Ty-Ron Mayes, Celebrity Stylist, Fashion Consultant for Tyra Banks and Lead Stylist for “America’s Next Top Model” Cycles 20 and 21, gave us an exclusive insight about his career and some trendy suggestions to be always on top!
How did your passion for styling begin?
I come from a very glamorous, well-dressed and highly educated family. My grandparents were the Reverend and First Lady of the A.M.E. Zion Church. It’s a position, in which, every Sunday the entire family is required to be impeccably dressed. So, I was surrounded by well-tailored men’s suits, women’s power suits, pristine dresses, along with the proper shoes, bags, gloves, veils, and hats. I originally wanted to be a comic book illustrator and I would use the models on the covers of my mother’s Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines as sitting models. My father modeled and I did some modeling as well. I began to get an understanding of good fashion and the importance of being well-dressed, as well as the power that came with presenting myself as a well-dressed man. This led to my hobby for styling and doing make-up and hair for young models who were embarking on a career in fashion.
I gained the attention of a very talented photographer named Marlena Bielinska. Together we shot just about all of the New Faces division of Elite Modeling Agency. I went knocking on doors and ended up at Amica Magazine working with all of the editors as a Stylist. They let me style the most exquisite layouts and cover stories. While working at Amica, I was discovered by the world renowned, legendary photographer Francesco Scavullo and he gave me opportunities that even today, I still don’t believe happened. He put me on the map. He and Sean Byrnes trained me to be a sittings editor. They had me styling layouts and covers for Ladies Home Journal, L’Officiel and American Cosmo. He placed me next to him at the front row of all of the New York Fashion Shows. Then he graciously booked me to style Oprah Winfrey. We shot so many covers that day. Oprah loved me! She requested that I sit next to her during lunch, as well as, sitting for a portrait together. At the time, I had no idea that I was the recipient of “The Oprah Effect.”
“I began to get an understanding of good fashion and the importance of being well-dressed.”
You were the Lead Stylist for “America’s Next Top Model” during the Cycles 20 and 21.
How would you describe this experience? What did it leave you with?
I was extensively working with Tyra Banks on a project that I spearheaded. It was the tenth anniversary of “America’s Next Top Model” and I noticed that no one was celebrating her. Tyra had created and crafted a wildly successful television show that was on the air for ten years and I said to myself… where is her Vogue cover? Where is her Cosmopolitan cover? Where is her Allure cover? So, I partnered with a photographer by the name of Udo Spreitzenbarth and her ex-modeling agent, Oscar Reyes, and presented my proposal. I wanted to orchestrate Tyra’s return to the covers. I mean, you can’t really judge the new blood on the runway if you are not on the newsstands today. She said yes and she became my muse. I worked feverishly to get her on a cover. I art directed, styled and interviewed Tyra for West East Magazine and that got the ball rolling. West East is an edgy publication, which gave me the opportunity to reinvent Tyra’s look. The shoot was a high concept editorial steeped in visual meanings. I styled her as an alien that represented the future Tyra. I tributed Michael Jackson by having her wear one spiked, crystal and studded glove since her first big job was Jackson’s “Black or White” music video. I covered the full gamut, from backstabbing friends with an impaling necklace to a red wire Jessica Rabbit dress with exaggerated breast and hips. I chose that piece because Tyra had to fight for her curves her entire career.
“I wanted to orchestrate Tyra’s return to the covers (…) She said yes and she became my muse.”
As I continued to work for different magazines, I would show up, do the styling job and then ask the editors if they would like a cover story with Tyra Banks. They said no. At that time, she had already peaked as a model and none of the supermodels returned to the editorial world and runways. The comeback of the 90’s Supermodels was a new concept for many editors. Then I showed them my new editorial and cover I did with Tyra. They were shocked over how modern and edgy Tyra looked. Each time, I turned a no into a yes. I used those opportunities to turn Tyra into a visual artist. We were not selling… Clothes, we were reprogramming the public to see Banks as a celebrity and not a fashion model. I wanted the editors to see her as a celebrity and a businesswoman who was not only celebrating ten years of having a successful reality show but was on the verge of launching her “Tyra Beauty” cosmetic line. The project was labeled #modelturnedmogul. Just check out my Zink Magazine cover story, in which my team transformed her into a futuristic “Boss,” complete with a hip name chain and a holographic male secretary. One cover became two and two became four. The results were effective and Tyra kept showing up.
