Jen Su with Sinitta and her mother.

For media personalities like Jen Su and Bonang Matheba, who recently flew over to London for the Global Gift Nelson Mandela Centenary Dinner, flying in, looking glam on the red carpet, and flying out the next day is just like “another day in the office.”

With the upcoming 71st Cannes Film Festival around the corner, TV & Radio Presenter Jen Su, shares a few of her international red carpet travel tips: 

Which are your most memorable red carpets?

Cannes is definitely one of the most glamorous, and that endless red carpet at the Palais des Festivals is beyond amazing!  While I was honoured to attend this year’s 90th Academy Awards, I actually preferred the more boutique pre-Oscars red carpet at The Shape of Water event in Beverly Hills.  Bonang and I had just returned from the Global Gift Nelson Mandela Centenary Dinner in London.

Jen Su & Bonang Matheba at the Global Gift Nelson Mandela Centenary Dinner.
Jen Su & Bonang Matheba at the Global Gift Nelson Mandela Centenary Dinner. Photo Neil Elliott.

How do you pack for the red carpet, especially on long-haul flights?

It’s very important to pack light! I usually take a carry-on sized suitcase, so I don’t have to check in my luggage – it saves time and forces you to minimize.  Toiletries are miniature sized. Roll casual clothes and stuff socks and underwear in the crevices and corners. I wear sneakers and take a jacket to the airport, and pack one pair of beautiful heels for the red carpet.  Most of the time my gown completely covers my shoes so I also bring a nice pair of wedge heels, which is a lot more comfy. 

Jen Su and Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang. Sequin dresses with straight-down skirts stay wrinkle-free. Photo: Neil Elliott.

Doesn’t your dress get wrinkled in such a small suitcase?

I use those plastic bags that you get from the dry cleaner, to cover my gown and then fold. The plastic dry cleaner bag is the key to keeping the gown wrinkle-free.  For shorter dresses, I use a large zipseal bag and fold the dress in that, which again arrives nearly crease-free.  
At the hotel, I hang up the dress in the bathroom, close the door and turn on the hot water to create steam, which “steams” the dress” – or I use the blowdryer in the hotel on heat setting, which helps to “blow” away light wrinkles.

What do you look for in a red carpet dress?

I chose a gown with a straight-down skirt, which takes up less room, in a fabric that’s as wrinkle-free as possible.  I often select sequin gowns, because they have the glam factor, and due to the sequins in the material, the dress looks nearly crease-free. Research the event online in advance, and think about which colours work for you and if there are any dress codes in place.

Jen Su at Cannes.

How much time do you have to get ready for the red carpet?

An hour or two if we’re lucky, so time management and planning your logistics is key.  For instance, for the gala in London, I arrived via British Airways Club World on a direct flight from Jozi to London Heathrow. On the plane I used The White Company spa products in the amenity bag, to prep my face for makeup.  Breezed through Fast Track, checked in, showered, did hair and makeup, got dressed, and was ready to go on the red carpet!  Then it’s time to smile with your signature pose, and exude confidence!

Jen Su at the Global Gift Nelson Mandela Centenary Dinner.