America Ferrera on Directorial Debut, Barbie Fashion & Chanel Jewelry That Makes Her Dance


On the evening of February 7 in New York City, the stars gathered on Fifth Avenue for the grand opening of Chanel’s first Watches & Fine Jewelry flagship boutique in the United States. Attending the glamorous event were Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes, Kerry Washington, Elizabeth Olsen, Zazie Beetz, and many more. But one celeb in particular shined bright in an all-black, sheer dress topped with a long raven coat: America Ferrera, who has been the name on everybody’s lips since her recent Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Barbie.

There was yet another star in the mix—only this time, it was around Ferrera’s neck: the Chanel Fil De Comète collar, made of 18-karat white gold and diamonds. “It felt like a bold statement,” Ferrera said of the piece. Indeed, the night called for a more-is-more approach to jewelry—so working with her stylist, Karla Welch, Ferrera topped off the comet-inspired necklace with a pair of Chanel’s dazzling Étoile Filante 1932 earrings. “The dress and the jewelry really complemented one another, but we’re letting the diamonds shine and be the center of attention tonight.” Of course, they could only go so far in outshining Ferrera, who, after starring in such film favorites as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Real Women Have Curves, is finally getting the attention from the Academy that she deserves. Here, the actress discusses her upcoming projects, her fashion plan for the Oscars, and her most prized pieces of jewelry.

Tell me a bit about your look tonight. What’s your usual styling process?

Chanel talked to Karla, my stylist, about some ideas. And then at the fitting, we try the options on and all collectively decide which makes us the most happy—which one makes us kind of giddy and want to dance. That’s how Karla and I always do it. We have our ideas and our thoughts, but at the end of the day, it is about what makes me dance. Karla always knows when I’m happy, she can see how I feel in the clothes. And the real giveaway is, “Does she start dancing? Okay, she’s happy. This is the one that makes her feel good.”

Ferrera with Elizabeth Olsen

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty Images

You’re set to make your feature-length directorial debut with the adaptation of the book I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. At what point in your career did you realize you wanted to pursue directing?

I did some directing in middle school and high school because that’s how my drama programs were run: the students would select and edit and direct each other. You didn’t really think about, am I a director? Do I like directing?

The first time as an adult professional that I was asked to direct, it was the beginning of 2008, during the writers’ strike at that time. I was on hiatus from Ugly Betty and I was, like everyone else, not working and waiting for the strike to be over. An opportunity popped up for me to direct a short film as part of a series of shorts that ABC Family was producing. A director had dropped out and they came to me and asked me if I would step in. I was temporarily terrified by that. But then thought, “Well, what else am I doing? And also, maybe I’ll learn something.”

Why did you choose this adaptation in particular for your first feature-length film?

I actually read the book before it came out, because my book agent sent it to me. She said, “You should know [Erika L. Sánchez]. Maybe you should meet.” After I read it, I was so deeply touched. What felt unique about the voice of the main character, Julia, and the journey she goes on is how bold and messy and dark it gets. I have experienced a lot of storytelling—particularly around young Latina women and Latina women in general, and Latino families that are striving for greatness and progress, having to be model citizens by overcoming huge obstacles. I had not read anything before that spoke to the mental health challenges of having so much pressure to be excellent.

Have you started planning what you’d like to wear to the Oscars, or are we still too far out for that?

We’re never too far out [laughs]. Yes, there are ideas and they’re in the works. We never wanted to jinx anything before we actually knew whether or not we were going to the Oscars, but Karla has been speaking to some designers and getting sketches of options.

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Would you ever consider doing a themed fashion press run, similar to what Margot Robbie did for Barbie?

We actually did have our own theme, but it was our little secret of what we were going for. We talked about the Barbie press tour as a journey, thinking about the theme of the work, but also what’s the theme of where I’m at in my life? What do we want to express, and how do I want to feel? What’s the vibe? But it wasn’t as obvious—by no means the level of commitment that’s required when every outfit is a recreation of an archival Barbie look. Still, we always have our own story going on underneath. Maybe you can feel it.

Let’s get into some Style Notes questions. What jewelry do you wear on a day-to-day basis?

I am a less-is-more type. I want to be the person who piles it on, because every time I look at someone who has a bunch of chains or some amazing rings on, I love looking at them. I get jealous and I want all of it! But I am so particular about what I wear—there must be a very fine balance between feeling comfortable in it and feeling comforted by it, if that makes sense. If I can’t go about my day and do things without the jewelry being in the way, I have to take it off. I mean, not for fun, fashion glam and events—then, I love wearing big pieces.

What kind of jewelry were you into as a teenager?

I mean, it was a lot of Claire’s Boutique. And then the rings that I could get at the bowling alley in the quarter machine. Which, by the way, I feel like have all come back: now, that’s all my 14-year-old niece wears—that plastic, Hello Kitty, gotta-get-a-quarter-for-the-machine kind of jewelry. I had all that stuff, but no one thought I was cool when I’d wear it!

What is the most prized piece in your jewelry collection?

There are three pieces I wear on a daily basis that are my most prized: my wedding and engagement ring are probably tied for number one. I have nightmares about looking down and the diamond being gone or falling out. I’m sure that’s a common anxiety.

My husband and my kids—but really, my husband—bought me a beautiful ring as a Christmas gift that I also treasure. It’s a bloodstone in a 1920s or 1930s gold setting. My understanding is that Scottish warriors used to wear bloodstone into battle for protection and courage. So I wear my bloodstone ring, particularly when I have to go away from my family. Because it reminds me to be brave and that they’re on my side, rooting for me.



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