Photo credit: Robyn Von Swank
At first glance, the topic of red carpets might not seem important to you. Who cares what the celebrities are wearing? Who cares about that precocious Fiji Water Bottle girl stealing focus? Excuse me, I’m
an important literary book reader perusing a book website for literary things and I don’t have time for such pish-posh frickel frackel!
As dumb as they are, though (and they are pretty dumb), red carpets have a huge effect on the way women and girls perceive themselves because magazines aimed toward “women” use red carpet looks as an achievable gold standard of beauty. As an eighth grader reading Seventeen
, I personally felt so overwhelmed by all of the complicated red carpet-inspired hair and makeup tips that I took copious notes of every one I found for fear that I would forget all of the steps. Whenever I tried to execute one of those tips, I would get halfway through a smoky eye, fuck it up, scream, then give up on eye makeup altogether and just hope that my personality was enough. And off to prom I go!
Every time I’m posing on the red carpet, I still think about some little me out there failing at her smoky eye. Perhaps she’s even failing at the same kind of smoky eye that I’m wearing on that red carpet
. So to burst the bubble for the frustrated little girl inside all of us, here are some reasons red carpet events should never set the standard for, well, anything in real life.
“Who are you wearing?” can be a loaded question.
At award shows, rich people wear rich clothes because they can afford to buy them, right? Not in this
capitalist society, my friend! The first fucked-up thing about red carpet fashion is that the very people who can afford to pay for expensive clothes DO NOT PAY A CENT. The richer you are, the less you pay. See, if you’re famous, it means that brands can use you as a walking advertisement, and if you aren’t seen as famous enough to merit getting a dress for free, then, and only then, must you buy your own. Famous people still pay for some looks, of course, but when they do, they don’t dare mention it to anyone because it would mean that they weren’t important enough for someone to loan them a dress.
I had no idea of the politics of this whole thing before I opened my mouth at the 2017 Emmy Awards.
In the fitting I had for the Emmys, my stylist at the time brought me a bunch of dresses that were split up into two categories: dresses I was being loaned and dresses I would have to buy. Some places wouldn’t loan me a dress for two main reasons: One, I wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence; and two, many fashion lines only loan clothes that have already been worn by models on the runway (as opposed to loaning new clothes they could otherwise be selling in stores) and since runway models are usually not
my personal size of 6-8 (6 on a diet, 8 on my period), I didn’t have access to the sample-size clothes on loan for events.
I tried on so many beautiful clothes for the Emmys, but the dress that really stuck out was a $5,000 Gucci gown that I decided to buy. Screw it
, I thought, it’s the Emmys, I have a TV show, I can afford it, let’s splurge!
I was doing an interview with E! on the Emmys red carpet and the host asked me if I got to keep the dress I was wearing. Without missing a beat I said, “Of course I do, I bought it!” She said, “You bought it?!” and I said “Yeah, I mean, Gucci’s not loaning me a dress!” (which of course is true because Gucci doesn’t loan anyone dresses even if they are a size 0 because they’re fucking Gucci
). The host laughed at how “authentic” I was and I went on my merry way. By the time I got to my dressing room to prepare for the musical number, my seemingly innocent comment had gone… whatever the current term is now for viral. People saw my admittance of having to buy my own dress as some sort of referendum against Gucci not wanting to be body-inclusive, which of course wasn’t true. Many news sources even fabricated the fact that I couldn’t find anyone
to loan me a dress for the Emmys so I was forced
to buy my own, which of course, also wasn’t true.
It’s weird when fake news makes you look good. You try to correct it, but because there’s no vitriol behind the correction, no one really notices. Things took a turn when my stylist at the time came into my dressing room under the guise of “helping me get ready for my musical number.” (I was at the Emmys in the first place to do a musical number live on the broadcast.) What she really came in to do, though, was beg me not to include her name in any mention of her being my stylist, because she was worried that my comment had pissed Gucci off and she worked with Gucci a lot. She came to me near tears mere minutes before I went on stage to perform live on television. It was not… great timing. I later held a charity raffle online to give the dress away because I never wanted to see it again.
