Fresh off her SNL hosting gig, Quinta Brunson sat down with InStyle for her cover interview kicking off InStyle’s New & Next Issue to talk about her style evolution–including the challenges of being a petite woman with curves–and her casting choices she made for her wildly successful show, Abbott Elementary.
Brunson’s own evolution has taken her from an advertising and broadcast telecommunications student, to digital content creator for BuzzFeed, to roles in New Girl, Big Mouth, and many other stepping stones in between, all of which have lead to her crown jewel project: creating and starring in the award-winning Abbott Elementary, an ode to her mom, a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system for years.
When casting for Abbott Elementary, it was important to Brunson to portray “women who have curves” and people who looked “real”: “Lisa [Ann Walters] auditioned and she was perfect for the role. Janelle [Jones] auditioned and she was perfect for the role. It was more embracing those women in the way they look than rejecting them and their talent because of the way they look,” says Brunson. “Their talent is incredible. I lead with talent first and then everything … I don’t really care how you look if the talent is there. That’s how we should be doing things in general.”
A “real” woman herself, she found it difficult to find stylists to help convey who she really was, before meeting her stylist, Bryon Javar: “Not only am I 4-foot-11, [but] I’m 4-foot-11 with breasts and a butt. And that’s just the cardinal sin: to be short and have the nerve to have any type of curve,” she says with a playful eye roll.
“Before working with Bryon, there were times where I would work with other stylists and I just have to be like, ‘I’m not this young,’ or, ‘this feels too young for me.’ And it would be like, ‘No, you can pull it off,’” says Brunson. “And I was like, ‘But it’s not about pulling it off. It’s about what I want to represent when I come to certain award shows or certain events I have to do.’ I’m not just an actress, not just a writer, not just a producer, not just a showrunner. I want to make sure I can convey who I am through what I wear.”
Even as a writer, she uses fashion to tell her story without words: “It’s another extension of me showing who I am without talking. More and more, I start to hate talking as I go further in my journey. Things like fashion can help you say something without saying anything. And so I’ve come to really appreciate that,” she explains. “As I talk to Bryon about how I want to present [myself at] an award show or an event, I’m like, Wow … I’m getting to say who I am through the clothing and I plan to do that more because I plan to talk less in the future.”
Brunson’s confidence and love of her body came from growing up as a trained dancer: “Dancing is learning how to have control over your own body at a very young age. We usually hear about control in a manipulative way or in reference to sex, sexual control, or attractiveness. But I’m talking about truly having ownership over the mechanics of your own body, learning to control different muscles,” Brunson says. “I’ll talk to friends who came into appreciating their bodies much older or who still have trouble appreciating their own body and it makes me realize over and over and over again how much dance did for me. My body is mine. I work it, I control it, and it doesn’t belong to anyone else. I believe in God. I have a very spiritual relationship. I believe I’m a vessel. But this is still my temple.”
[Photo Credit: Rosaline Shahnavaz for InStyle Magazine]
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