How Playing Iman in ‘Winning Time’ Helped Model-Actor Mariama Diallo Embrace Her Afro

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Texture Diaries is a space for Black people across industries to reflect on their journeys to self-love, and how accepting their hair, in all its glory, played a pivotal role in this process. Each week, they share their favorite hair rituals, products, and the biggest lessons they’ve learned when it comes to affirming their beauty and owning their unique hair texture.

When model-actor Mariama Diallo was asked to play Iman in HBO’s latest hit show, Winning Time, she couldn’t believe it. “Iman has always been an icon to me, especially with being African,” Diallo, who is from Guinea, tells Vogue. After three rounds of auditions, she adds, “I don’t think it registered for a while when I first got the role.” In the show, which follows the rise of the Lakers in the ’80s, Diallo plays Iman during her relationship with basketball player Spencer Haywood. “I’ve always been a huge fan of [Iman], but after studying her more closely through this role, I became even more amazed by her. She’s handled everything she’s been through in the industry and beyond so gracefully,” Diallo says.

The role taught Diallo beauty lessons, too. For filming, she wore her natural hair out, the way Iman did. “I knew so many people were going to watch this. I had to make sure I was taking really good care of [my hair],” Diallo says. That meant using products like Pattern’s edge control, castor oil, Mizani shampoo and conditioner, and Camille Rose deep conditioner. After playing Iman, she says, “I’m now more inspired to wear my afro out in my own day-to-day life.”

“Scalp care favorites.”

When she began modeling ten years ago, Diallo felt pressure to wear her hair straight. “I stopped wearing braids. Sew-ins were really popular at the time,” she says. “[But] I noticed I started getting a lot of breakage at the front of my hair no matter what I did.” She began building healthier hair by following natural remedies her mother and sister suggested, like an avocado mask. She began wearing more wigs, which allowed her to try different styles while protecting her natural hair. “I also started realizing I don’t have to [change] my hair to be able to make it in the industry,” she says.

“An outtake from my first Iman photoshoot.”

These days, Diallo is relating to her roots, drawing inspiration from her mother, who owned a braiding shop when they moved to Alabama. “Braiding hair was my first job in high school. I was able to buy my first phone because of it,” Diallo says. “I was there doing micro braids and Senegalese twists all day. I think that’s where my love of hair first started.”

As she’s found greater self-confidence through her work and her family, Diallo says she’s been reminded that “accepting yourself and your hair is a collective journey. It’s been passed down through my ancestors, my mother and to me. And through me, it’s passed to my friends and larger community,” she says. “Just know you’re not alone.”

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