For her Only Natural Diamonds cover story, Smollett got to match her creative spirit with her love of fine jewelry, channeling different characters through changes of hair, wardrobe, and of course, natural diamonds. “I think as I grow older, I realize that it’s okay to embrace all the different complex sides of my womanhood,” Smollett says of the inspiration for the shoot. “One day I want to show up in combat boots and jeans and a T-shirt,” referencing her uniform for this interview, “and that feels authentic to me in this mood and space. Fashion really is about expressing ourselves in that present time. All this other stuff that we make it about is performative and not actually creativity,” she concludes.
The shoot, however, brought out the kind of collaborative self-expression she loves. “It was just one big playground,” she says of the experience. “I rarely have fun at photo shoots because honestly it’s a bit counter to my relationship with the camera—to actually look into the camera—I’m not a model. I’m an actress, I tell stories. So it’s just a different muscle that can be awkward.”
Asked if she had a favorite piece, look, or moment from the shoot, she demurs. “I’m a Libra, I can’t pick a favorite,” before referencing her top three, including an a pear-shaped diamond that “looks like something Elizabeth Taylor would wear;” natural diamond earring fashioned into hairpieces courtesy of hairstylist Nikki Nelms “I felt like a queen who didn’t need a crown;” and an architectural Louis Vuitton look with a slicked-back bun with Melissa Kaye and Louis Vuitton jewels.