By Jennifer Ferrise
Updated Dec 07, 2015 @ 1:30 pm
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Jan Welters

One thing is for sure about InStyle's January cover girl Viola Davis: She knows what she wants, especially when it comes to her hair.

“Viola was inspired by the 1970s and after just a few takes she said she wanted her hair combed out into an afro,” says Davis’s longtime stylist Jamika Wilson. “I just played with her natural texture and it let all of her beauty shine through.”

To craft her chic crop, Wilson whipped up a custom product cocktail that moisturized the star's curls and gave them some definition. “I mixed As I Am Curling Jelly ($13; asiamnaturally.com) with a little bit of natural shea butter,” says Wilson. “And then I used it to randomly twist sections of her hair.”

Jan Welters

Next, she reached for a diffuser to set and dry the style, while using a pick comb to lift her hair from the root. “This helps with any shrinkage,” she adds. After the cover was shot, the two also did a second fuller look. “We simply combed her hair out and patted down the sides for shape."

Lisa Martin

And once every strand was in place, the actress was more than ready for her close up—and a little fun. “We had some great R&B songs by James Brown and Whitney Houston playing," recalls Wilson. "Watching her dance around the set and enjoy her moment was simply beautiful.”

For more on Davis, pick up the January issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Dec. 11.