Ziwe may have made a name for herself by putting her interviewees on the spot with uncomfortably pointed questions—first on her highly watched Instagram lives, and later on her eponymous Showtime talk show, which ran for two seasons from 2021-22—but during her rise as an Internet favorite personality, she’s also become known for a bold fashion sense.
From the start, Ziwe has spoken through fashion as much as through her one-liners. While asking her guests questions like, “How many Black friends do you have?” at the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests (a question that lends itself to the name of her new hilarious book of essays, Black Friend, out now via Abrams), Ziwe might wear latex, opera-length gloves paired with an Adidas tube top; or a hot pink top with matching puffy headband.
She’s also a regular presence at fashion week, walking for designers like Mugler, popping up front row at shows like Loewe and Miu Miu, and appearing on the carpet of events like the CFDA Awards and the Victoria’s Secret revival (or seated next to bestie Emily Ratajkowski at the U.S. Open). Below, Ziwe tells us about her very tactile approach to personal style:
When did fashion first become important to you?
Probably when I laid eyes on Lizzie McGuire, and saw the fits that she was absolutely getting off with her platform sandals. I dressed like Hilary Banks from Fresh Prince as a child.
How would you describe your approach to getting dressed now?
Color is king for me. I love to wear bright colors, it makes me feel better about everything. I also am really tactile. If it’s a marabou or, like, a velvet, I’m really attracted to it. Because I identify as a baby—I need to touch myself during the day to feel alive.
As far as brands, it’s about getting off something special, unique, and bespoke. I like to mix and match brands when I’m wearing them.
What’s the most prized possession in your closet?
My furry hats. I love a hat. Actually, I lost my furry Emma Brewin hat. Someone stole it in the TSA line and I wanted to scream, but that would’ve caused a national incident.
I’m sad about it. I have them in other colors, but that was the first one I ever got.
What was your first major fashion purchase?
For my book tour, I’m wearing this head-to-toe, cow print, cow hide, pink Fendi look. I acquired those pieces separately. I love a good vintage find. I found the pink Fendi jacket, and then I found the pants. The pants didn’t fit—they were too small. They’re made for a small child. I got them tailored to expand. That’s one of my favorite looks of all time, because I sourced everything by myself.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop?
Vintage, whether it’s What Goes Around Comes Around, Aralda Vintage, Studded Petals, or Lovers Lane, the one in London.
Is there anything currently on your shopping wishlist?
That’s a great question, because if I want it, I’ll get it. But I don’t believe impulse buys, so I have to look at something for at least a week before I commit to it. I haven’t found anything this week, but who’s to know? It’s still afternoon.
Who is your ultimate style icon?
Zendaya is my style icon. She has fantastic, impeccable style. I think she’s able to pull creatively from archives, while also wearing something that’s new and fresh.
Do you work with a stylist or do you style yourself?
It depends on the event. For a bunch of my book tour stuff, I worked with Georgia Medley. The costume designer on my show is Pam Shepherd—we’ve worked together a lot. But other times I’ll pull on my own, because I like to browse online. The look I wore at the U.S. Open—that was this yellow jacket with yellow hot shorts—was something I pulled.
What is your style pet peeve?
Comfort is really important to me. I remembered Emily [Ratajkowski] and I were going to a party on Oscars night, and I very much convinced her to take off her heels and wear comfortable shoes so we could dance all night. I really love comfort. That is my priority. Something can be fashionable and comfortable at the same time.
Do you have any fashion regrets?
No. I regret nothing. Even the outfits that I think were flops, there’s something that you could point to—maybe it’s a funny little beret. I have a sense of humor about my best and my worst outfits, because fashion is in conversation with itself. Some flops today might be hot in 10 years. You never know.
Do you have a daily uniform?
Right now, I’m on tour. I’m doing 18 different shows in the span of two and a half weeks, so I’m wearing my merch, literally, because I’m not checking a bag. The Ziwe sweatshirt with some cool boots, or the Ziwe tour shirt with some cool pants, matching that with a blazer moment or a bucket hat. That’s my uniform right now. But it depends on where I am in the country. Obviously, you dress for New York differently than you dress for L.A. or Miami.
What is the best fashion advice that you’ve ever received?
Be yourself and have fun. Which is annoying, because blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it before. But the older I get, the more I realize that my perspective is valuable, and it’s the only thing I can constantly rely on. With fashion, I try to entertain the younger version of myself that would’ve dreamed to have marabou cuffs and a marabou collar. As an adult, maybe that’s a little extra. But as a kid, I would’ve lived for that Fran Drescher in The Nanny moment.