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For Tessa Thompson, the best gifts are priceless.
“I feel really lucky in the sense that my family loves to give gifts that are homemade. My mom recently gave me a gift for my birthday that made me weep,” the Thor: Love and Thunder star told The Hollywood Reporter in the midst of her hosting duties at Neiman Marcus’ 2022 Fantasy Gifts celebration. The luxury department retailer took over the Hollywood Athletic Club Oct. 25 for its annual charity gala, which featured a range of budget-busting gifts benefiting the Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation, Boys & Grils Clubs of America, Chi Prep Academy, the Keller Restaurant Relief Fund, the Barbie Dream Gap Project and other charities.
“Coming to co-host this event is to know the emphasis they put on philanthropy during this time of year,” said Thompson. “There’s an emphasis on giving back in really charitable ways and their long-standing relationship with the Boys and Girls Club, which is an organization that I went to as a kid that meant a lot to me as a kid. And so for all of those reasons I’m so delighted to be here tonight.”
Joining Thompson at the glitzy soirée were her stylists Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald and other starry guests including Lupita Nyong’o, the host’s Westworld co-star Angela Sarafyan, Sheryl Lee Ralph, fashion editor Joe Zee, fashion designer Jonathan Simkhai, Broadway actor Colman Domingo, Hollywood power stylist Jason Rembert, Kathy Hilton, Ella Travolta and others.
Among the decadent fantasy gifts on display were a $65,000 trip to Paris with French fragrance maker Francis Kurkdjian, a picturesque Napa Valley experience for $175,000, a personalized home decorating session for the holidays with Jim Marvin (who has decked out the halls and walls of the White House for over 20 years) for $190,000, a Barbie x Maserati Grecale Trofeo SUV for $330,000, a basketball matchup with NBA legend Scotty Pippin and his son, Scotty Pippen Jr. for $333,333 and a $3.2 million Art Deco diamond tiara by Cartier, among others. (Most are still up for grabs, too.)
The festive fête also showcased luxury gifts such as crystal-embellished clutches designed for (and autographed by) the Kardashians and Jenners by Judith Leiber, chalet-chic ski gear by Bogner and Moncler, Barbiecore pink accessories by Balenciaga and Ugg, colorful fine china from Fornasetti and Ginori 1735, sparkling Grinch green stilettos from Aquazzura, crystal vases by Baccarat and more.
Fresh off Westworld, Thompson plays a crisis helpline volunteer as the sole on-screen actor of Steve Buscemi’s The Listener. (Margaret Cho, Alia Shawkat and Rebecca Hall are among those who star as offscreen callers.) She reprises her role as Bianca in Creed III, in which she stars alongside actor-director Michael B. Jordan.
In a conversation with THR at Neiman Marcus’ event, Thompson shared more about that heartfelt gift, why she recently stepped out on the red carpet in a string of green looks (including at this year‘s Venice International Film Festival and the premieres of Creed II and Bones and All), her go-to wrap gifts, her fondest memories of the luxury retailer and more. Read on below, plus shop some of the best gifts from Neiman Marcus inspired by our chat with the star.
Thank you! I loved that look. I went through a really distinct green phase, there was one press tour and I wore green on basically every carpet. I was in a real green moment.
Green can sometimes signify growth, right?
It is growth. Apparently it’s connected to your heart chakra. I really love to wear black and I feel most like myself in black. And I think it’s always elegant — about wearing bold color and owning it. It’s not just for you, because people get to engage with it, it’s a brightening thing.
It’s uplifting. I feel like we all need that!
It is uplifting, and also I think just with fashion too, wearing colors like that is an indication that you don’t take it or yourself too seriously. Which I sometimes have to shake myself out of my black mood.
In the spirit of the gifting occasion, what’s the most unforgettable present you’ve received recently?
I feel really lucky in the sense that my family loves to give gifts that are homemade. My mom recently gave me a gift for my birthday that made me weep. It was this really beautiful ceramic vase that she hand-made. I really love ceramics, but also just when she told me about what she was inspired by, which was the moon and also this sort of vessel that can feel dual. It’s this round [shape that] feels kind of like the moon, and there’s this dish that can be multi-purpose. I really love the moon, so I think a gift like that feels so intertwined, an expression of someone saying “I know you, I see you,” those are the gifts that really matter to me.
And to that end [with] my parents, my dad does woodworking. He’ll typically make me something really beautiful and thoughtful. I bought my first house, I’m moving into it soon. It’s a really big deal, so he made me for my birthday a really beautiful guest book that’s bound, but then it goes inside of this wood structure. So those I think are the best gifts for me.
Did you inherit any of their crafty gift-making skills?
I’m not crafty! I have to try again, I think my Achilles heel sometimes is I want to be instantly good at something, and so often when you’re working with your hands, it’s a craft, like [acting]. So I went with my mom to pottery and I was not good! I don’t know if it was [because of] watching Ghost. I thought for sure I was going to be good, and I was so not good. It really made me realize how impatient I was.
Are you a Virgo?
I’m a Libra, but I’m a double Virgo elsewhere in my chart. So I think there is this idea of perfection and efficiency that when you’re learning something new isn’t always possible. So I would like to get craftier but I love to home-make and to host. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at hosting which I also think is a skill and craft.
Do you enjoy giving wrap gifts?
I do! I’m really, really into wrap gifts. They mean a lot to me. I think it’s also partially because I came from the theatre, and in the theatre, you do opening night and closing night gifts. Gifts are a really big deal to a company I think in a way. So I’ve always done wrap gifts in TV and film and I try to typically do something that is, specific to the person because you spend, in some cases, three to six months with somebody.
I don’t do one gift engraving something for everybody. But I typically find things that are individual to each person. It’s also a good way, I find that sometimes when you’re finishing a job there are all of these feelings that come up, it’s a really nice way to distract yourself and get interested in giving someone something as a parting gift that is going to help them remember your time and also, to the point of gifts, are a way that you tell someone that you see them.
I think about that in terms of people that you spend time working with. And typically for crew especially, they work so hard, so giving gifts that help them take care of themselves is a favorite thing. There’s been a lot of Theraguns, a lot of massages, a lot of gift certificates, a lot of facials given, a lot of palo santo, products for the bath, a lot of self-care remedies because shooting can be tough.
Since we’re here for Neiman Marcus, do you have any fun fond memories of shopping there?
All of my grandparents to a certain extent have their own glamour; they came from that era where you wear gloves and a hat and you look really chic to travel. And so I think I always had this connection of these bigger brand stores where I imagine very elegant women might shop and being in one of those stores with one of my grandmothers.
I feel like Neiman Marcus always meant that in my mind, it was always a place where one day I could shop if I was elegant and adult enough. And I certainly had a moment more recently when I was shopping at Neiman Marcus to get a dress for a wedding, there was a very specific color mandate for the dress so I spent some hours shopping there. And I definitely had that feeling of being like, Oh, I’m like a grown-up woman, I’m the woman that I wanted to be, who I imagined that I would be when I would watch my grandmothers getting dressed in their closet. There’s something that feels nostalgic for me, especially growing up in Los Angeles.
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