Usher Shows Us How He Preps for Fashion’s Super Bowl


Yesterday afternoon, Usher let us inside his suite at The Mark Hotel, where a crew of tailors, stylists, and groomers were helping him prep for his second Super Bowl of the year, The Met Gala. Following a fitting for an after party look, replete with Balenciaga shades and big bling, the R&B icon sat down for a manicure and an interview with our senior editor Taylore Scarabelli, who had a few questions about fandom, fashion, and life as a sex symbol.


TAYLORE SCARABELLI: I’m just going to start recording us, if that’s okay.

USHER: Of course. How’s your week been?

SCARABELLI: It’s been good. I went to the preview of the show at The Met today. There was some cool scent action going on.

USHER: Ah. It’s an activation of scents?

SCARABELLI: Yeah. Some stinky scents, some good scents. Dead flowers, dog sweat.

USHER: Really?

SCARABELLI: Yeah. It’s about bringing these ancient garments back to life. So they actually extract the smell of the wearer from 300 years ago.

USHER: That’s pretty intense. Fermented clothing?

SCARABELLI: [Laughs] Sort of. What’s your scent?

USHER: I’m still not clear what I’m going to wear. I’ve got three changes for the night. So I’ve just got to pick one that’ll work with everything. Maybe you can help me out. I’ll use your nose to gauge since you’re sensitive to smell.

SCARABELLI: I couldn’t stop smelling this weird installation.

USHER: You just were intrigued. You’re like one of those people that loves pimple popping and odd smells and shit like that.

SCARABELLI: Not necessarily.

USHER: I’m that kind of person.

SCARABELLI: Oh really?

USHER: Yeah. Some people are attracted to odd-smelling things or awkward things to look at.

SCARABELLI: Okay, you’ll have to check out the exhibit.

USHER: Yeah.  Why don’t you have a seat, I can get you a chair. Okay, there we go.

SCARABELLI: Are you doing your nails right now?

USHER: Yeah, yeah. Just come and sit over here.

SCARABELLI: Thank you. Usher, your fans are outside screaming. I can hear them from here.

USHER: [Laughs]

SCARABELLI: Have you ever had a really crazy fan experience, or are there just too many?

USHER: What would you consider crazy? Because my measure of crazy has obviously changed throughout the years. People do a lot of crazy things.


USHER: I don’t like to even give credence to it too much because it validates the thought that, “Oh, it got my attention.” So I’m very careful, especially when it comes to my children. There have been some really unfortunate things that fans have done that have been a bit scary.

SCARABELLI: Yeah, it’s wild when the idolization turns into something different where it’s a weird projection. You’re like, “Hey, I’m a person too.”

USHER: Yeah, I appreciate it because everybody wants to be celebrated and loved. But when it gets to the place of idolization like, “Oh my god, they’re crying for me.” I don’t know how I feel about that. 

SCARABELLI: But how do you feel about being a sex symbol?

USHER: That’s different. [Laughs]

SPEAKER 1: I’m sorry. Do you like it just a little shorter?

USHER: A little shorter. More natural. 

SPEAKER 1: Okay.

USHER: What were you saying?

SCARABELLI: We were talking about being a sex symbol.

USHER: Oh, yeah, that’s different. Sexy is a matter of fantasy. You know what I’m saying? There’s fan, and then there’s fantasy. Fan-to-see.

SCARABELLI: [Laughs] I also think being hot is also an identity that you adopt, right?

USHER: A persona, yeah.

SCARABELLI: It’s a decision.

USHER: A decision, an idea, a vibe, a mode that you set in, because you don’t start off sexy. You finally get to the place where you’re confident, and you exude a certain type of sexual energy that is able to make people feel some kind of way. 

SCARABELLI: So what about your look tonight? Is it sexy?

USHER: I think that there’s a bit of sexiness in everything. But I think romance is a better concept for what I have grown to go more towards. I want to romanticize the experience that you have because with romance, you remember how you felt. Like, “Wait a minute, I want a piece of that.” 

SCARABELLI: It’s more like storytelling.

USHER: Yeah. I’ve grown into that. I’m 45 years old. So when I was younger, I was more of a fisher. You know what I’m saying? Catch him and release them. [Laughs] I’ve become a little bit more romantic.

SCARABELLI: You’re a married man.

USHER: I’m a married man. But I’m still a curator and I’m very clear about what I want people to feel when they see what I do. Married or not, I still want you to be enchanted by what I have to offer.

