For her edges, I used a lot of black seed oil. I’ll mix that with a little bit of gel or pomade and then smooth them up… also letting them kind of curl up when they wanted to, just to create that realness.

“After the hair is braided, I like to soften it up by soaking it in apple cider vinegar, hot water, and then drying it so it can have a little bit of movement to it. And then we wrap the braids. You can also braid the hair with yarn and then wrap it with the Afro hair, which makes it less heavy. We tried that towards the end, because it was just easier for her to be on set all day, robbing the Met and whatnot.”

Photo: Raymond Hall/GC Images.

Rih’s Loc Love

“[Rihanna] channeled her inner Lauryn Hill and those other dreadlocked girls from back in that day who kind of just did their thing. You know she’s from Barbados — she knows what to do with dreadlocks. It probably was the easiest style she’s ever had, since she got to be free and cool and see herself differently. She’s a huge pop star, and then we kind of stripped her down and gave her locs that we didn’t make super, super pretty. She made them glamorous when she wanted, and then super casual when she wanted. I thought it was cool to see her locs own the night whenever she went out. You will be seeing her with locs again, for sure. I don’t know when, but it will happen.”