The Story Behind Cynthia Erivo’s Epic Grammys Night Look

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2021’s remixed Grammy Awards ceremony was a change of pace, but Cynthia Erivo was ready for it. With its half outdoors, half virtual format, the event offered a new, socially distanced template for awards season. As someone who already has a Grammy trophy on her shelf—the multi-talented star won Best Musical Theater Album in 2017 for *The Color Purple—*Erivo fully understands the event’s importance “The Grammys are all about getting to see friends, listening to and celebrating good music,” she shared with Vogue post-show. “It’s strange to not be together, but at least we’re safe.” 

The logistics may have changed, but Erivo and her stylist, Jason Bolden, are always ready for a fashion moment. After raising the bar for virtual press tour style during her Genius: Aretha appearances, the pair wanted something special for music’s biggest night. “Cynthia is a fashion girl through and through. I show up, and she’s already in a full look,” says Bolden. “She absolutely has been loving all that Nicolas Ghesquière has been doing lately, so this felt right. Everyone expects a wild fitting story but we tried it on the day before the ceremony, made a couple of small adjustments and it was perfect.” Elegant yet futuristic, the Louis Vuitton gown’s silver and gold sequins and daring peekaboo built into the bodice were attention-grabbing. Still, it was Erivo’s presence that truly brought the look to life. “I think it’s ultimately about the human inside the look,” says Bolden. “Cynthia truly owned it. What took it to that next level was how she decided to move and pose, how she interpreted the modernism of the outfit through her posing. Still, the magic of Nicolas and the magic of the tailors who worked on the dress can’t be forgotten either.”

For Erivo, the regal quality of the look’s contrasting metallics, streamlined silhouette, and intricate construction made it exceptional. “They paid close attention to the smallest of details when creating this dress,” says Erivo. “Even the sequins are V-shaped to represent Louis Vuitton. It’s grand and gorgeous, and it just shines when the light hits it. It’s a special piece, [one] that felt royal and made me feel like a queen. I also love that the shape feels super classic but modern at the same time with the plunging neckline.”  

As a nominee for Best Song Written for Visual Media, Erivo was at the Grammys to do more than look fabulous. “Stand Up,” her anthemic contribution to the soundtrack of Kasi Lemmons’ film, Harriet, marked her first nomination as a songwriter. Describing the creative process as an incredible experience, she found working with producers Will Wells and Gabe Fox-Peck inspiring. “We sat and wrote for 3 hours and then took another month or so to produce it fully,” says Erivo. “We brought in some really beautiful voices—the choir was incredible and my amazing guitarist and writer Xela. One of my idols, Lisa Fischer, who’s an incredible vocalist, came in to be one of the backup vocalists. It was a special piece, and I’m so grateful that I was a part of it.” Even after snagging a Best Actress Oscar nomination last year for her role as the movie’s titular heroine, abolitionist Harriet Tubman, Erivo was genuinely surprised to be in the running for a Grammy. “I didn’t expect that,” she says. “I’ve stepped into the role of a singer-songwriter fully this year with my album—it feels wonderful to be recognized for both.

With the Grammys wrapped and awards season ahead of them, Erivo and Bolden already have their eyes on the future—just don’t expect them to spill any details. “There isn’t a formula; Cynthia dresses for her own happiness,” says Bolden. “Yesterday we were talking about what comes next, trying to figure it all out, and all she said was ‘I want what everyone else puts back on the rack.’ So she’s dancing to her own beat, doing what feels good in her soul.”