Cynthia Erivo’s Met Gala talked about the history of black women in Louisiana
Cynthia Erivo usually lights up the red carpet in subtle ways, dyeing her trademark short hair in coordinating shades of mint green or baby pink. But at the 2022 Met Gala, the central gesture — a towering white scarf, majestic in its modest way — created a double-take moment alongside her Louis Vuitton lace gown.
The inspiration was a throwback to part of Louisiana history ‘when black women were told to cover their hair,’ the stylist says Jason Bolden, recalling conversations with Erivo on the subject earlier this spring. The practice, known as the tignon law, was first instituted in the late 18th century, though its repercussions have continued for generations. Back in the Gilded Age – the theme of tonight’s Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – ostentatious displays of wealth may have been the norm, but what persisted with Bolden and Erivo was that kind of self-taught glamour. “In black culture, what you’ve seen so many people be able to do is [turn] struggles into something that becomes desirable, fashionable and iconic,” says Bolden. Plus, he adds, “When I think of the Golden Age, I think ‘more is more’.”
The rest of Erivo’s look, starting with this floor-sweeping Louis Vuitton, bordered on that provocative side of elegance. “It’s this beautiful play of lace,” Bolden says of the drop-waist dress, which is rich in monochromatic patterns and layered movement. “There’s something super feminine about it, but the train creates this disruption where people have to stop and watch.” Meanwhile, Erivo’s manicure provided another kind of eye candy: two-inch black tips with a rococo gold design, by a nail artist Gina Oh. The gold part of the dress code continued with a Roberto Coin necklace, paired with a diamond snake bracelet and a stack of rings – exactly the kind of gear one needs to hand-squeeze a miniature Louis Vuitton trunk.
Such a fanfare set the stage for a low-key makeup moment. “It’s always the first thing that greets you, but it should complement everything everyone has done,” says the makeup artist Sam Fine, who worked with a palette of warm neutrals. Erivo, who came from a project in Greece, arrived with an unearthly, sun-warmed glow, he explains, also crediting the actor with the pre-Met facial. Armani’s Luminous Silk Foundation continued that rosy glow, with a hit from the brand color balm— a “rich plum that blends into her skin really well,” says Fine. The rest of the face was all about sculpting shapes and giving definition. He used brown shadow to pull the eyes, completed by Lashify’s lumpy eyelash enhancement; in a rare move, he was also able to slim down Erivo’s eyebrows (which are usually bleached to match his platinum hair). “Surratt Beauty has a very good eyebrow grip that I like, and I used the best eyebrow pencil from Huda Beauty in soft black, something that speaks to natural hair without being overwhelming,” says Fine.