Rapunzel Hair Braid BTS Beauty Tutorial Starring Joan Smalls


Our exclusive editorial story featuring Joan Smalls as Wildflower is full of major hair moments inspired by the 1970’s with exaggerated lengths and volumes!

We took the length to an extreme with the Rapunzel braid look.

The best part of my career is having a platform to make people dream and create my visions of art. Playing with an extreme length outside of the norm was a fun character to create.

Naturally long hair with elements of braids always give me 1970’s vibes.

Pairing those elements with an editorial appropriate twist of a super long and thick braid inspired by Rapunzel was fun to create.

Of course Rapunzel! Because who doesn’t love a girl with hair that has superpowers.

My original mood board reference for the shoot day was inspired by Richard Avedon’s image of ‘Nastassja Kinski and The Serpent’.

I wanted to play with the braid as a prop decorating the body like a slithering snake as it gives an energy of the human’s interconnectedness to nature and compliments the natural feminine curves.

Watch how to create a long and thick hair braid on our behind the scenes photoshoot video

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The Long Thick Braid Guide

step 1

Prep natural hair for heat protection and overall hair health

I began by protecting and infusing vitamins into Joan Smalls’ natural hair and scalp with my custom formulation of organic beauty oil that I have been testing for years onset with my celebrity clients. The oil smells like a South France dream, can you guess what the essential aroma is? Stay tuned for when this divine beauty product drops.

step 2

Create the perfect detangled texture hair canvas

I detangled the hair and fluffed up the texture with the legendary Mason Pearson brush. Pssst … a little industry secret. This is the brush that every single hair stylist backstage at fashion week has in their kit! It really is that good! Both a classic and modern staple for all hair types.

Mason Pearson Brush
step 3

What curling iron or wand is best for loose waves

Next, I used the Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium 1 1/4” Professional Marcel to add some loose waves and movement to Joan’s hair from the roots to her shoulders, sparing the ends of unnecessary heat since they will be plaited into a braid.

BabylissPRO Nano Titanium Marcel Professional Curling Iron
step 4

How to braid hair


I began the braid by gathering all of Joan’s hair at the nape of her neck, I took three rather even sections, leaving out some natural pieces of hair to frame the face. 

Stitch it! I overlapped the left section overtop and in between the middle and right section. Then, overlapped the right section overtop between the middle and left section. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Take note that every time a new stitch is created, the section in your hand will always end up being the new middle section.  

Reminder: Every time you stitch the next section, be sure to always overlap over top the middle section. If on accident you begin to stitch underneath the middle section at any random moment, the braid will no longer look nice and that stitch will need to be undone and fixed before continuing down the braid. 

How to make a 3 strand braid for beginners
step 5

Adding hair extensions into a braid

I recommend using Perfect Locks Bulk Hair for Braiding to add thickness and length to any braid hairstyle that is meant to last more than 30 minutes on a photoshoot.

Creating the extra long and thick braid for a quick photo op I relied on using loose synthetic braiding hair to create this major hair moment!

It’s very helpful to prep the loose hair on a work station, before starting the braid. Remove the hair from the packages and pull apart from the bundle a thickness that is desired each time extra hair is added to a stitch.

I knew that the body length braid will need tons of hair, so we used too many packages to count! We prepped all of the pre-portioned sections on a large table. The braid I created was extra thick… therefore we portioned the sections to have the diameter of a nickel and we added hair into the stitches frequently.

I used my judgement of when the perfect time was to begin adding in the loose braid-in hair extensions. When the hair began to thin out and need an extra boost of thickness or length… it was then the right time to add more.

I held the loose hair bundle with one hand in the middle of the length of the bundle, my other hand holding onto the braid. Then I added the bundle by combining it with the outside left and right sections, making sure to leave the center section overtop and completely left out and separated from the newly added bundle piece. Now braid as usual.

In other words, the hair extensions were only added to the outside pieces of the braid and the middle did not have any extensions added to it.

In the video, you will see key moments of when the ends of the extensions try to pop out and how I take the time to address the ends with some patience to tuck and hide them when needed throughout the braid. Good thing a messy braid was the look I was going for to make it an easier and less time consuming hairstyle to create.

Super important to have a brush nearby to detangle along the way… the loose hair has a tendency to tangle.

Braiding Hair
step 6

Finishing touches perfectly completed with giggles

The rapunzel length literally had me on the floor to finish the look! As the hair packs officially ran out it was time to secure the very end of the braid with a hair tie. We used professional loose elastic that needs cut and knotted, but I also recommend these elastics for DIY.

Lastly, due to the hair extensions being synthetic, it was important to not ruin my expensive hair dresser scissors on the hair, so I used a pair of crafting shears to slide and point cut the end of the braid to create a choppy look.

As we finished the stitches, Joan needed a quick bathroom break before stepping on set.. I will never forget how funny it was to see her pile up the braid of hair in her arms like a baby to use the restroom! Good times!

Hair Braiding FAQ

Does braiding your hair make it grow faster?

I grew up hearing a couple of times that braids help hair grow, but is it true? The bottom line is there is no evidence that confirms that braiding hair makes it grow faster. I think the most important concern to note is that people will sometimes braid their own or their children’s hair in EXTREMELY tight cornrows or ponytails.