“One cover became two and two became four. The results were effective and Tyra kept showing up.”
By that time our partnership was in full bloom and we began to implement additional brand directives to the public including her “Flawsome” concept as she began to expand the definition of beauty. We started to flood the newsstands with a modern Tyra Banks, along with, her new purpose. For the cover of Profiles, I named her “Queen of Social Media,” due to her millions of social media followers. It was my decision to approach Cosmopolitan Magazine for a cover story and they were hesitant. Well, I hit the email with several letters and urged the editors that Banks was relevant, inspirational and aspirational for the Cosmopolitan’s reader. And they agreed. They granted us the August issue of South African Cosmopolitan. We arrived at the set and shot several cover tries. My editor loaded the covers onto their Cosmopolitan server and before we were done, eleven countries confirmed!
Not only did I usher Tyra back onto the newsstands, it was a worldwide cover domination as country after country released their covers. When I was done, I styled, art directed, interviewed and produced eighteen new cover stories in less than a year. While we were shooting Cosmopolitan, I approached Tyra with yet another concept which I had previously discussed with Udo Spreitzenbarth. I proposed that we shoot a photo exhibit on Tyra. It would be a special art piece that could travel the world. We followed the cover appearances with a self-produced art exhibition I conceptualized with Banks and Spreitzenbarth called “Tyra 15.” I want to just take a moment and thank you for this interview. The Tyra Banks Project was a huge accomplishment and it is so necessary to get this message out there. This was not only a great moment in my career, I was successful at initiating, implementing and creating a new narrative that helped to articulate Tyra Banks’ new and unique career paths as a multi-media artist with a sharp new branding strategy, “Model Turned Mogul.”
“I named her “Queen of Social Media,” due to her millions of social media followers.”
“It was a worldwide cover domination.”
“I styled and produced eighteen new cover stories in less than a year.”
At that point, Tyra asked me to style her for “America’s Next Top Model Cycle 20” as her Fashion Consultant. I was asked to style 14 on-camera “Judging” looks and 8 “Tyra’s Mail” looks. A good stylist pulls way more than what you actually need. I selected a ton of options with lots of alternates. Everything fit her so beautifully and she said: “You don’t have to return anything… I want you to style me for the entire season.” The edited looks fulfilled parts of the show that I was not slated to style. She wanted the entire rack. One look went to the “Cold Open.” Another look went to “Ty-Overs,” etc… Eventually, I styled 39 on-camera looks. She moved the photoproduction of the show to New York so we could shoot “Tyra Mail” with me and Udo Spreitzenbarth. She gave me free reign for “Tyra Mail.” So, I tweaked “Tyra Mail” and turned it into “Tyra Male!” I styled her as a heavy Weight Champ, as a construction worker, as a sexy Clark Kent inspired businessman and a 1920’s Dandy with a top hat. When we were done with that season, Tyra totally surprised me and asked me to join the cast of “America’s Next Top Model Cycle 21.”
“Eventually, I styled 39 on-camera looks.”
She created a new role specifically for me. She named me “The First Lead Wardrobe Stylist to America’s Next Top Model Cycle 21.” It was a role that came with lots of camera time. I was also asked, to participate in the creative concept and scripting on-camera photo-shoots. I worked directly with Banks and all of the producers and we conceptualized photo-shoots and model challenges that included the new music and fashion trend of South Korea. We were the first to introduce K-Pop to America and now it has become a phenomenon in the U.S.A. The fashion and handbag brand MCM relaunched its collections with a younger point of view and “America’s Next Top Model” was there to reintroduce their brand to the U.S.A. I also worked with one of Korea’s greatest designers, Lie Sang Bong, who was the guest designer for the finale fashion show. We showed 26 looks on the ANTM runway. Lastly, I was able to style the winner, Keith Carlos, in a coveted Guess Campaign. When my two seasons were over, I officially became a Celebrity Stylist. Although I was already an expert in my field, the title gave me that official stamp of approval in only the way that television can. At the wrap party, it was a wonderful moment to have Ken Mok, the Executive Producer of “America’s Next Top Model,” congratulate me on my work and welcoming me to the Top Model family.
