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Princess Leia's Hairdo Didn't Come From a Galaxy Far, Far Away

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Princess Leia, the iconic character played by Carrie Fisher. Image on Flickr by user Foxspain Fotografía (CC BY 2.0).

A few days before 2016 came to an end, the world bade farewell to popular actress Carrie Fisher, whose untimely death at the age of 60 came on Dec. 27, four days after she suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

Although she played many roles, Fisher was best known for portraying Princess Leia in the epic space saga Star Wars.

Once the news of Carrie Fisher's death broke, social media all over the world flooded with odes to the actress, including thousands if not millions of images showing little girls mimicking Princess Leia's iconic hairdo, which you'll likely recognize as two buns pinned at the sides of her head.

In an interview published by Time magazine in 2002, George Lucas – the man who created Star Wars – said he found inspiration in the women from the Mexican Revolution (in the early 20th century), known as soldaderas:

I went with a kind of south-western Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico.

Who were the soldaderas?

According to Mi Sazón, this name for name of the women who fought in the Mexican Revolution comes from the Aragonese word soldada, used to name the payment some of them received in exchange for their services:

Las llamadas soldaderas, fueron todas aquellas mujeres mexicanas anónimas que se alistaron a combatir en las fuerzas revolucionarias. Con gran coraje e idealismo lucharon por conseguir una vida digna y mejor para toda la clase obrera campesina, estos trabajadores eran sometidos a las tareas más pesadas, con salarios ínfimos comprometidos casi siempre, por la avaricia indiferente del patrón. Algunas de ellas no esperaron a que las tropas las enlistaran, salieron a su encuentro.

So-called soldaderas were all those anonymous Mexican women who enrolled themselves to fight with the revolutionary forces. With great courage and idealism, they fought to get a life of dignity for all the countryside working class, these labourers were responsible for the hardest tasks, for a very poor paying, [were] almost always put in danger due to employer's indifferent greed. Some of those women didn't wait for the troops to enroll them, they went out looking for the troops.

In her essay “Las Soldaderas, Mujeres de Armas Tomar” (Soldaderas, Women to Be Reckoned With), Mexican historian Elena Poniatowska explained their importance:

Sin las soldaderas no hay Revolución Mexicana; ellas la mantuvieron viva y fecunda, como la tierra y la alimentaron a lo largo de los años […], sin ellas los soldados no hubieran comido ni dormido ni peleado”. Como se puede concluir, sus condiciones de vida eran muy duras.

Without soldaderas there is no Mexican Revolution; they kept it alive and productive, just as the seeding ground, and nourished it along the years […], without these women, soldiers wouldn't have been able to eat, sleep nor fight.” As we can conclude, their living conditions were very hard.

It was these women who inspired the unique hairdo George Lucas bestowed on his most important female protagonist.

Writer and professor Eric Tang shared this post after visiting an exhibition at the Denver Museum of Art, in Colorado, where he saw an image that seems to prove the hairdo's origins.

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The woman in the image is identified as Clara de la Rocha, a Mexican revolutionary lady, and the daughter of revolutionary hero Herculano de la Rocha.

However, Tabea Linhard, the author of “Fearless Women in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War,” told BBC:

[…] I would like to say that Princess Leia's hairstyle was based on the ‘soldaderas’ from the Mexican Revolution, this was probably not the case.” […] If you take a look at photos from the period, you see women with long braids, some wear hats, on occasion they cover their hair with a shawl. […] So a hairstyle like Leia's probably was not a convenient option.

Twitter users gave their two cents about the issue, as well.

Some insisted it was all true:

This is not a joke. Geroge Lucas was inspired by Pancho Villa's soldaderas to create Princess Leia's hairdo.

While some others linked their source options:

Princess Leia's hairdo was inspired in these women.

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