SCARABELLI: So you did the Super Bowl this year. Tonight is the fashion Super Bowl.

USHER: Yeah.

SCARABELLI: What’s more nerve-wracking? The halftime performance, or walking The Met steps?

USHER: I think the preparation is about the same for everybody else. We just have to show up and make our offering and play. I don’t really look at it as pressure, I look at it as anticipation—what people will expect and how they’ll react to your choice. But everybody gets a moment on the field. Or in this case, everybody gets their moment to shine on the red carpet. These kinds of gatherings, you look forward to them. It’s a once-a-lifetime type experience.

SCARABELLI: And you take your preparation very seriously. The vibe in here when you were trying on your afters looks was very business.

USHER: Very much so.

SCARABELLI: When is it time to start relaxing? What are you drinking before dinner?

USHER: I haven’t drank anything yet. I will later. Right now I’m just thinking about every detail. So I’m a Baccarat guy, a Tiffany & Company guy. So I like fine glass around me. I’m the host that is more like Hugh Hefner, so do I have a nice little bourbon or something in a glass? I do. I’m thinking about every detail. 

SCARABELLI: It’s important. So what do you think about tonight’s theme?

USHER: When we first heard Garden of Time, it was like, how do you categorize that? I chose to really use my imagination. Me and Sean from Alexander McQueen was just like, it needs to have a bit of character. We talked about the idea of a forbidden rose, and I started thinking, believe it or not, of Uma Thurman and her role as Poison Ivy. I was like, “How do you begin to play around with ideas like that, but for a guy?”

SCARABELLI: Wait, can you show me what you’re wearing? Do you have a pic on your phone?

USHER: I’ll give you a sneak peek. So in his current collection, there were these acrylic flowers that I noticed and I was like, “I really want to play on that.” And I wanted to come up to the carpet in maybe a hat and a cape, something that just suggests that this is a character. 

SCARABELLI: So is this character a villain?

USHER: I think he has a dark side.


USHER: I don’t normally play in that space, but I was like, “This Alexander McQueen, why not?” You know what I’m saying?

SCARABELLI: Ooh, this looks beautiful.

USHER:  Yeah. I don’t want to give you everything—it’s a little dark, but it’s fun. 

SCARABELLI: The hat is great. It’s such a big moment for Sean right now, and it’s so cool for you to be showcasing him as he’s just starting in this major role.

USHER: I’ve always tried my hardest to pay attention to the young contemporary people coming up. I went with Bianca Saunders last year, so I was like, let me go at it again. It was a conversation between me and Anna [Wintour] about how to approach it. But we, at the last minute, decided that McQueen could be a good moment.

SCARABELLI: Do you and Anna get along well?

USHER: Very well. I’ll tell you this. I was originally going to be dressed by Pier Paolo [Piccioli] and Valentino because we did a lot of work for my residency. I wanted to romanticize the experience of Las Vegas. So obviously with him resigning there was a huge shift. I was like, “What am I going to do?” I called Anna, and one of her main suggestions was Sean. So after speaking with Sean, I felt like he got it, and his previous collection was interesting. I felt like I could help move him forward and maybe into a different direction, but also to support him having this moment. He was a bit more understated, and I was like, “You got to have the grand unveiling.” 

SCARABELLI: Absolutely.

USHER: So I just wanted to support his growth but also my silent ambition of being a designer myself. While I’m a mentor, I would love to be able to have the luxury of time that he has to really think about an entire seasonal unveiling, and give people my vision of how I see things, and then create something that I think is palatable for people to hopefully buy. The couture concept that everybody would want to have a piece of.

SCARABELLI: Is that something on the horizon?

USHER: I’ll get there one day. I’m in no rush. I’m kind of busy. I’m raising four children, nurturing the romance of marriage and keeping that romance hot. And then I go on tour. Just finished a residency, had the Super Bowl. A lot of things going on.

SCARABELLI: What do you do to relax and recharge when you’re so crazy busy all the time?

USHER: To be perfectly honest, I’ve grown accustomed to not. I’ve just lived my life trying to see the positive in things and challenging myself and everything around me to rise to its highest potential. 


USHER: I try to push everybody as much as I push myself. How do I relax when I’m home? I think I spend more time just looking for the seed of things that are of interest on Instagram to start me. That actually calms me down for the evening. Otherwise, I’m trying to take care of my body, what I eat. And I have a spa at my home in Atlanta, so I try to at least relax there.

