One Man, 6 Hours, & 1,000 Braids: What It Took To Create Missy Elliott's Iconology Cover

When Missy Elliott sang "I'ma snatch they wigs, til I see that scalp," in her latest single Throw It Back, she wasn't kidding. Today, the rapper dropped Iconology, her first EP in 14 years, and the music lives up to her M.O.: It's head-knocking, tail-dropping, hypnotic, robotic, and everything in between. Needless to say, our wigs have been thoroughly snatched, and for more reasons than just Elliott's cocky lyrics over a twerk-inducing beat.
Her latest project is proof that despite the ever-evolving music world, there can only be one Missy, and her icon status is evident in the beauty choices for the visuals. Let's dissect: For her album artwork, Elliott posed on a purple background wearing a hair sculpture that spells out her name. The braided headpiece could easily pass as a sophisticated graphic-design job. However, Elliott's hairstylist, Kellon Deryck, says that hair moment was 100% handmade. "Yes, those are all real braids, no Photoshop!" he wrote on Instagram. Leaving fans of the project with one question: How, Sway?!
Deryck tells Refinery29 that it was a labor of love. "Missy loves hair, and she loves to do things that have never been done before," he says. "We had all these concepts and ideas for her look, but I felt like we needed something more exciting." So, the night before the shoot, Deryck took to pen and paper to draw a mock-up of the rapper's moniker and tried bringing it to life.
Deryck singlehandedly braided every plait seen on Elliott's album art. "I used poster board as my stencil and built up both sides of the paper with loose braids," he explains. "Then, I used a hot-glue gun to secure the braids and attached over one thousand pieces of hair to create it." He reveals that the hairpiece took countless trips to the beauty supply store for braiding hair. "I honestly lost count of how many packets of hair I used, but it was a lot," he says. "It took about six hours to complete."
On the day of the shoot, Deryck hung the braided piece from a pole using clear thread, then attached it to Missy's head. "Once I braided her hair, I weaved the very ends of her strands to the hairpiece, and the look was born," he says.
When it was time to shoot the video for the first single, Throw It Back, Elliott also put Deryck's creativity to the test. Each scene was comprised of eye-grabbing looks, from macro shots of iced-out grillz, neon lipstick, and real double-dutch braids. "The double-dutch braids were all Missy's creative," he tells us. "She called me and was like 'I want to double dutch with my hair,' and my response was 'let's make it happen.'"
To create the braids, Deryck and his team used double-dutch ropes to measure length. "We had to make a set of braids for rehearsals and a set for performance, so we didn't mess them up," he says. "We had each stylist braid one rope and had a total of eight."
The ropes were then bound to the back of Elliott's head, where she held them taut so her dancers could jump. "She had to keep a strong grip, so it didn't pull out her hair," Deryck explains. "But she made it happen."
That "make-it-happen" attitude is the core of bringing any Elliot visual, including this one, to life. "Working with Missy will make anyone a better artist," Deryck says. "When she thinks it, it happens. So, if she's choosing you to help execute those visions, you have to push yourself and be the best." If this is a taste of what Elliott, Deryck, and the glam team have to offer, we know we're in for a real treat when the rapper receives the MTV Video Vanguard Award on Monday. We'll be at home watching with our wigs secured with extra layers of Got2b, because the threat of snatching is high.

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