Precious Lee is very proud to say she won the “Best Hair” superlative in high school. At that time, not only was she Homecoming Queen, but she was also known for her intricate—and ever-changing—hairdos; something she attributes to her father, who owned multiple salons in her hometown of Atlanta, and studied under Vidal Sassoon. “I grew up in the hair salon,” Lee tells me, seated in a chair facing the windows of her Manhattan hotel. “And us girls from Atlanta, from Georgia—we like to change our hair about every three days.”
The model—who has experienced a significant ascent in the fashion industry over the past year, but was a bona-fide star the second her bold-yet-baby-face look hit the scene—will tonight attend her very first Met Gala (on her birthday, no less). And for her look, which includes a sparkling, silver Area dress with braided accents and braided ponytails in her hair, plus a killer smoky eye, Lee is bringing her roots in the South and as a Black woman into the picture.
When I arrive at her hotel room, where no fewer than 10 people are buzzing around to help her prepare for her arrival on the Met staircase, Lee is in the midst of workshopping her look with her hairstylist, Mideyah Parker. As the model describes it, she’s spent multiple meetings with Parker and her makeup artist, Raisa Flowers, creating—and changing around—potential options for her Met Gala beauty.
“I called them every other day,” she says of Flowers and Parker. “I switched things a lot. A lot of the decisions I make happen last-minute. At first, my eye makeup was going to be a really simple cat eye. I went from that to, ‘I need dimension!’ I’m a Libra moon, so I play with different ideas and like to go back and forth. The closer you get to the part where you have to leave, the energy always changes.”
After ping-ponging inspiration photos for their mood board (including pictures of Vanessa Bell Calloway from Coming to America and an image from Lee’s childhood in which she had braided bangs “like Stevie Wonder, almost,”) Lee and her team settled upon a super-high ponytail with braids, and her baby hairs combed down in elegant, tiny swirls.
“We definitely wanted a braided moment, because African-American women and African women have always used braiding,” she says. “Braiding is a part of our culture.” (The braids, she also notes, match the crystal braids accenting her dress.)
Just as a tray filled with Bellinis, caviar, and shrimp cocktail arrives at the room, Lee advises Parker to split the baby hairs further. She describes the entire process as wholly “collaborative,” and says her team has been supportive of her since Day One. “I was so grateful to be able to have an all Black femme team,” she says. “African-American women are the backbone of this country.” While Lee holds a compact mirror up to her face, Flowers attaches a set of delicate eyelashes onto the model, and asks what she thinks. “I love them,” Lee responds. “They’re Beyoncé’s makeup artist’s lashes,” Flowers tells her.
At the mention of Beyoncé, Lee recalls another anecdote from high school, then starts to laugh. “I remember, I cut my hair in a pixie one year,” she says. “Then for school pictures a couple days later, I wanted to change the look. So I decided to put weave in. I had Beyoncé barrel curls!”