So the moral of the story is: If you buy a dress… don’t… tell anyone?
There is no way to “Get That Red Carpet Look” by yourself.
You probably know that every person you see on a red carpet has had their hair and makeup done by experts, but let me just reiterate: EVERY PERSON YOU SEE ON THE RED CARPET HAS HAD THEIR HAIR AND MAKEUP DONE BY EXPERTS. Even hairstyles that might seem straightforward like a “messy updo” take an hour
. It’s a complicated series of curling and pinning and teasing and spraying and re-curling and re-pinning that I could not replicate if I tried. Sometimes after an award show, I’ll go home and unpin my hair, and as I find bobby pin after bobby pin I try to memorize where they were in hopes of replicating it on my own, but I’m as lost as I was in eighth grade.
As for the clothes, it’s not just a matter of going online and buying something that looks cute and expensive. No matter what outfit anyone is wearing on the red carpet, they didn’t just buy it at Macy’s that day, throw it on, get in their car, go boop boop da boop boop
and strike a pose. That outfit was brought to that person on a rack by a stylist in a fitting in which they tried on numerous outfits handpicked by the stylist who basically has a doctorate in looking good. And then, even if the outfit is perfect, it is tailored to fit that person’s body EXACTLY. Most of the things I wear for events have been tailored in some way; I have a virtually nonexistent torso and big boobs (the technical name for it is “weird size”). Until I realized that tailoring was an option for me, every piece of clothing I had was ill-fitting in some way. (Even with clothes I buy myself now, I actually go to my neighborhood dry cleaner and get stuff tailored and you should do that too.)
You can paint your body?!
Okay, so makeup is not just about your face, people, it can also be for your body! Whenever I’m at an event that shows off my legs or my arms, I’m given the option to wear body makeup. This can extend from foundation being airbrushed onto my arms to cover up the red bumps that pasty white ladies like me get to shimmer for shimmer’s sake. I’ve learned the hard way to not shave my legs right before I’m about to get shimmer on them because it will give me a rash. Which is one red carpet look that you can get at home very easily!
One time Aline Brosh McKenna and I tried to dance with Bill Murray and he walked away.
Okay, here’s a fun fact you definitely don’t know. At the Golden Globes party in 2015 (before Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
was on television), my CEG cocreator Aline Brosh McKenna and I were on the dance floor and we saw Bill Murray dancing with Lupita Nyong’o. We moved ourselves to dance right behind Bill to feel like we were in on this mismatched duo, but when he turned around and realized he was dancing with two unknown, thirsty Jewish women, he walked away. This is the end of #4 on this list.
There’s kind of no such thing as “getting snubbed.”
Every award season you read it: “So and so was SNUBBED by the bla bla bla academy.” What makes no sense, though, is that these awards are usually decided by such a large group of people that there’s kind of no such thing as “snubbing”: there’s only what’s popular and what’s not as popular. The Television Academy, for instance, has about 18,000 members, all of whom vote in all of the major categories like “Best Drama Series," “Best Limited Series," etc. It’s hard to see the academy as being a cool clique intent on “snubbing” when it’s really thousands of people strewn across the country who are just voting for the shows they’ve seen or heard were good.
This is why awards campaigning is so important; you have to get the word out to people en masse. Even in smaller categories like acting and writing, you’re still talking about a huge amount of people who are eligible to vote. As someone who was on a show with very little money to pay for FYC ads, I know the sting of this firsthand.
Now on the flip side, the Golden Globes are quite different. For that reason, they have the rare ability to “snub.” (But also to change careers and, my own case, save TV shows.) The Hollywood Foreign Press is made up of journalists who live in Hollywood but write for publications abroad usually in their home countries and there are only about 90 of them
. So while most awards involve campaigning on a mass scale, the Golden Globes are the opposite. It’s your job to impress and get through solely to these 90 people. You start by doing a private press conference for them. Now not everyone gets this, and it sometimes has nothing to do with fame or the popularity of a TV show/movie. After you do this press conference, you do a bunch of individual interviews with the Hollywood Foreign Press. Then, to follow up, each HFPA member gets sent an actual present from the studio or network trying to earn their favor. The spending limit on the present is $100 per person, but... that’s actually a really nice present, right?
