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Ariana DeBose Talks The Prom, Broadway Shutdown, and West Side Story

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the prom l to r jo ellen pellman as emma, ariana debose as alyssa greene in the prom cr melinda sue gordonnetflix © 2020

Ariana DeBose will be the first to tell you she’s been waiting a long time for this. The Tony nominee worked steadily on Broadway in shows like Hamilton and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical for almost a decade. But this? A feature film directed by Ryan Murphy? Opposite Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Kerry Washington? This is way different. Because with The Prom, DeBose is becoming the movie star she wished she could watch growing up.

The musical was an anomaly when it premiered on Broadway in 2018. It’s not based on an existing story, like the life of a pop diva or a movie—instead, its premise revolves around Indiana teen Emma, who wants to take her girlfriend to prom. When this “scandal” leads to the event being canceled, four New York stage actors take up the cause in the name of positive PR.

For the Netflix movie adaptation, DeBose plays Emma’s closeted girlfriend, Alyssa Greene, who feels like an outsider around her cheer squad peers and controlling mother. “Alyssa is struggling with her identity,” DeBose explains. “She wants to stand in her power, but she’s also trying to please everyone, and it’s very hard to reconcile those two wants.” DeBose established a connection to the character the moment she saw Isabelle McCalla originate the role on Broadway—she “represented queer girls so beautifully,” DeBose says—and her own audition with Murphy was more a conversation about her experiences as a queer woman than reading lines. “When I auditioned, I thought a lot about how we identify with our communities and how Alyssa would manifest through me,” she says. “My lived experiences allowed me to play Alyssa to the fullest degree.”

As an Afro-Latinx actress, DeBose is all too familiar with the feeling of navigating a tightrope between two worlds. “I was raised in a community that didn’t necessarily understand me,” the 29-year-old says. For young people of color, society’s entrenched biases repeatedly communicate that the deck is stacked against them. This only heightens the fears of those who struggle with their identity. “I was surrounded by lots of different cultures, but I didn’t necessarily have access to my culture,” DeBose explains. “I felt very much accepted within my home, but it was always hard to truly connect with people [outside] because I never felt fully understood.”

Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose in The Prom.

MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX

Like her character, DeBose learned to love herself as she is. “There are days where you understand the moments you’re in and the emotions racing through your body, and there are days where nothing makes sense,” she says. “I do believe that part of self-love is giving ourselves the spectrum of grace to explore that. And I think we all must commit to being imperfect.”

While Broadway has a reputation for being inclusive, LGBTQ+ representation has primarily been limited to gay white men, with some notable exceptions, like 2015’s Best Musical Tony winner Fun Home. But in a rare move for theater, The Prom doesn’t concentrate on Emma’s trauma from being rejected by her parents and classmates. Instead, the show engages in the biggest act of rebellion one can take on a global stage: queer joy. It begs audiences to create space for acceptance and self-love in a world where members of the LGBTQ+ community encounter daily acts of hate. In the same breath, it demands the theater world leave its comfort zone and truly be at the forefront of inclusivity—a reminder that there are living, breathing people behind every banner waved and policy enacted. The Prom presents a world where the key to happiness is to accept people for who they are. It’s a powerful message everyone—queer and not—could stand to be reminded of.

“We need queer joy now more than ever,” DeBose says. “I want to make work that allows people to see themselves. Not just young people, but all people.” She hopes The Prom sparks conversations where there may be silence or outright violence. She’s especially thrilled to share the film with the folks at the youth organization Covenant House, where she has volunteered “for a long time,” since many there identify as LGBTQ+. After the film’s release, DeBose and co-star Jo Ellen Pellman launched the Unruly Hearts Initiative to connect audiences with Covenant House, The Trevor Project, and the Point Foundation, trusted organizations that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community through resources for housing insecurity solutions, mentorship, education, and access to mental health care. “I just want cupcakes and sprinkles for everyone after the year we’ve had,” DeBose says with a laugh.

The fact that The Prom even made it to screens before the end of 2020 is its own miracle. The film had only two days left of shooting when the pandemic forced an industry-wide shutdown in March, but it was among the first productions to resume filming in July. “The person handling your hair and makeup was always in full PPE,” DeBose recalls. “Even down to details around getting a soda from craft services! No one else could touch anything you touched.” Despite the uncharted territory, the four-day shoot was a success, though filming scenes with Pellman, which often relied on instinctual touch like holding hands, often felt challenging.

