Adopt Stylist June Ambrose's Style Philosophy (Hey, If It Worked For Zoe Saldana...)

Some may associate June Ambrose as the Fashion Week standby who rocks the most insanely awesome turbans and who music's biggest names thank for some of their most iconic style moments (Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, and Diddy are just the tip of the iceberg). Either way, this one-woman style tour de force is never without a bit of advice to lend or tons of inspiration to share.
Having recently added reality-TV star to her ever-expanding résumé, with the completion of season one of Styled By June, we had a chance to check in with the super-star stylist to find out what it's like to put your life and career in front of the cameras, and what it takes to make a splash in the music and fashion industries. Let's just say Ambrose is in no short supply of style chutzpah — the trait for which we admire her most.
What were some of your first styling gigs at the start of your career?
"I got in 20 years ago when the music industry wasn’t the competitive game it is now. It was a time when urban music wasn’t yet being played on MTV [or] VH1. I landed an internship at a record company and hooked up with director Hype Williams — at the time [he] was truly the video-director maverick that started long-form music videos. We approached it kind of like the theatre, [adding] a costume-designer aesthetic to the music genre.
"Really, my career took off in the world of music videos. Working with Hype Williams was the greatest platform to showcase my costume design abilities and bringing high fashion to urban music. This is around the time when Todd Oldham was like the Marc Jacobs of that era. Thierry Mugler was huge. I knocked on the doors of Giorgio Armani and said, 'I need a suit for Jay-Z,' and they were like, 'Who?' I was the girl who brought high fashion to urban music. I was the girl who clothed Missy Elliott in a blow-up suit and did all that crazy Lady-Gaga kind of stuff you see now. I put Puffy in a shiny suit and I did all the things that were completely taboo at the time for that type of music. I think it was a game changer."
What motivated you to take a different route that other stylists weren't?
"I used to work at an investment banking firm, and I studied marketing in school, and I understood how important it was for the wardrobe to be part of the storytelling and part of the brand building. I always thought about it from a marketing perspective. It wasn’t just, 'Oh, let’s play dress up. Let's be the flyest kids on the block.' It was like, 'How are we going to get consumers to pay attention?'"
"All my celebrity clients, from inception, have always worked from what their dreams and aspirations were, where they were from, what they could lend to this particular idea. Could they pull it off? Could they not pull it off aesthetically? You know, Jay-Z, he was always a boss. Could he pull off a suit? Absolutely. Did he know how to in the beginning? No. The idea, the concept of who this person is, always played into the characters that I built."
Do you remember a point in your career that was an “I made it” moment, when you realized that you were on your way?
"I don’t remember what year this was; it’s all kind of a blur, but I was nominated [for a VMA]. A producer at MTV told me that I had worked on the most music videos that were nominated in the history of MTV, out of any stylist. And, I was just like. 'Woah.' I think that was kind of like a real aha moment, in a sense."
What about your personal style? What do you gravitate toward for your everyday outfit?
"I’m pretty eccentric at times. I love a hat. I’ll get my hair done and throw a hat on. I’m the girl that would wear a kimono over a sweatshirt … to drive my kids to school. I like drama. I always feel like fashion should be like making a film and every wardrobe change is a new scene."
What’s the one item on your shopping-lust list right now?
"I want a croc tote bag. The Row is doing beautiful croc bags, and I love those girls. I think they’re really great."
Is there an item in your closet that we’d be shocked to find?
"Probably a pair of Converse sneakers. Sometimes, I’m feeling kind of retro tomboy."
Photo: Courtesy of June Ambrose
You premiered your first season of Styled By June this year. Did you have any reservations about starring in your own reality show?
"No, because we formatted the show. Over the years I said, 'No, no, no,' and finally I got to a place where I thought it would be best to represent [and build] my brand, and not compromise it. It was a great experience because we knew what we were doing. We didn’t have to force anything. What was happening was really truly happening, which felt good. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. There was a resolution to every episode. People want to see more of my life, so we’ll see what happens for season two."
Were there any reality show clichés that you were trying to avoid?
"I definitely didn’t want to be in a place that I felt like myself and my team had to be someplace else or be other people to get ratings. I didn’t want to have to step outside of our comfort zones and throw bottles and do things that were not our true characters. The things that happened, they actually happened, and they dealt with them how they would in real life."
Fill us in: What's been the best part and also the worst part of the Styled By June experience?
"Not having enough time to do the physical prep that you would, or spend that time that I would want to dissect the artist who we're doing the makeover for. Shooting a huge transformation in five days and then having to produce it is super tough. You want to show yourself, and in showing yourself it’s a very vulnerable place because then you’re judged and wonder, 'Did they get it? Did they get me?'
"The best part is that I did make a difference in people’s lives, and I learned something about myself in every episode. That was the best part: When people do get it, when you see people on the street and they say, 'You do so much more than just put clothes on people.' You never just want to seem like this one dimension: 'I play dress up and shop for a living.' You can’t show it all; there’s not enough time in a 30-minute episode. But, they got it and that felt good."
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
"Always show up ready to win ... you put your best foot forward. Treat life like it’s a stage, like the sidewalks are the runway. And, know that once you say something and put something out there, most of the time, it’s affecting other people, so be really super conscience about the power of words, the power of change, and touch. Someone told me that even when it hurts, you smile, and that makes all the difference.
Who was that advice from?
"My mother. It’s always the mom!"
What’s next from you? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
"We’ll have the green light for the Styled By June second season in about a week. [Ed note: We're still keeping fingers crossed!] And, I am currently working on an amazing Caress deal, where I am the spokesperson. I’m also launching a collection with HSN for spring '13, so I am in the design process for that. Comes out next March."
Photo: Courtesy of VH1

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