Inside Yara Shahidi’s Couture-Filled Critics Choice Experience

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2021’s reimagined awards season has brought big changes to Hollywood, but Gen-Z stars like Yara Shahidi are already accustomed to the new all-digital event schedule. As an actress, producer, and Harvard junior, Shahidi is used to hopping on Zoom for work and school, so when she was tasked with intro-ing the nominees for Best Young Actor/Actress via satellite, she was prepared. “I have adjusted to our new virtual space pretty seamlessly,” Shahidi shared via email post-show. “Getting dressed up in this amazing Dior was a treat!

The look in question, a delicately embroidered top, worn beneath a gauzy, bell-sleeved blouse and paired with a satin appliquéd tulle skirt, was one of the standouts of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s tarot-themed spring/summer 2021 Dior Haute Couture collection. A piece that came with its own good luck symbol—an image of “The Magician” tarot card, a motif that represents skill, ability, and resourcefulness when it’s held upright—etched onto the bib, it was a playful choice. Still, it stuck to the codes of couture. For all its lighthearted fun, it required 400 hours worth of labor and a team of four to make the concept a reality. 

Wearing an outfit with allusions to astrology and a whimsical mix of color and texture is a gamble, but Shahidi and stylist Jason Bolden like their fashions bold—even when the cameras aren’t around. “Planning these days for awards has been pretty interesting,” says Bolden “[Having] no real carpets and not even being able to see people is a huge adjustment. Yet Yara keeps the energy high and positive, whether it’s on FaceTime or in person!” 

Shahidi and Bolden wanted her awards season wardrobe to reflect that positivity, so they avoided going overly formal. “We wanted to celebrate just being happy and having some fun,” says Bolden. “Yara loves a look that has movement and strong details! We also like to take things and make them feel super casual.” That laid-back sensibility comes through in the snapshots of Shahidi enjoying a garden stroll before having to take on her presenter duties. Still, it was the fun-loving nature of the ceremony that informed the night’s style statement. “My dress matched the forward fashion that Critics Choice always brings out, while highlighting what I love about fashion: having a point of view while reveling in such playful moments,” says Shahidi. 

The whimsy of Shahidi’s couture pieces carried over into her beauty look. Makeup artist Emily Cheng gave the star a power-combination of ice-blue liner and glossy coral lips. “I wanted to mimic the overall neutral tone of the dress by keeping her skin airy and fresh but bringing in a pop of color on her eyes,” says Cheng, who used the soft-indigo shades of Diorshow’s 5 Couleurs Couture Palette in Denim to create a winged effect on the eyes and Rouge Dior in Sillage Silk for the orange-tinted pout. “Even with an emphasized eye, I didn’t want the glam to look heavy in any way.” The pastels featured on the skirt were a source of inspiration, but with Shahidi’s face as her canvas, Cheng wanted to get artistic. “Even before seeing the dress, I was eager to do something fun and colorful on Yara,” she says. “There haven’t been a lot of red carpet events, and I was itching to get creative!” Hairstylist Nikki Nelms kept that imaginative theme going by weaving turquoise ribbon into Shahidi’s curls to complete a towering coiled up-do.  

Once she was dressed and coiffed, Shahidi was ready to shine a light on acting’s next-generation, presenting top honors to 8-year-old Minari star Alan Kim. Having Shahidi announce the category dedicated to young talent was appropriate given all that’s currently on her plate. Filming the forthcoming season of Grown-ish, developing new projects via 7th Sun, the production company she and mom, Keri, launched in 2020, and continuing her education, she’s a shining example of a well-rounded young Hollywood star. Still, she’s already thinking about her next mission: opening doors for emerging creatives. “[This year] I have continued to center my joy in my relationships with family and friends, and intentionally upped my self-care regimen,” she explains. “People have seen sneak peeks of what my business partner (my mother) and I are producing under our 7th Sun banner, so honestly, I’m excited to be adding stories from incredible writers to the media landscape.”