I often wonder what life would have been like if I was a young adult in the ’90s. I can see myself now, going to EVERY concert Lil’ Kim was performing at, boo lovin’ on my house phone while r&b classics played in the back, and finding some dope stores to shop at. There’s no way you can talk about hip-hop and r&b in the ’90s and not mention fashion. Today I wanted to talk about two amazing BLACK WOMEN stylists, Misa Hylton and June Ambrose, and the work they’ve done that could never go unnoticed. These two helped build a bridge between high fashion, hip-hop, and r&b; bringing those worlds together and creating memorable moments in music videos, movies, award shows, and much more. They’ve styled some of the best artists to date including Foxy Brown, Jodeci, Jay-Z, and Alicia Keys, just to name a few and are still inspiring stylists like myself on a daily basis.
Yes, Misa was the girlfriend of Diddy when she started in this industry but let’s be very clear, she is self-made. At the tender age of seventeen, with no formal fashion education, her career had just begun. The Bad Boy era was such a crazy time in hip-hop and r&b, with each artist signed dominating the genre of music they were in. Mary J. Blige was Misa’s first client, helping to build her presence with her debut album “What’s The 411?”. Even though Mary’s voice was unique, Misa styled her in baseball jerseys, baggy jeans, and combat boots, something most women in the spotlight, besides TLC, weren’t doing. Can you imagine being young, black, and trying to pull high fashion designer pieces from showrooms? They didn’t want to lend, which made it extremely difficult for Misa but she still prospered!
In my head, Mary J. Blige is like an auntie to me. Her vocals are out of this world, her lyrics touch my soul, and she has nothing but classics under her belt. Without a doubt, my favorite album of hers is “Share My World”. Both videos above are two of my favorites and I promise I can sing them both word for word. When I was younger, I would sing my little heart out to “Not Gon’ Cry” like I had just gotten my heart broken by cheating husband too. I’ve seen so many people dress up as Mary J. Blige from this video for Halloween; that blonde swoop bang, black lipstick, big black sunglasses, all black outfit, and black head wrap…if you know music, you just know it’s supposed to be her when you see it.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been big on visuals and this video does it for me, especially since this song was on the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack and includes clips from the movie. Sidebar – Bernadine’s character gets me fired up every time like that’s really my life. Her husband really did her dirty and when she set all his things on fire in the car, I always get a little happy inside! I could watch MTV Jams and VH1 Soul all day long when I was younger. Listening to “Everything” makes me love love even more than I already do. It truly is such a beautiful thing. The song is so intimate which is why in the video, shot by one of the best to EVER do it Hype Williams, you see Mary J. Blige by herself, around the beautiful natures of Hawaii, black sand, mountains, just vibing so freely. Mary’s wearing a custom gold Norma Kamali gown and matching jacket and most of her jewelry was custom as well. Misa wanted to pay homage to Indian fashion, hence why most of the fashion and jewelry is super intricate.
If you KNOW ME, you know I am a Lil’ Kim Stan! She crawled so a good majority of female rappers in the game right now could walk. She pushed boundaries, rapped about sex and other things deemed provocative, and wore pieces others would have never! I did a post about her at the beginning of the year, The Original Trendsetter – Lil’ Kim , about her music and style but when talking about Lil’ Kim’s stylish ways, we have to give credit to the stylist behind her most talked about looks. Misa played such a huge role in going above and beyond to make sure Lil’ Kim was true to herself and always standing out amongst the rest of the world. “Crush On You” video was a game changer; so many different colors, wig, furs, you name it! I actually did not know this until recently but Misa got the inspiration for that video from a big scene in the movie “The Wiz”. If you’re black and you’ve never seen it, I’m judging you a little bit. There were so many talented actresses and actors, it’s definitely a classic.
In 1999, Lil’ Kim and Misa were bringing ALL the heat to each and every award show she attended. The photo on the left is her on the red carpet of the Source Hip-Hop Awards and the right is from the VMAs. The VMAs look is one to remember forever. Not only did she look absolutely flawless BUT also, her one boob was out, with a purple seashell pastie covering it of course but still! Who was doing that at the time? No one. Everyone was perplexed and I can imagine this is one of the most talked about looks of all time but it worked perfectly with the imagine Lil’ Kim had created for herself. Misa originally got the idea from Missy Elliott, who jokingly said she would have her boob out all the time if she was Kim and voila, Misa took that idea and brought it to life.
