Kelsea Ballerini's Grammys Dress Was A Funeral For Her Welcome Mat Era
An exclusive interview with the singer — and former NYLON cover star — before the big night.
With just few days to go before the 2024 Grammy Awards, Kelsea Ballerini made a pivot. “Originally I was going to wear this other dress that was much more on-the-nose country,” she says. “It was very blinged out, had some fringe, and I might wear it again for something else because it was gorgeous. But then I put on this Vera Wang and I just haven't worn anything like it quite yet. And I think it to me resembles the color of Welcome Mat. It was very laying a chapter to rest and starting a new one, and the dress kind of has both. So the symbolism of that I really loved. And I just loved that fashion-wise it was a choice I hadn't made before. It's a gown, but it still has some sexiness in the sheerness of it, which I love and I'm excited about it.”
It’s the evening before the Grammys, where Ballerini is nominated for Best Country Album for her 2023 triumph Rolling Up the Welcome Mat. Ballerini is wrapping up a shoot in Calabasas when she calls, with very big evening plans: “I’m going back to the hotel and I'm going to swan dive into my bed.” She deserves the sleep. The next night, she’d arrive in the gown she describes as kind of a funeral for the Welcome Mat Era: a black silk organza high-neck halter mermaid gown appliquéd with silk chiffon ruffles and lavender hand-painted silk organza floral. It was a girls’ night for the singer (boyfriend Chase Stokes was back on set for the next season of Outer Banks): her date for the night was collaborator Alysa Vanderheym, and throughout the night, she could be seen cheering on fellow nominees, staying hydrated thanks to the FIJI water bottles placed strategically on every table, and dancing with fellow pop star Taylor Swift (the two were particularly unmissable in the crowd during Miley Cyrus’ performance, seemingly having the the best time of anyone else in the entire arena). She may not have taken home the award, but there are certainly plenty more ceremonies in her future — and damnit, she had fun.
Here, we catch up with our former cover star ahead of the big night.
How are we feeling ahead of the show tomorrow?
I'm trying to feel neutral. I think that every other year that I've been nominated, in my brain I'm like, there's just zero chance when I look at the category. With Welcome Mat changing my life like it has, I just have an extra level of excitement around it.
How have all the pre-Grammys parties been? Are you having fun?
I did the Billboard event, which was super cool. And then I did the ASCAP brunch and then I've just been doing random stuff in between. My mom's here, so I've been hanging out with her. My best friend's here. Chase was here for a couple days, so I've just kind of snuck in real life in between.
Is Chase coming with you tomorrow?
I'm riding solo tomorrow; he is filming. Mom also brought her best friend, so they're making a girls’ night out of it. So they'll be in the stands somewhere and I'm sure we'll know exactly where they are. We’ll hear them.
I love this goth look you have for the show, especially to close this chapter.
That was unintentional, but it is. We're laying it to rest, finally.
Why did you decide to change the look from your original dress?
Honestly, it's because that dress is comfortable. When I'm anxious and it's a long night and there's things that are making me a little out of my comfort zone, being comfortable in my outfit really, really helps me. If I feel like the neck's too tight or the corset when I sit is cutting into my belly, I'm just going to be thinking about that all night.
What time does glam start tomorrow?
11:30 a.m. I'm nominated with Alysa Vanderheym, who I made the whole record with, just me and her. So in the morning she and I are going to have a self-care morning and go to a sauna and do an ice bath and do a breathwork session and get our heads in the game before we go into the chaos.
What is your pre-show food plan? The ceremony is at such a strange time for meals.
I do a big brunch and then I'll bone broth and juice. Then after the show, before the after party, that's when calories don't exist.
And what is the after-party look?
The after-party look is this two-piece Brandon Maxwell. It's sick. It's like a bodysuit with a low-rise skirt so you can kind of see the top of the bodysuit and a little hip pop out, which it's fun. I've never worn anything like it, again. But it's also very stretchy and very comfortable for my In-N-Out intake.
That’s also my plan, to In-N-Out between the ceremony and parties.
You're doing it right. You have to carb-load because you know it's a long night.
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