Q&A: June Ambrose on Lupita Nyong’o, Her Daughter’s Fashion, and More

By
Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com/BFA NYC

At the exhibition of "Albright Goes to School, a show created in partnership with MAC Cosmetics, the Cut caught up with June Ambrose, stylist to Jay Z and Pharrell Williams (among others). Ambrose was one of ten stylists who curated looks from the iconic Albright fashion library, currently on display at the Fashion Institute of Technology, to celebrate the library's ten-year anniversary.

She talked to the Cut about her daughter's growing street-style stardom, Lupita Nyong'o as a "posted child for better times," and the power of fashion to break down economic and racial barriers.

Your daughter’s quite the growing street-style star. She's a really good accessorizer.
[Laughs.] Oh, well thank you. Did you see her during Fashion Week? The beautiful pearl harness? We went to a market appointment and she would not leave without it. She says, "I’m going to my next show in this." And she put it on, and the designer was like, "Take it."

How is she developing her sense visually?
Most kids are very visual, especially because of computers. You have to give them something that not only stimulates their palette, but their senses, as well. Sight is very important.

But they need color. And I like to accessorize. My daughter’s into cooking — she’s 9 — and I say, "Accessorize," and will put out plum tomatoes, carrots, and just do things with color. I’ll grate some beets, Brussels sprouts, and cranberries. We come up with different ways to be fit and fashionable. Style and fit. I think it starts young.

Is she picking out her own outfits?
No, she goes to private school, so we don’t have those issues. Weekends are when we have fun. She gets creative with the blue and whites. We do variations of it.

On weekends, does she pick out her own outfits?
I create a closet that doesn’t allow her to be too crazy. I allow her to discover her body. She’s not comfortable in tight clothes. She’s growing; she’s figuring out what works for her body type. She’s very athletic. I think it’s important that young girls know early to accept that, "This is what I am" and we’re really working on that now. No poon-poon shorts in the closet. No hottie shorts.

Right, I've been reading about bras for girls who are 5 years old.
They don’t understand psychologically what they’re doing. They don’t. But I know the power of fashion and what it can interpret; it plays into my real life as a mom.

So speaking of the power of fashion, everyone’s been talking about Lupita Nyong'o. What do you think that her clothing choices — specifically the choices she made this past awards season — are saying?
I think that she’s the poster child for better times. In terms of color and being fearless and celebrating loving color, it’s really meaningful. Honestly, she could wear anything she wants. She’s a straight up-and-down girl. She’s model-like. But you can tell that there’s an honest connection with everything that she’s wearing. It’s been a very provocative time. Especially in the world of editorial, where there’s this fight, and on the runways, to see more women of color. I like that she’s unafraid to be vocal about it.

That’s what life and style is about. It’s a common conversation. To me, it’s a conversation we can all have. Fashion breaks down every barrier, in my opinion. We can all talk about fashion. 

Even economic barriers?
Well, when you look at like a magazine like Essence magazine — the economics of the household income is $45,000 to $75,000, so you know who your demo is. You’re not going to shoot couture. When you start to break it down in terms of race or who’s buying the publication, you have statistics and numbers there.

But what I’m saying with that is, Fuck the statistics. Everyone should be represented. I don’t care about the numbers and I know from doing editorial and being on the other side that I’m not making the demographic part up. We need to stop it, you know. I never allowed it to become an issue for me, but when you have young people who are coming up and they don’t see enough of themselves, that’s a problem. I’m more concerned about them, because as an adult we have overcome it to some extent, but now it’s our time to fight the fight for them.