SCARABELLI: You mentioned Instagram. The Gala tonight is sponsored by TikTok.

USHER: Yeah.

SCARABELLI: Do you go on TikTok?

USHER: Of course.

SCARABELLI: Are there any influencers or people that you follow?

USHER: This is interesting because there is a side of this that is a business and the side of this that is cultural, that you should pay attention to and participate in. And then there’s a side of it that is just to connect with your kids. And that’s part of the reason that I even got so deep into TikTok. It actually happened during the pandemic.


USHER: My kids wanted to make these TikTok videos. I’m like, “Why?” They’re like, “No, dad. You got to do this.” I’m like, “Alright, cool.” I started to invest a little bit of stock in what they were interested in.


USHER: And it made me begin to understand the idea of being rebranded in this space. Then I did Tiny Desk and people started memeing me with the, “Watch this,” and those things. And then it really picked after doing my show in Vegas, because I allow cameras in. It went viral, and it that began to create an entire series of TikTok fan engagement—long story short, that’s how I made my connection.

SCARABELLI: Yeah. You’ve got to do it to stay relevant.

USHER: You just try to figure out how to create something and then have people around who really do think that way. If you look at my click, you got everybody from the people who were there before, to new engineers, people who are trying to think of new ways of doing things, people who are 25 and under. We listening. We might not necessarily feel like everything that they’re saying is spot on, but we can teach each other. 


USHER: Thank god you here with your recorder and you are intrigued enough to try to help curate a story that lets people know what this experience is. And maybe it’ll make them dream. Maybe it’ll make them feel like one day, “I want to have that.”

SCARABELLI: Yeah. Me working for ancient print media, putting out a magazine six times a year. [Laughs]

USHER: Well, why not? Shit. It’s still valuable to me.

SCARABELLI: We got to do both.

USHER: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

SCARABELLI: How does it feel having cameras follow you around all the time?

USHER: They don’t. They’re just here because you’re here.


USHER: It’s cool. They disappear. I think I’m starting to think of it in the same way that athletes have to think of it. You just really have to focus on what you do and live in your truth. If anything, it’s an all-seeing eye that forces the truth out of you because you know somebody’s watching and analyzing. Would I act differently if that camera was here? No, I wouldn’t.

SCARABELLI: It makes you reflect on yourself like—

USHER: It makes you conscious of what you say. But you also have to be present. I’ve grown to respect it.

SCARABELLI: Yeah. But there must be a side of you that the camera doesn’t see.

USHER: At times.

SCARABELLI: The sexy side. [Laughs]

USHER: Tell me more. I’m listening.

SCARABELLI: I’m joking! Did you want to talk a bit more about the after party you’re throwing?


USHER: Okay. Four or five Mets ago there was just one party. You got Pharrell, Naomi Campbell, Puff. You got Pharrell, you have Serena and Venus. You had, I said Pharrell, right?


USHER: André Leon Tally, Anna Wintour—Oprah Winfrey happened to be there as well.


USHER: And I remember how incredible that one moment was, I’m just trying to curate something that’s intimate like that. That is an A-lister that people hear about, they want to come into. And I don’t know if this is something that I’ll repeat, but I was just following Anna’s idea, if it is Garden of Time, this is a secret garden. I’m romanticizing once again, going for the sexy.


USHER: But actually just an environment that would make her comfortable so much because Anna doesn’t go to any of the after parties.

SCARABELLI: Is she going to come to your party?

USHER: I hope so. She invited me to sit at her table again this year. 

SCARABELLI: And who are you going to wear for it?

USHER: Mugler. And Saint Laurent shoes.

SCARABELLI: And jewelry? We have to talk about the jewelry.

USHER: Jacob & Co.

SCARABELLI: You’ve got a whole tray of diamonds out there.

USHER: Rubies, actually.

SCARABELLI: Rubies. Gorgeous. Are you going to be able to dance in your Mugler suit at the afters tonight?

USHER: Is that an offer? You trying to get a dance out of me? I’m down.

SCARABELLI: Maybe. I got invited to the party.

USHER: You must be very special. It’s an A-list party…

SCARABELLI: We’ll see if I get in. [Laughs] Okay, last question. When is the best time to leave the after party?

USHER: Once I’m gone.