“My nerves have actually subsided — now I’m stupid crazy excited and I don’t know how to contain it,” said Mj Rodriguez from her hotel room hours before the 2021 Emmy Awards. “Even though I think I’m doing a pretty good job.”
Rodriguez, who shot to fame in the series “Pose,” was up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, making her the first trans person to be nominated in a major acting category. After wowing at the Met Gala in Thom Browne the week before, Rodriguez chose a teal blue Versace gown with beading for her big Emmys night, which she helped customize with her own sketch from the get-go.
“We’ve been coming up with ideas, different colors,” Rodriguez said. “We’re trying to channel this Grecian mermaid glam goddess vibe. I’m here for it!”
After exploring different options, how did she know she had finally found the one?
“I knew it was the one when I knew my waist was cinched and it disappeared,” she replied, with a laugh. “I wanted to give this warrior [vibe] but still this soft appeal to the Emmys. And also this glamour Hollywood — but an extension on what old glamour Hollywood can be — the new Hollywood, for 2021.”
Her stylist Katie Bofshever, whom she’s worked with since “Pose” in 2017, said they both cried when they first saw the dress. When Emmy nominations first came out in July Rodriguez was at Cannes, but they got to work on an Emmys look as soon as she returned.
“She was really clear on her vision for what she wanted for the night,” Bofshever said. “We ultimately felt like Versace was really the designer to bring it to life. It really aligned with her vision for herself. We got in talks with them, and Mj actually drew up the sketch herself.”
They played around with a few different colors, from a golden yellow to an icy blue, but the turquoise was the clear winner once she tried the fabric against her skin.
The first fitting didn’t take place until last week right before the Met Ball, and given the Versace atelier was in New York for the gala they were able to do the fitting in person with everyone.
“She loves to be a little bit sexy and liked the idea of having a really cinched waist, and in my mind there is no one who does that kind of under-pining like Versace,” Bofshever said. “They have a brilliant foundation for what the rest of the dress was built on. It aligned with Mj’s overall aesthetic: playful and sexy, and she also loves color.”
Morning of, Rodriguez hit the ground running in high spirits.
“When I woke up this morning, I turned on some focus music, a little bit of ratchet music because that’s just my life,” she said. “I went into the bathroom and gave myself a facial, and I just chilled with my boyfriend; we went to rehearsals for the Emmys and then I’m here right now; I’m enjoying with my team, and they’re just going to beat me up — and when I say beat me up I’m talking about makeup!”
Her style is evolving but always comprises “sophisticated, hot and sexy with a hit of sweet.” For the last in-person Emmys, in 2019, she wore a hot pink Jason Wu voluminous gown, which she said was just the beginning of a fashion journey.
“Last year I wanted to feel like a princess who just got invited to the ball,” she said. “Now I feel like the princess who’s been invited again but now she’s stepped up a notch. This moment is a one-time opportunity. I’ve never been able to make history like this before and why not celebrate just that in itself.”
Due to COVID-19, Rodriguez wasn’t sure if she would attend any after parties but planned to have her own celebration with family, friends and her team. The night was one long moment to savor her success and the history she’s making.
“When I went into rehearsals today I was just in awe that I was at the Emmys again as a nominee. I never thought in a million years that I would make history as a trans woman nominated in this category but it’s happening, and I’m trying to just take it all in. There are no more nerves, there is just excitement and joy.”
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