It’s the day after the 2019 Golden Globes, and all anyone can talk about is the girl in New Céline. They could be talking about Lady Gaga in custom Valentino or Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton, but the digital glitterati only has eyes for Lucy Boynton, the 25-year-old British breakout ingenue from Bohemian Rhapsody, a Best Picture nominee at this year’s Oscars. “Who is she?” may be a meme, but it’s also the question I hear uttered breathlessly around the Who What Wear office for the next several days. Who is this fresh face with the blonde bob making her debut in head-to-toe gold from one of fashion’s buzziest designers? Is she some sort of fashion savant? A spy? What is her agenda? Who is responsible?
Two weeks later, backdropped by the sunshiny hills of Topanga, California—the setting of today’s photo shoot, many serpentine backroads away from the anxious hum of Hollywood—I plant myself on a deck chair next to Boynton, primed to investigate. Freshly stripped of a high-collared floral Batsheva frock the color of lemon chiffon and changed into black skinny jeans and a crewneck sweater, Boynton suddenly seems less like a savant or a spy and more like a 20-something who can’t believe her good luck. “It’s just silly to call this work,” she says, gesturing toward her dressing room, a vault of Miu Miu slip dresses and Gucci pumps pulled for today. “Dressing for shoots and red carpets, it just feels like stepping into a version of myself that’s more decorated. More special,” she continues, taking an apologetic sip of Diet Coke (“I know it’s poison,” she smiles). “I also think fashion is an incredibly important part of what I do as an actress—costumes are at the center of it, and the red carpet is an extension of that. It’s like its own little production. It’s like a play.”
This love of fashion is relatively new for Boynton—it’s not as if she grew up the Carrie Bradshaw of her friend group, sketching dress designs in her free time and buying copies of Vogue instead of dinner. There was a time not long ago when clothes legitimately unnerved her. “Because when you’re younger, fashion is all based in insecurity,” she says. Today, Boynton may be a successful actress who designers like Céline and Gucci are clobbering to dress, but she remembers how unwelcoming fashion can feel: “It can be an intimidating thing, a self-conscious thing,” she says, “but it’s been really liberating just getting older and deciding Fuck it—I want to wear this because it makes me feel like me. I just want to be that person who always looks comfortable and very much themselves.”
The daughter of two London journalists, Boynton became the first movie star in her family when she was cast to play a young Renée Zellweger in the British-American film Miss Potter at age 12. But she took a long break from show business before starting to audition again at 20. It wasn’t until two years ago, right before she scored her first big American role in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, that she started working with her stylist, Leith Clark, whose roster of clients includes the impeccably dressed Keira Knightley and Felicity Jones. Only since teaming up with Clark has Boynton gained the access necessary to develop a strong taste in clothes and the vocabulary to describe it: “I love romantic, ethereal shapes and materials—a cinched waist and a big skirt,” Boynton says of her aesthetic, which she credits to the influence of British television. “Period pieces and BBC dramas,” she swoons. “I could live in those silhouettes.”
On red carpets, Boynton counts Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci, and (especially) Erdem among her favorite designers to wear—they’re the ones that encourage her to let her freak flag fly. Boynton recalls working with Prada for a red carpet premiere in 2017: “At first I put on this very appropriate black lace thing, but it just didn’t feel like me. I think you can tell when I love what I’m wearing—and you can tell when I don’t. Prada wanted me to feel like myself.” Boynton wound up choosing a baby pink pajama set patterned with robots, which she paired with an equally pink coat and silver platform shoes. “It was slightly aggressively out there,” she says, “but it’s still one of my favorite outfits.” The designers let Boynton keep the PJs; “I now I basically live in them,” she gushes.
The attention paid to Boynton’s red carpet style has intensified noticeably since that gold Céline number made headlines in January. The scrutiny has come as a surprise to Boynton, who swears she had no plans of stealing anyone’s focus at the Globes. “I actually had a moment of panic when people started writing about that dress, saying, ‘What is she going to wear next?’” she admits. “There was so much pressure on it when actually I just chose that dress because I felt like I looked confident in it.” Humbly, Boynton is still getting used to top designers wanting to dress her (and fashion magazines wanting to write about her). “I was genuinely so surprised that Céline wanted to work with me,” she says. “Actually, when I first saw a picture of that gold dress, I thought it was not me at all—no, absolutely not, never. But when you get opportunities like that, it’s a chance to explore fashion further, so that in your own life, when you can’t exactly afford New Céline dresses, you know which direction to venture into.”
As Boynton continues to catapult forward professionally (in her next major project, she’ll play a lead in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix comedy series, The Politician, coming later this year), she’s open to her style evolving and has no strategy in mind other than only wearing what makes her feel most authentically herself. “So as long as I feel right in an outfit, I will never regret it,” she says.
When begged to give us a hint about her upcoming Oscars dress, Boynton grins and takes another coy sip of Diet Coke. “I’ll just say it’s a custom dress by designers I’ve been obsessed with for a while. They’ve been sending sketches,” she says. “I’m very, very excited.” Watching eagerly from afar to see what our new favorite fashion star of 2019 will do next, so are we.
Photographer: Carissa Gallo; Hair: Kylee Heath; Makeup: Jo Baker; Stylist: Doria Santlofer; Manicurist: Whitney Gibson