As one of the Rebel Alliance’s greatest leaders and a cinematic feminist icon, Princess Leia™ has proved fierce and fearless time and time again. Dedicated to taking down the Empire, she’s always been equipped with wisdom, bravery, and, of course, her star-studded buns. However, there’s more to her iconic hairdo than meets the eye—years and years of history more. Her iconic ’do was actually inspired by Mexico’s female revolutionaries and women of the Native American Hopi Tribe!
The Leading Lady
Carrie Fisher, the inspiring author and actress, beautifully encompassed all of the character traits of Princess Leia Organa in her daily life. When casting the part, George Lucas was looking for a resilient, cheeky warrior, rather than a “damsel in distress.” Far from your stereotypical princess, Fisher filled Leia’s shoes quite perfectly. With these qualities, it’s only fitting that the Princess had a revolutionary hairdo to complete her ensemble.
Appearing in Star Wars: A New Hope™ back in 1977, Princess Leia’s buns only made one movie appearance throughout the entire Star Wars® saga—and yet, the silhouette of these beauties continues to live on as an icon in cinematic wardrobe. Initially, Fisher wasn’t too crazy about the “cinnamon bun” style Lucas was dreaming of. Certainly, George didn’t pull this twisted style out of thin air—so where did he find his inspiration?
In a 2002 interview, George Lucas revealed that he was on the hunt for a revolutionary look, different from anything else fashion had ever seen. He said, “I went with a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman… The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico.” George’s inspiration stemmed from the female Mexican revolutionaries, known also as the soldaderas. These women joined the revolution around the start of the 20th century and were undoubtedly tough—and an important part of Mexico’s rebel force, for sure!
Mexico’s Rebel Forces
It is likely that George Lucas was referencing Mexican Revolution colonel Clara de la Rocha. She is known for leading a key 1911 battle in northern Mexico where she crossed a river on horseback and took out a power station in order to allow rebel forces to attack at night without being seen! De la Rocha’s contributions to the Revolution were nothing short of extraordinary and historic. However, according to many studies and researchers, there’s a good chance Princess Leia’s hairdo wouldn’t exactly have been practical for fierce fighters headed off to battle.
Tabea Alexa Linhard, author of Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War, has concluded that with the conditions at hand, the soldaderas may have opted for something a bit less bobbly. She recounts the women of this period wearing long braids, hats, and shawls over their hair. Additionally, conditions on the battlefield were harsh. She says, “The women’s task included carrying supplies, taking care of the men’s needs, serving as spies or smugglers; some also participated in battle.”
While De la Rocha is photographed wearing this hairstyle despite its potential inconvenience, it’s likely that the true inspiration for Leia’s locks was the Native American Hopi Tribe.
Women of the Hopi Tribe
The Hopi women have lived on their reservation in Arizona for decades. Known as stewards of the land, these women sustain the Hopi culture through tradition in their everyday life. Deeply rooted in the culture’s religion and spirituality, members of the Hopi Tribe strive toward a state of total reverence and respect for all things.
Just a few years ago, a traveling exhibition called, “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” clarified the confusion behind Lucas’s inspiration using one of the director’s vision boards. A visual representation of de la Rocha was, in fact, represented, along with the words “Mexican – Revolution – Hairstyles – Women,” accompanied by images of the Hopi women.
Known as a “squash blossom,” the hairstyle worn by many women of the Hopi Tribe looks far more similar to Leia’s look than the longer braided styles of most Mexican Revolutionaries.
Regardless of what culture Princess Leia’s hair originated from, Lucas was certainly on the right track using inspiration from both cultures of strong women. Like Princess Leia and the woman who embodied her, Carrie Fisher, the legacy of these historical female figures will live on in history — buns and all!