Getting Ready

Danielle Brooks Knows How to Get Ready for the Red Carpet

We joined the OITNB star before she walked the red carpet, and let that major spoiler slip.

By: Jodi Taylor
Photography: Emily Knecht

While the red carpet is the best part of any awards show, getting ready *for* said red carpet is even better. And lucky us, we got to tag along with Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks as she got ready for the SAG Awards. Imagine this: a room filled with upbeat music, stylist Kareem James, and Brooks’s infectious, bubbly personality—do you see why we wanted to hang all day long? Brooks has a way of lighting up a room and making everyone feel like they’re family, and when she changed into her custom-made Christian Siriano pantsuit, we were left scrambling to pick our jaws up off the floor.

Once hair and makeup had finished with their final touches (courtesy of Tish Celestine and Brandy Allen), Brooks was ready, and it was a flurry of practicing poses and snapping a few pics before she was rushed off to own the red carpet (and reveal that the next season of OITNB will take place over just three days—chill, there will still be thirteen episodes)—with her father on her arm, nonetheless. As if that wasn’t almost too much to handle, the star let us know that it was his birthday weekend. Cue: warm fuzzy feelings.

Click through to read about her getting-ready process, how she collaborated with Siriano, and why James thought the time was right for a pantsuit...actually, is there ever a *wrong* time for a pantsuit?


“It is always the easiest thing to work with Christian Siriano because he gets my body. It’s cool because I get to wear things that I never imagined that I would get to wear! People are always shocked when I say that, but it’s true because I can’t fit sample size, so a lot of times I get these really boring outfits that are so five years ago. But with him, he always makes me feel like I’m making a new trend and setting a new trend.”—Danielle

“[Kareem has] been wonderful to collaborate with because I think he’s the kind of stylist that doesn’t just give you a dress or a pantsuit, he knows how to mix and match and make a moment. That’s what I appreciate about him because, again, I unfortunately don’t get the opportunity right now to have all of these big-name designers throwing options my way. So I think it’s important when you have that problem, which it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have that problem, I think it’s great to have somebody who knows how to make something out of nothing.”—Danielle

“My eyes got really big [the first time I tried on the outfit], I love it, I really do. It’s so unique and different from things that I’ve worn in the past, especially to carpet. I’m excited to share it with everybody [laughs] and I’m excited to wear it because it’s also comfortable and, you know, I don’t have to wear any undergarments like Spanx. I don’t have to worry about tugging here and tugging there. I just kept telling him, thank you!”—Danielle

“The only thing I get nervous about on the carpet is sweating because you’re on the carpet for, like, two hours and your feet start to swell up. People think it’s so appealing and so much fun to do these carpets, which it is, but it can be painful. One of my tricks my publicist taught me was to stick paper towels, just a little paper towel under your arm, fold it under your arm until it’s time to take a picture—that was really good advice.”—Danielle

“I wanted to keep it simple [with the shoes], but thought maybe we should do silver since we are going with an all-white look. I chose a silver metallic pump by Sebastian—the shoe adds a little spice and anchors the look.”—Kareem

“I like to kind of pamper myself a little [for red carpet events]. Last year I got a massage before the event and me and my mother had this big breakfast, playing soft music. And then once hair and makeup comes, that’s a different story. We start to kind of get a little more poppin’. We always play more upbeat, fun music, keep the energy going.”—Danielle

“[The first event] that I did with Christian, I think it was the SAG Awards, [was the most memorable]. I was in this blue gown that he had custom-made for me, and what I loved the most about it was on Instagram, this girl had sent me a picture of her duplicating the dress for her prom. I was floored because to me, that’s what it’s really about—these young girls having representation, feeling like they can look just as beautiful and feel like they can have their red carpet moment too, regardless of what size they are. That was very touching to me because I don’t know if I had that growing up.”—Danielle

“We haven't done something like this for anyone. The look is simple, but, I think, very elegant, so it was great to see her in a pant and give off a different confidence than she normally does in a skintight gown. There is an ease to this look. We wanted this look to be modern and chic–maybe a little different from the glam gowns we have done before. I love that it's a top over pants, she gets to have a real fashion moment [because] it's not ‘just a dress.’”—Christian

“I’m looking forward to meeting some actors that I’ve never met and I really love the after-parties, they’re a lot of fun. Last year I taught Eric Stonestreet how to do the Cha Cha Slide, that was a lot of fun [laughing]. I’m looking forward to taking my father this year. It’s my dad’s birthday weekend, so I’m just looking to enjoy this moment with him and seeing how much fun he has meeting all these people and all of that.”—Danielle

“My favorite part about working with Danielle is that she has made me a true believer in her, and her talent. Also, that we have become close confidants in one another. We literally talk all the time, and check in with one another. I love her level of expectation, and her expectation of me to rise to the challenge. We want to say something, we want to feel good, we want to be seen, we want to show up, we want to show out. My most favorite thing about working with her is knowing that we can!”—Kareem

“I am thankful and grateful for the magic of Christian Siriano and his team, as the process happened in [a] matter of weeks. I sent him some mood boards and inspiration images for direction, I emphasized that I wanted the look to say both hello and goodbye. With Danielle's schedule we only had about a week to create the pieces, and then time for a fitting after it had been made. The look fit almost perfectly, with some minor adjustments…and here we are! Ready!”—Kareem

“Danielle has a strong sense of self, and desire to push boundaries. Right now I feel like we are in the experimental stage of developing her voice through her looks. She and I are a great team in our fittings, she trusts me to at least give it a try and show her something she didn't see. I trust her to let me know if it is saying the right thing about what she represents. We have fun, play music, dance, and talk. Fittings have become therapy for the both of us.”—Kareem