Interviews with people who run the show + inspire us to live well.
Meet the icon behind the icons, the celebrity stylist responsible for dressing some of hip hop and beyond’s most well known personalities (her A-list roster includes Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys to name a few), and the woman who is as real and relatable as they come. Welcome to the #Juniverse.
June understands that staying centered as a badass business woman requires rock solid health practices to keep her grounded, so that she can soar higher with each new endeavor.
Read below for Lily and June's chat:
LK: Tell us what drip you’re getting.
JA: I’m getting an Immunity Drip. It’s like a cocktail of vitamins because I am feeling overworked and rundown. Whenever I feel like I am about to get a cold, I try to get ahead of it and this is a great excuse for me to sit still. This drip is to help prepare myself for any overworking that my body is going to have to do today.
LK: You’ve done it all—from dressing top celebrities to rising up as a powerhouse business woman. What keeps you going and what keeps you grounded?
JA: Wellness - taking time to care for myself as I am taking care of my family. People, especially moms, don’t like to say they come first, but I think that it is important for self preservation to say you come first, and pace yourself. I’m not a sprinter, I am a marathon runner more so mentally. I look at my day and it’s ok if I don’t get it all done, I put it off to the next or I ask for help. I think most successful people are really good at delegating and asking for help and organizing their lives in that way. That has been hugely successful for me as a mom and in my career.
LK: What or who inspires you?
JA: I am inspired by the memory of my mom, and having to work and having a career. That was very inspiring and still is inspiring, she was in fashion when we came to America. I wasn’t born in America. I was born in Antigua, so when she came to America it was game time. She was on the grind, and she worked in retail and then she got her nursing degree and went into nursing. Seeing how she cared for others selflessly was really inspiring and I think that I have that nurturing spirit in my fashion career with all my clients. Aside from my family, I nurture. It’s a very vulnerable process. It’s a place where you have to care for someone both mentally and physically and when you look at it that way the experience for both parties takes on a different emotion and different course. You think more clinical, so I have always taken a clinical approach to costume design and character development. Every job has always been from a clinical, emotional or spiritual place.
I really, truly feel like you want someone to mask imperfections that you don’t love about yourself, you want to glamoflage them but at the end of the day, at the core of it all, if I don’t work on you from the inside then you don’t really get the true result, and the true result is you discovering yourself. Whether it’s your artistic persona, whether it is the character that you are playing, whether it is your personal persona and how you want to develop as an individual, wellness plays a part in that. If you don’t like the size that you are or you feel like your shoulders are slumpy, well let’s do a couple things to work on that. It’s not just let's cover this up, it’s also let's see how we can clinically fix it. It could be anything from working out together, recommending a trainer, nutrition—I have recommended acting coaches, nutritionists, trainers. Writing those prescriptions makes my job that much more effective.
LK: Who is your personal style icon?
JA: I love Dominique Deveraux. I used to think I was a Carrington. Dynasty was like the first nighttime soap opera. I loved Diana Ross growing up, I loved Cher, I just loved Hollywood glamour. I loved Dorothy Dandridge. I loved the idea of mixing that glamour with urban street. I love being a walking contradiction—I think that is what style is all about. Not being predictable but discovering yourself in a way that contradicts everything. Or there is a sense of sophistication in streetwear. Creating these dichotomies and cultural perception is really awesome to me. I think that is the magic in what I do. I’m a rule breaker—I don’t ask for permission, that kind of attitude.
LK: You’ve worked with some of the Entertainment Industry’s biggest A-Listers. Have you noticed a shift in the conversations taking place in Hollywood surrounding health and wellness culture?
JA: I don’t want to call it a trend, it’s an awareness. There has been a shift in attitude, a shift in our planet. We are not performing at our highest capacity of physical being and it is because our tolerance level is so high. When we stop we realize we are aching and in pain. There is completely a shift because we are working harder. There is so much information out there, but there is enough good information to sift through and find what really makes sense for you and what is closest to the truth. We need to nourish ourselves, recharge, and it is not a trend, it’s a necessity.
