Marni Senofonte Marni Senofonte

Vixen Chat: Marni Senofonte Styles Monica, Recommends Spring Fashion Trends

Marni Senofonte's name rings bells in the depths of hip-hop history and its affair with fashion.

Crediting fellow stylist Misa Hylton-Brim for her start, Marni has evolved into a fashion guru to the stars, dressing everyone from Mary J. Blige and Cassie to Beyoncé and Ciara.With 15 years dabbling in celebrity image, she has even been the fashion mind behind some major events: Salt-N-Pepa's final tour and the Fugees reunion appearance on the 2005 BET Music Awards.

The soulful R&B siren Monica is her most recent style conquest. She adorned Mrs. Brown for "It All Belongs To Me," pulling out some heavy artillery: the high fashion threads (Comme des Garçons, Balmain), monster shoes (Alexander McQueen) and accessories for the soul queen that most fashionistas die to don.

Last week, I caught up with the pint-sized stylista en route to a Mary vid. She laughed and talked candidly about her Norma Komali beginnings, how she created a style concept for "It All Belongs To Me" and some of her greatest stories with hip-hop's trailblazers. -Niki McGloster

VIBE VIXEN: I’m so glad I was able to catch you! Now, let's just start off with how you got into fashion styling.
MARNI: Truth be told, Misa Hylton-Brim. I was working at Norma Komali, the clothing store, and Misa used to always come in and shop for SWV and Total and all these people. We just formed a relationship, and it was funny because she got pregnant with her second baby, right after she had Justin, and needed help. I was helping her out with a Total video, so truly Misa took me from Norma Komali.

So she was like your mentor through that.
She was my mentor in the sense that we didn’t even really know this was a job.

You didn’t think it would be a career?
I had no idea. I doubled majored in entertainment law and film; that was my double major up in Boston. I started working for Norma Komali because she had all these fashion films, and it kinda married to my favorite things. So, the progression into styling for music videos was certainly guided by God because I got to be around music, be around fashion, be around film. It kinda organically became a career, one that I never knew of.

And ever since you’ve been all in.
I helped Misa out while she was pregnant right up until she gave birth to her baby, but I was still working at Norma Komali. Then, Lauryn Hill saw something that I did and tracked me down and and it was Salt-N-Pepa and Lauryn Hill. Like, I literally left Norma Komali and Salt-N-Pepa it went on their last tour. It was kinda crazy. It was funny because they were doing a cover shoot for Us magazine, and they wouldn’t get dressed. Marvet [Britto] knew Norma Komali, and I was in Norma’s PR department, so I brought over each one of them an outfit, never knowing that you had to bring racks and racks of clothing. I brought Sandy something, Cheryl something, Spin something and they loved it. It was on the cover, then they’re like, 'Come work on the tour!' I was so young, so I left Norma Komali, went on the road with Naughty by Nature and Salt-N-Pepa. It was the most fun I ever had in my whole life. That was the beginning of the best stories. From there, I went straight to Lauryn Hill, and I was heavy with Lauryn Hill for years.

All of Lauryn’s solo stuff?
Yes, then I did the reunion.

I think it was the BET awards.
They opened up. I did Lauryn when she had the mushroom haircut, the high waist thing, the white shirt and the big bow.

Dope I remember that vividly. Now, recently "It All Belongs To Me" dropped. How long have you been styling Monica, specifically?
I love Monica, but our schedules are always off! I did Monica’s last video which was "Everything To Me," and that was like almost a year ago. Then I did spot scenes here and there with her, but I did this last video with her and a Jay Leno performance. Whenever I can, I try to do whatever I can for her cause I love that.

Is Monica pretty straight-forward when it comes to what she likes?
You know what? Monica is open. What I love about her is she totally trusts me, and we get so excited when we work together. She’s like, 'Do you. Even if she doesn’t understand something, she’ll try it on and be like, 'Oh I get it,' which is what I love about her. Even though she has specific ideas of what she thinks is good for her body type, she'll always give you a chance.