“When my two seasons were over, I officially became a Celebrity Stylist.”
You are a fashion consultant for Tyra Banks: how would you describe her style?
She has a youthful sense of style. It’s fierce and approachable. She likes power shoulders and to have a nipped in waist. And she would rather be a tad bit overdressed than underdressed. Her favorite color is Canary Yellow. She has worn the absolute best clothing that the world has to offer. She was a child star who grew into one of the most successful Supermodels of our time. She has worn the best of the best. With that said, Banks likes to also dress down in a youthful way. So, I would mix high with low. You may have spotted some of my stylings on Tyra off camera, for instance, walking down the street with her man rockin’ a wolf t-shirt. Tyra and I started the “Red Lips Vampire Teeth” t-shirt craze. And, for Cycle 20, she showed her humorous side by donning a whimsical mustache with every judging outfit. We were doing a play on words. That season I conceptualized “Tyra Mail” into “Tyra Male” because that Cycle 20 was the first season that featured men on the show. I can proudly say that I styled Tyra for 24 covers and hundreds of pictures going as far back as 1995.
“I can proudly say that I styled Tyra for 24 covers and hundreds of pictures going as far back as 1995.”
Who is a celebrity that you would love to work with?
There are a few celebrities that I would love to work with. Beyoncé is at the top of my list. She is just a style icon. Rihanna is another. I passed on working with her on a project many years ago. I hated the concept that the editor wanted to do with her. So, I passed. You only get one time to do RiRi right and I will wait. I know Katie Perry and I would totally rock! She is a cool chick! I got my eye on Cardi B. And, my dream is to do a world tour with Janet Jackson! We could start several trends together.
“There are a few of celebrities that I would love to work with… I got my eye on Cardi B.”
Speaking about trends… What is your favorite one and why? Which are the inspiration behind it?
Since the days of Studio 54, sequin continues to dazzle the world for decades. It seems the yesterday’s trends have become today’s staple as fashion moves towards maximalism with attention-getting, disco-inspired sequins. This is the era of the celebrity. People are influenced by what they wear and are emulating everything celebrities do. Including looking like one. Incorporating sequins into your wardrobe is a way to get your celeb on. But, you don’t have to be a showgirl in order to indulge in the fashion trend. In fact, I love sequins as a trend because it is attainable at just about every price point and is available for all ages. I mean, sequins make everyone look and feel fabulous!
I recommend that everyone invests in some sequin separates so that you can add some instant pizzazz to their wardrobes. Cool girls, spunky grannies, and rockin’ toddlers can all indulge in the glitzy, embellished ensembles. The tiny, shiny, circular disk sewn onto fabric was once made out of metal and now metallic plastic; reflects light as it turns your festive meter to high. Often sequins are accompanied with beads, paillettes, rhinestones and/ or crystals. And it is the go-to adornment for holiday parties, evening soirées, performances, and red carpet events. Nothing says party like sequins.
“Incorporating sequins into your wardrobe is a way to get your celeb on.”
As a Celebrity Stylist, I am no stranger to sequins. In fact, I used several sequin looks that add that dash of sparkle to many of my client’s star. My go-to designers for sequin, rhinestones, crystals, and spikes are David and Phillipe Blond from the design duo The Blonds. Their collections are glistening with sequined, stoned and bedazzled treats that literally hypnotize the onlookers. While styling the opener for “America’s Next Top Model,” I used their metal and sequin corset. And for the ad, I put Tyra in a scandalous pair of sequin hotpants from All Saints! While styling a cover story for Cosmopolitan magazine featuring Tyra Banks, I asked the designer Coco Johnsen, to make a custom-made gold gown for Tyra. In a matter of days, Coco had her factory whip up this gorgeous gown that literally had Tyra dripping in
gold. I followed that look with a gold mini dress from Blumarine.