This is a very big problem because the one factor that is definitely true is that hair loss can occur from pull stress from often wearing tight ponytails, braids or buns. This is called traction alopecia. See ‘Do braids cause hair loss?’ FAQ below.

Conclusion: I think everyone can agree that we would rather have hair that supposedly grows slower than permanent balding.

Do braids cause hair loss?

Absolutely yes! This doesn’t mean that every single person that wears tight and heavy hairstyles will notice hair loss. But a good general rule of thumb is that pull stress from often wearing tight ponytails, braids, dreads, weaves or buns can cause traction alopecia aka bald spots and receding hairlines. If you don’t intervene at first signs of symptoms, the hair loss may be permanent.

I have seen a lot of women STILL wearing very tight ponytails with 3 inches of balding hair on the edges of their hairline. I wonder if they even realize that the reason why they are severely balding is because of the tight hair style choices they continue to make.

Conclusion: Save wearing tight ponytails or braids for only special occasions to prevent permanent balding. If a hairstyle hurts, gives you a headache, tingles, or visibly lifts up the scalp, remove immediately the hairstyle and opt for looser looks.

Does braiding damage your hair?

Though tight braids can be a very bad idea for the scalp. See the ‘Do braids cause hair loss?’ FAQ above. I tend to lean into the train of thought that braids that are not painfully tight can be great a protective hairstyle. A protective hairstyle basically means that because all or part of the hair is braided, then that hair does not require other damaging routines for the hair like harsh heat styling, product buildup, and can even help delay touchups of chemical processing like relaxers for people who use them.

Conclusion: Braiding hair can be a great protective hairstyle that actually prevents damaging the hair by other causes, just avoid tight painful braids to protect your scalp too.

How to make a braid on yourself?

Braiding your own hair is much more challenging than braiding someone else’s hair. I recommend practicing on someone else or even a mannequin to begin with until you understand the rhythm of braiding. Perhaps try using a mirror and if it helps. Take note that using a mirror might make it more confusing for some people. Check out Step 4 above for more tips and tricks. It’s super easy to learn a basic 3 strand braid, give yourself a little patience and it will be a skill that will stick with you for a lifetime, much like riding a bike.

How to braid short hair?

Super short hair can be pulled into different types of braided hairstyles if you part smaller sections, use a nice workable gel on the strand that you are about to start braiding, and use your fingertips to grab and braid the strands. This is can be more challenging for sure and time consuming but with plenty of practice and patience it can be a new skill to be proud of.

Stay tuned for more exciting hair and makeup tutorials coming soon. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when they drop!

love note

Dreams come true manifestation recipe

Have you ever created art to later find out that the creation will later manifest one of your dreams to come true? I hope this little love note inspires you to, no matter what, keep creating art, beautiful moments and surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting!

A dream came true and a check mark off the career bucket list soon after the launch of Documentary Beauty which spotlighted the Joan Smalls as Wildflower story.

The concept of the Rapunzel braid image was loved so much that it caught the attention of editors at VOGUE Italia which led to this image being published in their print magazine alongside a beautiful interview featuring me as top talent in the world. (Right after the interview of legendary hair artist Guido Palau. Gasp!)

I wanted to share my little recipe for this success story as I believe when there is a project that is truly a LABOR OF LOVE, the potential of rewards can be unexpected and oh so satisfying.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to bring into creating art.

  • Combine a positive attitude mindset.
  • While tapping into the the exploration of the right brain (known as the creative side of the brain). Tip: If you create anything at all for over 45 minutes the brain goes into a state of being that is a very healthy meditation.
  • Last but not least, create in an environment that is open for freedom to express without being overly directed nor edited.
  • It should feel like a meditative dance of expression of being in the zone.

Applying these tips will help to raise your vibration, which is one of the most powerful states to be in to be a magnet for your dreams to be received.

Check out an even more in depth list of Law of Attraction Manifestation Tips here!

Go ahead now, manifest those dreams!

Have you ever created art that manifested into a dream come true or a profound moment of a new door opening? Are you open to scheduling a little “me time” to try out my dreamy manifestation recipe for success? What are you excited to learn more about from the authentic beauty experts here in Documentary Beauty? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Issue 01

Street Style Beauty

Shockcore or main character energy? From creative hair color to interesting makeup,…




get in, you’re invited… 


You’re the muse of my dreams! Thank you for being an important part of this beautiful community! Learn all the ways to support DB to help make the dream thrive! We hope you are enjoying our beauty expert curated advice and learning about the recommended products that we truly love! We value transparency and want to let you know that some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that DB will collect a small share of the sale from any purchase you make from the products at no cost to you. Your support is valued! xo KM

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Kayla MiChele
Kayla MiChele

Kayla MiChele is a celebrity and fashion beauty artist who is interviewed in the pages of Vogue Italia featuring her as top talent in the world. Her work is in prestigious editorials from Harper’s Bazaar to W to Vogue with clients for fashion brands ranging from Tom Ford to Chanel. Kayla's beauty expert collaborations include indie clean beauty brands to leading cosmetic brands Estée Lauder to L'Oréal. She began her career assisting hair stylist Guido Palau backstage at fashion shows from Louis Vuitton to Marc Jacobs. Since then, she has worked with top models and iconic artists including Vanessa Hudgens, A$AP Rocky, Jared Leto, Joan Smalls, Hailey Bieber, and Gigi Hadid.

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