We’re going to be honest about something: We don’t really know where Zendaya came from. I mean, we know she’s an Oakland, Calif., native, and a child model-turned-Disney starlet. We know she appeared on Dancing With the Stars before scoring the coveted role of M.J. in the latest installment of the Spider-Man franchise. We even know she’s also a singer whose 2014 single “Replay” hit No. 40 on the Billboard charts, and most recently she sang while swinging on a flying trapeze in Hugh Jackman’s latest film, the Oscar-nominated The Greatest Showman.
But we can’t really pinpoint the moment when she arrived—on our radar, at least. It feels as if we just looked up one day and there she was, stunning and perfectly deserving of the spotlight. All we know is that we’ve had a hard time taking our eyes off of her ever since, because she consistently gets it right on the red carpet.
The 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony was no exception. The Glow Up Facebook live thread collectively gasped when Zendaya appeared on the step-and-repeat in a one-sleeved, deep-sienna-colored chiffon gown by Giambattista Valli. (Notably, the gown beautifully photographed chocolate brown against the red carpet, then appeared a burnished burgundy against the Oscars stage set, where she was a presenter.) On another star, the voluminous silhouette might have been overwhelming, but at a willowy 5 feet 10 inches, the 21-year-old looked like a true goddess, even as an ingenue among established megastars.
But everyone knows it takes a village to raise a successful red-carpet look, and Zendaya has found a dream team in stylist Law Roach (who also styled Mary J. Blige for the evening), makeup artist Sheika Daley and hairstylist Ursula Stephen, the mastermind who created many of Rihanna’s most iconic looks.
To offset the volume of her dress, Stephen chose to keep her starlet’s hair stylish and simple, telling The Glow Up, “Zendaya and I went back and forth about her look for tonight’s show, but ultimately landed on a sleek and chic top knot to enhance the elegant silhouette created by her Giambattista Valli dress.”
But pulled-back doesn’t automatically mean easy, especially when you’re creating a style that has to last from the awards ceremony through the after-party. So Stephen—a brand ambassador for Unilever as well as Dyson hair products—gave The Glow Up her step-by-step on how to create the perfect topknot—using her go-to tools and products. With most of these products available in our local drugstore, frankly, this is a high-low tutorial we can wrap our heads around. Says Stephen:
- “I prepped Zendaya’s damp hair by spritzing Dove Style + Care Smooth & Shine Heat Protection Spray [$5.99] throughout before blow-drying as straight as possible with my Dyson Supersonic hair dryer [$399.99], which was on high heat and speed.
- “Once the hair was dry—and super shiny!—I sprayed with Suave Professionals Natural Hold Compressed Micro Mist Hairspray [$3.94] and separated her hair in half from ear to ear and brushed the top section into a high ponytail, securing it with an elastic.
- “Next, I brought the bottom section up and secured the two pieces together before twisting them up into a chic little knot, which I secured with hair pins. [Pro tip: Separating the hair into sections allows for more control over the look and ensures security through the night.]
- “I finished the look with TRESemmé Compressed Micro-Mist Hair Spray Hold Level 2: Smooth [$4.99] to keep strands sleek and in place all night, without the stiffness and crunch of a traditional hair spray.”
Of course, pulling the star’s hair off her face perfectly showcased a glowing face and gorgeous sienna smoky eye by makeup artist Sheika Daley. [Editor’s note: The Glow Up reached out to Daley for the specific tricks and tools she used Oscar night, but as of press time, we haven’t received the details.] To re-create the look, we’d suggest using eye shadow colors from the Masquerade palette by Juvia’s Place ($25 for a mini palette), or the Obsessions palette in Warm Brown from Huda Beauty ($27). To quickly create a sultry, smoky eye similar to Zendaya’s:
- Apply an eye shadow base or primer, to lock in color. We like Black Up’s new Matte Eye Primer ($23).
- Apply liquid liner to the upper lash line, avoiding an obvious cat eye.
- Define the outer corners of each crease with a dark matte brown eye shadow shade.
- Using a deep mahogany shade, smoke the eye from lash to just above the crease, extending slightly at the outer ends.
- Use a fine brush to lightly smudge the same color on the lower lash line.
- Pop the inner corners of the eyes with a shimmering champagne shadow.
- Apply several layers of mascara—making sure to avoid clumps!
Needless to say, we loved this look, not only for its drama but also for its timeless simplicity. The 90th annual Academy Awards were so filled with nostalgia that Rita Moreno even wore the dress she wore when she accepted her 1962 Oscar (and still fit in beautifully!) for West Side Story. But looking at Zendaya’s gorgeous goddess-inspired glamour last night, it’s hard to think that her polished, graceful beauty will ever go out of style.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this post erroneously referred to the character of M.J. as the romantic interest in Spider-Man: Homecoming.