An explosive performer who spent over six decades in the spotlight, Tina Turner had an immeasurable effect on pop culture. She established enduring signatures over the course of her shape-shifting and self-determined career, including, but certainly not limited to, inventive wigs, knockout dance numbers, and a voice overflowing with soul. But perhaps the greatest encapsulation of Turner’s diva-dom was her wardrobe, which included leg-baring pieces crafted by Bob Mackie, Azzedine Alaïa, Versace, and, at times, Turner herself. Turner, who died last month at the age of 83, was a style maven even in the last stages of her life—in April 2018 she attended the premiere of a jukebox musical based on her life in a dazzling semisheer crystal number. In a new “Life in Looks” video, Vogue.com editor Chioma Nnadi walks through some of the most memorable looks that the “What’s Love Got To Do With It” singer wore over the course of her life.
Turner’s enthusiastic and experimental play with fashion first began as one half of Ike and Tina Turner. A photograph, taken in 1964, captures the star shortly after a performance at the Skyliner Ballroom, wearing a knee-length shift dress that was likely picked out by her husband, Ike Turner. In later years, Turner would reveal this period of her life was particularly troubled—she accused Ike of physical and emotional abuse and controlling almost every facet of her career and image. “You saw her come out of her relationship with Ike as this very empowered woman who is completely at ease with showing skin,” Nnadi says in the video.
A little over a decade later, we’d see Turner on her own terms. She appeared on The Cher Show in 1975 wearing a Vegas-flavored, high-slit sequin dress designed by Bob Mackie. The outfit was the burgeoning start of what would prove to be an iconic designer-superstar relationship over the years. “Bob was really intentional about how he paired them,” Nnadi explains. “He understood that Tina needed to show her legs and you can see how he highlighted Cher’s abs.”
A little known fact: In the 1970s, Turner made a regular practice of buying off-the-rack dresses in Paris and, later, slicing-and-dicing them into stage-ready looks in collaboration with Mackie. The practice was one borne of necessity. “Because she actually, at that time, didn’t have the money to commission original pieces,” Nnadi says.
A rep for the org says, “It was an extraordinary privilege to celebrate the life and legacy of Ms. Tina Turner at BET Awards 2023. Having the incomparable Ms. Patti LaBelle on our stage honoring one of her contemporaries was an equal privilege.”
They tried covering for her, adding “Due to the crowd’s enthusiasm, the teleprompter was obstructed, obscuring Ms. LaBelle’s view of the lyrics. Nonetheless, we couldn’t be more grateful to Ms. LaBelle for lending her incredible talent to this moment.”
A spokesperson for BET confirmed LaBelle’s view was obstructed in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “Having the incomparable Ms. Patti LaBelle on our stage honoring one of her contemporaries was an equal privilege. Due to the crowd’s enthusiasm, the teleprompter was obstructed, obscuring Ms. LaBelle’s view of the lyrics. Nonetheless, we couldn’t be more grateful to Ms. LaBelle for lending her incredible talent to this moment.”
LaBelle finished strong, saying at the end of her performance, “God bless you, Tina Turner!”
On “Good Morning America” Monday, LaBelle was a guest to promote her appearance on ABC’s sitcom “The Wonder Years.” Cut to one of Turner’s most famous and oft-replicated looks: The cover for her 1984 album Private Dancer. Turner’s aesthetic here, in many ways, became synonymous with the decade’s fashion—a large, backcombed wig that seemed to have a life of its own, übershort dresses, and classic black heels. “She wore them because they were comfortable,” Nnadi explains of Turner’s penchant for shoe practicality. From here, Turner started having a closer relationship with designers making custom looks. When Gianni and Donatella Versace designed a micro minidress, she had one piece of feedback: “Make it shorter.”
While she didn’t address the mishap, she told “GMA” anchor Michael Strahan what that performance meant to her.
“I was so blessed to be asked to honor Tina Turner because that’s my friend from back in the day. Such a wonderful woman who’s done everything and so many people admire her. When I did it last night, I was proud, honey. I felt really great,” LaBelle said.
She continued, “It was always a great feeling being with her and just watching her go from where she started, which was not so pleasant, to where she ended up as a super, super woman. I’m just in awe of Tina Turner.”
However, LaBelle was able to jump back into the melody, singing out the chorus alongside her background singers and completing her tribute.
After her performance, a BET spokesperson shared a statement about the onstage hiccup, telling The Hollywood Reporter that it was “an extraordinary privilege to celebrate the life and legacy of Ms. Tina Turner.”
“Having the incomparable Ms. Patti LaBelle on our stage honoring one of her contemporaries was an equal privilege,” the statement continued. “Due to the crowd’s enthusiasm, the teleprompter was obstructed, obscuring Ms. LaBelle’s view of the lyrics. Nonetheless, we couldn’t be more grateful to Ms. LaBelle for lending her incredible talent to this moment.”
But as the song moved along, LaBelle, 79, made it clear that she was experiencing issues with reading the lyrics from the teleprompter, singing to the crowd during an improvised moment, “What if I can’t see the words, I don’t know. I’m trying y’all.”
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