You know her best as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, a decidedly unglamorous inmate of Litchfield Penitentiary in the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black. But outside of the prison walls, the actress behind that very memorable character, Uzo Aduba, cleans up beautifully.
To nab a Critics Choice Award Thursday for guest performer in a comedy, the actress looked gorgeous in a shimmering golden vintage dress and House of Lavande jewels — and she and her celebrity glam squad, hairstylist Jamika Wilson and makeup artist Jessica Smalls, let us inside her getting-ready moments before she hit the red carpet. (And yes, Aduba loves getting all dressed up for events like this: “It reminds me of getting ready for prom, Every. Single. Time. And I just feel pretty!” she tells PEOPLE. “I don’t wear a jumpsuit in my personal everyday life, so to step out and wear something elegant is always fun. I’m a girl who loves fashion so it feels like a dream.”)
Courtesy Uzo Aduba
Both Smalls and Wilson revealed that their first inspiration for Aduba’s look came from the dress, which both called “regal” and “royal” — “a dress fit for a queen,” as Smalls put it. Aduba herself dubbed the look “Grecian summer’s day,” and said she loved working with the team to come up with the finished result. “I like to collaborate with everyone and their artistry,” she shared. “I love to hear new ideas and points of view and want all parties to feel satisfied, artistically, including myself. My involvement is ensuring the final look feels both cohesive and like myself.”
First up, the hair: “She wanted to go with her natural hair, and we wanted to have the look of a crown on her head,” Wilson tells PEOPLE of Aduba’s “Grecian goddess” hairstyle, adding that she used Motions “Define My Curls” creme and Motions “Shine Enhancing” pomade to achieve the look. “My only challenge was making sure I kept it simple — not adding too much volume,” she said.
For the complementary beauty look, “the main thing I wanted was for Uzo to shine!” Smalls said. “It’s always a collaboration. I always need to know how Uzo feels when she’s in the outfit. Does she feel sexy? Flirty? Sophisticated? This all helps me use the makeup to bring the ‘look’ to life.” She prepped Aduba’s skin with Cargo_HD face primer, then used the line’s HD “Perfect Pressed Powder” for highlight and lip color in “Napa” for a rich gold-and-purple feel to echo the regal vibe of the dress.
Courtesy Uzo Aduba
Because Aduba is so associated with her character’s signature look, we asked if it was tricky to style her for the red carpet (much like a Mad Men star avoiding that ’60s look, or a Game of Thrones star staying far away from braids). But both Smalls and Wilson said Aduba’s naturally glam self inspires the looks all on her own.
“People are totally amazed when they see her hit the red carpet — she totally transforms into her beautiful self,” Wilson said. “I wouldn’t say I go more glam. We just do Uzo, she’s a glamour girl — she loves fashion and trying different looks.” Echoed Smalls, “It so fun to glam Uzo up. She’s not afraid to wear color and I love that. She lets me use her as my canvas and even if there are times when she’s not quite sure about my vision, she’ll say ‘Okay Jessica, I trust you.’ Those are the best words an artist can hear!”
And the best words Aduba could hear? Her name called to the stage to accept her award. “Initially, [I was] speechless. When I found words, I wanted to share my gratitude to Jenji and the creative team for making me a part of this project and my sincere pride to the entire cast and crew for all of the work put into making Orange Is The New Black,” she said. “We are a team everyday on our show and I can’t think of a better team to be made part of. Go, Team Orange!”
What do you think of Aduba’s all-glammed-up look? How gorgeous is the finished result? Tell us below!