SNL’s Heidi Gardner and Ego Nwodim on Shopper’s Guilt, Big Dumb Blazers, and Twinning on Set
As summer camp bunks, dorm rooms, and cross-country road trips have proven, nothing makes or breaks a friendship faster than sharing close quarters. So it only makes sense that Saturday Night Live co-stars Heidi Gardner and Ego Nwodim would forge an unbreakable bond after spending their first few seasons of the show working, eating, and, yes, even sleeping in a tiny joint dressing room tucked away in the famed halls of 30 Rock.
“It was like a small 4×4 room, and during Ego’s first week, all I remember is that we were both exhausted, trying to get in a nap between rehearsals, and curled up like cats on either side of a couch that was too small for two people,” says Gardner. “I kept thinking, ‘Hopefully Ego is okay with this!’”
Thankfully, she was. And five seasons later, the comedians have earned their stripes, their own dressing rooms, and a ride-or-die bestie that’s willing and able to weigh in on everything from a new sketch idea to an after-party outfit choice.
Outside the office, a love of style is one of the many things that bonds Gardner and Nwodim, who say that they not only shop for each other, but often FaceTime to get unfiltered opinions on recent purchases. (Relatable.) Lately, they’ve been climbing the fashion ranks together too, sitting front row at the Markarian and Raisa Vanessa presentations, modeling in the spring 2022 Batsheva show, even writing reviews of LUAR and Staud for ELLE.
“In years past, comedy and fashion just haven’t often gone hand in hand, so even though I love it, it wasn’t something I ever expected to find myself involved in,” says Nwodim. “I imagined that the outside world was just going to see me as a comedy girl and put me in that box. But there’s a cool shift happening where you’re seeing comedians embrace fashion, and the fashion world embrace comedians. It feels really special that there’s this other thing that we’re interested in that we can be part of now.”
Here, Gardner and Nwodim sit down in between SNL rehearsals to talk friendship, fashion, and the simple joy of making Lorne Michaels laugh.
Ego Nwodim: I have so many memories from when we first met. It was my first season on SNL and your second season. I remember we spent the first half of the week upstairs writing on the 17th floor and then, on Thursday, when things moved down to the studio, we started sharing our dressing room. That’s when we really became acquainted. We skipped all the small talk and went deep fast.
Heidi Gardner: I’m a perpetual people pleaser, so my mind immediately went to, “Oh no, this person’s stuck with me.” I didn’t want to be in your personal space, but I definitely was.
EN: I felt the same way!
HG: Every weekend we’d invite people to the show and have guests in our dressing room. It was when I started meeting your family and friends that I was like, “This isn’t just a cool girl I get to work with. This is a really good one.”
EN: We all became a little family. By my third season, we were given our own dressing rooms, and we were excited to have more space, but at the same time, all of my friends had grown so accustomed to hanging out backstage with your friends.
HG: Now we’re one room apart, so I can just pop over to say hi. And we don’t have to curl up in a ball when we take our cat naps.
EN: Exactly. And on hiatuses from work, we FaceTimed.
HG: I’m one of those all texts and no phone calls people. But you love a FaceTime. And I’m so grateful for it, because it connects you more. You see the person; you have a conversation. It’s just more comfortable. It’s kind of weird to say that FaceTime was how we started hanging out outside of work, but it’s true.
EN: FaceTime is my jam. I try to convert everyone in my life. But we talk about everything. We have a lot of similarities in our families. We talk about romance and dating. I confide in you about that sort of stuff a lot. We also both love food, and you’ve gotten really into cocktail-making lately.
HG: My younger brother taught me how to make an Old Fashioned, so now I’m just trying to learn it all. Over the summer, it was all about the Aperol Spritz, but I can do martinis and hot toddies. And there’s this really good one called The Gemini that has grapefruit juice, vodka, and St-Germain. I’m really going for it.
EN: You’re so damn good at it, too. Every once in a while, when I watch something interesting on TV, I’ll also call you, like, “Oh, you need to check this thing out.”
HG: Remember when we touched base about The Real Housewives before you filmed Watch What Happens Live because Teresa [Giudice] was the other guest? And she’s the best one. You’ve dropped off a little on Housewives, but your favorite ever is New Jersey and Teresa flipping the tables.
