For Kelsea Ballerini and Kelsey Deenihan, the details around their first gig are fuzzy, but the memories are crystal clear: It was a 3 a.m. call time in LA, neither were morning people and there was an instant connection.
“I was so new then; I hadn’t worked with much glam consistently, so I was still learning,” Ballerini recalls. “But I learned that whoever this person ended up being in my life would be the person I’d see before the biggest moments in my career. It’s not the manager or the publicist that you see right before you walk on stage; it’s glam, so I knew it was an important role.”
Cut to almost a decade and a “whole lot of glam” later, and the duo is busier—and closer—than ever.
Ballerini admits to being “very set” in her glam ways when the duo started working together. From mandatory lash extensions to battling blush, “I was very much like, ‘This is me. Take it or leave it,’” the artist says. Over time, trust was built. “Slowly, we got there, and I could not be happier,” adds Deenihan. Neither could Ballerini: “Now, sometimes we don’t even collaborate on what the look will be. I’ll say, ‘Whatever you think looks cool—you have full reign.’”
with less,” says Ballerini. “I’ve always loved glam, but I always used it as ‘more is more.’ She really helped me pare things back and say, ‘You don’t need all that—let’s find your natural features.’ She’s definitely showed me that less is sometimes more.”
Whoever this person ended up being would be the person I’d see before the biggest moments in my career.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Ballerini credits her evolving look simply to growing up. “A lot of it is discovering my style and feeling better in my natural beauty. I’ve grown up, and my look has evolved with that, especially over the last few years. I’ve really come into myself and my womanhood in a different way. I feel much more confident in being vulnerable and not as put together all the time. That’s been a really beautiful thing to experiment with in this new phase of life, through music, through glam and through every area in my life.”
Big hair, rhinestones, sequins, a full beat. This pair isn’t blind to the stigma country music has placed around its artists, or that they’re making their own rules. “I’ve always said to Kelsea, ‘You don’t have to fit into that mold because you don’t fit into the mold of one specific category,’” says Deenihan. The result: room to try different things and experiment. “We do what she feels best in. We’re not pigeonholed to one specific kind of genre or look because she’s not, either.”
Once Ballerini’s styling is locked down, Deenihan creates a mood board and the process becomes very collaborative. “It’s never ‘Kelsea, you’re wearing and doing this.’ It’s more: ‘Are you going to be singing? If you’re at an award show, is there food? Do we want to go with a red lip or do you just want to have a chill night where you can just touch up your lip gloss?’ It’s lots of photos and questions back and forth. We create something from it together.”
“We zig-zag a lot,” adds Ballerini. “If we do a big glam moment for one event, the next event we’ll try to go a little lighter. If we do big hair with lots of length, the next time we’ll maybe do a slicked-back look. We like to be able to show variety, so we’re always looking at the last look we did.”
On event days, the duo gives themselves plenty of buffer time. “Usually, it’s a good half hour of catching up, then we remember we should do some glam too,” Deenihan jokes. Between room service champagne to calm red-carpet nerves, playing not-yetreleased tracks during skin prep and catching up with girlfriends, glam time sounds more like play than work. “Because we’re real-life friends, we’ve learned to make it more of a hang rather than two hours of glam,” says Ballerini.
“It’s not just the hair and the makeup; it’s the friend time and being able to build each other up and feel good about where we are in our lives. Those are the moments when you think to yourself, ‘Real life is good.’”
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK 2023
KB: “I love this look because it’s something I would have never done two years ago. Everything about it: the outfit, the slicked hair with no added length. That would have terrified me a couple of years ago. I’m just in my play era. This was a look. I love this.”
KD: “There are no extensions, no texture in the hair—it’s slick. She had an oil-slick eye where it was just kind of messy, raw and edgy. It was such a character. And it was amazing and so fun.”
CMA AWARDS 2022
KB: “This was the first carpet after a lot of big changes in my life. I remember feeling really naked and really vulnerable. I remember not wanting to overdo it. I just wanted to show up and not look like I tried too hard because showing up took all the effort I had.”
KD: “Once I saw the dress, I knew we were going to go sleek with the whole look. We went with really clean coral makeup with chic sleek, long hair. The length was long, but I love that it was sleek and really shiny against the form-fitting silhouette of the dress.”
CMT AWARDS 2023
KB: “I’m a happy girl in this one. Chase [Stokes] and I knew we were going to do the carpet together, but we didn’t collaborate on our looks beforehand. It was just very serendipitous that the tones went together. I was hosting the show that year and had a big performance, so there were a lot of looks that night.”
KD: “She’s not wearing any makeup here—that’s all happiness. Kelsea only had a couple of minutes to get into her top-of-show look, so we took this look as the base and built on it throughout the night, whether we added color over it or just a lip.”
GRAMMY AWARDS 2022
KD: “This is one of my favorite carpets of all time. As much as I love Kelsea’s hair, I love her features more. I loved being able to show off her neck, her jaw and her profile, and really just be more vulnerable. Many times hair is a security blanket, but when you take all that away, it’s just you. So this was so symbolic: ‘I’m here. I’m good. I’m happy. Let’s show all of me.’ And she did it beautifully.”
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