Naomi Ackie on Discovering Whitney Houston’s Style and Her First Schiaparelli Look

Another key entry point for Ackie was the remarkably meticulous wardrobe assembled by Charlese Antoinette Jones, the costume designer who had a breakout moment last year (and earned a handful of award nominations) for her work on Judas and the Black Messiah. By digging into Houston’s outfits over the decades, they were able to identify and understand more deeply the dichotomy between her private life and her public life. “After taking a closer look, we saw these two very different sides of Whitney,” says Ackie. “There’s what her friends and family called Nippy, her nickname when she was out of the public eye, which was much cooler and more down-to-earth: jeans and a tracksuit, all that. And then you have Whitney Houston on TV screens and on stage, in those beautiful, elegant, sequin dresses.

It was the latter character who also ended up giving Ackie and Jones a lesson in fashion history. “It was fascinating, from the fashion to the hairstyles to the makeup trends, even the eyebrow trends!” Ackie remembers. “All of that kind of helped me put her in a specific moment and at a specific point in her journey.” Indeed, the more Ackie and the costume team considered Houston’s place in pop culture history, the more they realized just how influential she had been in fashion. “A lot of her outfits look really classic for the era they were in, but that’s partly because so many people dressed like her,” Ackie explains. “Bringing Whitney to the fore as a fashion icon was definitely a goal.” As for Ackie’s favorite looks in Houston? It would be her classic formula of a leather jacket, white tank top and high waisted jeans during her 80s ingenue years, or the gold Marc Bouwer dress and jeweled turban she wore. during its 1994 performances in South Africa in honor of Nelson Mandela. . “She just looked so majestic and beautiful,” Ackie sighs of this latest look.

It is therefore logical that for the I want to dance with someone premiering tonight in New York, Ackie and her stylist Nicky Yates turned to one of fashion’s most extravagant (and offbeat) purveyors of glamor and glitz: Daniel Roseberry of Schiaparelli. But there’s also a sentimental connection to the Schiaparelli home for Ackie, who studied textiles in college and even considered a career as a seamstress if acting failed. “My very first fashion show in Paris was the Schiaparelli couture show just before the lockdown, and I was so nervous, because I had never been in the front row of anything before,” she says. “I was so aware of the Schiaparelli story, and when I arrived and the models started parading down the catwalk, I got very emotional because of the music and the clothes, and I started to cry.”

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