DeBose is an empath, so she feels acutely the pain her Broadway community is going through as the pandemic rages on. New York theaters have shut down before, but never for this long or with this level of ambiguity around when they might reopen. Producers are on Zoom calls every day, trying to figure out when and how the business can reemerge. It’s not lost on DeBose that most of her friends and colleagues are unemployed in an industry that brought $52.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all circumstance,” she says. “We are a creative community. If one thing doesn’t work, we get up, and we try again. I’m very confident in our abilities to find a solution. However, I don’t quite know what that is right now.”

the prom l to r  nico greetham as nick, logan riley hassel as kaylee, ariana debose as alyssa greene, andrew rannells as trent oliver, jo ellen pellman as emma, sofia deler as shelby, nathaniel potvin as kevin, tracey ullman as vera, james corden as barry glickman in the prom cr melinda sue gordonnetflix © 2020

MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX

Throughout our conversation, DeBose makes it clear her outlook is about so much more than entertainment or accolades. It’s about the performers being seen with the same humanity as those consuming the art. “We’re all really suffering in a way,” she says of Broadway’s shutdown. “We’re all looking for a solution in our minds and hearts, and our unions are working really hard to find one, but it’s not easy.”

She knows the industry is ripe for change, especially in the wake of this summer’s nationwide reckoning on race. The stage community came together on social media to share their experiences of feeling silenced, marginalized, and tokenized as they’ve pursued careers on Broadway. Newly-formed collectives like We See You, White American Theater are demanding active measures to counter structural racism onstage and off, and a deeper reckoning is taking place that might not have been possible if Broadway were in full swing.

72nd annual tony awards   arrivals

DeBose attends the 2018 Tony Awards, where she was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.

Jamie McCarthyGetty Images

“Many people in the entertainment field want to go back to the way things were because it’s easy; it’s an established precedent,” she says. “Things only change when we move forward. I do think you’re going to see a new generation of artists who will kindly help facilitate this change.” It’s clear she’ll be one of them. “When we take a step back and see what the system has historically benefited, that’s when we have to pay attention,” she continues. “It’s time to dismantle those pre-existing systems. The only way we do that is by getting involved in our communities and workplaces.”

That’s why it’s not just about the quality of DeBose’s work, though few would dispute her talent. It’s the choices she makes in the roles she wants to inhabit, both with the messaging behind each performance and the people and organizations she chooses to work with. Next year, she’ll play the coveted role of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake. And as we talk on the phone, she’s on the set of the Apple TV+ Brigadoon-inspired musical comedy series, which co-stars her The Prom colleague Keegan-Michael Key, as well as Cecily Strong, Kristin Chenoweth, and Alan Cumming.

“As artists, many times we’re offered lots of jobs, and if you are a woman of color like myself, we are used to scarcity. It’s very easy for us to just say yes to the next thing that comes,” she emphasizes. “It is hard to say no, but I think part of the reset is learning to demand our worth.”

DeBose will become indelible to the countless BIPOC viewers and members of the LGBTQ+ community who will encounter her for the first time in The Prom. She can rest assured that her accomplishments would make her younger self proud as hell.

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Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik Named Baby Girl Khai

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gigi hadid's baby name revealed

Gigi Hadid and her boyfriend Zayn Malik opted to wait months before revealing the name of their newborn daughter: Khai. Hadid announced the name subtly tonight in her Instagram bio.

Instagram

Hadid and Malik announced their daughter’s birth at the end of September. Malik broke the news, posting first on Twitter and his own Instagram. “Our baby girl is here, healthy and beautiful🙏🏽❤️” he wrote. “to try put into words how i am feeling right now would be an impossible task. The love I feel for this tiny human is beyond my understanding. Grateful to know her, proud to call her mine, and thankful for the life we will have together x”

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Hadid posted her own announcement on her Instagram account shortly after, tagging Malik. “Our girl joined us earth-side this weekend and she’s already changed our world. So in love🥺💕,” Hadid wrote.

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Hadid spoke in July about why she initially chose to keep her pregnancy off of social media. She would go on later to share photos from her maternity shoot, along with a couple more candid snaps of her on her family’s farm earlier in her pregnancy.

