Love To Love Her, Baby. Erika Jayne Channels The Style Of An 80's Screen Siren
PHOTOS BY MICK ROCK FASHION EDITOR MONA MAY
Two creative ladies: Danielle Priano and Mona May on location with Story + Rain in Chinatown.
WARDROBE BY COSTUME DESIGNER MONA MAY
Costume Designer Mona May was born in India to European parents and grew up in Poland and Germany. From an early age she was dressing everyone, her passion leading her to study design, and eventually landing her in Hollywood to design costumes for film and television. Her breakout looks from now classic film, Clueless, have changed the way that women and girls dressed both in the 1990's, and today. Many of the world's most important fashion designers have drawn inspiration from May's work in the film. Mona also designed the costumes for era-defining films Never Been Kissed, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, The House Bunny, and The Wedding Singer. She dressed the CGI mouse in Stuart Little, and created Amy Adams' princess look for the film Enchanted. Recently, she continued her 20 year collaboration with Drew Barrymore by designing costumes for Netflix series, Santa Clarita Diet. Currently she is designing costumes for the superheroes that will appear in Disney film, Flora & Ulysses.
"Recreating the fashion from the film 9 1/2 Weeks on Erika Jayne was a blast. I scoured costume houses in Los Angeles for the exact, iconic, circa-1986 pieces like the oversized trench, white spaghetti strap camisole, pinstriped skirt suit, and quintessential cable knit sweater that falls off the shoulder. With a lot of luck, I was able to find the exact coat Kim Basinger wore in the film at Universal. I couldn’t believe we got that piece, as well as the perfect pinstriped suit with shoulder pads. The wine red cable knit sweater came from Palace Costume, where I can always find special pieces from every era. I had so much fun finding all the iconic pieces, and then flying to New York City to fit them on fabulous Erika. She was so game for it all, and once dressed and in hair and makeup, she completely embodied the sexiness and style of Kim Basinger character, Elizabeth. This was a fantastic shoot because there was both laugher and creativity, and what came out of that, of course, are memorable pictures. The most important part of dressing a character is diving deep into their psychology. Who are they? Where do they work? Where would they shop? What socio-economic background do they come from? What headspace they are in? What journey do they take in the script? When I work on films and TV, I typically prepare a big visual board with pictures and ideas of the looks I'm imagining, which will then be presented to the director for a discussion about vision. The trick is to find a great balance of the right clothes for the character with what looks good on their body, and what’s right for the character's development. I look for the perfect colors, shapes, and proportion to tell the right story. Costumes tell a story in an instant. When an actor appears on screen, within seconds we know who they are by the clothes they wear. That is the magic of costume design".
JULY 2019 COVER
ASSISTANTS PHOTO: CODY SMYTH, AMELIA HAMMOND, DEAN HOLTERMANN. TAILOR: BABATUNDE AJIBOYE
SPECIAL THANKS: PALACE COSTUME & PROP; UNIVERSAL COSTUME RENTAL DEPARTMENT, LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS BY MICK ROCK
Legendary music photographer Mick Rock is often referred to as ‘The Man Who Shot the Seventies’, for his iconic images of Syd Barrett, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and Blondie. Rock was instrumental in creating many iconic rock ‘n’ roll images and he has shot over 100 album covers. These days, his subjects include everyone from Snoop Dogg to Alicia Keys to Lenny Kravitz---and this list goes on. He was the chief photographer on films The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He also produced and directed four music videos for David Bowie. Rock has shot for companies such as Nikon, John Varvatos, W Hotels and McLaren. He most recently shot the campaign for the 2018 Gucci Cruise Collection, and in recent years has published a series of books, mostly based on his classic images. He has had major exhibitions in Tokyo, Toronto, London, Liverpool, Berlin, Manchester, New York, Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Sao Paolo, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami. Madrid, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Seattle.
Our inspo: Adrian Lyne’s 1986 film 9 1/2 Weeks not only made a splash because of its racy subject matter, but because of its high style fashion, production, and set design.
This interview is condensed from the Story + Rain Talks Podcast, where Erika is in conversation with Story + Rain Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Tamara Rappa. Story + Rain Talks: Conversations With Creatives is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Tamara Rappa: Erika, in your book you explain that for as long as you can remember you wanted to be a show girl. It wasn't just about singing, but about the show and production. And well, here you are now. Where did that desire come from?
Erika Jayne: It was of course from watching TV, and also watching my mom play the piano. I think [show business] kind of runs through our blood. We’re creative types in our family. As a child I would hide in a closet, then come out, jump up on a coffee table, and demand to be introduced.
TR: Is it a blessing to be so laser focused, and from such a young age?
