Tween Breakout Ariana Greenblatt on Working With a Stylist for the First Time Ever and Shopping for Vintage T-Shirts in Her Parents' Closets

"We're going to be doing a lot of my favorite designers, such as Fendi and Gucci," says the "The One and Only Ivan" and "In the Heights" actor.
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Ariana Greenblatt, styled by Zadrian Smith.

Ariana Greenblatt, styled by Zadrian Smith.

Despite an unprecedented stay-at-home summer, Ariana Greenblatt is having a pretty major one. 

For one, the middle schooler just began working with a stylist, Zadrian Smith (whose clients include Naomi Scott and Skai Jackson), in anticipation of the Disney + premiere of her latest movie, "The One and Only Ivan." In it, she plays Julia, alongside Bryan Cranston's mall zoo owner character, Mack. "The set was so big and extravagant," says Greenblatt, over the phone from Los Angeles. "There were so many amazing details on it."

Summer 2020 could have been even bigger for the now-12-year-old, who also plays a young Nina in the big-screen adaptation of Lin-Manual Miranda's "In the Heights." Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Washington Heights-set musical, helmed by Jon M. Chu ("Crazy Rich Asians"), was pushed to June 2021 (sob). 

Greenblatt recalls shooting her "In the Heights" scenes, supposedly set in a scorching New York summer. "Fun fact: When I was filming, it was still pretty chilly in New York," she says, excitedly. "I was wearing these little jumpsuits and they would say, 'Cut!' and I was like, 'OK, I need my hand-warmers. I'm really cold right now.'" 

After five years in the biz, Greenblatt is a consummate professional and happily abided by early call times to have her naturally straight hair curled to match Leslie Grace, who plays grown Nina. Of course, an hour is nothing compared to her three hours of hair and green prosthetic makeup to play a mini-Gamora in one of the biggest movies ever, Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War." (Zoe Saldana plays the adult Zehobereian character, originated in "Guardians of the Galaxy.") Plus, Greenblatt has her ways of staying entertained while sitting in the hair and makeup chair.

"I would listen to a bunch of music and literally just watch every step of what [the hair and makeup artists] were doing because I love learning from other people's jobs," says the bubbly, inquisitive tween."I was like, 'Oh my god, maybe I could learn to do prosthetics at home and dabble in that world.'"

Greenblatt — whose additional roles include Daphne in the Disney TV series "Stuck in the Middle" and the voice of Velma in "Scoob!" — has full slate of upcoming releases, including the Netflix sci-fi thriller, "Awake," alongside Gina Rodriguez. "When I film my movies, I try to find the cool local vintage stores and I go with my co-workers. When I was filming 'Awake' in Toronto, I went with Gina, her cousin Josie and my set teacher Trish and we went to this super cool thrift store [in Kensington] and we got a bunch of vintage shirts," she says.

But first, leading up to "The One and Only Ivan" premiere on Friday, Aug. 21, Greenblatt and new stylist Smith have been hard at work for all the virtual press moments, plus planning a virtual family watch party. 

"He's amazing. I love him so much. I'm very lucky and happy to have him," she says. "We're going to be doing a lot of my favorite designers, such as FendiGucci and Red Valentino. I've been trying to come up with ideas and silhouettes that I want to wear."

Yes, along with being an entertainment industry pro, Greenblatt also knows her fashion, which she'll discuss below, along with her style icons from a range of decades, her thoughts on the Met Gala and her best quarantine finds from shopping her parents' closets. 

Greenblatt in Fendi, styled by Smith.

Greenblatt in Fendi, styled by Smith.

How would you describe your personal style?

'Rock glam.' I like the early-2000s look, the 'Clueless' stuff and all that. I love, love, love hair and makeup, so I definitely been trying that glam look where I have a cool suit and rock T-shirts and my hair is super glam. But casual on a normal basis. I love to be comfortable.

What are the most memorable style and beauty tips you've taken from your projects?

For every job I do, I try to learn as much as I possibly can with the opportunity. So even if I have the simplest hair and makeup, I'll always ask the [artists], 'What are your favorite products to use? If you were on a deserted island, what three makeup products would you bring?'

