“I never thought I was going to be an actress,” Jenna Dewan Tatum insists.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
While performing as a backup dancer with ’N Sync at the 2002 Grammys, Dewan Tatum was spotted by a manager who urged her to give acting a shot. Thanks to her dance training, she soon booked the wildly successful 2006 dance pic “Step Up” opposite future husband Channing Tatum. “I went on one audition and then everything happened.”
The 35-year-old actress-dancer’s red-carpet evolution took a little longer. “Dancers wear lots of makeup,” she says. “We’re flamboyant personalities. So that translated into my style in the beginning because that was who I was.”
To wit: An early photograph of a 22-year-old Dewan Tatum at a Los Angeles Fashion Week event wearing a black, belly-baring, off-the-shoulder cropped top, bell-bottom jeans, a black studded belt and a sparkly newsboy cap. “That’s what you wore to dance class and that’s what I was wearing as street style,” she says. “I look at older red-carpet pictures and I’m way too much. Too much makeup, hair, boobs — everything. I look at these pictures now and I laugh and cringe, but you evolve.”
Since then, the actress has gotten married and gave birth to her daughter Everly all while appearing in films (“100 Years”) and on television series (“American Horror Story” and “Supergirl”). She also hired stylist Brad Goreski to fine-tune her red-carpet aesthetic. “He takes my vision and helps make it happen,” she says, noting that favorite designers include Zuhair Murad, Saint Laurent and Prabal Gurung.
Goreski and Dewan Tatum began working together for her first Oscars in 2013. She was eight months pregnant. “I thought it was so neat that our child was going to be experiencing this really magical, Hollywood moment,” she says. But the perfect evening soon turned to panic during the show’s opening monologue. “I started to feel like I was going to pass out because my dress was so tight,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘No. No. No. This cannot happen. I can not pass out on live TV,’” She slyly unzipped her black-lace Rachel Roy gown and attempted to stay calm. Afterward, she went backstage, took a breather and got a second wind. “I went to a few after parties, too. I was a bit of a rock star that night. I was on an Oscars high.”
Admittedly, the actress is just as happy at home as she is at any Hollywood event. “Off-duty, I’m low-maintenance,” says the newly anointed Danskin ambassador. Her day-to-day “boho chic” wardrobe often consists of A.L.C., Rag & Bone, and, naturally, Danskin when she’s working out or relaxing.
Dewan Tatum dresses based on her mood and enjoys taking risks. “My husband always jokes, ‘I don’t know how, but I know you will somehow pull that off,’” she says. “We never tell each other what to wear.” But they’ll occasionally chime in with what not to wear. “You know the high-waisted Levi’s that are redone to be fashionable? He thinks they are the most unattractive things ever. Every time I wear them, he’s like, ‘Oh. The mom jeans!’”
Like most married couples, she has her own enduring grievances. “He does this thing where he takes his Hanes T-shirts and he cuts off the armbands to wear as a sweatband when he works out,” she notes. “I find these armbands all over the house. I always throw them out and he’s like, ‘Why do you keep throwing them out? I use them when I work out.’ There’s like 400 of them around the house. It cracks me up. I think it’s the weirdest, most Tampa thing that he does.”
Yet Dewan Tatum does approve of his taste in fine jewelry. Her collection includes pieces by Neil Lane, Jennifer Meyer and Irene Neuwirth. “I’ve told him, ‘This is something to pass down to our daughter.’” In the meantime, Everly is too young to understand the commotion. When the couple gets ready together for events, the three-year-old calls it “the makeup party” as she watches a team of professionals help prep the duo. “She’s never seen us walk down a carpet,” she says. “Maybe in a couple years she’ll understand.”
Dewan Tatum purges her closet often and only keeps items that have special meaning, like the green dress she wore in the final scene of “Step Up.” Asked when she might wear it next, she quips, “When I want to fully embarrass Everly — and Chan and I are like, ‘Watch us do the ending dance. This is where you came from.’”
In the meantime, Dewan Tatum is focused on producing. She has a dance competition reality show in the pipeline for NBC and sold a scripted project based on her life as a dancer on tour. “It’s going to be a little bit dark and twisted,” she says. “It’s untitled, but it’s been bought. I’m not able to say where yet.” New projects aside, she has no plans to hang up her acting or dancing shoes. “I feel like I’m just beginning,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of the things that I want to create and do.”