Misa is still cooking up magic in 2018. If you’re like me, you pay attention to EVER little detail about an outfit. When The Carters released their album this year and then a video for “APESHIT” I was ecstatic. That song is produced by Pharrell Williams, who I am a die-hard fan of and he’s just a genius. When I first watched the video, I knew for a fact I needed that MCM bustier; where was I wearing it? Who knows but I could find somewhere. Muva Bey was dripping in MCM pieces I had never seen before from a bucket hat to bustier, to trenchcoat. Misa also designed the coat for Big Daddy Kane and a whole Puma x MCM collection which debuted during the MCM Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. While Bey rocked out, her husband looked quite dapper, styled by June Ambrose, the stylist who I’d like to talk about next.
June Ambrose is proof that you can change careers to something completely opposite and still come out on top. Before fashion, June was working in finance as an investment banker. This is cool because she had that knowledge of business prior to starting her career as a stylist, designer, creative director, etc. because she would already know the ins and outs of a business, which has helped sustain her legacy immensely. Deep down she knew her passion was for fashion, so she left finance and started making people look even better with the help of her creative eye.
“Mo Money, Mo Problems” was featured on The Notorious B.I.G’s album “Life After Death”, after he was killed. June Ambrose, being from Antigua which is in the West Indies, wanted Mase and Diddy aka Puff Daddy (at the time) to be in shiny suits. The background lighting and looks would give them superhero vibes. The shininess gave her happy, Carnival, J’Ouvert on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn feels. The guys weren’t too convinced it would work for their images and it took a lot of persuasions but June ensured them it would become a statement; she was right! Do you know how many times those suits have been brought up time and time again in fashion and in rap lyrics?
Jay-Z and June Ambrose have worked extensively together from the ’90s in his video “Feelin’ It” even until now in 2018. For you to work with a stylist for THIS long, literally decades, you have to have a good friendship with them; you’ve trusted them on so many occasions to make sure you’re dressed up to par. This is something I admire, working with new clients all the time but still having my day 1’s who trust my judgment and are always ready for my styling expertise. Remember his video, “Change Clothes” with Pharrell, Naomi Campbell, and a bunch of other big-name models? Yup, June did that too! And Jay-Z said he was going into retirement and that would be his last album; lying to us but I’m okay with that, being as though he’s my favorite rapper I can listen to new music from him forever. “Big Pimpin” video was shot in Trinidad during Carnival. June has mentioned numerous times how crazy but so much fun it was to be on set during this time!
No exaggeration, I might have watched this movie more times than the number of years I’ve been on Earth. “Belly” is a hood classic. Hype Williams was the director, which explains the crazy visuals, especially the opening scene which is extremely captivating. Nas, DMX, T-Boz, and Method Man are just a few artists who after this movie were able to add “actor/actress” to their resumes. June Ambrose was the costume designer for this movie and you can tell. Everyone was so dope and drug-dealer chic, even Keisha had some fly looks on throughout the movie.
Busta Rhymes videos in the 90s were next level! I remember being scared for him while he ran from the elephants in the “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” video; those were real elephants too. He was always doing and/or wearing something so unusual and this video is NO exception; directed by none other, you guessed it, Hype Williams! The silky gown Janet had on, to the water, silver, and steel elements of this video just gives me life. The actual song is grown and sexy and Janet Jackson was the perfect person to have on the hook.
I saved the best for last because I can’t even begin to think about June Ambrose without reminiscing on the dope looks she’s done with the legendary Missy Elliott. Similar to Lil’ Kim, both women were standing out and shining brightly in their own manner. Nobody could ever tell me that Missy isn’t a legend. “Sock It To Me”, “Beep Me 911”, and “The Rain” is just three prime examples and there are many more of how dope and creative she is. She always seemed like she was fun to be around and always had her friends dancing or fighting off villains in videos with her. In all three of those videos mentioned, June played her part in styling. Again, June loved shiny pieces and that trash bag looking suit from The Rain” video was actually just a suit that June took to a gas station, pumped it up with air, and no we have a look that has lived on for decades and will continue to be discussed.
I hope you guys enjoyed this piece! What has ’90s hip-hop and r&b done for you? What’s your favorite thing about fashion? Do you have a favorite stylist?
Let me know your thoughts!