Curled up on a couch in the private Fashion Lounge, above swarms of oblivious shoppers at The Dubai Mall, Blake Lively looks good for a woman who set out a day ago from the US state of Utah. After more layovers than she can remember and two hours of sleep, her make-up is pristine, her blonde hair creates a sunlit aureole and her heavily sequinned-and-beaded, black-and-silver, cheongsam-style Gucci dress is immaculate.
She’s in Dubai for a one-day-only appearance to promote the Gucci fragrance Première at Dubai Shopping Festival. She will have no time for shopping, though, or sightseeing or even trying out her famously good cooking (she likes to take cooking classes in every country she travels to).
“No cooking class for me – I wish, but I’m not here long enough. This is my third time, but I’m never here more than 24 hours, so I really want to have a time when I can actually see Dubai.”
She fits a lot into her life, but she says that her multitasking skills are nothing to those of her current employer Frida Giannini, the creative director of Gucci – exactly the sort of “powerful woman” that Lively sees in the Gucci customer.
“I don’t know how she does it all. And you think like: ‘Oh, she must just do one of the women’s lines’,” Lively says, eyes wide with rhetorical wonder. “But she’s involved with the sunglasses, the shoes, the handbags, the menswear, the fragrances, the look of the campaign – every single detail – and then the philanthropy and then what she does with LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art] and film restoration. And she’s a mom. And she’s the nicest woman.”
Lively puts her own energy down to spending time around other high-achieving women such as Giannini and Beyoncé. “Somebody sent me a funny quote on Pinterest or something. It said: ‘There’s only 24 hours in Beyoncé’s day, too.’”
Considering a large number of those hours are taken up with travel, though, it’s no surprise that Lively is something of a homebody, valuing her friends, family and husband more than the glitz of her on-screen/off-screen personas – even though those personas, Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen and the red carpet’s Blake Lively, have, in the public mind, become almost interchangeable. “I enjoy travelling. I also really enjoy being home because I travel so much,” she says, adding that she understands why the public can find it hard to differentiate her real character from Serena.
“My friends know who I am,” she says. “People on the street, they see so much more of this character: once a week for six years they see Serena. And then the press tries to align you with the character or to create the same sort of scandal and drama. And how I dress on the show is pretty similar to how I dress now, so I guess if I was watching the show, I would associate me with my character.”
Ah yes, the fashion: in spite of her reputation as one of America’s finest clothes horses, Lively employs no stylist, does her own hair and make-up and wears Zara or vintage as readily as haute couture. She puts her style down to two mentors: her mother and the Gossip Girl costume designer Eric Daman.
“My mom was a model, but also grew up making her own clothes. She’s very, very talented, so I always had an appreciation for fashion, just the art form of it, because she knew how to create. And also, what an expression of self it was. And Eric Daman taught me so much about fashion, so I got to be a bit like his apprentice, and then every outfit we did for the show, we did together.”
The movie-star glamour of her Gucci image, though, is another level of chic, and one that even Lively doesn’t expect to achieve regularly.
“Doing that Veronica Lake hair proves to be very challenging and I have to leave that to the experts. I wish I could do that more in my real life. Wouldn’t that be pretty? But to get that look you have to brush it every two minutes because the curls clump together.”
Does she ever worry, then, that this image, the subject of millions of fashionistas’ aspirations, will overshadow her real career as an actress? She’s typically sanguine.
“I never really worry about perception too much, because you can’t control that. Fashion is a big part of me and I was on a TV show that the main character was fashion, so I understand it. It’s all about the work that you do. It’s all a bigger picture.”
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