The trendsetting June Ambrose, is one of the most sought-after premier stylists’ and creative director in both music and TV. She is responsible for some of the most aesthetically iconic music videos of our generation.
Ambrose got her start at Uptown/MCA Records, which helped her to jump start a career in styling where she went onto create some of the most iconic images we’ve seen in hip-hop, fashion and beyond. She put Missy Elliot in that unforgettable patent leather and-vinyl suit seen in, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” video. She has dressed the likes of P. Diddy and Mase in those eye-catching metallic suits as well as the street-chic looks in Hype Williams’ cult classic film ‘Belly.’
She’s no doubt the woman who helped Jay Z become the fashion icon he is today, and most recently behind the styling of DJ Khaled's hit, "I Got The Keys" ft Jay Z and Future. The lady is driven with an unparalleled work ethic; it's no wonder June Ambrose has remained on top of her game for the past two decades.
I recently caught up with the mogul (after a hectic week of rescheduling), she managed to squeeze me in for an insightful interview.
Your brand has seen an evolution, which extends beyond just styling from your books to your line on HSN, what other frontiers lay ahead for the June Ambrose brand?
I definitely want to bring more products baring my name to the marketplace. I want to make those products globally available outside of America. As there is more brand awareness for me I would love the opportunity to be able share more of the lifestyle; to able to bring things that I think that have made a difference in my life. Bring things that have made a difference in celebrities that I have worked with lifestyle. Sometimes in the smallest of glasses or a turban, whatever those trendsetting things (starting small and growing) could be. Just being able to lend my name to things that are going to be life changing or lifestyle tools is really where I see my brand going.
Through the ever-watchful eye of social media, the world has had a front row seat to all the current turbulent social injustices plaguing the African American community. From your perspective as a music fan and an individual within the industry, do you think that Hip Hop culture has shied away from using it’s voice to speak on these critical issues as it once did back in the 80’s & 90’s?
The social turmoil that we are having is going to bring about more social awareness. Jayz released a song just when the uproar started. He wrote it a couple years ago and he felt that it was the right time to share. That addressed these issues. For a
very long time these issues were being addressed but there was nothing that the audience could really put it to because we didn’t have social access and social media & the information wasn’t as readily available. So now that there is context to put it to there will be more mobility, the more that those types of songs will be written. The community needs leadership, I think that it’s not just about hash tagging it; it’s
about creating a conversation that brings about social change. That’s comes through speaking the truth; when we address the truth we address the issues and that will allow people outside of the community to see it through the eyes of those in the who are suffering those injustices. We have to speak our truth, we cannot be afraid to speak our truth. We have to share it with those who have not walked in our shoes who have never experienced this kind of conflict. I think that there is a lack of education, a lack of emotional experience. It’s partially the reason that we are, where we are because there is no sensitivity to it. If you have never experienced it you don’t feel like it’s about you, it’s their issue so you preclude yourself from it, but you don’t have to experience this kind of injustice to just be morally conscious of what is right and wrong and there is a lot of wrong that we need to start addressing, that we need to make right.
How did you translate the brief you received for the “I Got The Keys” video into the looks we now see in the video itself?
The treatment was very 60’s inspired; there was a lot of black & white Black Panther references & military references as well; very strong and striking. There
was so much talent in the video all the guys had to come dressed in their black suits and white shirts, white ties or bow ties or very skinny retro white ties. Overall that was very helpful in being able to pull off something so big off.
You worked on so many iconic music videos, that went on to shape the style and trends of the Uptown era, which video would you say was the most pivotal in your resume and could you take us back to what it was like on the day it was shot?
When I look back there were some really powerful moments. When Biggie Smalls died Puffy made a record, “Mo’ money, Mo’ Problems”, this brought about the shiny suits and the plastic covered nylon. That was truly an iconic video.
Obviously Missy Elliot, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” blow up suit was another iconic music video.
Busta Rhymes “Put your hands where your eyes can see”
When you start looking at the long form music videos that sometimes reference a film that we were creating in short form, even with Will Smith “Getting Jiggy With It”.
All these cool things that we wanted to take Hip Hop and make it something that was a little bit more cinematic, happy, approachable & Pop Culture crossover. Hip Hop has turned into a Hippy culture now but when you think of what were doing before we were creating this movement that was going to change the face of how Hip Hop was viewed and for me it really was about allowing the art to breathe. When you think about systemically what the culture was going through in terms of environment in how most of us were growing up in no-so conditions amazing conditions we were able to use the art form, allow it to breathe, show aspiration, show dreams, show that we could be part of something. We were mixing high fashion with costume design breaking down a lot of barriers. Even just crossing over and getting these fashion houses to allow to us their couture pieces in music videos was a huge triumph. We fight these battles everyday.
The great thing about the costume design in a lot of these music videos is that I didn’t have to wait to gain entrance, I created an entrance-way, I created & we all walked through it, I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s continuing to build these doorways and opening for others and allowing people to walk through what you have been blessed and fortunate enough to experience.
What would you say are your Top 3 aesthetically iconic music videos (where it was the treatment, wardrobe & or setting) of all time?
Michael Jackson, “Bad” or “Thriller”, Tupac, “California Love”. Jlo has had some
great ones too. This question is a tough one. The artist has to be super crossover
because those are ones that get the most exposure.
You are known for being an unapologetic rebel in the business world from making strides in the corporate sphere to fashion. Which characteristics of yourself, do you feel have served you best in your quest for success?
Knowledge of business. Understanding that you can’t sustain creatively if you don’t manage your assets. Marketing your creative tools; marketing it them in such a way that will keep you going and keep people wanting to be part of what you are selling.
With over 200 music videos under her belt and multiple world tours, it’s no wonder that Vibe has called her a “visionary,” New York Magazine dubbed her a “modern-day hip-hop Holly Golightly,” W has labeled her rap’s own Edith Head, and The Coveteur has referred to her as the” heart and soul of the fashion styling world.” The world is definitely June Ambrose's ouster!