It’s often hard to pinpoint the exact moment that someone becomes a fashion icon. After all, the title is one that’s usually earned over years of street style candids and front row frolicking. But for Lupita Nyong’o, all it took was one gown and the world was captivated.
The red Ralph Lauren creation that the then up-and-coming actress wore to the 2014 Golden Globes landed her at the top of virtually every best-dressed list and instantly cemented her as a major player in the fashion world.
“We had no idea the dress was going to get such a huge reaction,” recalls Nyong’o’s stylist Micaela Erlanger. “You can’t really predict those things. But at the same time, I had goosebumps when she put it on. My gut was telling me it was going to be extraordinary on camera. I wanted it to be her big moment.”
Erlanger says the dress was a win because it had everything that Nyong’o seeks out in a look. “It was understated, sophisticated, and feminine, but also just really cool,” she says.
Since then, Nyong’o has gone on to win an Oscar, make her Broadway debut in Eclipsed, and front a little-known movie franchise called Star Wars, all while thrilling us with every sartorial turn.
So just how does she do it? “Lupita has a way of bringing fashion to life,” says Erlanger. “When she wears something from the runway, she always makes it her own. For the Prada dress she wore to the Oscars in 2014, she picked a shade of blue that reminded her of her home in Nairobi. And to go with each look she wore to her Queen of Katwe premières, we made a different head wrap to represent her African heritage. Her style is colorful, experimental, and authentic to who she is. When those elements mix, magic happens.”
Keep reading to see Nyong’o’s 10 best looks of all-time. And for more stories like this, pick up the April issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.