Lira’s ‘Marilyn’ moment with President Obama

2013-01-20 10:00

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The singer, nominated for a BET Award last year, performs in US tomorrow.

Here it is! The dress to wow the US president and woo the international crowd at his inaugural ball.

South Africa’s star singer Lira showed City Press the haute couture gown she will don at her much-anticipated performance with dance music trio Mi Casa at one of the inaugural balls being thrown to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration tomorrow.

The dress, an off-shoulder, body-hugging sequined cheetah print by David Tlale, weighs a whopping 8kg.

There are elements of Chantilly lace, Swarovski crystals and a feather to create some drama. One arm is embellished with strands of beads and chains blended with gun metal.

“I’m very excited. I think we managed to capture the African royalty look. I look undeniably African,” said the star.

Lira, who was nominated for a BET Award in the US last year, said she gave the designer free rein.

The gown, a throwback to the slinky one worn by Miriam Makeba for the Live at Bern’s Salonger 1966 concert in Sweden, couldn’t have been more appropriate.

“I will also be paying homage to Miriam Makeba by singing Pata Pata, and I hope to pick my moment in history with this event.”

She says the initial plan was to go for a normal African print but it seemed “typical” so Tlale changed his mind at the last minute.

About her appearance on the US stage, Lira says it’s a defining moment. “There’s an article out today (Friday) in a Spanish newspaper that said ‘African singer claims her Marilyn moment with the president’, so it’s huge and I see it’s being compared to different things.

“I think once I get there I will absorb the gravity of what this is. At the moment it has just been about preparation and trying to put on the best show I possibly can. I want to be remembered and make a statement.”

If she happens to meet the president, Lira says she has a plan to break the ice. “I know what they called him in high school, so I’ll use that little comment to make him laugh and hopefully we’ll have a human conversation.”

Tlale says the dress screams “couture, luxury, royalty”.

“When you see it against the light it’s beautiful. I love the fabric. I wanted to keep it simple but chic because we are talking to the world and not just to Africa. This comes just after she performed at the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations yesterday.

“We have an African star going to perform for the Obamas and it’s like, how big can you go beyond that? As a designer I didn’t want to try too hard. She is from South Africa, that we know, but

South Africa has evolved and fashion is being watched in a global space, thus the design lines we took to create her piece.”

Tlale says he has worked with Lira for years but they have become closer since last year. “We are starting to understand who she is and embracing her as a brand, making sure she is comfortable in what we make for her. She’s so graceful and carries this dress well.”

»?Meanwhile, Nadia Neophytou reports that the official inauguration date is January 20, but because the day falls on a Sunday this year, the public swearing-in ceremony will take place tomorrow, with a smaller private one taking place in the White House parlour today.

During the public swearing-in ceremony, Obama is expected to kiss two bibles – one that used to belong to Abraham Lincoln, the other to Martin Luther King Jr. This is because he believes that when he takes the oath, he’ll be standing in the footsteps of the two American giants.

The inaugural ball and the inaugural parade have all become traditions that new presidents continue to follow. However, Obama has cut the number of inauguration balls lower than any president since 1953, organisers said, to reflect tough economic times and minimise the burden on law enforcement officials.

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