EJ: Well I lost my focus for a while. When you’re small, you’re uninhibited and not aware of the mean things people say. You live in this childlike world, and are able to create and have imaginary friends. I’m an only child, so I was able to create my own world. But then you grow up and realize that that's not really how life is. I still performed, but … you can lose your way and start to become introverted. The things that people say and the failures and the knocks in life lead you to withdraw a little. I'll be 48 this month, and when I was 35 I decided I wanted to rekindle my performance life. I did it on my own terms, with no goal other than to say the things I wanted to say and make the music I wanted to make.
TR: Do you remember the exact moment when the shift happened?
EJ: Yes. I received an invitation to a performance. The invitation said that the performance was directed by or choreographed by my dear friend from high school, who was one of the most brilliant dancers and was on tour with Michael Jackson from the time we graduated. So I called him and I asked, 'What are you doing with this?' He told me, but then asked, 'More importantly, what are you doing?' He knew I was divorced and had remarried and was living this really comfortable life. I said something to the effect of, 'I’m living my husband’s life'. He said, 'You know, it’s possible for you to start creating again.'
TR: How long would you say that that was sort of dead in your life?
EJ: It was never dead, it was just tabled. I would go to shows and not feel anything. It was something that I just didn’t want to engage in, I think because I thought my life had gone to a different place. It just wasn’t there.
TR: Tell me about your early life in New York City.
EJ: In June 1989 I graduated from high school, and in October I moved up to 84th and Broadway. I was an 18-year-old girl from Atlanta living in New York City, trying to make it happen, and audition for anything I could get my hands on. I remember stepping in for a couple of three-girl groups, for club shows and stuff.
TR: So you were performing. What was it that was, and still is, so compelling about production, for you?
EJ: I like visuals. It’s really musical theater—you have a costume, you have a character, you have a beginning, a middle, an end, you have a set, you have a stage, you have lights, you have sound, you have orchestra. I always brought that with me when making records.
TR: I would think that someone as visual as you sees the world through this layered lens. Like, I feel good in certain visual places, and …
EJ: And bad in other places! Yes. Growing up I hated going to my Catholic Church, because I didn’t think it was pretty enough. That bothered me. I didn’t think that our school was pretty either, and that bothered me too. I didn’t like the lighting. I'm going to blame my grades on the lighting...
TR: The more I talk to creative people for Story + Rain, the more that I see that as a common thread. That in order to feel creative, your surroundings are really important. Costumes are obviously very important to you. But when you're not performing, or on the show, do you still like to dress up?
EJ: No. What do I look like in front of you right now?
[Erika is wearing a sweatsuit, without hair and makeup]
TR: … Erika Jayne...
EJ: Is not here. That character’s not here. It’s not showtime right now. We are having a conversation between two human beings. It takes a lot to want to transform. We’ll do it tonight for [Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live]. My husband will ask me, 'Can you come to dinner?’ And I say, ‘Which girl do you want to show up?’
TR: I love it. Where do you go to dinner?
EJ: Close to home. We have some local spots where I can have dinner with my husband. Not Beverly Hills, where I know not only is there the possibility of your picture being taken outside, but everybody else in the room is looking at you, expecting something of you. I want to go have a dinner and a conversation with my husband.
TR: The fact that you do take those moments, the ‘I'm not going to put on the makeup, my hair is great up, I’m wearing my sweats,’ do you think that that helps feed you in the times when you do have to turn it on?
EJ: I think you need balance. The character of Erika Jayne, over the top, is hard to sustain. Even Rita Hayworth said men go to bed with Gilda and they wake up with Rita. These are all fantasy characters. A persona. You put that away, and then there’s the person. The people that know me the best are the people at the drive-through at Starbucks at 6:30 in the morning, because they are getting no glamour. I pull up every morning with my dog and I’m like, 'Hey, how ya’ll doing?'
TR: I love a Starbucks drive-through! ...So, by the time you were in sixth grade you basically had a creative director: your mom.
EJ: Yes! My mother is ten times the artist I could ever hope to be. She's not a singer/dancer but my mother can paint and play [music] and draw and sketch, she’s such a brilliant artist. And her mother, my grandmother, was an incredible upholstery maker who could cut patterns from newspaper. When she got Alzheimer's, we found out that she wanted to be on stage, but wasn't allowed. And my great grandmother was a master gardener! These women were very creative, We are all creative in different areas. I think a lot about my life is my mom and her guidance. But my mom sees color! I don’t see colors. Not in the way that a painter does.
TR: Do you see shapes?
EJ: I see feelings. I know that sounds weird.
TR: Not at all. Take us through this burning question: what’s the Erika Jayne fashion process like from beginning to end. Does it all start with shopping?
EJ: Well I have a stylist, Dani Michelle.
TR: Does Dani shop for Housewives, and for performing, and for when Erika Jayne just needs some extra stuff?
