Hip-hop heads knew from first glance after seeing the music video for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s new single, “WAP,” who influenced their colorful looks, complete with matching wigs. Viewers were quick to pull up references from rapper Lil’ Kim’s era and a discussion ensued about how important Misa Hylton, Kim’s longtime stylist and creative partner, is to the culture.
“It feels good because it speaks to how powerful the ideas were and still are,” Hylton tells ESSENCE. “It’s important to know where you came from and then where you can go and how much further you can take it.”
Hylton, a self-proclaimed lifestyle architect, stars in one of Netflix’s latest drops, titled The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion. The documentary dives into the synergy between hip-hop and the fashion industry from the perspectives of Dapper Dan, Kerby-Jean Raymond and April Walker. It also follows the Hylton’s trajectory and how she’s connected to all of these Black fashion entities.
The stylist entered the industry at 17 years old and throughout her career has been able to create the looks for popular acts such as Kim, Jodeci and Mary J. Blige thanks to her connection to then-boyfriend, Puff Daddy. “When it’s an artist, you have the songs and things like that, but image is important. Super important,” exclaims Hylton.
ESSENCE got a chance to chat with the lifestyle architect about her latest project with Netflix and how she feels about her influence still reigning high in 2020.
ESSENCE: I know that you’ve previewed this doc in different spaces within the past year, how does it feel for it to finally be out?
Misa Hylton: It feels amazing because all of our work is being recognized and we get to educate the next generation. People who have been in the culture, and may not have known how I or April contributed know now. So it’s an amazing feeling to be recognized.
How important do you think it is for Gen Z to be familiar with your work?
We need to support the youth and we need to support the next generation and give them wisdom, guidance and mentorship. Just be someone who shows strength and shows what is possible. I was 17 years old styling and in an environment where there wasn’t anyone who looked like me. There wasn’t anyone in particular I could speak to about getting that support. I did meet many people who became like angels in my journey who gave me information and everything I needed. I learned to be that person who is able to see the vision and support it, and support new talent, and provide wisdom and provide knowledge and mentorship. That’s just something that has always been extremely important to me. And I know that it’s needed.
Kim was unapologetic with her style in the ’90s. How can an artist live unapologetically in 2020 in regards to style ?
I think it means being authentic and not being afraid to be unique and to do something different that no one else has done. Stand behind your truth and stand behind your message.
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Why is it important to have a great stylist-to-artist dynamic?
It’s important to work with a stylist who gets you, that understands what your vision is and knows how to work in a team and with a larger group. There’s a lot of teamwork involved. So [clients need to find] someone who is flexible, who’s able to tap into what they want to create and then interpret it for them. Because usually there are a lot of people involved when you’re coming up with a strong image. It isn’t just the stylist with the client. So we always want to make clients happy and be able to bring to life what their vision is and then share your creativity along with it. But being a team player and knowing how to work in the larger group is extremely important.
In the documentary, you spoke about going through some struggles. How were you able to stay positive during that time?
I didn’t always feel positive but I always had hope. I knew that nothing stays the same forever, and while I was in this challenging place there was a lot of wisdom to gain and self-awareness. I just needed to stay open and trust the process.
What is something you wish you would’ve told your younger self?
If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be, “You have no idea how amazing your journey is going to be. Your unique way of seeing the world is going to disrupt and influence global fashion.”