An Austin designer has once again put some sparkle on a groundbreaking image of an iconic Texas artist.
Nina Berenato, a local jeweler and goldsmith, made a splash in pop culture in 2019 when a gold face ornament she made was featured in Beyoncé’s “Spirit” music video.
“I was just dying,” Berenato told the American statesman that summer of the blingy cameo. She also created custom looks for “Good as Hell” performer Lizzo, another musical hero from Houston.
Now, another Houston music superstar is shining a little Austin spark: Beyoncé collaborator Megan Thee Stallion. This week, the Grammy-winning rapper became one of the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover models. In looks curated by acclaimed stylist Eric Archibald, Megan wears hand-crafted rings by Berenato.
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The images were unveiled on Monday. The issue goes on sale July 22. Sports Illustrated also chose tennis player Naomi Osaka and model Leyna Bloom for the covers of the swimsuit edition.
After making his professional debut in New York City, Berenato first moved to Austin in 2015 and began creating jewelry pop-ups in a boutique trailer. These days, designer Nina Berenato’s flagship jewelry store is located at Domain Northside in North Austin.
Berenato learned in April that the rapper and her creative team potentially wanted to use the jewelry, she told the Statesman on Tuesday. The designer was busy helping her brother move from Lubbock to Austin at the time, so she was late on emails. When she had a chance to catch up, she saw several unread messages with Megan Thee Stallion’s name in the subject line.
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“Thank goodness they kept writing to me,” says Berenato. “Immediately I said to myself: ‘Yes! “”
The team needed the jewelry the next day – “Every time I do something awesome like this it’s on the craziest schedule,” says Berenato – so she packed a box with almost every style of its range, about 200 pieces, and spent the night in Miami.
Berenato was also excited to be part of a new direction for Sports Illustrated. They featured the selection of the three women on this year’s covers as social change agents who also represent standards of beauty historically not underscored by the magazine. The cover models are also firsts for the swimwear issue. Megan is the first rapper on the cover; Osaka is the first black female athlete; and Bloom is the first transgender woman.
“Megan Thee Stallion doesn’t stay in one lane. In fact, she encourages everyone to be multiple, and that’s what we love about her, ”Sports Illustrated editor-in-chief MJ Day said in a statement. “She caught the world’s attention with her music and her style, but what caught our attention was her unfiltered approach to how she makes you think. She uses her platform to push boundaries, dissect societal norms, and encourage humans to think about how our society continues to function.
Berenato tried to manage his enthusiasm at the very thought of being considered, as well as the enthusiasm of his staff. She knew Sports Illustrated usually doesn’t showcase jewelry in swimsuit photoshoots, and “my stuff is huge,” she said. The jeweler only learned that his pieces had been used after the fact, or even got to see glimpses.
Once it was official, “we were counting down,” Berenato said of the wait for Monday’s big reveal. She got out of bed and started refreshing Instagram at 6am: “I was getting horny.”
Megan wears four separate rings from the Austin company’s line in the photos, all in white gold, Berenato says. She also wears the rings in a video interview with Tyra Banks posted as part of the cover rollout, the designer adds.
All of the pieces used in the shoot – the Ladder Ring, the Mountain Ring, the Shard Ring, and the Sacred Path Ring – are staple items in Berenato’s collection, “pieces that are super specials for me that have remained in the collection, ”she says. And they’re all still available for purchase.
“I was really excited because these are pieces that a lot of people have, especially a lot of girls in Texas,” she says. “I have people who write to me like ‘I have this ring! Me and Megan Thee Stallion have the same ring! ‘ It was pretty cool.
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Berenato is not 100% sure how his pieces caught the attention of the creative team. Her line has been around for about 12 years and she works regularly with celebrity stylists, including Archibald. She wonders if the choice to use props from one Texan manufacturer for the revolutionary shoot of another Texan was intentional.
“Honestly, I was really shocked,” says Berenato. “I wouldn’t have thought I would have gotten this particular job.” Although her pieces are trendy, they are ready to wear: “My rings cost $ 70,” she says.
With her photos of her rings now being circulated around the world, Berenato feels relieved and proud of herself, her team and her latest model.
“I’m really proud of Meg Thee Stallion, honestly,” she said. “She looks amazing. It is totally revolutionary. They haven’t had a lot of black women on the cover of Sports Illustrated, period, especially someone who is so outspoken and individualized, and who has done so much for women.
She is also inspired by the public aplomb of hitmaker “Savage” in the face of immense challenges, such as the deaths of her mother and grandmother, as well as a high-profile shootout last year that injured her. . (Rapper Tory Lanez was indicted in the incident but has pleaded not guilty; the case is ongoing.)
During her performance “Saturday Night Live” in October, Megan demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in her own home by police in Louisville, Kentucky. “We have to protect our black women and love our black women because at the end of the day we need our black women,” the rapper said on stage. That same month, she wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, titled “Why I Speak For Black Women.”
“Of all the people who have reached the top like that, she has done it with a lot of grace, in my opinion,” says Berenato. “… Each time, she uses it as a way to bring more positive and good things to the community.
“Not to mention the body positivity. She’s got girls here who shake their butt like never before.