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“Obviously I think a lot of people are confused why I’m not sharing more but like, I’m pregnant through a pandemic, like obviously my pregnancy is not the most important thing going on in the world,” she said in July. “That’s a reason that I felt that it’s not really something that I need to share apart from with my family and friends. Obviously a lot of people have lost lives due to coronavirus that was in the beginning of quarantine and still happening. And then we moved obviously into the reemergence of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement, and I thought that our presence on social media should be used for that.”

“I have been taking a lot of pictures of my bump and sending it to friends and family and it’s been very cute and exciting and I’m trying to document it well because I’ve heard a lot of people say obviously make sure you don’t miss it,” she continued. “And I will be sharing stuff like that in the future. I just am not rushed to do it, and I feel like right now I just want to experience it.”

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Beyonce’s Best Style Moments – 50+ Best Beyoncé Knowles Fashion Moments

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beyonce

Christopher PolkGetty Images

All hail, Queen Bey and her amazing sense of style. Whether she’s stopping time on the red carpet, channeling her alter-ego Sasha Fierce in custom Balmain, or flexing for her grid in casual denim, she knows how to put together to look. Ahead of this year’s Grammy’s, relive 111 flawless fashion moments, onstage and off.

1 of 111

January 25, 2020

Posing at the Roc Nation brunch in Los Angeles with Jay-Z while wearing Francesco Murano.

2 of 111

December 14, 2019

Attending Sean Combs’ 50th birthday bash in Los Angeles alongside Jay-Z.

3 of 111

November 16, 2019

In a feathery custom Roberto Cavalli gown for the Shawn Carter Foundation Gala in Florida.

4 of 111

July 14, 2019

On the red carpet of the The Lion King‘s London premiere in a golden Nguyen Cong Tri gown with leg slit.

5 of 111

July 9, 2019

In Alexander McQueen for the Los Angeles premiere of The Lion King alongside Blue Ivy.

6 of 111

February 9, 2019

Smiling for a photo with Kevin Hart in a floral Balmain look while at the Roc Nation brunch in Los Angeles.

7 of 111

December 2, 2018

Posing in a floral look for the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.

8 of 111

December 2, 2018

Holding hands with Jay-Z at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

9 of 111

December 2, 2018

Wearing a patterned one-piece ensemble for the Global Citizen Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.

10 of 111

October 11, 2018

Singing in a rhinestone gown with high-slit in Santa Monica, California.

11 of 111

September 22, 2018

Wearing a ruffly, ethereal gown for a performance in Pasadena, California.

12 of 111

September 22, 2018

Performing at the Rose Bowl in California with Jay-Z for their “On the Run II” tour.

13 of 111

September 22, 2018

Alongside Jay-Z at the Pasadena, California stop of their “On the Run II” tour.

14 of 111

August 2, 2018

Wearing a sequined and pearled one-piece for a New Jersey performance at her “On the Run II” tour.

15 of 111

August 2, 2018

Onstage in East Rutherford, New Jersey, wearing a golden-hued gown.

16 of 111

August 2, 2018

Performing in a regal gold and purple outfit for a tour stop in New Jersey.

17 of 111

July 25, 2018

In Cleveland, Ohio for her “On the Run II” tour in a bedazzled burgundy outfit.

18 of 111

June 9, 2018

Wearing an all-metallic outfit for the Glasgow, Scotland stop of her “On the Run II” tour with Jay-Z.

19 of 111

June 9, 2018

Singing during her “On the Run II” tour with Jay-Z in Glasgow, Scotland.

20 of 111

June 6, 2018

Performing during her “On the Run II” tour in Wales wearing a draped black ensemble.

21 of 111

April 14, 2018

Commanding the Coachella stage in a custom Balmain cape, accessorized with a headpiece and cane.

22 of 111

April 14, 2018

Performing onstage during Coachella in glittery fringe boots and a graphic yellow hoodie.

23 of 111

January 28, 2018

Attending the 60th annual Grammys in a velvet custom Nicolas Jebran with double slits, Alain Mikli sunglasses, and statement Lorraine Schwartz earrings, alongside Jay-Z and Blue Ivy.

29 of 111

July 29, 2017

At FYF Festival, watching Solange perform. From Beyonce.com.

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How Michelle Obama Nailed Her Inauguration Day Beauty Look, According to Her Makeup Artist

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Creamy Concealer

Yesterday ushered in a new era of more humane, decent, and glam politics. Lady Gaga served us Hunger Games District One chic; Emma, daughter of very first second gentlemen of the United States, Doug Emhoff, made all of Brooklyn feel seen in crafty Miu Miu; and the White House coat game is now unparalleled between First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. But one woman, nay icon, nay legend, won the inauguration: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.

