If We Have to Have Red Carpets, Can We at Least Have More Alexa Chung?
People who care about fashion -- and even plenty of those who don't -- usually tune in early to the awards shows to catch the red-carpet pregame, a scary ritual historically hosted by puppets. Celebrities may think they can scurry past the likes of Carson Daly and Natalie Morales as they make a mad dash for the rubber chicken, but they're fooling themselves: These overdressed, glassy-eyed semi-personalities have an important job to do, which is to corner said celebrities and assault them with the pressing questions of the day, which consist chiefly of "How are you feeling tonight?" and "Who are you wearing?" But last night's Golden Globe Arrival Special -- even the name sounds molded out of plastic -- was different. Daly and Morales did everything expected of them: They flapped their mouths and sounds came out. But who was that third mysterious creature, a brunette minx in a messy, slept-in bun and a simple red chiffon dress with a bow neck that caused one Twitter user to exclaim, somewhat ungrammatically but nevertheless enthusiastically, "My sex is on fire in her grandma dress"?
That was Alexa Chung, the long-legged Englishwoman who hosted the short-lived MTV series It's On With Alexa Chung but who is perhaps better known, at least among those who occasionally flip through fashion magazines, as an "It" girl. The British luxury-goods company Mulberry has named a handbag after her; she's a fave of Karl Lagerfeld, the designer behind Chanel (which, apparently, is the label you'd find inside that grandma dress). But it's likely that most random Golden Globes-watchers had no idea who she was.
It's also doubtful that Chung will ever be asked back for another red-carpet pregame. She was too human, too interesting, too alive. When asking a celebrity a silly question, she actually looked as if she might want to know the answer, the cardinal sin among anyone who wants to get anywhere in this miserable but lucrative line of work. She took note, for example, of Robert Pattinson's exceptionally shiny shoes, asking him with deadpan mischievousness if they looked that way for any particular reason. Pattinson didn't miss a beat, picking up immediately on the surreal little game she'd started:
Earlier, she'd greeted Alec Baldwin by declaring that she was going to grant him a knighthood -- she claimed it was OK because she's English and he's American. It isn't, but so what?
Chung, despite her aura of respectful casualness, wasn't always completely smooth: She hasn't mastered the art (or is it a craft? a simple motor skill?) of ushering a celebrity gracefully out of his or her soundbite. Too often she'd end a conversation abruptly, like a fourth-grader ("OK the end bye!") glad to be done with a book report. It would come time to wrap it up, and she'd visibly stiffen before the camera, announcing politely but nervously, "Thank you for talking to me. Back to you, Carson." The interviewees would be left stranded, blinking out at us, wondering what to do next.
But Chung's inability -- or refusal -- to run the game without a hitch is exactly what made her so magnificent. Her greatest moment came toward the end, when I suspect she wondered, "What the hell am I doing here?" and threw it all away. She was asked to name her three favorite gowns, and in that allotted 20 or 30 seconds of time, she did so as intelligently and articulately as any human being could. She liked Michelle Williams' simple daisy-strewn sheath, and thought Natalie Portman's drapey empire number skimmed nicely over her "pregnancy bump." Then Chung took the leap. She mentioned the enormously wide skirt of Olivia Wilde's dusky jeweled gown [left] and noted, not just with mild appreciation but outright awe, "You could harbor four Cubans under that dress."
Today there's some debate over whether Chung might actually have said "humans," but I doubt it. And while I've no doubt someone out there will want to twist the remark into something with racist intent or undertones, it's pretty clear that Chung, speaking off the cuff, meant only that if you ever needed to sneak anyone across an international border, this would be the skirt to do it in. Who says anything like that on live TV?
And please -- will someone ask her back?
[Olivia Wilde photo: Getty Images]