I don’t take for granted that I have access to this luxury experience, but we have a lot of work to do to create access for underserved communities. The shift is also going to be caring for other people. I think we will see a lot of people speaking up and speaking out in a real way and creating tribal incubators and slowly starting to pocket the ideas for communities that don’t have access. It’s why I serve on the board of the Fresh Air Fund because there are kids in the city that can’t even get out of the city to get fresh air and experience life out of the stressful environments that they live in.
LK: Let’s talk nutrition - you’re plant based. Do you subscribe to a certain food philosophy?
JA: It’s only been two and a half years so I still consider myself to be a toddler in the experience. I have not regressed back to eating anything outside of plant based meals, but I am still learning how to walk and navigate my way through the journey. I do not say I am a vegan but I am living a plant based lifestyle.
LK: Do you cook at home?
JA: Yes, all the time. Cooking at home helps a lot, so you know what is in your food. I’m Carribean so I love curries, sauces, ethnic foods, and they have a lot of flavor so I can do a lot of things with beans and get creative with it. I was really excited when Clean Market opened because it was a like-minded space and this neighborhood doesn’t have a lot of vegan options, and you address both, whether it’s vegan or paleo or plant based options, and alternative vitamins and nutritional supplements. Again, not a trend but a lifestyle change.
LK: How do you unwind and ‘chill out’?
JA: I did sound yoga the other day. It’s meditation through sound and there is some movement. It was incredible. I am not a great meditator. Also cooking - it’s where I have the most fun. It’s something I can do with my daughter. My son is not interested but that is an important time and it creates these childlike adult memories which are really good.
LK: How does travel fit into your life?
JA: I travel a lot for work but work is fun for me. My husband complains that I travel so much for work that I don’t do well in planning family vacations. The kids are older now, one that is going off to college next year, so I am going to have to start planning family trips and can’t take for granted that I get to see them every day now. I’m on a plane at least once or twice a month, but anything can come up last minute and that takes a toll on you physically - airplanes are dirty! I have my oils, I have Lypo-spheric supplements. JetBlue has a really good plant-based meal but they haven’t changed it in over 2 years so I get the same exact meal every time!
LK: Do you have a favorite project or outfit moment from your career?
JA: I have had a couple television shows and the second show I did was on VH1 it was a makeover show with celebrities and that was great but then I did another show with TLC Save My Style and that was another makeover show but it was with real people. When I wrote my book, Effortless Style, that was for real people that want to feel like a superstar celebrity. With Save My Style, that was really fun because I really got to engage with people that I felt like ‘I see you in me’ or trust me even though I am in fashion and glamorous, crazy, funny, and adventurous in my style, I see you and it was nice to give a little bit of my expertise to that person who truly really deserved it but wouldn't necessarily be able to have that experience. I love traveling and doing speaking engagements, engaging with my social followers is so rewarding, I think that is what life is about. If you get to meet people and change lives, you know that at the end of your journey you did something right.
LK: What advice would you give to young women who are starting their own businesses?
JA: Be gentle with yourself. I say that first because we have such angst to be successful. We think that if we start something it is supposed to be successful because we started it, and then we forget about the process. Pace yourself, align your day to day goals, think about it from day to day so you don’t beat yourself up, because you know that this is the journey you are on. So when you finally arrive to that place, you are not as exhausted mentally and spiritually as you would have been if you had said you had to get it done by the end of the year. I’m speaking from a place of experience. You have to appreciate the experience.
For me, I appreciate every experience as a way of growth - it’s like when you are teaching a child don’t touch the outlet or don’t touch fire it burns, in our adult lives we have all of those experiences every single day. I always say listen to that childlike spirit, don’t be afraid to do something that may almost get you in trouble. Do something that challenges you, that gives you butterflies. Take some risks. And the risk can be as simple as wearing red lipstick if you have never worn red lipstick before or blowing your hair straight if you have curly hair or changing the color, these are physical things but also do lifestyle things too.
LK: What’s next for you?
JA: I am always in the lab. There are a number of things but I am a true believer in not discussing the next but producing the next. It’s just getting up and going day by day.
Photos by Diana Zapata.