Getting Ready
jd mccrary

The Lion King’s JD McCrary Gets Ready for the Spotlight

Disney’s Young Simba prepped for his big premiere with Balmain and Beyoncé.

By: Jazzi McGilbert
Photography: Tristan Kallas

A lot of music emanated from JD McCrary’s fifth-floor room at the Montage Beverly Hills, but “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” might sum up the mood best. It was all love, laughs, and a full-on family affair for his big red-carpet moment at the Lion King premiere. McCrary, who plays young Simba, yelling from the bathroom for some fatherly hair advice (his dad is his lifelong barber); his brother Josh (who also has a cameo in the film) chilling on the bed watching Minecraft videos; Mom getting the star treatment in a makeup chair (she looked like a queen in Pat McGrath’s Mothership II palette); even Auntie Shante got in on the fun!

All the stars aligned when McCrary teamed with stylist, social activist, and star in his own right Ugo Mozie and the “Balmain Army” five-star general Olivier Rousteing. Together they created a showstopping bespoke suit covered in over 70 hours of Balmain’s signature beadwork and studs. In his Jidenna-inspired side-slicked hairstyle and intricate gold-winged epaulettes, it’s safe to say: JD looked fly.

Since the Balmain was locked in, McCrary and Ugo spent their time fitting looks for the rest of McCrary’s whirlwind press tour. We got a little runway show as the young actor and singer danced out of the bathroom (kid’s got moves!) in jerseys and bomber jackets pulled from Ugo’s eclectic selection. “Mister Ugo is the man!” McCrary tells us. “When I first met Beyoncé, I was wearing something that he made, so I trust him completely. He always brings the dopest fits!”

The young entertainer hails from the valley and is immensely talented, yet he’s escaped every L.A. child-star trope. He’s incredibly polite—calling everyone “mister” or “miss”—plays Agar.io on his iPhone during fittings, stays fueled by room-service pizza, and cracks jokes about losing teeth and his cracking voice. (Puberty is nigh.) He’s only 11 (“Twelve in nine days!” he reminds us), but McCrary has been waiting for this moment for years. Like all of us, before yesterday’s premiere, he hadn’t seen any Lion King footage aside from the epic trailer after he was announced as Young Simba in 2017. Before he hit the red carpet, he was most excited to finally see the film and reunite with his castmates, including “Miss Beyoncé,” naturally.

The only downbeats of the evening came when the music stopped because Dad’s phone was ringing off the hook. That was quickly rectified with a little Chris Brown and JD’s own hit, “Stole My Heart,” produced by Jermaine Dupri. Mark our words: This Cancer is a rising star—and we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more than a little Leo in young Simba’s chart.

More on McCrary’s style, premiere look, and family ahead.

“I’m gonna have a part in my hair and slick it down. Jidenna was the inspiration—I’ve liked his hair for a while.”

“My dad did my hair line a few days ago and touched it up today. Mister Edward [groomer Edward Ramirz] is going to give me a trim on the top—I trust him because Ugo does, and he’s never done me wrong!”

“I’ve always been the local barber. JD used to have really long hair. The day he turned six, he pulled up a chair and said: ‘OK, Dad, you promised you’d cut my hair.’ Ever since then, I’ve been cutting it.” —JD’s father, Jay McCrary

“I’m keeping everything in place tonight with Style Factor edge control in Sugar Melon [editor’s note: JD says it “smells just like a popsicle"!] and Got2B Glued Blasting Freeze Spray. We need to make sure everything holds under the lights and humidity.” —hairstylist Shawana

“We have a rule in our house: You can’t go more than a day without a shower or washing your face. We tell them to use hot water. Steam your face, without soap. Soap will strip all your natural juices! We also use a lot of cocoa butter. We keep it simple.” —JD’s mother, Larissa McCrary

“If I’m going somewhere, like an event, my dad always cuts my hair. I used to have really long hair, and I asked him to cut it when I was like, six. Other than that, I just throw on a hat. I don’t like to do too much to my hair. I just let it breathe and use 6-n-1 as a leave-in conditioner. My dad taught me that.”

“Kids’ skin really doesn’t need much. They’re pretty much perfect the way they are. We just want to make sure his skin stays hydrated and healthy. I’m using some Mario Badescu and maybe a little powder. Nothing too crazy.” —makeup artist Odera Nduka

“I can’t get over that my tooth is gone! Just a week ago, I had a full set of teeth!”

“Off the red carpet, I keep it casual. Nike sweats, my favorite Mickey Mouse hat—it goes with everything—and some dope shoes! You could say I’m a sneakerhead. I love my [Jordan] 12s, the Infrareds. I have a lot.”

“I’m turning twelve in nine days! I really want a bike, an Apple computer, and a new controller for my PS4—my brother lost mine. I play Fortnite a lot when I have down time, which isn’t a lot these days, but I got to play today!”

“Mister Ugo is the man! When I first met Beyoncé, I was wearing something that he made, so he gets all my respect. I didn’t see any sketches, I just trusted him completely. He is always bringing the dopest fits.”

“I’ve drawn some sketches of sneakers I want to design. I call them the Reverse 360s—shoelaces on the back, tongue on the back, rubber sole on the top—everything is switched. I’m a big fan of LeBron.”

“JD’s wearing a custom Balmain look that I designed with Olivier Rousteing. Balmain was very excited to have JD be part of the Balmain Army. They worked so hard embroidering this very intricate, detailed jacket for him.” —Ugo Mozie

“I was thinking about what brand could really create a statement that could represent this royal, cultural moment—flashy but still tasteful. I really wanted to work with designers of color, for obvious reasons. Olivier was my first choice. I hit him up, and right away he was totally down.” —Ugo Mozie

“I sent Olivier a few silhouettes that I liked. There was a jacket he sent me like, four years ago that I put on Chris Brown. It had an embroidered lion detail on it, and I knew I wanted to work that in. There was initially more color in the epaulettes, but we decided to keep it more simple.” —Ugo Mozie

“It’s a challenge being as intentional as I am about using diverse designers, but it’s more rewarding. My clients will never look like anyone else. Working with younger clients, it’s always bespoke for me. You can’t walk into a showroom and pull samples with what I’m looking for. It pushes me to be more creative and tap into my costume-design experience. For a talent like JD, I’m inspired by the Motown days and how they built their entire image off of these custom costumes.” —Ugo Mozie

“Coincidentally, I spoke on a panel with Miss Tina, Beyoncé’s mom, yesterday. We talked a lot about her bespoke pieces for Destiny’s Child, when all the designers and brands she hit to dress the group said no. They told her the girls were ‘too curvy,’ or ‘didn’t fit the brand aesthetic,’ so she had to make everything herself.” —Ugo Mozie

“I’m going to the premiere tonight too, but I don’t even know what I’m wearing! My clients come first. I’ll freestyle something!” —Ugo Mozie

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