As Dancing With The Stars reveals another middling cast of Whatevers, this story reminded me that Zendaya was on an early season when she was 16. She did not win. Yes. Zendaya, a one-named global superstar at the tender age of 25, nine years ago competed on a reality show that’s increasingly as a gallery of fools (Sean Spicer? Carole Baskin? And now Olivia Jade, Fallacious Rower?!?) and somehow didn’t win it. I guess that’s like Jennifer Hudson being voted off American Idol. That DWTS is a footnote in her life speaks to the unique qualities that make Zendaya who she is. She made sure that trajectory went up, up, up.

Law Roach, of course, styled both of these, and I think the cover is not as successful for me as the inside shot (below). While the photo on the front is fine, she’s got Exhausted Eyeliner — the smoky smudges that make a person look tired — and her gown looks like a semi-homemade homage to Kelly Taylor and Brenda Walsh at the infamous spring dance. Compare that to this beauty:

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I love this. It’s soft but steely. The smoky eye has lovelier lighting. There’s vulnerability, but you also do not want to tangle with this person. Law wrote on Instagram that he asked Valentino for a gown that would serve ’80s supermodel, and this whole thing does evoke that. She talked about Law in the piece:

It seems Zendaya’s most important relationships straddle the line between business and pleasure. (“I like being on set,” she shrugs, “it’s my social life.”). She was the first major client of her stylist and close friend Law Roach, who she met when she was 14, around the time Roach owned a vintage store in Chicago. They hit it off and he took her shopping for an outfit to wear to a premiere. Now they communicate in shorthand, sending each other screenshots of inspiration – Zendaya scrolls through her phone showing me the references for her Vogue shoot, such as Cindy Crawford and other supermodels in power poses. They have also started work building her an archive of designer clothes. “I want to reuse my clothes. I want to be able to wear that dress again when I’m 40 and be like, ‘This old thing?’ Really finding good vintage pieces that I want to invest my money in.”

If anyone can wear the gowns she busted out this week when she is both 25 and 40, it is Zendaya.

[Photo: Craig McDean; see the full feature in the October issue of British Vogue available via digital download and on newsstands Friday, Sept. 10]