Harry’s Styles: “Grammy Granny” Reina Lafantaisie Leads the Singer’s Fandom — While Dressing the Part
Reflecting Harry’s dramatic head-to-toe black outfits, Reina wears a Comme des Garçons dress available at The Room; jacket, Golshaah; shoes, John Fluevog; necklace, Biko; rings, Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection; earrings, stylist’s own. Photo: Gabor Jurina. Insets, clockwise from left: The sheer shirt by Gucci with a ruffled bow and lace sleeves with a single pearl earring that Harry wore to the 2019 MET Gala, causing a sensation; at the 2023 BRIT Awards in a Nina Ricci black velvet suit with a giant corsage; Harry in a quietly edgy Gucci mandarin collar jacket with shiny statement belt at the 2022 Los Angeles première of 'My Policeman.' (All insets, Getty Images)
Just how did Reina Lafantaisie, a 78-year-old great-grandmother from Sudbury, Ont., end up on stage at the 2023 Grammys in Los Angeles, giving the biggest award of the night to the biggest pop star in the world, on live TV? It’s the sum of the fervour of a true believer, a granddaughter who is a talented creator and knows content gold when she sees it, the alchemy of social media, multiplied by a Christmas miracle. “I went up north to spend the holidays with my family, and that’s when I realized that my mémère was in love with Harry Styles,” says Renee Grenon, a Toronto-based influencer and host of The Mom Room podcast. “That’s all she talked about. And we were just having a family get together on Christmas Day, and she was explaining to everyone why Harry Styles is the greatest entertainer … and the next Elvis. So I started secretly filming her on my phone, as I do.” Grenon ended up with a seven-minute video, which she cut up into a TikTok and posted it to her @thereneereina account that night without telling her grandmother. “She has TikTok and obviously follows my account closely. … So the next day she knew that I had put it up. It went viral, as I knew that it would, as she is so genuine and passionate about Harry Styles.”
What happened next is the stuff of fan-fiction dreams. A couple of months later, a producer for the 2023 Grammys contacted Grenon, looking for Lafantaisie. As part of the broadcast, they wanted to feature fans advocating for their favourite artist to win album of the year, with ABBA, Adele, Bad Bunny, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Brandi Carlile, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo and Styles in the running. Coincidentally, Lafantaisie and Grenon had already booked a girls trip to LA to see a Styles show. “So it all kind of worked out,” says Grenon, explaining that while they were there, the producers filmed a segment with Lafantaisie and the other fans to run during the awards. The following week, they were flown back down so Lafantaisie could attend the live broadcast of the show.
Unexpectedly, Lafantaisie got to meet her singing idol twice. Styles recognized her from the fan segment that played, so, as he walked by her seat after winning his first award of the night (for best Pop Vocal Album), he greeted her with a double kiss. Then they ran into each other in the VIP area, and he thanked her for a card she had slipped to one of the producers to give to him – not knowing if he would ever get it, much less read it. And then, plot twist! For the last award of the night, with each of the 10 singers’ superfans lined up on stage, host Trevor Noah opened the envelope. He handed the mic to Lafantaisie to announce that Harry’s House had won Album of the Year, completing the 29-year-old’s arc from manufactured boy-bander to a respected musical force. Styles ran up to the stage and straight into Lafantaisie’s arms. “It was, like, surreal to me to meet him, but when he came up on stage and gave me that hug, it just reassured everything that I thought about him,” she says. “I was just wanting my knees to keep me up. That’s all.” Then Harry’s superfan handed him his trophy.
Pop fandom has been around as long as Lafantaisie has been alive. In 1944 – the year she was born – 30,000 fans “in a generation-defining media event … swarmed over Times Square in an exhilarated display of girl power,” The Guardian reports in a June 2011 story headlined: “The Columbus Day Riot: Frank Sinatra is pop’s first star.”
The bobby soxers, as the crooner’s female fans between the ages of 12 and 18 were called, had started lining up for his concert the night before, leading to the frenzy. The incident, The Guardian says, “coincided with the invention of the teenage market,” noting that, the month before, “the magazine Seventeen was launched that declared to its primarily female readers: ‘you are the bosses of the business.’”
