2016 Swarovski Star Raising at Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Denée Benton stepped off of the Broadway stage on Wednesday to spread a little Christmas cheer in the city. The “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” leading lady made her official Broadway debut on Monday with the premiere of the musical at the Imperial Theatre. This morning, she did her part in raising the iconic Swarovski Star to the top of Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree — a 94-foot Norway spruce weighing a massive 14 tons.

The Swarovski Star is composed of 25,000 crystals and has a million facets. It features energy-efficient LED bulbs and a computer program with customized light sequencing that gives off a photo-worthy twinkling effect. Swarovski collaborated on the set design and costumes for “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” More than 20,000 crystal starbursts appear on the show’s set chandeliers, with more than 100,000 crystals on the costumes.

Dressed in a black Alessandra Rich gown and jewels from the Atelier Swarovski collection, Benton spoke to WWD about her role as this year’s Swarovski Star Ambassador. She also touched on playing Natasha in the musical, as well as what her first Christmas in New York will be like.

WWD: How did you come to be this year’s Star Ambassador?
Denée Benton: Swarovski actually collaborates with “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.” We’ve got 20,000 crystals in our chandeliers all around the theater and, like, 100,000 crystals in our costumes, so it actually worked out perfectly. It’s my Broadway debut as well, and to get to capitalize on that and get to be a part of this event [is] awesome.

WWD: What was it like standing next to the Swarovski Star?
D.B.: First of all, the tree is the size of the building and then the star is, like, there’s a million facets on it, apparently. Like, 25,000 crystals. It is quite an epic creation.

WWD: “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” opened earlier this week. How has reception been so far?
D.B.: It’s been amazing. The New York Times gave us an incredible review that brought us all to tears of joy and celebration. It’s been a really long process of beautiful passion for like five years now, with all the culmination. So it’s exciting to have that kind of reception.

WWD: What attracted you to the character of Natasha?
D.B.: Natasha is, she’s just in love with everything that life has to offer. You can almost feel her soul swelling when she talks about the moon or a flower. I was, am, very much that way and growing up was like that, so I really connected to that essence in her and was excited to see a girl who I really got and just understood immediately.

WWD: Are you a fan of Swarovski’s jewelry? Do you wear a lot of jewelry in general?
D.B.: I love all of the pieces that I see here [in the Swarovski store]. I’m just now coming to the adult phase where I invest in finer pieces of jewelry that don’t just come from Forever 21. Actually, we had this beautiful Swarovski ornament growing up that has been on my Christmas tree for, like, 10 years now at home.

WWD: Do you celebrate Christmas? What are some traditions you and your family have?
D.B.: I do celebrate Christmas. It’s hard being the youngest because everyone gets older and the traditions start to change. Growing up, my brothers and I would stay up all night playing Monopoly and watching “A Christmas Story” on TBS. My mom and I would decorate the Christmas tree a couple of weeks before and all of those nice little memories.

WWD: You’re from Florida.
D.B.: I am.

WWD: Will this be your first winter in New York?
D.B.: It’s my first time experiencing Christmas in New York! It is! I didn’t even realize that. I moved here, but all of my jobs are out of town for the most part. So I was always missing it. So yeah! I didn’t even think of that. I’ll get to, like, go to the lighting and do the ice skating and, yeah. It will make winter more bearable, I think — to get to see all the magic happen.

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