CHICAGO — At 6:15 on Sunday evening, Kid Sister (Melisa Young, to her mother) was camped out in the Adidas swag trailer prepping for her first Lollapalooza show. Some would say the pressure was on: The relative newcomer was performing on a side stage just before Pearl Jam, the weekend’s biggest ticket, closed the festival. But nerves were apparently nonexistent as Young, tweezers steadily in hand, applied her fake lashes — straight from the pharmacy beauty aisle — with the grace of a seasoned pro. “I went to the salon to see how much it costs to get them done and it was, like, $30,” said the 26-year-old Chicago native. “I said, ‘No thanks. I’m fine with $3.99.'”
But Young’s hair still wasn’t done, and she had just 15 minutes to make it across Grant Park to catch her younger brother, Josh, aka J2K, spin as one half of the DJing duo Flosstradamus. Her Kid Sister act was set to immediately follow his, yet Young’s calm was unshakable. Meanwhile, her entourage — which was limited to two: assistant stylist Sam Politzer and her great-aunt, Rosie, here to take in her niece’s and nephew’s rare early-bird performances — was getting antsy. “Melisa has always been famous in the family,” said Rosie with a laugh, “for holding everybody up.”
These days, Young’s fame has moved beyond her bloodlines. In the last year, she’s blown up on the Chicago club scene, thanks in part to Flosstradamus’ weekly rotating Dance Party, where Young and her upbeat mix of old-school hip-hop and new club tracks — clean-cut by rap standards — are regularly featured. In addition, she played the Coachella music festival in April, and her self-styled “summer jam” single, “Pro Nails,” a cheeky manicure-pedicure anthem, has found an earnest audience that includes Kanye West, who is featured on the track. Indeed, that collaboration involved a bit of a hookup: her boyfriend, A-Trak (Alain Macklovitch), is West’s DJ and introduced him to the song. “Alain never told me [Kanye was interested], because he didn’t want to get my hopes up,” said Young. “I was going to see ‘Spider-Man 3’ with my friends, I got a call and it was my song [playing] and I heard Kanye [singing the next verse]. I started crying. It was very dramatic.”
This story first appeared in the August 9, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Young described “Pro Nails” as “one of those fun summer jams that you blast out of your ’84 Le Baron or something.” And one look at her fingers — all 10 topped with healthy acrylic tips, fluorescent yellow polish and a whole lotta airbrushed nail art — and her inspiration was obvious. “I’m a nail girl,” she said. “When I graduated from eighth grade, I had long, red, crazy-looking nails. They were a little racy. But they were cute and matched my cap and gown.”
Young claimed that she’s not much of a fashion girl, but her outfit — a graphic black-and-white printed cotton Ksubi shirtdress, Levi’s white cutoffs and Chinese Laundry red patent wedges — and extreme beauty — inch-long nails, fake lashes and bold slashes of turquoise eyeliner, said otherwise. There was a ghetto-fab vibe for sure, but on the fresh-faced brunette, who often takes the stage in colorful zip-up hoodies and copious amounts of gold jewelry, it was playful, almost wholesome. “It’s no-brainer,” she said of her look. “Take a bunch of anything — it doesn’t really matter what it is — throw it on and it makes a statement.”
Sure, that’s fun for now, but Young admitted she’s ready for a more mature style. “I’m neither grown nor sexy,” she said. “But I’m starting to want to look like a woman — less streetwear and less little-girly stuff.” Dior, Helmut Lang and Marc Jacobs are all on her wish list, as is a record deal. She’s currently finishing up her first, still untitled album, which is being shopped around to several labels. Until then, “I’m into what I can afford,” Young said. “And gold at the thrift store is really cheap and easy to find.”