ou should absolutely meet your hero if your hero happens to be Aidy Bryant. The comedian’s giggles eviscerated the digital distance innate to Zoom calls as we chatted about finding her sense of style, what being a plus-size icon means, and how dressing as other people for a decade shaped how she sees herself.
The Saturday Night Live writer, performer, and my personal favorite Ted Cruz impersonator, has left the show after ten years and a staggering 203 episodes. Bryant has been on my mind since I watched her rap about “her big fat ass” to Chris Pratt in 2014. Her presence on SNL gave me something I’d never seen before: a plus size star portraying anyone and everything.
During her tenure on SNL, Bryant was able to exist outside the Hollywood trope of being the plus-size punchline, and instead wrote the roles she saw herself playing, ranging from a hen madly in love with Ryan Gosling to Mother Earth to a latex-clad Glitter Revolution pop star (the latter being her favorite of the three looks). When she started on the iconic live sketch show, Bryant was 25 and (in her words) “very, very broke,” wearing ASOS dresses that she would cut herself (and which she cringingly admits were 100% worn on air), a far cry from the indie designer wares she wore in the last few seasons, and the Simone Rocha or Naya Rea dresses she’s often seen wearing on the red carpet. Partly due to a personal style evolution and partly because of the harsh realities of where plus-size fashion was just ten years ago, Bryant has transformed before our eyes. Below, we discussed this change, her favorite characters, and more.
Vogue: When you first joined the cast of SNL what was your style like, and how has it evolved over the last ten years?
Aidy Bryant: My style when I first joined the cast was truly whatever I could make work. I did a lot of thrifting and a lot of cobbling together things to create something that felt like my style. Now, I feel less chained to early ideas I had about proportion or showing my waist. I feel more open to different silhouettes instead of being boxed in by the word “flattering.”
SNL is home to such a legendary costume department. What was it like to, on the one hand, be able to wear literally anything you could imagine while simultaneously being faced with the non-existent fashion options for plus-size people, especially in 2012.
When I got hired at the show, I had never been on camera and had never been styled or dressed, like, by anyone other than myself. What the wardrobe department really showed me was the huge power in having clothes that fit you comfortably. It blew my mind. They would do these fantastical things like buy two Marc Jacobs size 12s, and then combine them by creating a panel in the side so that all of a sudden I got to wear a fashion dress, but in a way that fit my body comfortably. I couldn’t believe how luxurious that was and to have them fit it to my every curve. It was life altering, literally. And what was devastating was being asked, “Oh my God, where could I get that dress?” and I’d have to reply, “It actually doesn’t exist. And it was Frankenstein-glued together.”
The two head costume designers Tom Broecker and Eric Justian, along with Dale Richards, who runs the creation department, and his incredible team, especially Sam Bennett, made almost everything I wore on the show for the last 10 years. They never batted an eye at it or made me feel bad for all the extra work they had to do to put me on TV, looking like everybody else.
They literally changed my life. They showed me what was possible and for the first time got me to ask the question, “What do you want to wear” as opposed to just taking what was possible and then pairing it with a belt to try and make it better.
As both a writer and a performer, you have this unique ability with SNL to cast yourself as literally anyone doing anything, being anyone. What has that felt like in an era where plus-size actors are so often stereotyped into caricatures of fat people?
When I was younger (university and even high school), auditioning for things it felt like, “God, this is so limiting,” because no matter if it was a play or a commercial that I auditioned for, they really could only see you one way. And that was not how I saw myself or saw what I was capable of as a performer or a writer. That’s really why I fell into improv and sketch because I can control my own destiny here and write to my own strengths or write to challenge myself.
Let’s talk about the incredible horniness of a lot of your characters. In the last two years there’s been a pretty big shift in some of those characters. I’m thinking specifically of Aidy B and Aidy Bizzo. You went from lusting after hot dads as tween in the Crushing on Dad recurring sketches to you being an empowered sexual badass bitch. Was that intentional?
So much of how you’re cast, even within SNL, is writers write you in a sketch, and that’s the role you’re playing. It’s almost like you want to teach them new things that you can do. And so I would write these other ways of seeing myself beyond just cute, nice woman.
People were shocked to see me do that. And then I think it became a little more normal, and I got to find a different gear. So instead of it being a punchline that I am a sexual being, it’s more about the content of exploration of that sexuality.
In both Aidy B and Aidy Bizzo you’re playing yourself, and both of those sketches start with you contemplating your own power.
I used to have a sense of self that was very nice, non-imposing, and barely wanted anyone to notice that I exist. And through years of therapy, through performing, through my friends and family, I’ve found a real peace and confidence, and I think things that I’ve been able to bring into my writing and performing that flex who I really am. And I think a lot of times the clothes were the armor for doing that.
If you could only wear one costume from SNL for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I really love the trend forecaster’s costumes. I love that little stupid hat, and the little bow, and the blonde wig. I am always trying to be blonde on SNL. That costume or a Mrs. Claus costume from years ago because it was beautifully made with antique lace.
What is the most uncomfortable costume you wore on SNL?
Anytime I had to wear anything like “a whore’s corset” or when we did sexy music videos because I’d be wearing a super high heel and a really tight bra, and then add fishnets and jewelry, and it was just so much stuff.
It’s the opposite of how I want to dress. Whenever I’m dressing myself I just wanna be comfortable. I want a pocket, and I don’t want to have to wear a harsh bra.
Did you ever see costumes or the people that you played bleed over into your personal life?
It’s a really fun experience to put on clothes you would never choose. It’s also scary, but I think it forces you to get out of your own made up parameters. Showing more of my body was something that I felt more comfortable trying in character, but then started doing it in my own life because I had the chance to realize, “What’s the big deal?”
Also, wearing suits. Prior to SNL, I had never worn a suit, and now I love them.
Did the SNL wardrobe team ever pull from your wardrobe? How did your style influence the characters you wrote?
I feel like my first couple years on the show, I was really in a cardigan phase, and that was also happening on screen. More recently, I feel like a lot of my more mom or modern characters were wearing Rachel Comey boots or Wray dresses, which is definitely a crossover from my closet.
As a plus-size person, it almost felt like Easter eggs to see you wearing things that I either could own or had hanging in my closet.
A hundred percent. It used to be that like almost nothing I wore was off the rack, and in these last couple years the majority of the pieces I wore could be off the rack.
In the last few years, especially after Shrill, you’ve become a plus-size icon. Is that a responsibility you feel, and if so how do you handle that added expectation, especially when there are so few plus-size celebrities for people to look up too?
I feel like growing up, I was so conscious of Rosie O’Donnell and Queen Latifah. They were such touchstones for me. So I do think there’s pressure there, and it’s a little scary—I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I know how painful it can be. I try to be as conscious as I can, but I also try to give myself the freedom to do what’s right for me too.
I say no to a lot of parts that I get offered, because the context of the role changes because of the body that I’m in. And so it might just be a story about a girl who doesn’t date a lot, but now it’s a fat woman who doesn’t date a lot, and I’m not gonna do that.
I’m still trying to find the balance of thinking about it and not thinking about it, and not letting it define every decision I make. I also am so grateful and really touched by people who reach out and say it’s meaningful for them. Because I know it would’ve been for me too.