SAG Awards 2024

Tatanka Means Makes a Strong Red-Carpet Statement at the SAG Awards 2024

The Killers of the Flower Moon actor and comedian shares the heartfelt meaning behind the red and black velvet tuxedo and dazzling jewelry he wore to the awards show.
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When his turn on the Emmy Awards red carpet made a slate of best-dressed galleries, Killers of the Flower Moon’s Tatanka Means found himself pleasantly surprised, to say the least. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is really cool,’ and I’m glad it made a little splash,” he says over Zoom, still incredulous. 

The charismatic Means—who stole scenes in the Martin Scorsese historical epic as heroic, wise-cracking FBI agent John Wren—may profess to “not be the best at fashion.” But the six-foot-two actor and comedian looked like a natural in January in an emerald green, velvet, peak-lapel tuxedo by Jack Victor, with a diamond swirl brooch and statement studs by Gismondi 1754 accenting his signature braids. 

“He has a presence,” says his stylist, Leona Mizrahi. 

But for Means, who’s of Oglala Lakota, Omaha, Yankton Dakota, and Diné descent, his milestone red-carpet moment holds a deeper—and farther-reaching—significance. “It’s not just an individual thing. It’s bigger because there’s not so many of us being seen in that light,” says Means, who grew up in Chinle, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation. “People back home on the reservation—in my community, my friends, families and kids—it’s so much more than just a single self-accolade thing. It’s the community behind you.”

The Albuquerque-based Means’s heritage was top of mind in selecting his look for the SAG Awards 2024: a red velvet double-breasted tuxedo jacket by Paisley & Gray, paired with black trousers and crisp shirt by Jack Victor. Means says that to the Lakota people, red represents the north, and thereby strength and endurance. The bold color combination also represents the American Indian Movement, co-led by his father, activist Russell Means, in the 1970s. “Red and black were the colors of my boxing team growing up,” adds Means. “I was like, ‘That’s it. It’s a done deal.’”

Courtesy of Leona Mizrahi.

“It was the first one that we tried on,” confirms Mizrahi, who puts a “twist on a classic” for Means through a rakish suit silhouette in dynamic textures and rich colors. She also works with him on elegant, statement-making accessories, including two Gismondi 1754 yellow and white diamond brooches, signifying the full bloom of the flower moon, and Zegna cuff links.

Means, who recently joined Netflix’s upcoming Ransom Canyon (and made a lasting impression as the handsome doctor in the season two aunties episode of Reservation Dogs), also adorns his outfits with jewelry by Indigenous designers. “I want to highlight that our artists are doing great and amazing work and are more than capable of providing accessories and jewelry on this level,” says Means.

The gleaming, handcrafted silver and gemstone pieces also bolster and hearten his red-carpet experience. Means wore a black onyx embellished cuff, and intricate bracelets by fifth-generation jeweler and friend Reggie Mitchell for the SAG Awards 2024, and Mitchell’s silver cast cuffs decorated with arrow bows to the Emmys. “[The bows] represent strength and moving forward,” explains Means.

He also treasures wearing pieces handed down from family, like heirloom rings to SAG and a bracelet by the late Orville Tsinnie, whose children continue the artist’s legacy, to the Emmys. “My grandpa gave me that bracelet when I graduated high school. You know, a few years ago,” says Means, with a little laugh. “[Heirloom jewelry] helps ground me when I’m away from home.”

While Mizrahi and Means ultimately decided on diamond lotus-blossom studs by Maria Tash for the SAG Awards 2024, he hopes to one day bring a part of his Killers of the Flower Moon character, John Wren, with him onto the carpet. “He had these really nice hoop earrings,” says Means, about the authentic dark silver pieces he wore to play the agent who goes undercover in the Osage community to help stop the Reign of Terror. (Means took them home after the film wrapped.) “They just grew on me every day, and I’m not a hoop-earring wearer. I like studs, or small hoops. But it was special to me.”

Like John Wren, Means intentionally wears his long hair in two braids, which hold important cultural meaning, for memorable—and widely photographed—occasions. He also precisely plaits them himself for the red carpet. “Braids by Tatanka,” he quips. Means hopes that wearing the traditional braids on the celebrity-filled, glam red carpet will empower others, especially younger generations. 

“I’ve been told by other people that it’s encouraging and inspiring, and it makes them want to be themselves and be proud of who they are and where they come from,” says Means. “And my dad always wore two braids.”

Means also looks forward to these red-carpet reunions with the movie’s cast, including history-making Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone, who’s been making beautifully poignant fashion statements through her collaboration with stylist Jason Rembert.

“I think we all bring a little bit of Native flavor to whatever we’re wearing, whether it’s jewelry, or even the clothing sometimes,” said Means. “Everybody’s just really knocking it out of the park.”