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Critics Choice Awards: Maria Bakalova Wears Custom Balmain


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Maria Bakalova has been in the mood to change up her style since her awards-season run last year, when she was Oscar-nominated for best supporting actress for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

“We put together a lot of fairytale looks that felt elegant and timeless,” Bakalova says of her collaboration with stylist Jessica Paster. “But after all those princess gowns, I’m ready for something that’s both chic and a little edgy. It’s time for me to grow up a little bit, I think.”

That thought process resulted in the look Bakalova is wearing at tonight’s Critics Choice Awards, a long-sleeved crop top with off-the-shoulder neckline and long skirt, both embroidered in black crystals, by Olivier Rousteing for Balmain.

“Coming out of last year’s Academy Awards run, we just decided to explore and have fun,” says Paster, who also counts Olivia Munn and This Is Us‘s Chrissy Metz among her clients. “Maria is really poised, and there’s this sort of quietness about her, but she’s also this great girl who’s really into street style. She’d rather wear a Louis Vuitton sneaker than a high heel any day.”

Paster asked Rousteing late last year if he would design something for Bakalova, and the opening look of his Spring/Summer 2022 collection, while decidedly more revealing, proved to be the perfect jumping-off point. “What I love about Olivier is that he is his brand; he is Balmain,” Paster says. “He is youthful with incredible taste, and I just wanted something that was sensual and sexy, yet chic, and he gave that to us.”

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Maria Bakalova

Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association

Adds Bakalova, “It’s fitted and with long sleeves, but with a beautiful open neck and bare shoulders. I believe a woman’s neck and shoulders are the most beautiful part of her body, so I’m thrilled with the way this came together.” Bakalova spoke with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the awards show on Saturday, March 12,  while she was in Austin, Texas, for SXSW, where she was participating in the screening of two films, Women Do Cry and Bodies Bodies Bodies, as well as the premiere of the trailer for Judd Apatow’s The Bubble, with co-stars that include Benedict Cumberbatch, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Mann.

Paster completed the actress’ Critics Choice look with diamond jewelry by Kyoto-based Niwaka, Jimmy Choo shoes and a Bulgari Serpenti clutch.

“Last year I enjoyed feeling like a princess,” Bakalova says. “Now I want to feel like a queen.”

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Balmain sketch for Maria Bakalova.


The 2021 Critics Choice winner for best supporting actress, the Bulgaria-born actress has known since November that she would be a presenter at tonight’s ceremony, but the event — postponed from January due to the COVID-19 pandemic — takes a deeper meaning for her, she says, in the days since Vladimir Putin’s Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. With that in mind, her moment onstage will include a brief tribute to Ukraine. “As artists we should use our platform to speak about global situations,” says Bakalova, who was born in Bulgaria. “I’m Eastern European, so I feel this very deeply. It’s important to share our support and our admiration of the bravery of the Ukrainian people.”

Adds Paster, “Maria should talk about this; she is a very thoughtful and intelligent young woman and really does her homework. I’ve always been very collaborative with my clients, but there’s something really special about Maria. She’s like my little sister, so when I say she can do anything, believe it.”

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