You've never seen The Real Housewives of Potomac cast member look like this before.
If there’s one thing you should know about Candiace Dillard Bassett, it’s that you could never possibly guess her next step. Since becoming a cast member on The Real Housewives of Potomac in Season 3, the Obama-era White House liaison-turned-Miss United States- turned-Bravolebrity has continued to prove that she's full of surprises, and her personal style is no exception.
To count down the final days until RHOP Season 5 (tune in Sunday, August 2 at 9/8c), Candiace is celebrating the show’s return with an incredible, high fashion photo shoot. For weeks, Candiace worked closely with a full team of Black creatives to create a series of show-stopping images, and shared the inspiration behind every detail exclusively with BravoTV.com. In typical Candiace fashion, each look is drastically different from the next. She even went out of her comfort zone and experimented with a brand new hair color and stripping all the way down.
While Candiace gives credit to her entire team, explaining that each professional contributed creatively in a different way, makeup artist and "secret jack of all trades" Kendell Dempster was the primary creative director: He glammed her up, made some of the clothing, and worked with Candiace to come up with the shoot’s concept.
“I didn’t just want to do a Housewives glamour shoot, because everybody’s seen that," said Candiace. "That’s been done. And I like to take risks.”
She and Dempster enlisted the help of New York-based hairstylist Troy "Troy Stylez" Turner and stylist duo Amber "Glam" Leon and Brian Goodwin, known professionally as A Guy and a Gurl.
“This is my favorite creative shoot, and it’s really because of the people that I worked with,” said Candiace. “I’m happy and really proud that I have such an amazing team to work around, that can deliver some bomb photography.”
Marked by Fierce Strength
This beautifully lavish outfit was created by Dempster, who constructed this gown specifically for Candiace.
“I’ve always wanted to do something with an African print,” Candiace explained. However, she did have some reservations about the look. “I wanted to be careful that we weren’t offending any group, so Kendell researched to make sure that we weren’t taking any tribes out of context with the markings that he put on my face."
Dempster also made the necklace and anklets. "He just tied it around my neck in that design. That was all him," said Candiace.
Throughout Dempster’s research, he found that white facial markings traditionally symbolize a number of significant life events, from fertility to marriage to coming of age. Overall, all of these meanings shared a common theme. “The premise of all the markings were about strength,” Dempster explained, which is why he ultimately decided to create the facial markings he did on Candiace's chin.
Candiace looks extremely powerful, but she revealed that this was actually the most difficult look to shoot. She was barefoot on Troy Stylez’s rooftop on a cold, windy day in Harlem—but you’d never guess by looking at these photos.
Pageant Glam with a Twist
This black sequin Edwing D'Angelo gown is certainly the closest Candiace got to her pageant past in the photoshoot, which is why she was cautious not to fall too closely to her former titleholder days.
"I’m taking a break from pageants right now, and I definitely find myself wanting to move away from the Pageant Patty look as I call it," Candiace revealed. “I try to show that hey, I can be edgy. I can be sexy without it feeling super formal.”
The team worked double time to vamp up the classic sequin gown that could have easily been reminiscent of Candiace’s reign as Miss United States without a few spicy edits. “We wanted the makeup to be very sultry, sexy, but still be really intense,” noted Dempster.
“You can never go wrong with a black sequin number. It exudes sex appeal, and then I loved it with the bob and Kendell did a really wet, bordeaux lip,” Candiace explained, noting that the “wet” look of the makeup really complemented the “liquid beading” style of the gown.
Dreamy Blonde Bombshell
Dempster says this moment was meant to be incredibly dreamy, and is intended to look as though “you’re looking through a champagne glass” (perhaps a nod to the opening credits of RHOP?). It also gives the world an entirely new Candiace, with a platinum blonde bob, designed by Akeesha "the Hair Diva" Edwards, and a bright red lip.
“It looks like me, but not really.” said Candiace. “It’s amazing the way that hair and hair color can just change the way that you see yourself and change your whole attitude. I turned into a different person. It was crazy.”
Trying something completely new certainly paid off. Besides getting incredible photos out of it, Candiace has gained some inspiration for her next everyday look.
“I do feel like after I wore that wig, I was more curious to see how I would feel about a lighter blonde wig, or a lighter blonde sew-in. I would definitely darken the roots. That all-blonde for me just to walk around in the world? I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “But it definitely opened my eyes and my bravery to trying lighter colors on my hair.”
Avant-Garde in the Bedroom
Inspired by an Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dempster designed this fabulous white blouse and black floor-length skirt for Candiace. No, those bold statement sleeves aren't so big because they're full of secrets. They're stuffed with horsehair!
The backdrop of this photo is actually Troy Stylez's bedroom, which the team lit up with red lights to create an unmistakable vibe.
"That shirt by itself is a complete moment. It's a complete showstopper," said Amber. "She almost stands there looking like a trophy."
Early Aughts Popstar
This early aughts popstar vibe shot was a last-minute decision. “It was so carefree, and I feel like it gave you girl next door,” said Amber. “This one was a little bit more of a chill kind of moment.”
Candiace revealed that the pink top is not actually a shirt, but simply a piece of material that Dempster brought to life.
“I just went ahead and wrapped the fabric around her,” he explained, noting that because the hair was such a statement, they made sure the makeup was a bit more subtle.
The result: “I felt like Christina Aguilera,” said Candiace.
Baring it All
This shoot marked Candiace's very first time posing nude. "I never thought I ever wanted to do it before,” she said.
Nudity wasn’t a planned part of the shoot, but Candiace was wearing a pair of no-line strapless underwear (which she swears by for concealing lines, by the way), which gave Amber from A Guy and a Gurl the idea to have Candiace pose without a stitch of clothing.
Troy Stylez then had the idea to make it a full-beauty shot. “Let’s just make it about face and hair,” he suggested. “That’s like, my signature. I love long hair. I’ve always done that very over-glam hair like that. That wind hair,” he said.
“It was fun! It’s liberating,” said Candiace. “The naked body... I feel like there’s this negative stigma attached to it as of late, because it’s over-sexualized and it’s seen as this negative thing. But when you strip away the sexuality, and just look at the naked body, there is nothing crass about it. It’s a naked body and everybody has one."
Photographer: Gerard Lynneil.