Inflatable Suit Launches Stylist To Stardom
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We just mentioned that dancing on "Soul Train" was the big break for a number of entertainers like Rosie Perez and Jody Watley. Well, our colleagues at All Things Considered have been hearing stories from a number of other people about the moment when their careers took off.
The series is called My Big Break, and as part of the series they recently spoke with June Ambrose, a celebrity stylist who helps everybody from Jay-Z to Mary J. Blige look sharp on set and on the red carpet. She told us that she got her start in the industry working on music videos and her big break came from Missy Elliott's "The Rain."
JUNE AMBROSE: Well, when I first sat down with the record label for Missy Elliot, it was to discuss the "Supa Dupa Fly" album project. The head of the record label called me in for a meeting along with Missy and her management team. The question was posed to me - how are you, June Ambrose, going to sell this young lady to mainstream America? She was a full-figured girl, and at the time it was all about racy, provocative females in music. The lyrical content was very racy, and it was almost an animated racy. I said Missy Elliott will be my modern day cartoon character. Music video director Hype Williams came to me with this amazing video treatment that talked about Missy Elliott being blown up in this, what he described as like, a Michelin man.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE RAIN")
AMBROSE: I said, oh, like a big white blow up bubble? Like the tire commercials? And I just saw it so differently. I said, well, I would love to use black patent leather, and I designed this big blow up suit out of a tire inner tube and patent leather on the outside, like more of a vinyl. The contraption was very small deflated, but once you blew it up, it was the size of maybe a 900-pound man. And we had to take the suit to a gas station to have it blown up. So we walked to the gas station, we blew her up and then we walked her back to location where we were shooting. And the suit slowly deflated. It had a small leak.
Now with the way this costume was built, any bit of air that seeped out would not keep the suit inflated. So now I'm like, oh, God, what am I going to do? Everyone was screaming get art department, let's figure this out. I was like, I need a bicycle pump. And the director would yell action, little me - I'm behind this big inflated suit and I'm just pumping, pumping, pumping, pumping as she's dancing.
I stood behind the suit during every take, keeping the air pressure in the suit, but just allowing enough of it to seep out so that it would pop lock in a way that was just so dynamic. The slight leak actually made the suit a lot more dynamic than I could have ever imagined. And that crazy luck, I got to tell you, probably changed my life. I earned my wings. If she was skeptical before this experienced, she now knew that she could trust me.
And I did every music video in her career after that. I think Missy Elliott was really when my big break happened. These outrageous music video moments, because they were so highly recognized and celebrated, they caught on. We never came from behind the curtains, we were the wizards. People always want to seek out who's creating magic.
MARTIN: That was celebrity stylist June Ambrose telling us about her big break. Our friends at All Things Considered want to hear about your big break - send an e-mail with your story to MyBigBreak - all one word - at NPR.org.
And if you're looking for your moment to shine in the world of poetry, here's your chance - it's Muses and Metaphor, our month-long Twitter poetry series. According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy, we've already had close to 2,000 poems come in, we're still going strong. Here's a poetic treat that caught our eye. The Twitter handle is @JLC writes - a path to independence, wheels to roll away from home, seeing her in the distance already on my phone. Now it's your turn - tweet us your poem using #TMMPoetry. And that's our program for today. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.
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