After the matches, the games, the training, blood, sweat, and tears, the world’s most talented and accomplished athletes congregate at the ESPY Awards to celebrate another year of spectacular achievement. Presented by ESPN, the ceremony recognizes individual and team achievement both on and off the court...or field. But for beauty lovers, the ESPYs mean one thing: the chance to see your favorite athletes (and assorted other celebrities) in full, show-stopping glam. Here, we’re rounding up the best 2021 ESPY Award beauty moments that deserve a trophy case of gold medals in their own right.
Star players arrived at the event in some of the most copy-worthy looks of the year, including delicate rhinestone touches, romantic lashes, attention-grabbing lipstick, and variations on upcoming hair trends you’re sure to start seeing everywhere now. The show itself was fast-paced and upbeat, with several well-deserved recognitions. A positive, celebratory environment that felt like a respite from the upcoming Olympics and its assorted troubling controversies, it was clear that the best-of-the-best players felt they could let their hair down (in some cases literally) for the evening. Scroll on for the evening’s best beauty looks, both from the athletes and various celebrities who popped up at the show and red carpet — and open up your Notes App, you’ll definitely want to jot down some inspiration.
Did you expect Naomi Osaka, the best tennis player (and coolest 23-year-old) in the world, to not arrive in something extraordinary? Of course not, especially considering what a huge night it was for the superstar player. She took home the award for Best Female Athlete overall as well as in her sporting category, giving the sweetest speech acknowledging the other athletes in attendance. Osaka’s hair and makeup both glistened, catching the stage lights for a radiant look. Top celebrity stylist Marty Harper gave Osaka the sleekest ponytail, powered by fleet of Sebastian hair products. Her face is framed by slicked, swoopy baby hairs that Harper speckled with glimmering, emerald rhinestones to complement her couture ensemble. “The high shine and pops of rhinestone were to embrace this star,” Harper explained of the look, a true glam grand slam.
The fastest woman in the U.S. is also one of the most glamorous — and ShaCarri Richardson famously never sacrifices one for the other. For the evening’s award show, the track star did a dialed-up version of her signature competition glam: Her fiery red hair was long, flat-ironed, and center-parted by sought-after hairstylist Nikki Nelms, who’s done some of Zoë Kravitz’s and Saweetie’s most gushed-over styles. Meanwhile, in addition to a set of long, adorned nails, Richardson’s dewy makeup featured an eye-framing set of fluttery lashes and a peachy-nude gloss that seemed utterly made for her. Against the backdrop of her light-reflecting metallic dress and industrial chain necklace, the entire look is a perfect marriage of sleek sophistication and modern edge.
Wrestling champ Bianca Belair said everything with her megawatt smile as she took home the ESPY for Best WWE moment which she shared with fellow winner Sasha Banks. Belair arrived at the show in a magnificent red sequined gown with Bardot sleeves and strategic cutouts that she actually made herself, accentuated with a romantic braid that gave way to flowing waves. Belair continued the dress’ glittery red theme with her lipstick, a bright and metallic blue-toned red covered in shimmer. Both hair and makeup were done by WWE artist Brittany Lammon, who deserves a belt for this knockout of a look.
Vampire Diaries actor Nina Dobrev was surprisingly starstruck herself in behind-the-scenes shots of her meeting and posing with her own favorite athletes like Naomi Osaka and ShaCarri Richardson. In a scarlet Versace column gown and neutral-glam makeup that played up her eyes, Dobrev surely drew more than a few gasps herself. Makeup artist Hung Vanngo gave Dobrev a brown-based, very wearable smoky eye with smudged liner and lots of lashes, while her straight hair, so glossy it was nearly reflective, came courtesy of stylist Danielle Priano.
TikTokker Dixie D’Amelio and sister Charli were present both at the awards on the red carpet, both opting for long-sleeved, jewel-encrusted mini dresses — but that’s where the similarities end. While Charli opted for neutrals, big sister Dixie experimented with a powder-blue cat eye with accentuating liquid liner, carefully painted on by renowned makeup artist Tobi Henney.