Jurnee Smollett Does It All—And In Dior Couture

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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s gala is one of New York’s most magical traditions. Every year luminaries from the worlds of art, fashion, film, and business descend on the Frank Lloyd-Wright-designed landmark to celebrate creativity, but 2021’s celebrations were significant. A tribute to the museum’s 60th anniversary and the party’s post-COVID return, it was an evening to remember—just ask Jurnee Smollett. The Lovecraft Country star dazzled on the red carpet in Dior couture, but for Smollett, the opportunity to enjoy nights out IRL is about more than the joys of dressing up. “As human beings, we are meant to be in community, and coming out of this extreme isolation, I felt such a need for human connection,” she shared via post-event. “One cannot underestimate the value of looking into someone’s eyes, touching someone’s hand, feeling the warmth of their skin relating to them in conversation, hearing their laughter in person. I’m someone who truly likes being alone, but I thrive in a community because I come from a large family.” 

Artistic community was the night’s focus; the gala’s glitz funds educational programs and exhibitions accessible to all. Fittingly, Smollett selected a look that aligned with the masterworks lining the walls. Her Dior spring 2018 couture gown featured an arresting “cage” design—a bodice woven from horsehair layered over a gauzy hand-pleated tulle skirt. The result was a daring, transparent effect where the black outlines seemed drawn onto Smollett’s body. “I loved the architectural elegance,” says Smollett. “Maria Grazia has truly designed this dress to perfection. It’s a real work of art.” 

Dior, which sponsored the gala, has a special place within the star’s wardrobe. Familiar with the house’s tradition of rewriting fashion’s rules, Smollett appreciates its innovative spirit. “Dior has such a rich heritage. They have consistently and historically elevated the way we think of design,” she says. “It’s always an honor being draped in a Dior design because you feel the care and craftsmanship that has gone into each piece.” 

Describing her Guggenheim look as “dangerous and flirty” with an impeccable fit, Smollett immortalized in snapshots a habit that has filled her Instagram feed with pictures of her vibrant style. Though she considers herself a private person, Smollett documents her big moments to provide her audience with insights and an ever-evolving scrapbook. “My parents kept several photo albums around the house when I was young, and to this day, I enjoy going back and looking at their life during those times,” she says. “Being able to share these exciting moments with my village and bring them along with me into these unique spaces is thrilling. If I’m at Paris Fashion Week, I go ‘hey, here’s what it’s like experiencing that.’” 

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