Teenagers powered the rise of rock ’n’ roll and, in 1957 – when she was just 13 – Lafantaisie travelled to Buffalo, N.Y., from her home in Elliot Lake, Ont., to see her first celebrity crush, Elvis Presley. ”I didn’t see much of his face … but I could see the action – the legs – and we could certainly hear the voice and everything. And everybody was crazy about Elvis. We all remember that.” Back at her Catholic school in Timmins, Ont., Lafantaisie was temporarily expelled for refusing to hand over a binder and jacket with Presley’s picture on them. “They considered him a devil’s agent. lol,” she texts. Lafantaisie was there at the end, too, and saw Presley at a Michigan concert just four months before his premature death in 1977. With his image laundered through decades of commercialized kitsch, the corrupting influence that authorities and parents believed the early Presley posed was resurrected through Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar nominated 2022 biopic, Elvis. Styles, who’s been dallying with Hollywood, auditioned for the lead, but wasn’t cast. “The real issue with Harry is that he is Harry Styles,” Luhrmann told the podcast Fitzy & Wippa. “He’s already an icon.”
As with Presley, Lafantaisie was an early adopter. She’s been onto Styles since 2010, when the 16-year-old entered the British reality-TV talent show The X Factor, and a judge put him into a group with four other young men who competed under the name One Direction. “I just thought he was the sweetest little boy, and he was just so cute and so honest,” says Lafantaisie. “Even then, he radiated the goodness … so I followed him all along.” The band known as 1D went on to break records, then young hearts when they announced a hiatus in 2015.
In Everything I Need I Get From You: How Fangirls Created the Internet as We Know It, The Atlantic staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany traces how female teenagers turbocharged the 1D phenomenon. She explains how the band was created at the dawn of Tumbler and Twitter, and the social media platforms facilitated a new exponential, organizing power. “When One Direction lost in the finals of The X Factor, its nascent fandom mimicked what previous fan groups had done, but it was bigger and faster,” Tiffany says in her 2022 book. “‘They lost The X Factor but won the world,’ fans repeated to themselves like a mantra, willing the dream to life.” When Styles went solo in 2017, he already had a massive fanbase – the self-christened “Harries” – as a springboard.
Earlier this year, Lafantaisie, her daughter Sue Grenon, and granddaughter Renee travelled to Coventry to see two back to back Styles’ concerts in the U.K., where they were invited backstage. A video they posted of Styles singing the Peaches & Herb classic, Reunited And It Feels So Good, to Lafantaisie duly went viral. Those England shows bring her Styles concert tally to three – one more than Elvis – and remind her of the similarities between the two stars. “Elvis, you could tell people were just crazy for him, and that’s how they are for Harry,” she says. And when it comes to their clothes, “they did their own thing. Like, even then, when Elvis would wear all the sparkly suits, people would be so all upset about that. I love that. They’re being their own people.”
An inveterate clothes horse with innate elegance, Styles has been a trendsetter since 2015, when he was the first celebrity to wear an outré floral suit with flared pants from one of Alessandro Michele’s seismic early Gucci collections. It’s the top image when you Google “Harry Styles worst outfit,” but, in 2018, he told BBC One’s Nick Grimshaw, “I still think it was good.”
He became a flashpoint in the culture wars when he appeared on a 2019 cover of Vogue wearing a womenswear gown and talked to the magazine about removing gender barriers in clothing. In a riposte to the ensuing right-wing meltdown, Styles posted a photo on his Instagram account wearing a flouncy outfit and eating a banana, captioned with conservative provocateur Candace Owens’ demand to “Bring Back Manly Men.” The controversy seemed to add a gravitas to Styles’ image as he stepped into social justice issues such as the George Floyd protests and gun violence.
For some late-breaking Harries, the gateway was the three-year-long tour that wrapped up this summer. “I downloaded his album when it came out, and then just got obsessed with watching clips everyone was posting from his concerts,” 50-year-old Australian journalist and author Leigh Sales said on her podcast, Chat 10 Looks 3. “Ever since I mentioned that, my social media has been full of people writing to me going, ‘Leigh, I’m a 76-year-old woman and I’ve also got this strange Harry Styles obsession.’ It’s like a diagnosable condition.” However, she has no desire to “shag him.” After she analyzed her feelings about him, she realized, “What I was thinking was: ‘Is he getting enough home-cooked meals?’ I want to mother him. That’s the emotion. I feel like he’s so lovely and it seems like he’s off with the pixies.”
