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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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET!

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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