“This look truly encapsulates who Ariana DeBose is,” asserts Zadrian Smith, one half of the styling duo behind the actor’s breathtaking Valentino haute couture Oscars look. “Red is punchy and so is our girl,” adds his working partner Sarah Edmiston with a smile.
“As a queer woman, she is always offering a new narrative and challenging the old, which is that you do not need to define yourself for other people’s comfort,” continues Sarah. “Her journey with her masculine and feminine sides is her story to tell.” The quintessential Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino cape, bralette and trousers encapsulate this sentiment and DeBose’s character perfectly. “It’s a house that directly aligns with our morals and values,” adds Zadrian. “Pierpaolo has always been doing the work.”
“The trousers were important to her,” says Sarah, who reveals that Ariana’s face “lit up” when she saw them. “There’s no other option after you’ve seen a client respond like that.” The first fitting was emotional. “She said she never imagined that haute couture would ever touch her arm, touch her body,” explains Zadrian. “It’s like training for the Olympics for four years and winning.”
The pair was also adamant that the West Side Story star’s look should translate as effortlessly confident in years to come. “On Oscars night, she is a representation of all the Anitas before her, all the Anitas in the film and maybe the Anitas that will come after her,” muses Zadrian. “She is standing in her greatness as Ariana DeBose, as Anita.”
This fashion partnership works so well because the stylists are committed to every look being “authentically her”. It’s easy for them to imagine DeBose taking home the Best Supporting Actress statuette on film’s big night because they believe in their client. “I’ve seen her in my mind winning 1,000 times and I cry every time,” says Sarah. “I cry on the tube by myself!”
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