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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, we're collecting stories of triumph, big and small, moments when people make great leaps forward in their careers. We call it My Big Break. You probably don't know the name June Ambrose, but you may have seen her work.

JUNE AMBROSE: I am the girl who put Puff Daddy in a shiny suit. I am the girl who put Nas in a pink suit and white shoes. I'm also the girl who put Will Smith in a hibiscus suit head to toe.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Before her days as a stylist to the stars, she worked in costume design for music videos. Her break came when she was called into work on Missy Elliott's hit "The Rain."

AMBROSE: Well, when I first sat down with the record label for Missy Elliott, it was to discuss the "Supa Dupa Fly" album project.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOCK IT TO ME")

AMBROSE: 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. She was a full-figured girl and at the time it was all about racy, provocative females in music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOCK IT TO ME")

AMBROSE: 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, "SUPA DUPA FLY")

AMBROSE: I said, oh, like, a big, white blowup 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 blowup suit out of a tire inner tube and patent leather on the outside, like more of a vinyl. But 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 the location where we were shooting. And the suit slowly deflated.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

AMBROSE: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMBROSE: 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, I need a bicycle pump.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMBROSE: 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMBROSE: The slight leak actually made the suit a lot more dynamic than I could've ever imagined. And that crazy luck, I got to tell you, probably changed my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMBROSE: I earned my wings. If she was skeptical before this experience, she now knew that she could trust me. And I did every music video in her career after that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMBROSE: 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. But people always want to seek out who's creating magic.

RATH: June Ambrose, a celebrity stylist who's worked on more than 150 music videos. We want to hear about your big break. Send an email with your story to My Big Break at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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