Secretary of Style, Genius Stylist, and Style Architect are just some of the titles used to describe one of the best style curators of our time: June Ambrose. You can tell by every thread she orchestrates, that style is personal to her. Her leap of faith from corporate investment banking to becoming an intern at Uptown/MCA Records was the beginning of her reign as the hip-hop, style grand dame. June Ambrose is the reason high fashion and hip-hop combined.
The mommy mogul has sustained a career that inspires millions. And she did it with passion on her mind and grit in her heart. As we continue to give our living legends their flowers while they are still here with us, we want to acknowledge the impact of June Ambrose. Let’s run back to some of Ambrose’s most iconic styling moments that changed the game forever.
Missy Elliott in “Supa Dupa Fly” Music Video
For Missy Elliott, this legendary getup allowed her to mask her shyness while also leaning into her provocativeness. She told ELLE in an interview, “The outfit was a symbol of power. I loved the idea of feeling like a hip-hop Michelin woman.” Ambrose also told the magazine that the goal of this look was to create something that would withstand time because of its bold and innovative flair. With a mock-neck, blob-ish structure in mind, the stylist called in a contractor that could help create a balloon-like catsuit. To make it come to life, she had to walk Missy to the nearest gas station to inflate the suit.
Jay-Z in the “APESH*T” Music Video
Ambrose has been responsible for Jay-Z’s style evolution for over a decade. One of the most memorable has to be the shiny suit that took up all the space in the Louvre for the APESH*T video. “For the video, it was more about the colors and the tone and the bossiness of the fit of the suiting,” Ambrose told W Magazine. She recalls it was a “real fashion-forward stretch for us, was really nice.” She went on to say, “We wanted everything to feel easy and effortless like he didn’t have to try hard for any look. That’s what I love about his style.”
Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson in “What’s It Gonna Be?!” Music Video
Remember seeing CGI for the first time? Watching your favorite artist morph into an unworldly object was something we didn’t know we needed. The way music video visionary, Hype Williams, and June Ambrose were able to create short films using unconventional effects and imaginative outfits were nothing short of magic. Take Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson in “What’s It Gonna Be?” Ambrose and the crew spent $4 million to bring this vision to life. It’s safe to say the coins were well spent from Janet’s dominatrix getup to Busta’s super-sexy armor.
Notorious B.I.G. f/ Mase & Puff Daddy in “Mo Money, Mo Problems” Music Video
With fearlessness at the forefront of Ambrose’s work, she worked hard to shift the culture with these red, shiny suits. And it was no easy feat. When she showed music superstar, Diddy, the red, metallic suit she had in mind for the music video, he immediately told her no. As a woman of many talents, she knew she needed to have options. That’s where the full red, leather suits came in. In an interview with AdWeek, she explained, “You have to go into this business very fearless, and you have to have integrity for what you do… I said to him, ‘You have to just trust me. I know that sounds wild, but I put my career on this moment. I’m telling you it will make a huge difference.” When Diddy watched the playback, he looked at June and said ‘okay.’ “And that was the beginning of not only a great working relationship, but a great friendship.”
Jay Z f/ Pharrell in “Change Clothes” Music Video
I’m a little biased because I am a Jay-Z Stan but the Change Clothes video proved that fashion and hip-hop were a match made in heaven. The song is in fact about clothes so it’s only right that it makes the list. Fashion shows, red carpets and VIP access all speak to the life of a fashion heavyweight. Then, there’s the fact that Ambrose pulled in Naomi Campbell, Jessica White and Omahyra Mota to wear pieces fresh off the runway. Everything about the styling of the clothes in this first single from “The Black Album” is so necessary.
Mariah Carey ft/ Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri in “It’s Like That” Music Video
Mimi’s Emancipation started with the barely-there dresses from this music video. “We didn’t have a point of reference that came before us,” Ambrose told Billboard. The costume designer went on to say, “I bridged high fashion with urban music. What felt so rebellious was taking a high fashion piece, and still keeping the same demeanor and swag that you wore in your neighborhood.” It was always so amazing to see all the Blackness in Ambrose’s work. And also how she elevated such simple concepts like having a masked ball. We all wanted to be at this party living our best lives. Ambrose’s ability to connect with her clients to empower them was truly skillful. When talking about working with Mariah, Ambrose said, “She rendered herself to me where she allowed me to show her other sides and other options of sexy. [The media] called it a makeover, but we played around with a lot of different things and had what we called “moments.”
The Isley Brothers and R. Kelly in “Contagious” Music Video
The year was 2001 and the song, “Contagious” came in like a wrecking ball. Mr. Biggs became a phenomenon and Ambrose used inspirations from the oversized gold medallion to Al Capone’s swag to the zoot suit to bring this story to life. She shared with W Magazine that “Ron Isley’s no gangster.” So, she found another modish angle. “It wasn’t always about gangsta music being real, but then you were storytelling and exaggerating certain things,” Ambrose said.
Will Smith in “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” Music Video, 1997
Shiny suits are very much on-brand for Ambrose; she made them popular. Will Smith got jiggy with it and his style curator brought a new spin on the shiny suit paired with classic Adidas striped pants. Giving flowers where they are due, the Bronx native told W Magazine, “Hype was constantly coming up with the most outrageous things. I really give him a whole lot of credit for being the change agent at the time, because without those treatments, we really wouldn’t have had the script, in a sense, to do what we were doing — to tell the story.” Together, Hype and June continued to create a cultural landscape that should land them in a hall of fame.
Foxy Brown and Jay-Z in “I’ll Be” Music Video, 1996
In case you didn’t know, most of the trends you see today derive from the magic June Ambrose created in the 90s and 2000s. Bodycon, cutouts, two-toned sunglasses and more came from a time when stylists like Ambrose met the music superstars where they were but didn’t leave them there. Foxy Brown was always known for her sex appeal and Ambrose made sure that was conveyed through her style. She told W Magazine, “That was her marketing strategy, talking about how ill her vagina was. I was still trying to put her in a Norma Kamali one-strap dress, but it had to be super tight, and I was able to get it to the floor, but it had to be body con.” And what better way to allow art to imitate life than having the female rapper drip in Dolce and Gabbana while rapping the lyrics, “Uh, rollin’ for Lana, dripped in Gabbana. Nineties style, you find a style.”
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