She lets you be creative.
And she appreciates it and enjoys it so much that it's always fun with her. She'll look at me sideways and be like, 'I don’t know,' then she’ll put it on and she’ll be like, 'Okay, Marni.' [Laughs] Really the treatment didn’t even call for the fashion, not at the level that we really came with.

Did you work closely with Brandy’s stylist to come up with what they would wear together on-screen?
Well what we would do, we had a conversation before and we came up with the black leather, the really strong and powerful look for where they come out of the house and blow up the car. So, it wasn’t like we planned it all out but it kinda all came together. It looked like we shopped together, but we didn’t.

When Monica goes into her verse, she almost has a menswear aesthetic. Where did that concept come from?
Well we were toying. I had the Tom Ford tuxedo pants, which are like everything [laughs]! We originally were thinking, Oh, they’re side-by-side, there could be a tuxedo look, but we were running out of time  so we didn’t get to shoot them in both. Actually the tuxedo thing, we were gonna do for Clive Davis event. It was such a hot look, and it so suits her because she’s a lady and a boss. She’s a badass, so every little bit of her personality was in all of the outfits. It was a little representation of the kind of woman she is and Brandy as well.

Which pieces did you love the most?
Well, I love the tuxedo look cause it was like the Tom Ford pants and the Dolce and Gabbana shirt. And I loved the Balmain look. That’s my shirt actually [laughs].

Sacrifices in fashion! [Laughs] Who designed the gowns?
That Monica pink gown? That sheer one? It's Wesley Nault. I love him. He’s really, really super amazing. We did a Halston one-shoulder with a big Lanvin necklace, kind of grown and sleek and sexy. You didn’t get to see much of it, but there was a cute little fur moment by Rick Owens. I think it’s when she cuts his tie.

Vixens really raved about the fashion, so what stores would be the best to visit and try to recreate it?
Honestly, Zara is such an amazing store! It looks conservative, but there’s so many interesting pieces between Zara and TopShop. It’s like Opening Ceremony. Opening Ceremony’s price point is a little bit higher than Zara’s and the TopShop, but you can always find some new and edgy designers who kinda resemble those really, really expensive designers. Their turnover is so quick between Zara, Forever 21 and H&M and they’re so on pulse of these quick turnover fashions that once you see something, they’ve knocked it off already so it's better to go there and try to find these looks that we may not be able to afford.

Let me tell you something, I shop there regularly, and there’s a whole slew of things you would never think came from Zara that are in these videos or on these girls. It's like taking that as their canvas and embellishing it yourself. You know, adding rhinestones or spikes or studs to give it that extra oomph.

Mixing is kinda like the key to styling high-end stuff anyway. Now with spring approaching, what three specific items do you feel a girl should have for the spring?
For spring? Well, obviously, pastels. I love the mint greens and the baby pinks and the light lilacs, so definitely some pastels. Definitely a wedged sneaker. I think everybody has knocked off the Isabel Marant wedged sneaker, but there's so many companies who did a cute little wedged sneaker, so it’ll be cute and fun. The last? A hot pair of sunglasses. I always think every spring to get a fresh pair of sunglasses.

Nice! You’ve style a lot of people thus far in your career. Which female celebrity are you dying to get your hands?
Truthfully, I think it’s Gwen Stefani. Because a lot of my girls, like Cassie and Ciara, our styles are so similar, so they can come over and shop out of my closet. I feel the same way about Gwen, but the thing about Gwen is she’s a little bit older and a little more established. There’s something about Gwen, from when she started to now, like the evolution of her. I feel like I would be shopping for myself; I think it would be so much fun. Like, it’s kinda reminiscent of Lauryn. I had so much fun with Lauryn because it was everything I wished I could get [for myself]. I would make a pair of denim gauchos and she would appreciate it, and I would like fuck with all this Adidas stuff and turn it into all this other stuff and she would wear it. So it’s kinda like I live vicariously through Gwen Stefani and Lauryn Hill.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
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Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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