EN: It’s true, my sister and I still quote Teresa all the time. She’s a staple in my life, so that really was a dream come true.
HG: We also talk about shopping all the time and send each other things to buy constantly. Last month I shopped until I completely dropped and I told you, “I’m having shopper’s guilt and I can’t buy another thing for a month.” And then a week later, I could tell that you had shopped a lot. You were like, “Yeah, so I just bought three pairs of Air Jordans. Can you give me your opinion?”
EN: I get this rush of serotonin and dopamine, and then, immediately, it’s like, “I feel so guilty.” But I did get your opinion. It’s funny because it matched up perfectly with mine. That always feels good. I also bought a bunch of boots and coats, which is interesting, because I don’t have anything to wear under the coats. Then you told me about the brand, Paris Georgia, and I got some cool pants from them. They’re a big swing, but there’ll be a time and a place for them.
HG: They’ll be so good on you. I’ve gotten into the brand Khaite lately. I just bought some kitten heels and jeans from them. There’s a choker that I want, too. But Khaite’s actually pretty expensive, so I don’t think that can be my primary clothing brand. I’m trying to consciously to pare down, so I’m like, “What if I only look at Khaite and I never look anywhere else?” Basically I’m just trying to find a way to not go so nuts with my shopping.
EN: Me too. What I’m trying to do is only buy quality stuff, so I don’t feel like I have to shop as often. In my mind, if I have a few really quality shirts, I could have a smaller closet because everything is really nice and will last. That’s a theory that has yet to be proven. [Laughs.]
HG: I’m always like, “I want a capsule wardrobe. Keep it simple.” And then I get to work, I see you, and I’m like, “Okay. Incredible outfit. Clocking all of that.” And then I see Chloe [Fineman]: “Great outfit.” I see our producer, Rebecca Schwartz: “Great outfit.”
EN: There are so many good outfits around us.
HG: And we all follow the same things [on Instagram]. The other day Chloe was like, “I was going to get that bag too, but I won’t wear it at work.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t care. This isn’t high school.” Everyone has such cool style. I’m copying sometimes, too.
EN: I feel like we’ve basically shown up to work in the same outfit a few times now. We both wore our sparkly Brother Vellies boots one episode.
HG: That’s right! I think you’ve always got to keep your eyes peeled for inspiration.
EN: I remember when we did the [spring 2022] Batsheva show, I saw Ella Emhoff in the navy Adidas x Wales Bonner Sambas and I was like, “I have to get those.” I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I ended up doing a deep dive and buying two pairs off of second-hand websites.
HG: That’s what I love about your style. You always do something classic and refined and then you throw in something that sets it off like a sneaker or a bright color. You could be a stylist because you’re so good at putting things together. And you can wear any color. I actually think I had a dream last night that I was in yellow, and you were in yellow. And I was like, “Couldn’t someone have clocked that Ego was also going to be in this color?” Because I look fine in yellow, but I look bad in yellow when I’m next to you. [Laughs.]
EN: Well, thanks for such high praise! You take risks, which is very exciting to me. And you make everything look effortless, even the most extravagant dress, it’s like, “Yeah, I just threw this on. This is my equivalent of a sweat suit.” You also have all the perfectly-fitted jeans and button-down shirts with the perfect French tuck. You can’t really put your style in a box, and I love that.
HG: It’s interesting because when I moved from L.A. to New York for SNL, I felt very liberated. I realized I could take big fashion swings and no one said a thing. I love vintage, so it was all color, kitsch, and throwing everything out there. And I don’t know exactly what has happened, but at some point over the summer, I realized that I wanted to dress more like a woman and feel more powerful. I thought I was the only one having this epiphany, but I recently read an article that basically said suddenly women are throwing out their prairie-collared blouses and buying suits again, like Working Girl. I’m not in a three-piece suit every day, but something about me wants to pare down.
EN: I’ve noticed that you’re embracing a maturity in your fashion now. But what’s cool is you do still have a place for that whimsical vintage. Ironically, when I was living in L.A. I wore all black because I had a lot less money and wearing all black is an easy way to look cool. I wanted to be in my 30s so badly. [Laughs.] When I got to SNL, Tom Broecker [the costume designer and head of the wardrobe department], was like, “We’re getting you in some color, girl.” And I loved it. Now, when I get dressed I think to myself, “Okay, what would Tom do?” That’s been a guide for me to take more risks and pair new things together. He’s helped me feel braver with my style.
