As the sole Black nominee in four acting categories, Cynthia Erivo used her platform at the Oscars to send a message about representation at a show that has historically failed Black performers. The star's moving performance of Harriet's 'Stand Up' — which was also nominated for Best Original Song — received a standing ovation. For Erivo, who portrayed Harriet Tubman in the film, it was important to pay tribute to the abolitionist down to the very last detail — including her nails.
At first glance, the star's nail art appears to be an exact replica of Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" — complete with dramatic swirls and glittering jewels. But her nail artist, Gina Oh, reveals that the look was actually inspired by Tubman, who famously navigated her escape to freedom using constellations in the night sky.
"When [Erivo] told me she wanted to do Harriet Tubman and constellation-inspired nail art, I immediately thought about Vincent van Gogh's 'Starry Night,'" Oh told Vogue before explaining that they ultimately decided on a different design for each hand. "We went back-and-forth with ideas and she really fell in love with the opalescence flakes, and loved the idea of a contrast of two different designs."
Oh brought the Big and Little Dipper constellations to life on Erivo's other hand to create the North Star, which played a key role in guiding hundreds of slaves in their journey north.
Oh painted both hands with nail polishes from Christian Louboutin Beauty, including a royal blue (Baraboum) for the Starry Night sky and a shimmery tan (Goldissima) for the starry sheen.
This isn't Erivo's first time using her manicure to send a message. She also worked with Oh for the 2018 Met Gala to design Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling on her nails — but featured Black women instead of white men in her depiction. Oh completed the design with jewels, shimmer, and an actual rosary hanging off her long nails.
With her career only gaining more momentum — especially as we get ready to see her portray Aretha Franklin in the NatGeo series Genius — we're excited to see what powerful storytelling Erivo has planned next — and what it could mean for the world of nail art.
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