I styled supermodel and “Project Runway” star Heidi Klum for a fashion layout and put the “America’s Got Talent” star in a sequin micro mini skirt by Céline. Recently, I styled my friend, Supermodel Maria Borges, for a special online editorial for Glamour Brasil. I asked designer Nada who has a line called Venom Couture, to design a sequin dress for me. I put it on Maria and it was divine! There is nothing more elegant than black sequins. And, last month, I got a last minute call from the editors at LAPALME magazine to style actress Dominik Garcia Lorido for a cover story. I immediately called my friends at Mao PR who graciously took my appointment. I walked in and saw this stunning royal blue sequin mini dress with fringe and I had to have it. It was designed by Cheng-Huai Chuang. Matter of fact, his white organza blouse, and sequin bell-bottom pants made it on the May 2018 cover.
What was the best styling of 2017 and what will be a trend in 2018?
In 2017, a major fashion rule was finally broken! White Go-Go boots were the hottest trend for Fall /Winter 2017. We finally did away with the archaic rule that stated one could not wear white after Labor Day. I got plenty of shocked looks as I tooled around town last year in my black skinny jeans and white ankle boots. During New York Fashion Week, I styled actress Nichole Galicia for the Nicole Miller Spring/Summer 2018 Fashion Show which debuted September 2017. We were not only on trend, but the front row was filled with fashion personalities crossing their legs and flashing their white ankle boots… after Labor Day! It will take a few years for the general public to get the memo.
The trend for 2018 is definitely full of sequin, beading, and rhinestones. There is a big movement towards metallic and shine. Metallic boots, shiny handbags, and other accouterments. Don’t tell PETA, fur is back again. But, there are plenty of realistic faux fur options for animal lovers who still want to indulge. Vibrant colors, such as jewel tones are big for fall 2018.
“The front row was filled with fashion personalities crossing their legs and flashing their white ankle boots… after Labor Day!”
Can you tell us a memorable experience with an actress/actor or model that you curated the style for?
Many people know that Tyra Banks is one of my clients that I have been working with for many years. I styled 24 covers with her in my career. I was in between seasons of “America’s Next Top Model” and I was styling her for various appearances. I styled her for “Asia’s Next Top Model,” “Norwegian Next Top Model,” “The View,” “Good Morning America,” and so on and so on. We were doing some Grammy’s appearances and then “China’s Next Top Model.” This time around I really needed a Wow Factor. You know when I am building a fashion point of view for my client, I am always in search of that thing that is going to make people stop, stare and take a picture. While I was shopping, I saw this young woman walk past me. She was in her early twenties and she was rocking a knit top, skinny jeans and a cute bag. But, it was what was on her head that made me stop her. She had long dark hair that was beautifully curled and she was rockin’ this simple black turban. That was it! I ran up to her, introduced myself and told her I was Tyra Banks’ stylist. I begged her to please let me take a picture of her for my files. She did and I was off in search of turbans.
I presented her the looks I pulled for her and I told her, “Tyra, you gotta rock this turban.” She said, “A turban? My grandmother uses to wear turbans.” I told her, “With your dazzling hair and this turban, it’s going to make a huge statement.” She put it on and was shocked! She said, “Oh my God… You’re right! This is fierce!” She wore turbans for the red carpet events, “China’s Next Top Model” and for the entire Cycle 21. I was so excited, we started a trend. Now, I see so many young girls in turbans.
“I was so excited, we started a trend. Now, I see so many young girls in turbans.”
What’s a woman’s red carpet look that you loved to curate and why?
I like mixing unexpected elements to my red carpet looks. In particular, I styled actress Leelee Sobieski for an H&M red carpet event and I put her in a gorgeous white gown from Douglas Hannant and paired the look with a chunky ankle boot from Phillip Lim and a moto jacket. Along with her exquisitely finger waved coif, Leelee made the best-dressed list and beauty lists across the board. It was a great fashion moment.
Describe your style identity with few adjectives.
Luxurious! Elegant! Sexy! Youthful! And interesting!
“The real influencers are artists like myself who have generated thousands of pages of fashion editorials.”
You are among the Most Powerful Stylists in Hollywood: how do you feel about it?