I’m not saying this whole thing is bribery. If anything, it’s fairer than the Emmys or Oscars because you don’t need the money to send swag to thousands of people, just hundreds. And God bless the HFPA because they really do try to watch every show and movie AND give new people a big break. Yup, they changed my life, so I’m still kissing their asses!
It’s all about the people in black.
It’s not a conspiracy theory; the people in black are the orchestraters of the entire thing. These people are called publicists and they wear black to simultaneously blend in and flex their power. Before I had a publicist, I just thought that was just someone who did damage control when a drunken client showed their vagina or said something anti-Semitic. But publicists are actually the core of the business part of show business. And in the case of award shows, they’re basically like a second-grade teacher holding your hand on a field trip. They decide whom you speak to, when you speak to them, and in the case of some, make sure your dress fans outward perfectly on the red carpet. If you see a publicist who literally won’t leave their client’s side, you can assume that person is super famous, has crippling social anxiety, or is stupid.
It’s kind of the company Christmas party.
In The Comeback
Lisa Kudrow (aka Valerie Cherish) is at a Hollywood party and she says something to the effect of, “Ya know parties like this really remind you that Hollywood is just a company town." It’s one of the most ridiculous lines in that entire series, but also it is... kind of true. Yes, you’re in a pretty dress, yes, you can get hammered on expensive Champagne, but it’s still a work function. Every person you meet is also a potential coworker or boss, so you can’t get too
wasted. One fancy party is super fun, but if you do enough of them in a row, you’re so drained of adrenaline that the whole thing begins to feel like a slog. When I took my parents to the Critic’s Choice Awards in 2019 they were fascinated by how “on” I had to be the whole time. “Aren’t you exhausted?” they asked. “Sure am!” said I. When we left after I lost my category and went to get our car, we ran into everyone else who’d also lost picking up their cars. After one actress sighed and said she just wanted to get home to her cats, my dad remarked that it felt like going to the company Christmas party, only with hot people.
I haven’t seen anyone do cocaine at these parties.
Look, if cocaine is being done it’s probably being done in a private bathroom stall, not out in the open like Studio 54. Wherever it is being done, though, no one is inviting me. One time I smoked a cigarette at an Emmys party to show everyone that I was cool, but I stopped when Mandy Patinkin told me that it wasn’t good for my voice and he was right.
And finally, it’s a pain in the ass to get there and a pain in the ass to get home.
So you’re all dolled up, you look perfect, you’re wearing three pairs of Spanx... and then you have to sit in the car for anywhere from 60-90 minutes. The traffic getting to the event and onto the red carpet means that all of the work you did to make your clothes look perfect is either being undone or you’re laying down in some sort of complex left-hand-on-red-right-foot-on-yellow move in order to not wrinkle your dress or get stabbed by your corset. In the case of the Golden Globes, the line is even longer because every car needs to be searched thoroughly by bomb-sniffing dogs and police. Maybe that’s another reason I haven’t seen cocaine being done at these parties.
Getting home also sucks. Finding your limo in a sea of other limos takes at least 20 minutes, which, when you’re drunk and in six-inch heels, is not a fun time. If you give up and call an Uber or Lyft you have to explain where you are and how they can get to where you are. Five clarifying phone calls later, the driver will ask you why you were at the award show in the first place and then you have to recount the whole night to them. So, if you ever have to do that, just read them this list!
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is an American actress, comedian, singer, writer, producer, songwriter, and mental health activist. She is best known for creating, writing, and playing the lead role of Rebecca Bunch in The CW comedy-drama series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
, for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress-Television Series Musical or Comedy and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are
is her first book.