HG: My mom was the one who introduced me to fashion. As a little girl, I loved watching her really go all out with her looks. When I get to do things now like go to fashion week, it’s really amazing to me. Early on after I started on SNL, I got to go to a Badgley Mischka show with one of my childhood best friends. It was incredible because it was just me and Michelle from second grade sitting front row watching supermodels. We were pinching each other and squeezing each other’s hands.
EN: That’s the best. Being able to walk in a show or to get to sit front row, it all feels really special because you can see your interests married. One of the first shows I went to was for Raisa Vanessa, and I remember being so surprised by how short it was. They put so much work and meticulousness into it, but it flew right by. It reminded me of when people come to SNL for the first time and are like, “Oh my God, the stage is so small. Who knew?” It’s cool for me, in the fashion world, to have that moment where you’re like, “So this is what’s going on.”
HG: But all of this just inspires us to shop even more now. [Laughs.]
EN: That’s true. Obviously, fashion is cyclical, but it also makes me feel old that flares, crop tops, and platforms are back. Even New Balance is having a comeback of sorts. It had its moment before, and now New Balance is even Newer Balance. I’m like, “Am I allowed to do it again? Because I’ve done it already.”
HG: We recently did the “Big Dumb Hat” sketch [on the SNL episode that Amy Schumer hosted], and I think we’re getting a little dangerously close to outlandish on the fit of oversized blazers, too. I’m probably going to be guilty of this soon, because I just ordered one, but it goes for men, too. I just saw a list of the “20 Best Outfits of 2022,” and there was a picture of Robert Pattinson on the red carpet for Batman in an oversized blazer that was down to his knees.
EN: That just doesn’t look good.
HG: I mean, I like oversized to a limit, but now there’s about to be a “big dumb blazer” moment.
EN: You have to go after the dudes now! I love when we get to have fun with our costumes. The Dionne Warwick outfits are always my favorite. They’re fabulous, yet comfortable. And that blonde wig is just so well done by our hair department. I was even like, “Maybe I should dye my hair blonde.” But I’m not brave enough yet.
HG: I did that sketch a few seasons ago where I was part of an Icelandic couple with Harry Styles, and we were in all-white knit outfits with bleach-blonde hair. Harry was working it in his chunky sweater. My character was pregnant, but I was in this tight, form-fitting dress. If I ever get pregnant, that’s the girl I want to be. [Laughs.]
EN: When I watch you perform, I’m always thinking, “How does she do it?” You really take your time with characters and completely disappear in them.
HG: I can say the same about you. Everyone we work with is funny, so in the beginning I was just like, “Okay, Ego’s a great performer.” The next month I learned, “Oh wow, she’s a really good writer, too.” And then it’s like, “Actually, wait, her sketch ideas are designed for SNL.” You know the formula like it’s math.
EN: Gosh, Heidi. [Laughs.]
HG: You also bring it so hard at the table read. If for some reason I’m having a tired week, and I see you across from me dunking, I’m like, “Oh, that’s the level we’re at today.” I have to rise to the occasion. Hosts of the show watch you and they’re like, “Oh, this is Michael Jordan-level.” I also love when Lorne [Michaels] watches you and gets the giggles.
EN: Making Lorne laugh really is a gigantic deal. And I love the way you write sketches, too! They don’t ever feel contrived, and they strike the perfect balance of being over-the-top, yet grounded. You’re one of the best writers at the show and I feel so lucky to learn from you. Oh, and you’re an incredible friend and fashion consultant, too. Maybe we should do a buddy movie together?
HG: Okay, that’s a great idea. But only if we can design the merch for it.
Photographer: Rosalind O’Connor for NBC; stylist: Tom Broecker; hair: Timothy Aylward and Elliott Simpson; makeup: Cassandra Garcia and Renee Garnes; special thanks to Pebble Bar
Jennifer Ferrise is a freelance writer and editor. Previously, she was the senior features editor at InStyle. When she’s not busy searching for the best slice of pizza in New York City, she’s writing about celebrity, fashion, beauty, and all things pop culture. She currently lives in Manhattan, but like LeBron, she’s really just a kid from Akron.