I’ve got 150 covers worldwide (give or take), I’ve been on a hit television show which plays in upwards of 186 countries and I’m invited to sit front row at fashion shows like Marc Jacobs, The Blonds, Custo Barcelona, Lacoste, Phillip Lim, Perry Ellis and Narciso Rodriguez to name a few and to enjoy private viewings at Diane von Furstenberg and Agent Provocateur. I styled 39 looks on Tyra Banks for ANTM and styled 140 looks for the models on camera. That means, hundreds of millions of people saw me and my work worldwide. I think that I am pretty influential. As a freelance editor, I’ve documented trends and wrote about many fashion shows. In the end, the true measure of power is calling a luxury house and having them send selects right off the runway. The real influencers are artists like myself who have generated thousands of pages of fashion editorials. I am documenting fashion and creating trends.
“A stylist without archives
is like a dress without a hanger.”
Styling tip: My biggest styling advice to women would be to think about selecting one size up. I am currently writing a book based on fashion, beauty, and style. This is a major section in my book. I hate when women are fixated on being a particular size. Squeezing into a look is not hot. Rather than squeezing and creating some unflattering silhouettes, try going one size up and then tailoring the look to fit your unique shape. You will look better and your clothes will look more expensive when they are tailored to your body.
Epic Fail While Working on a Look: I don’t have epic fails. Never really did because I am not just styling my fashion layouts, I am art directing and creating the narrative for the sitting. But, I will admit, in the past, I did experience a snafu. I had a singer lie about her size. The one person you can not lie to is your stylist!
Your Favorite Fashion Magazine: My favorite magazines are the ones that get it right that month. I look at everything. But, I must say, I start with Vogue. Anna Wintour is a genius. I loved the days of Grace Coddington. Italian Vogue is another go to. And, then, of course, I read Harper’s Bazaar. But, I collect old fashion books from the past. I have many archives from Rudy Gernrich to Azzedine Alaia; from Jean-Paul Goude to “50 Years of Vogue.” I was trained by the old school masters. These “Insta-Stylist” need to know that you can not get fashion from Google. A stylist without archives is like a dress without a hanger. You can quote me on that! Now, to answer your question… my favorite fashion book is the one that I am writing. It is full of all of my isms, tricks of the trade and set secrets directly from my shoots. My book is written for everyone who wants to look good and feel good.
“I can do make-up, hair, and styling. I am a creative director and art director. I have the unique ability to visualize and articulate ideas and concepts.”
Steal Style: I don’t know if there is a particular style I would steal from any particular person but, there is one person I truly admire and push myself to be more like, that is Diana Vreeland. She was the best stylist and editor to have ever walked the earth. I feel we have the same zest and exuberance for fashion, as well as possessing the same fashion imagination and storytelling ability. I am just in awe of André Leon Talley. He opened the door, window and all possibilities for me as a stylist. I met him at the shows. He was amazing. Tom Ford is super sharp and I use him a lot when styling “Shark Tank” star Daymond John. And Yves Saint Laurent is just the personification of class. After doing makeup for the Chanel show, I was hanging out with Karl Lagerfeld in the backstage and after spending a day with him I adopted elements of his style. I love a blazer with skinny black jeans, a fierce boot, and fingerless gloves. Ok… wait! There is one person who I would love to steal her style, that is Grace Jones! She is a visual artist. She is built for fashion! She understands fashion in a way that no other celebrity has or will. She is fearless and unapologetic. She is a freak of nature, in which, she literally makes fashion come alive! She is my dream artist that I am dying to work with. She’s my style crush! Grace… Call me!
Your Fashion Superpower: It’s funny that you asked this particular question because I am known as “The Super Stylist.” It was a name bestowed upon me during an interview some time ago. One reason was that I wanted to be a comic book artist. Another reason was that I started styling some of the Supermodels during the time when there were real Supermodels. In the real world, my superpowers are vast. I am known as a triple threat. I can do make-up, hair, and styling. I am a creative director and art director. I have the unique ability to visualize and articulate ideas and concepts. It sounds easy but, believe it or not, there are thousands of artists who are working right now who can not articulate their thoughts and ideas. There are many artists that don’t know the difference between a “doe” eye and a “deep set” eye or the difference between “tea” length and “midi” length. Those transformative skills have come in handy. I am a high-level empath gifted with the ability to sense and feel when someone is or is not happy. It’s not easy being a human lie detector. Not many can get over on me. My desired superpower would be to have unlimited funds. Then I can make all of the fantastical things that are in my head come to life.