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Joaquina Kalukango “LET IT BURN” Epic Performance at the Tony Awards


Joaquina Kalukango’s Tony Awards night was one for the books. The Broadway star not only moved the audience with an emotional performance of ballad “Let It Burn” from Civil War–era musical Paradise Square, but earned a second standing ovation when she took home the Tony for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical.

On her big night, Kalukango looked every bit the gilded star wearing a gold beaded gown designed by her sister, Rachel Kalukango Harris, accessorized with matching metallic Valentino platforms and Swarovski jewels. “My sister lives for all things African due to our culture, so we chose this fabric because it highlights true power, femininity, and a sense of royalty,” explains Kalukango Harris of the inspiration behind the handmade dress, the Ophir nude tulle taking over 1000 hours to embroider in citrine yellow and gold crystals. “It’s a representation of the queen that exudes within and through Joaquina Kalukango.”

Kalukango wore an equally regal beauty look with gleaming skin and copper-smoked lids courtesy of makeup artist Michael D. Patterson, and a sculptural braided hair look rich in symbolism. “We wanted to maintain Joaquina’s artistic African aesthetic and because braids hugely represent culture for African women, I started there,” says hairstylist Tish Celestine, who braided Kalukango’s hair into cornrows before crafting a tall updo with spiraled shapes that held a deeper meaning. “The circles represent this full circle moment,” explains Celestine, who has been a friend and collaborator of Kalukango for eight years and is reveling in this moment for her. On top of being both beautiful and emblematic, the style, which was comprised of different plaited pieces, was one that Celestine could take down for Kalukango’s performance and reassemble in a matter of minutes. A inspiring feat of artistry, indeed.

Here, Kalukango takes Vogue inside her getting-ready session for the Tony Awards 2022.

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