Also for every project I do — I don't know if this is supposed to be right, but — at the end of filming, I would take a couple pieces of clothing that I felt were super cool and really special to the character. For 'The One and Only Ivan,' I'm pretty sure I took a couple T-shirts that [my character] wore just because I needed to have them. It's a sentimental moment. It's in London. My one time only and just an incredible experience.

You've done contemporary and fantasy sci-fi movies; what period costumes would you love to try for a future project?

I'd want to do the time period when Audrey Hepburn did 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' Because I love her aesthetic and I love all the costumes that they wore. She's my favorite old-fashioned actress. She's very inspiring and I love her.

Who do you look to for style, hair and makeup inspiration?

I love Zendaya. She's definitely a style icon for me. She's super cool and very good at combining masculinity and femininity into her costumes and wardrobe. I love Selena Gomez, as well, and obviously Audrey Hepburn. 

I have so many I love — and awards shows! I try to look at as many award shows and red carpets that come up. 'I love that silhouette.' 'I love that texture of that dress.' 'I love the hair and makeup.' Of course, I'm obsessed with the Met Gala.

[Right now, I like] looking at magazines and going online and looking at celebrities and seeing what they're wearing at home. Because, obviously, a lot of people aren't going to the Met Galas and all these awards shows.

What have been your favorite Met Gala moments?

Oh my god, there are so many! I love the Camp moment. Everyone was in incredible outfits, like Lady Gaga — I mean, it was incredible. I loved when [for the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination-themed gala in 2018] Ariana Grande pulled up in an amazing curtain-esque [Vera Wang] dress with a pattern. Oh! And Rihanna's gold dress [by Guo Pei in 2015]. That's iconic.

If we had a Met Gala this year — the theme had something to do with 'time' — what would you want to wear?

I would do something with a clock. A cool silhouette with a clock pattern... I don't know, I'd have to do a lot of brainstorming to come up with an incredible, iconic Met Gala dress, but maybe like a very cool watch or something.

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I guess we can experiment for fun at home right now. How are you keeping yourself entertained style, hair and makeup-wise during lockdown?

What's fun during quarantine is that I've acquired a lot of my mom's and dad's vintage rock T-shirts and their accessories, which I thought was amazing. I love vintage things, so when they pulled out all this stuff, I'm like, 'No way, can I have these? That's incredible.' So that's something new that I got for my fashion wardrobe. 

Greenblatt in her parent's Bob Marley t-shirt.

Greenblatt in her parent's Bob Marley t-shirt.

I also love vintage T-shirts, so I need to know which ones you got from your parents.

I got a Led Zeppelin one. I got Rolling Stones. I got Bob Marley, which is definitely really cool — I love Bob Marley. Jane's Addiction, which I posted on my Instagram. All of them are mostly from the '70s, like the Led Zeppelin one. Really cool pieces that I got and I never thought I could use. [My parents] were like, 'I wore that when I was your age' and I'm like, 'No way, that's so cool.'

How are you wearing them and making it your own style?

I love wearing T-shirts with super baggy jeans. So I tuck them in with baggy jeans or sometimes if they're super-oversized, I wear like biker shirts underneath it. Trying to make it that modern look with the biker shorts. 

I look at old pictures and videos of my mom and the way she would wear her outfits. Because she was very, very up to par when her time was happening. She's very, very inspirational when it comes to fashion she was so cool and I love her for that and it was the '90s.

Does your mom still have a lot of her old stuff that you can borrow or take?

Yeah, she has a lot of jeans she just recently gave me, which is really cool because they're the low-rise jeans and bell-bottom jeans that are coming back. She told me that the jeans are from Italy and I'm like, 'No way!' All these things she was giving me have a story, like Italy and Japan. She traveled to get these jeans and I love the story behind it. Definitely sentimental and cool. Something that I can also give my kids when I'm older and keep it going. It's going to be very vintage soon, but yeah, I love when they have a story behind them because it's so cool to see what my parents wore when they were my age.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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