From the head-to-toe plum and burgundy ensemble by LA-based Sergio Hudson to the bounciest curls in all the land, this was MO’s event (and—oh, yeah—also the swearing-in of President Joe Biden). Her secret? The millennial women triumvirate of Pat McGrath, Glossier, and Fenty freaking Beauty. To see how the beauty look came to be and find out how to potentially recreate it at home, we chatted with the man behind the vision, the former First Lady’s longtime makeup artist, Carl Ray. (You may recognize his work on a certain ELLE cover.) Below, Ray breaks down the steps for achieving your very own MO glam (perhaps for a Zoom meeting), plus the process of creating such an iconic beauty moment.

How long have you been planning the Inauguration makeup look?

I started thinking about the look weeks in advance. I knew she would be wearing a mask and a monochromatic outfit. I wanted her to have a powerful beauty look that would need to be achieved by playing up the top half of her face.

Because of the masks, did you purposefully focus on the eyes?

Yes, absolutely. I knew that since her whole face wouldn’t be visible, the eyes and lashes would be the star of this particular look!

Do you have a name for this glam?

You know, I haven’t really thought about a name for the look, but it was definitely smokin’!

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We chatted with Obama’s hairstylist Yene Damtew and she mentioned you worked closely with the entire style team including Meredith Koop, Christy Rilling, and Damtew. How did you all collaborate on the look?

The entire glam team has been working together for some time. We each have our own creative elements that we bring to the look and all complement each other. We really allow each of our creative outlets to shine to make the former First Lady look and feel her very best.

How long did the final look take?

I don’t generally time how long it takes but allow myself 30 to 1 hour. I can work quickly with her given how long we have worked together.

Do you play music and chat in the beauty chair?

We always have fun in the chair! No music this time – we just laughed and caught up on life. I’m very lucky to be able to call the former First Lady both a mentor and friend.

We are saying Mrs. Obama and her entire glam team “won” the inauguration. Twitter also adored the look. How does it feel?

It’s such an honor. I am humbled to be able to work with such a strong, confident, and iconic woman that is a role model to so many women everywhere. I knew that this was a monumental day for our country but particularly for women. Her entire look really was powerful and I am so glad that people loved it.

Michelle Obama attends a lot of events. What is the right amount of glam for a daytime inauguration?

I knew this particular event was going to be televised not just in the US but across the world, and given his historical occasion particularly for women, her makeup glam needed to stand out for TV, but I still wanted a gentle elegance. I went with a classic smokey eye that I felt was just the right amount of glam for a daytime appearance. Again, inaugurations aren’t your everyday daytime event, so we were able to dial it up a little more than a normal daytime look while still keeping it timeless and classy.

Ray’s step-by-step guide for achieving the Michelle Obama Smokin’ Look™

  • First, he started with foundation (a secret brand that he won’t reveal, yet!) and concealer. Mrs. Obama wore NARS creamy concealer and Fenty Matchstix Contour.
  • Next, he set the former First Lady with Laura Mercier’s translucent powder and the Iconic liquid highlighter.
  • For her brows, Ray used Anastasia Brow’s Dip Brow Gel, Brow Definer, and Clear Brow Gel.
  • Once brows were complete, he started on eyes: “I wanted an impactful smokey eye for the event,” explains Ray. “I was going for a dramatic glam eye that would really play well to the camera.”
  • Ray chose Viseart 01 Eyeshadow Palette neutral matte shades (taupe to black) that “blend and build effortlessly.”
  • For a little pop in the center of the eye, he applied Pat McGrath Divine Mink to the center of the lid.
  • Next, he applied Pat McGrath Labs’ Permagel Eyeliner in Xtreme Black and Fenty Flyliner long-wear liquid eyeliner. The Flyliner, he notes, is a “true inky black that stays put all day and night.” The Fenty liner goes on top of the pencil liner for a more dramatic look on the lash line.
  • Mascara was applied to the top and bottom of the lashes using Glossier Lash Slick.
  • Finally, he applied Lily Lashes for “that final POP,” says Ray. “They add definition to your eyes and enhance them to draw attention to your best features by simply adding length and color to your lashes and again, for TV, we really need to make things a little more dramatic so her eyes shine.”

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