EJ: It’s a collaborative effort. We’re going on a press tour. We’re coming to New York for five days and we have ten interviews. She’ll see a piece, and I’ll be like, ‘Okay. Get it.’ And then there's things that I see, so I’ll go shopping. I'll run to Maxfield’s or go down to Rodeo and just pick whatever I want. Nine times out of ten though, it's synergy. And I am very vocal about, ‘That looks terrible, I'm not wearing that!’ Or, ‘This does not fit me, this is made for some 20-year-old stiff.’ Or, ‘It’s great on someone else but not on me'. I have the balls, the life experience, to say ‘This isn’t who I am.’
TR: Who organizes your closet?
EJ: It’s unorganized as hell. Anytime you put something in place, it gets taken out. The housekeeper is basically my assistant. And Mikey [Minden, her creative director], and I, are always moving things around.
TR: What made you begin to start seeing yourself as a brand?
EJ: I knew when I made Pretty Mess, my first album, that my brand was fantasy, love, and escape. Then I came up with glitz, glamour, and fun. So those six words define Erika Jayne as a brand.
TR: I love the idea of that. Do you ever feel frustrated by being placed in a category?
EJ: I don’t care because it’s up to me to do my own thing, and not to give too much attention to what others think. On certain days it just sucks, but I’m running my own little race.
TR: What does somebody need to build a successful, memorable brand?
EJ: True identity. Which comes from life experience.
TR: What tools do you use to clear the criticism from your energy field?
EJ: I consider where it’s coming from. Is this someone I respect? Is this someone that is a peer? If the answer is yes, then I’ll listen. If it’s just some random person that has no idea what I’m doing, or where I’m coming from, then the answer is no.
TR: Do you think it's possible to have real friends on a reality show?
EJ: It’s possible to have real connections. It’s a unique experience and only those who have done it understand it. Because sometimes what you’re seeing is not what you’re seeing. But that’s kind of true in life, you know? I’m not saying that it’s not authentic, but it's a production.
TR: Are you a spontaneous person?
EJ: I’m a risk taker. But not necessarily a spontaneous risk taker. I’m not going to spontaneously move to Brazil today.
TR: How do you think your role on Housewives affects your persona as Erika Jayne the performer?
EJ: Tonight’s show is about Erika Jayne [performing] in her show. I think a lot of people are confused because they want to parse out Erika Jayne from Erika Girardi and say that you’re two separate people, when in fact you’re not.
TR: To take a little bit of a turn, let’s talk about motherhood. You’ve said that your mother could be critical of you.
EJ: Yes, she could. No one can get under your skin quite like your mother.
TR: How has that affected your drive?
EJ: My grandmother was critical of my mother, but never of me. I think they were dealing with some unrealized dreams. When I was a child, my mother built me up just as much as she would say small things that would tear me down. She was just doing the best she could. I was a sensitive child. And now I’m my mother's biggest cheerleader---she's still an artist.
TR: Growing up with a single mom and being one at one point yourself, do you have any advice you would give to single mothers?
EJ: You have to remember that you're going to make mistakes, but it's okay. You need to think before you speak. Your words have the most impact [on your children]. My mom told me I can do anything. And then at the same time, if I hit a bad note, she was like, 'Hmmm'.... And then I couldn’t sing for like a week.
TR: Again, switching gears … I love that you embraced the concept for our shoot. You were channeling Kim Basinger in the 1980s film 9½ Weeks—some of the best style on camera and in a film, of all time.
EJ: The mood, the costumes, the lighting, everything. It captured the city at that time. Immediately when I heard we were doing Kim Basinger, 9½ Weeks, I was like, 'Oh my God, I get to have black eyes! My roots need to grow out! I get to wear my own hair!' I was so excited!
TR: You're a bit of a chameleon in your look. How would you describe it?
EJ: [My look is] always character driven. Just like [on our shoot] day, where I wanted to wear the camisole and wear the tight pencil skirt, and have the ‘80s lighting and the hair and the roots and the black eyes. And the raincoat!
TR: Mona May, legendary costume designer, found [the actual coat from the film!] She texted me running around Universal Studios: "I literally found the raincoat!" …. Okay, one word to describe motherhood?
TR: One word to describe marriage?
TR: Favorite bra?
EJ: Wolford. The satin one with underwire.
TR: We’re going to make sure everyone knows about your favorite bra! Favorite thing to sleep in?
EJ: A t-shirt and socks. No underwear.
TR: I love a sock. Favorite place to feel inspired?
EJ: My bed. I look up at the ceiling and I daydream.
TR: Favorite skin saver?
EJ: The last time I was here [in New York], I bought Sisley's bust cream. I'm slathering it on these boobs and this décolletage up to my collarbone!
TR: What silhouette do you feel you look best in?
EJ: Something that sucks in the middle. So that my boobs and my ass can be up. I need a corset so I can have a tiny waist. If a plastic surgeon could insert a waist cincher, like bones, into my waist, I would be thrilled.
TR: What's the best way to make a great impression?
EJ: Be yourself. Be confident.
TR: What's on your bucket list?
EJ: Right now I can't come up with anything. But God, I hope I don't kick the bucket soon. I just go for it, always.