Which is quite a sleight of hand for a performer with “Cocaine, Side Boob, Choke Her, With A Sea View,” as one of his signature lyrics. He pantomimes it live, and, at one show, when a dad held up a sign ironically thanking Styles for teaching his daughter the lyric, Styles revealed he got into trouble with his mother when she heard the song for the first time. And there’s the charm.
Objectively dishy, even by pop-star standards, with his show a potent mix of vocal mastery, powerful physicality and audacious costuming, Styles nonetheless reaches for higher, more inclusive ground. Between songs on his Love On Tour concerts, Styles conducts a medley of coming-outs, baby-gender reveals and marriage proposals – all blessedly free of ageism. At another show, a woman with white hair held up a sign that read, “I’m Too Old To Be a Harry Styles Fan.” “Never,” he mouthed back.
Back at home in Sudbury, where Lafantaisie tends to her Leader of The Harries social media accounts, she can bask in the fact that, far beyond the para-social relationship most fans have with their star, she can wear the “Harry is My Friend” merch hat and it will be true. She is now part of pop-music history, and he will never forget she was part of an important night in his life. She understood the Harry Styles proposition before many of this generation: to give the bright and fabulous vibes of a human sequin and bestow that shine on all comers with his “Treat People With Kindness” slogan. “I could tell Harry was gonna be a big star,” she says. “I just was hoping I’d be around when it would happen.”
—With files from Kisha Ferguson and Hazel Picco.
It’s not easy stepping in front of the camera for a fully fledged fashion shoot, let alone for the first time at age 78. To make sure Reina Lafantaisie was feeling, and looking, her best, makeup artist Tana D’Amico focused on giving her skin luminosity. “Always prep the face with moisturizer,” she says. “I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+. It has a good shine, and no one reacts to it.” Heavy foundation can sit on top of the skin and settle in the cracks. So, choose a thin, oil-based foundation, like Chanel Vitalumière (Lafantaisie is wearing 07-Ivoire), and apply with an extremely light touch. Avoid sparkle – the speckles also like to gather in lines. D’Amico added glow, using MAC Cream Colour Base in Luna dabbed on eyelids and cheekbones: “It gives a sheen without shimmer.” She topped it off with MAC Glow Play Blush in That’s Peachy on the apples of the Grammy Granny’s cheeks. “When you’re older, skin is dry and flat; cream products bring more luminosity,” explains D’Amico.
Eyebrows become sparser and less pigmented with age, so filling them in frames the face and makes eyes pop. Lafantaisie’s brows were enhanced with a light brown NYX Micro Brow pencil, applied in small brush-like strokes in the direction of the hairs to give a natural look.
For her eyes, D’Amico chose Marcelle’s eyeshadow palette in Chai Latte. “Cool browns are much better with grey hair – they don’t fight with it but complement it.” To give eyes definition, use the darkest of the cool brown colours with a small brush and press it along the lash line; it enhances the eye without leaving a wobbly pencil line, plus it makes lashes look thicker.
For an evening look like our star’s, D’Amico added fake lashes to the corners of her eyes, which can be fiddly. However, there are magnetic false lashes like Eylure’s Promagnetic Eyeliner and Lash System that doesn’t require glue. Another clever trick is to layer more mascara on the outer edges of your lashes for some drama. Dior’s Diorshow 24h Buildable Volume mascara does just what it says; it doesn’t clump and layers beautifully.
D’Amico advises avoiding a lip colour that is too dark – lips get thinner as you age, and dark colours make them appear smaller. If you are going for a bright lip or more dramatic evening look, she suggests overdrawing them with a lip pencil. “Draw a line between the white outline around your lips and the lip itself. Curve it a little at the corners so your mouth doesn’t look too harsh and droopy.” D’Amico used a long-lasting creamy lip liner, NYX Slim Lip Pencil in Bloom, followed by Vaseline Lip Therapy in Rosy Lips. “A dusting of bronzer warms everything up and brings the whole look together,” says the makeup artist. She used shimmer-free Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer in Caramel on the high points of Lafantaisie’s face: her cheekbones, nose ridge and brow, where the sun would naturally catch them. As Harry Styles tells us in the first single off his sophomore album Fine Line in the track Lights Up – “Shine, step into the light.”
A version this article appeared in the Aug/Sept 2023 issue with the headline ‘Harry’s Styles’, p. 50.