Lupita Nyong'o Dazzles in $3.5M of Diamonds, 32,000 Sequins and Beads (Exclusive)

Courtesy Micaela Erlanger
From left: hairstylist Vernon Francois, makeup artist Nick Barose, Lupita Nyong'o, stylist Micaela Erlanger and nail artist Vanessa Sanchez McCullough

"We really wanted to harness the elegance and timelessness and modernity that Lupita embodies and values," says her stylist Micaela Erlanger of the Louis Vuitton custom gown paired with 90 carats of Forevermark diamonds.

In advance of the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, fashion stylist Micaela Erlanger and her client Lupita Nyong’o (a nominee for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for Us) exclusively invited The Hollywood Reporter behind the scenes as she prepped at home for the big evening. The star wore $3.5 million worth of diamonds and a Louis Vuitton gown embellished with 32,000 sequins and crystals.

To set the mood, "there is a super-chill playlist on, for a calm and happy vibe," says Erlanger. “But I have never noticed Lupita having nerves.”

Nyong'o's custom gown at the SAG Awards was created with Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière. Inspired by the cruise 2020 collection, the dress has a white satin draped bustier and intricate floral embroidery on the body and skirt. Louis Vuitton shared with THR that the dress is embellished with 20,000 sequins and 12,000 glass beads; it took more than 1,400 hours to complete and over 106 hours just to cut and assemble the dress from a pattern. 

“We’ve been working on this for months, since before Thanksgiving,” says Erlanger. “We really wanted to harness the elegance and timelessness and modernity that Lupita embodies and values.”

The day started with nail artist Vanessa Sanchez McCullough creating custom nail art. “We always practice ahead of time on a nail tip,” said Erlanger. “Vanessa loved the idea of mimicking the organic motif of her dress in a platinum-looking foil.”

As for the statement jewels, Nyong'o is draped in $3.5 million of Forevermark diamonds, including statement chandelier earrings from the Forevermark Black Label Collection that boast 32.78 carats of diamonds. The three rings (from Forevermark, Forevermark by Rahaminov and Forevermark by Premier Gem) are set with more than 23 carats of diamonds, and two bracelets by Forevermark and Forevermark by Rahaminov sparkle with more than 33 carats of diamonds. 

“The Forevermark pieces are as brilliant and luminous as she is,” says Erlanger of the platinum and diamond jewelry that Nyong'o is wearing. “I've selected Forevermark many times over the years not only for the beautiful diamonds, but I also love their commitment to ethical sourcing and sustainability, which is so important to me and my clients. One of her rings is worth a million dollars. Basically, the girl’s dripping in jewels!”

Nyong'o’s Louis Vuitton accessories include a black “vanity case” bag and black satin, caged booties with a peep toe. “They have a number of buckles up the side, so they’re a very confident shoe that modernizes the look,” says Erlanger. “And the belt is cool and adds a little bite to the outfit.”

Nyong’o’s longtime glam team — makeup artist Nick Barose and hairstylist Vernon Francois — created her beauty look. “I love sitting back in a chair, watching Nick and Vernon do their magic,” says Erlanger. “They are like a sculptor and a painter; what they do brings the look to life and morphs when she's in the chair. We talk creatively as they work. For example, about our jewelry options.”

After all the prep is complete, the team takes a group photo. “It’s a nice tradition and something that’s a private thing, but so sweet,” says Erlanger. “And then I ride with her to the awards, which is a good sense of security, I suppose. I go along for the joyride!”