Byline: Elena Romero
NEW YORK — A diverse group of celebrities from the worlds of music and film are sparking a cultural and fashion convergence on the urban scene.
The likes of Russell Simmons and Sean “Puffy” Combs have pioneered the hip-hop fashion connection with their own collections, while others are setting the trends with their personal styles on stage and screen.
Here’s a look at 10 in the spotlight:
Mary J. Blige
The Nineties brought female rappers through major transformations — TLC and Da Brat shed their boyish looks and turned them in for sexy, slinky wares. But it has been Mary J. Blige, considered the godmother of hip-hop soul, who has been one of the catalysts for change.
She allowed her sex appeal to shine in couture attire, while maintaining a rugged mass appeal with her Timberlands. She represents a street soulful singer who came out of the veins of hip-hop and has paved the way for the new breed, including Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim, who have made a name for themselves by making European designs a hip-hop must.
Most recently, renowned cartoonist Stan Lee, creator of the “X-Men” series, developed and produced an animated cartoon character of Mary J. Blige used for her T-shirt line to make its debut this spring, which could lead to a bigger deal.
When many women were afraid to look feminine in the rap game, Lil’ Kim capitalized on her sex appeal to grab attention. Accenting on her femininity and yelling Italian fashion names in her lyrics, Lil’ Kim has made it part of her trademark.
She taunts fans and audiences with raunchy lyrics and lavish style that couldn’t be complete if it did not include luxurious, sexy ensembles and sparkling jewels. The bodacious rapper stopped MTV Award viewers dead in their tracks with her lavender pants outfit that allowed for one breast to be covered with nothing more than a pasty.
Cosmetics brands such as MAC and labels like Iceberg Jeans have used her image to help promote their brands to aspiring customers and wannabes.
A blend of sophisticated elegance meets utilitarian-inspired looks gives spiritual, soulful singer Lauren Hill the fashion advantage. She trades off on stage between a denim jacket and tube-top dress and an Armani that drapes her body just as well as her lyrics flow.
Ethnic-inspired accessories complete Hill’s Bohemian style and provide her simplistic outlets of expression. Shiny tinted glasses, silver hoop earrings and bangle bracelets fill out the uniform.
She might have started out a somewhat conservative fashion dresser early in her career, but that didn’t stop Toni Braxton from making her transition into being one of today’s most soulful divas. Letting her old casual denim jeans image go, Braxton has been able to project a new image of confidence, sophistication and elegance.
Leaning toward sexy, streamlined looks, which accentuate her natural attributes, Braxton has been able to create a look she can call her own, thanks in part to designer Marc Bouwer.
Entertainment Weekly has named her one of the sexiest women on television. Playing the role of Ling Woo in the FOX-TV hit series “Ally McBeal,” this Queens, N.Y., native has all the makings of a fashion muse. Like her character role as an attorney, Liu projects confidence in what she wears, whether it’s a simple red dress or a classic outfit that includes a leather jacket.
Being among the few Asian actresses in the mainstream media spotlight, Liu is able to personify her style with simple accessories and sexy, dressed-up ensembles.
Jennifer Lopez has it all — the looks, the glam, the career and even the stylish man, the Puff Daddy himself. Making her televised national debut as a dancer on the now defunct “In Living Color,” Lopez has made a successful transition from an understyled hip-hop dancer to a slinky, sexy actress, singer and spokeswoman for beauty products.
Whether she wears her hair straight or curly, Lopez manages to turn heads when she walks into a room, especially in her signature hip-huggers or low-waisted pants. At times she can be a bit shy, but when it comes to fashion, she is bold and wants her presence to be known. Let’s not forget when she wore the barely covering green Versace dress at last year’s Grammy Awards that gave her instant iconic status similar to Marilyn Monroe in her white halter dress.
Kimora Lee Simmons
By the age of 13, Kimora Lee, a native of St. Louis, was on her way to stardom. She was dubbed the “the look of the 21st Century” by Karl Lagerfeld, closing Lagerfeld’s show as the perfect couture bride her first season in Paris over a decade ago, and has strolled down the runways for Issey Miyake, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger.
Wife of music mogul Russell Simmons, Kimora Lee’s fashion sense inspired her husband to create Baby Phat. As creative director, Simmons plays an active role in the vision of the $40 million company, from its inception of design to marketing and advertising.
Part celebrity and part socialite, Simmons Lee takes pride in her walk-in closets that are so perfectly organized and showcase some of her most-prized fashion possessions — from designer evening dresses to her all-encompassing shoe collections.
Sean “Puffy” Combs
He started his career as an intern at Uptown Records in 1991, and a decade later, Sean “Puffy” Combs has risen to the top of the success ladder, keeping on top of the trends and ahead of most his peers.
This music executive, entertainer and entrepreneur has managed to get his hands in a variety of endeavors: music production, restaurants, apparel, and most recently, the Internet with Hookt.com. He’s been nominated for a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award and is developing a women’s collection.
Almost overnight, his Sean John brand, labeled for his given name, has eclipsed his Bad Boy music label, accounting for almost $100 million in sales last year. Combs has graced the fashion community with his sleek style, making white, gray and black tone-on-tone looks his signature and added a new meaning to the word “imagemaker.”
He’s led the charge in letting the world know that hip-hoppers dress up too, and don fine wares such as Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gucci and Versace.
The Latin invasion was eminently clear when Ricky Martin graced the national airwaves in Armani for a televised live performance on MTV Music Awards a few years back. The hearts of fans nearly stopped as this Puerto Rican sensation shook his pelvis like Elvis and brought classic, sexy fashions to life.
Whether it’s been the traditional guayabera or fitted dress pants with a tight, ribbed top, Martin has brought world interest to South Beach style. Many have forgotten the days when Martin was part of the prepubescent singing group Menudo that made aviator and motorcycle jackets a popular phenomenon among Latino teens everywhere.
Bridging the gap between tailored and casual, Martin has pushed dress-casual forward and more than likely inspired many to brush up on their dance moves.
Borrowing from rock, funk and soul, his music resembles much of the fusion found in his personal style. Like his music, Lenny Kravitz’s fashion sense is all his own interpretation. This style-conscious rocker is among the few who can make a strong fashion statement whether it be in tight leather pants, a feathered boa and cowboy hat or simply in a pair of vintage, hip-huggers, denim bell-bottoms and cowboy boots.
A blend of sophisticated chic and psychedelic funk, this Grammy-Award-winning performer has managed to capture the attention of design houses such as Tommy Hilfiger and Versace. In 1999, he won the VH1/Vogue Fashion Award for most stylish artist.
Ones to Watch
Destiny’s Child (Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams)
Venus and Serena Williams