Angela Bassett's Stylist on Her Showstopping Black Panther Look: 'I Wanted Her to Look Bold and Sexy'
The star's Black Panther premiere look was one of the best of the night
There were so many stop-and-stare fashion moments on the Black Panther purple carpet that for one star to truly stand out would require an almost superhuman sense of style. And that description certainly applies to Angela Bassett. The actress, who plays Ramonda, the Queen of Wakanda, in the hotly-anticipated new Marvel movie, practically shut down the entire event when she showed up in her fully fringed, sunshine-yellow Naeem Khan jumpsuit, accessorized with LeSilla shoes, a custom Thalé Blanc panther-motif clutch and jewelry by Vendorafa, Gismondi 1754, One Six, Darrell Roach and Dorrian. Costar Daniel Kaluuya said it best when he saw her: “Look at this queen, right here!”
So how did the actress, 59, end up in such a spotlight-grabbing outfit? Her stylist Jennifer Austin started with the event’s “regal” dress code and “the concept came together quickly” after that, she tells PeopleStyle. “I love color and Angela looks amazing in it so I wanted something that had a regal Nubian tribal feel,” she says. “I wanted her to look bold and sexy with beautiful texture. I also wanted her to have movement – so this beaded yellow Naeem Khan was perfect!”
And she didn’t stop there, adding on major statement jewelry to complete the look. “Angela is the Queen of Wakanda in the movie so I wanted that to be seen on the carpet for the premiere,” she says. “I pulled references from our African culture: the tribal women from Ethopia and Nigeria, and from the Indian culture as well! I wanted the jewelry to be big, gold and excessive.”
That included some incredible drop earrings and a four-knuckle ring custom-made for her by Darrell Roach (who renamed them for the star). “I wanted to showcase some of the amazing black designers that I work with, especially for this film,” Austin explains. “So when I reached out to jewelry designer Darrell Roach, he immediately went to work on making the pieces. I wanted an ethnic handmade piece for the look and he delivered! Once I showed Angela the concept she was on board.”
Hairstylist Kim Kimble gave Bassett “soft, textured” brushed-out curls that was as ebullient as her outfit, with an outstanding point of reference: the Eddie Murphy classic Coming to America. “Initially it was going to be a ponytail, but as we were styling it, we liked the way it looked down,” Kimble says. “When I saw Angela’s face in the mirror, it just sealed the deal for me, and the look was born!” And the stylist says she was thrilled to be a part of the impactful red carpet her client walked down: “First of all, the movie itself is special. To see all of that royalty was incredible,” she tells PeopleStyle. “To see amazing actors portraying amazing characters, and to see people of color in such a powerful and beautiful way was just incredible.”
Bassett attended the premiere with husband Courtney B. Vance and children Bronwyn and Slater, all of whom coordinated with the actress’s bright style. And on the red carpet, Bassett, nominated for an Oscar for 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It, talked about whether diversity is improving in Hollywood. “I guess it is, and it’s been a concerted effort to do that … Bringing in new, fresh faces, voices, eyes that really make the films and [members who] go out and … actually see a breadth of range of the films,” she said.
That “breadth of films” includes Black Panther, which stars some of the most in-demand black actors in Hollywood and is directed by Creed‘s Ryan Coogler. “I think I’m really proud of the way women are portrayed in this movie,” she says. “Of course, we’re all excited about the first black superhero, but I think there’s a lot of heroines also in this movie and it comes from the female perspective … So I love that.”
But even before the opening credits rolled, Bassett was in full heroine mode, twirling in her killer jumpsuit and making us all wonder how she does it. And Austin agrees: “Angela is the essence of a beautiful, confident, sexy woman with a fun and youthful spirit so I make sure her wardrobe reflects that! My goal with Angela is to change people’s perceptions of what a 59-year-old woman should wear,” she says. “Angela works hard to stay in shape and I want to celebrate that. I push those fashion lines with her and she trusts me and my eye to do just that.”
With reporting by Scott Huver