Misa Hylton: You Betta Work

As a stylist to the stars, Misa Hylton’s name might not be familiar, but her work is hard to forget. Lil’ Kim’s “Crush on You” video is ten years old, but the vivid outfits and matching wigs still maintain an influence today. Misa’s imaginative style and designs have been seen on Hip-Hop and R&B icons like Foxy Brown, Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans. She’s also been linked to Sean “Diddy” Combs through more than just fashion – she is the mother of Diddy’s 13-year-old son, Justin. Not long ago, the behind-the-scenes woman found herself in the public eye while embroiled in a highly-publicized child support dispute with the music mogul.

Still, Misa is determined not to let scandals of the past define her as she establishes the MadisonStarCouture.com online boutique, and books an ever-widening variety of jobs throughout the entertainment industry. This Fall, Hylton’s work as a costume designer can be seen in The Perfect Christmas, a holiday romance starring Gabrielle Union, Terrence Howard and Queen Latifah. She’s also part of an upcoming VH1 show executive produced by Shakim and Queen Latifah called Wifey’s, and can be seen as a commentator from time to time on both VH1 and the E! Network. Books and reality shows may appear down the line as well, but no matter where she goes, Misa Hylton will certainly do it with style.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: When did you first realize that you had an eye for style?

Misa Hylton: Very early on. I was always into fashion, even as a young girl. I’m just naturally into it so I always cared about hair, makeup, and clothes. I used to get in trouble because I’d daydream in class all day about putting different outfits together.

AHHA: We all look back at some of the things we wore in the past and wonder what we were thinking. I had these purple overalls that made me look like The Grimace… it was cool back then. What do you look back on and laugh?

Misa: I kinda have a hair fetish, and I’ve had so many different hairstyles. It would probably be some of those. I’ve done all kinds of crazy things: shaving it down on one side or cutting it real low with parts all over…

AHHA: So when did you decide to “go pro” and start styling as a career.

Misa: I had the opportunity to work with Jodeci, and from there I got married and my career took off. Andre Harrell recommended me to a lot of people, and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. I don’t even think of it as a job. It was such a blessing that I was able to work with a lot of big names to get the opportunity and experience early on. From Foxy and Kim to Biggie, Mary, Case and Montell Jordan… from Faith Evans to Total. I got to work with so many big names from that time.

AHHA: Fashion changes quickly in general, but Hip-Hop fashion especially changes frequently and without warning. Usher puts out the “Yeah” video and suddenly everyone’s wearing blazers, or Jay-Z says he doesn’t wear jerseys and next thing you know, throwbacks are dead. How do you manage to keep up?

Misa: You have to do what works best for you and what feels good. I don’t follow who does this or that; I’m more of a trendsetter. One day they might say pink is out, but if I still love it, I’m gonna wear it and I’ll make you want to wear it.

AHHA: When a client comes to you, what’s the process like? Do they come to you with ideas that you flesh-out or do you do the whole thing from the ground up?

Misa: It all depends on the client, the management and the demographic, but it’s always a collaboration. Some people will just tell me to do whatever and not want to get involved, but I still have to get into their head it to see what they like. Even the people that don’t think they have style really do. You just have to pull it out of them.

AHHA: Who have been were some of your favorite clients over the years?

Misa: Everybody is my favorite. I have a different kind of positive and successful experience with all of them so I can’t say I have a favorite. Working with Kimora Lee is different than Amel Larrieux or the G-Unit crew… everyone brings something special to the table.

AHHA: Since you entered the field, Hip-Hop culture has definitely worked its way into the mainstream and become more influential. How has that affected how you go about doing your job?

Misa: It’s definitely made things easier. There was a time when I could go into Fendi and they wouldn’t sell me anything for Mary J. Blige, believe it or not, and now they send her boxes of clothing.

AHHA: How are things moving with launching Madison Star Couture?

Misa: Very well. MadisonStarCouture.com is an eBoutique that you can visit anytime from any place in the world to get hot items: accessories, shoes, handbags, and clothes. The store features a lot of new designers handpicked by me personally, so you can get something that you won’t find in Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom. I just wanted to offer an outlet for fans of the artists I work with to access that same type of style. We’re offering women’s apparel for now but we may move into men’s accessories later.

AHHA: Will you be adding a brick-and-mortar store in the future?

Misa: I’m not looking for a physical store yet, because I like the idea of there being 24-hour access around the world. Real estate is so expensive and the internet allows us to turn a better profit, plus my kids are getting bigger and not having a store to manage lets me spend more time with my family.

AHHA: There was some talk of you writing a book a while ago. Is that still in the works?

MISA: I definitely will still be doing that one day but I haven’t started work on it yet

AHHA: We’ve seen several “tell all” books from people in and around the industry lately. Does this dilute the impact that your book might have in the future?

Misa: Not really. My story doesn’t compare to any of theirs because I won’t be talking about who I dated or any of that. No disrespect to any of them, because everyone should be able to express themselves however they want to, but my book will more about my life and how I balance my business and motherhood.

AHHA: So then everything was resolved amicably regarding the child support issues with Diddy?

Misa: Of course. It was always amicable. It’s a shame the media got involved and put their spin on it, but we’re always cool with each other. I don’t let it bother me though; I’m just focused on Madison Star and I can’t let personal issues effect my work life.

AHHA: You do occasional appearances as a commentator. Will you eventually look for your own show?

Misa: Eh… I’m a private person. I’ve talked to people about a show in past and I would still be open to it, but they wouldn’t be in my home. Maybe something less personal that’s about my business, but not in my home. I’m working with Kimora Lee for her show on VH1, but I’m staying behind the scenes.

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