I’m a lucky person. I’ve actually been nominated for a few awards for my work, and I certainly don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. But, my friends, I feel you should all know that the process of getting yourself acceptably outfitted for an awards show—nay, even just the act of getting ready on the day of the event—is an impossibly long, drawn-out, inhuman set of torturous events that I defy anyone to survive without a minimum of four crying jags and a possible psychotic break.
I wish I could say that when on a red carpet I just wear whatevs. That I go to the store and buy a dress off the rack like Meryl does. Or skip the stylist and trust my own instincts.
But I do not! I. Do. Not. Because, despite the fact that we should all be able to wear a Björk swan dress if we so choose, there’s such a hideous amount of media pressure to crush it with your perfect fashion, youth, and good looks that if, God forbid, you make any kind of error, you and the dress that betrayed you will be raked over the coals of Internet fashion hell until every last ounce of your self-confidence has been toasted to a smoldering crisp.
If I were a stronger and better person I would say: Please eff off! But I am apparently not that person.
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I was first nominated for an Emmy in 2000. When my publicist called to tell me, I was so insanely unprepared and unversed in the world of the big time that I literally thought for a minute that Emme, the plus-size model, had started an awards show and I had been nominated. My publicist yelled at me, “No, the Emmys, dingbat!” Oh, the Emmy Awards. Much better.
I said I would go buy a dress. My publicist yelled at me, “Get a stylist, dumbass!” And so it was that she who was deemed to be the stylist-of-the-moment suddenly appeared on the scene, foisted upon me not only by PR Gone Wild but also by the fear and loathing that make up the inexhaustible engine of awards show celebrity fashion.
The stylist in question was a young woman with a nervous, scattered energy, which immediately made me feel nervous and scattered. She also had a curious signature scent that, scandalously, was not limited to the upper reaches of her body and remained, unrepentantly, for the rest of our subsequent meetings.
Seemingly out of the blue, my new stylist received some sketches for a dress purportedly created especially for me. The sketches were signed by a famous designer. I was swept away! A famous designer not only knows who I am but also thinks so highly of me that she has personally drafted a fancy dress just for me?! Oh, it’s on.
In brief, here is the sequence of events that followed:
—Yes! We want the fancy dress from the famous designer.
—There are many delays and problems. The pages blow off the calendar.
—We finally receive the dress the day before the Emmys and learn that the fabric is so unwieldy that it has proved too much for human tailors to tame.
—Since there’s no time to fix it, I’m going to be wearing a dress that is listing dangerously to the right. (In many photos you can see that my right boob is hanging by a thread, threatening to spring forth at any given moment.)
—The morning of the Emmys I hear a loud car alarm and find my stylist standing in the driveway of my duplex, crying hysterically after having locked all my apparel for the day in her SUV.
—I decide to take a bath.
—I emerge from the bath and get into my lopsided dress. As I’m stepping out the door, we realize I don’t have any jewelry. My stylist takes a big butterfly-shaped ring off her own finger and gives it to me. (I spend the next three weeks answering questions about my apparent love of butterflies.)
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The rest of the night was fun. I won! My speech was pretty good. And despite the dramatic time bomb-like nature of my garment, my boob didn’t completely fall out. It just threatened to in a way that people probably thought was deliberate.
And at the end of the evening, my husband, Nick, and I did the only thing that people of quality do after such an event—we went to the Wendy’s drive-through and got burgers, fries, and shakes.
As I said, I’m lucky, and I hope I continue to be.
Mullally stars in the new season of Will & Grace, which premieres September 28 on NBC.