"I'm Not Into a Heel": Grown-ish Star Emily Arlook on Her Laid-Back Style

Dacy Knight

Whether it's a baby blue jumpsuit, a sports jersey and camo cargo shorts combo, or her cool collection of T-shirts boasting Bowie to Run-DMC, Nomi Segal's eclectic style never fails to make a statement on Freeform's Grown-ish. The best friend of Yara Shahidi's character Zoey Johnson and played by breakout star Emily Arlook, Nomi is the ultimate cool girl with a confidence exemplified beyond her free-spirited fashion sense. "With Nomi's clothes, it was important for me to feel tough and sexy at the same time because for me, that's who Nomi is—she's super comfortable with her sexuality," explained Arlook when we caught up with her. Arlook credits costume designer Michelle Cole, who got her start on In Living Colour in the '90s and also works on Black-ish. "I think clothing, wardrobe, with any character is so so important," notes Arlook. "It's something that immediately helps me literally live in their shoes and get in their character. If I don't feel comfortable in their clothes I feel like something's off with the character."

As for her own style, Arlook's approach takes a different direction from Nomi's. "I kind of leave her at work," she says (though she confesses she did want to keep that blue jumpsuit in episode three). For Arlook, comfort is priority number one. "I like to be really comfortable no matter what," she insists. "I lead with comfort. I'm not into a heel." And while her personal style is quite different, Arlook identifies with her character in other ways. "She's going through this time of her life, figuring out who she is, what she stands for, and what she believes in," describes Arlook. "So am I. We all are. We never stop asking those questions."

A college-set spinoff of the award-winning show Black-ishGrown-ish follows the lead by tackling relevant cultural issues and breaking down stereotypes. Arlook's character, Nomi, is bisexual and navigating her own biases. "I think not being a one-dimensional stereotype of what a bi woman is spoke to me because it's truthful," says Arlook. "Even within being bi, there are even more layers to peel back there. Humans—we're complicated." She identifies this authenticity as one of the reasons the show is so successful. "I think it goes back to being as truthful as possible and giving a voice to a generation that doesn't have a show like this on," she explains. "For someone to be able to watch a show and see something that reflects their own experience makes one feel less alone." The final episode of its first season comes at the end of this month but Grown-ish was just renewed for a second season so we know there'll be plenty more to expect from Nomi Segal, Zoey Johnson, and the rest of the crew in this coming-of-age comedy.

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