Awards Season: Lupita Nyong’o

Shinan Govani on the Oscar marathon.

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No matter who leaves with a statuette on Oscar night, and however the headlines are written the morning after on March 3, one thing’s for certain: Micaela Erlanger leaves a winner.

Who? Her name is on no ballot. And her face isn’t one that you’ll likely see staring into Giuliana Rancic’s mic on E! News. But, in the shadowy world of red carpet pomp, she’s already one of the season’s biggest breakouts: Erlanger is the faithful stylist behind the fashion world’s new crush, Lupita Nyong’o. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her harrowing performance in 12 Years A Slave, Nyong’o has been lauded as much for her acting as for her stylish home runs. There she was looking like the chicest caped crusader at the Golden Globea in a devil-red Ralph Lauren. And then, again, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, in a Gucci turquoise triumph. And—turn around now!—in a custom Calvin Klein, all winter-white and coy cut-outs, at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. On and on it’s gone, as the short-haired stunner works the innumerable medley of events that go along with the run-up to the Oscars, hitting zero false notes in everything from Stella McCartney to Proenza Schouler to Mary Katrantzou. And if there was any doubt she had “arrived”, it was settled when it was announced that the Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised actress is going to be the new face of Miu Miu.

Behind every successful starlet, there is, indeed, a stylist, and Erlanger is the hot but hitherto unknown wrangler of the moment. With awards season dress up being a big business, and have no doubt it is a business—the carpets act as a giant billboard for brands, while the looks themselves help to cement the pecking-order and images of celebrities—it’s worth noting that Erlanger didn’t even appear on the most recent list that The Hollywood Reporter publishes annually of the “25 Most Powerful Stylists” in showbiz. (If the power of stylists was once merely an ephemeral idea, the mere existence of such a list tells another story.) In the same way a single role can catapult an actress, the one right starlet can elevate a stylist, which is why Erlanger is being talked about in the same hushed tones as such in-the-knows as Leslie Fremar (the Canadian-born stylist to deities such as Charlize Theron and Julianne Moore), Kate Young (helper to Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams), and of course, Rachel Zoe (the reality TV-fuelled dresser of A-list actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway).

Erlanger, a Parsons the New School for Design grad, whose other au courant clients include Downton Abbey darling Michelle Dockery, is being barraged with calls from designers to dress her most prized star on the big night, naturally. As of now, though, neither Nyong’o, nor her stylist seem to be showing their hand.

Read more Awards Season stories.

Photo ©Lester Cohen 2014.


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February 7, 2014