in her shoes

How a Sports Documentary Filmmaker Dresses For Work

Photo: Gabriela Herman

Kely Nascimento-Deluca grew up with soccer royalty: Her father is the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. As a filmmaker, photographer, and activist, her latest project focuses on women’s soccer and pay parity. Her first feature-length documentary, Warrior Women of Football, highlights the struggles and successes of female athletes in the United States, France, England, Italy, Brazil, and Zanzibar.

In addition to her documentary work, Nascimento-Deluca travels the world promoting sports and the arts as tools for gender equality and peaceful conflict resolution. The Cut caught up with the busy mom of four — her kids range in age from 8 to 18! — between trips. Read on to hear about her love of sneakers, why she can’t travel with just a carry-on, and how body confidence beats anything in her closet.

On finding size-11 shoes: I like to wear Nikes or combat boots. In the ’90s, it wasn’t easy to find fun, cool, or sexy options in my size. I’d go to Trash and Vaudeville in the East Village because they had the best platforms. They were theatrical, but looking back, I was never really confident in them. I always feel best when I’m wearing something that doesn’t encumber my movements. I want to be able to run up subway steps!

When it became cool to wear sneakers, I embraced them wholeheartedly. Air Force Ones are my ride or die, but I also wanted the Sacai collaboration. Sadly my thumbs weren’t fast enough to secure a pair off their app. Otherwise I’m really into old Pumas and the Kylie Adidas collab.

On what she wears on the road: My travel for work is a combination of shooting footage, interviewing subjects, and speaking engagements. I’ll always pack a few stretchy tube dresses and sneakers that can take me straight from the airport to whatever’s on my agenda.

On going out after work: I like to dress for the day, so I usually plan something colorful: I’m a huge fan of wrap dresses.

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On what she wears to big meetings: Depending on what I’m doing on a given day, I might have a meeting at the United Nations, in a hotel bar, on a soccer field or in a super-corporate office building. When I was younger I used to worry so much more about what my outfit conveyed. With age, I’ve learned that unless you’re wearing something truly unsettling, your knowledge matters more. Your belief that you are good at what you do is what you need to convey.

On packing for travel: I like to think of myself as low-maintenance and imagine that I can travel for months with just a carry-on, but my hair needs more than travel-size hair products. I love pharmacy shopping in Europe and stocking up on all things Phyto. I’ll also get hair oils and salves in street markets around the world. I love Cantu, Shea Moisture, and this amazing Brazilian product from O Boticário called Respect the Curls. I’m also really excited to try Tracee Ellis Ross’s new line of products. If it were not for my hair, I would actually be a carry-on girl — I promise!

On dressing up: I haven’t had too much red-carpet dressing experience, but with the new film, I know I’m going to be wearing lots of color. There’s this market in Harlem that’s filled with beautiful fabrics and jewelry, but the best part are the tailors. I go to Dembo and he can make me a fantastic wrap dress in three or four days. It always fits my figure so well.

If I’m speaking, my uniform is a stretchy tea-length dress with a cardigan over. You never know what the temperature will be in a room, so I like to have layers. The combination is put-together but still comfortable. I can’t sit still long — I need to be able to move!

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On her style evolution: I’m super curvy, even when I was a dancer in my 20s and at my absolute fittest, I always had big boobs and an ass. I used to worry about what was considered “flattering,” and I still have my vain moments, but if I love something, I won’t overthink it. My confidence has come with age — I know that I’m as sexy as I feel and not the other way around.

On the last three things she bought: I got a long jacket from the H&M x Mantsho collection. Because I love sneakers, I just picked up the Nike Air Max 90 in University Red. I also bought this D/E Goods cross-body in oxblood. It’s my favorite for when I’m traveling or shooting.

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How a Sports Documentary Filmmaker Dresses for Work