Meet Wintter Alex, An Atlanta-Based Millennial Stylist Redefining Female Representation in Hip-Hop
BY HARUN MOMANYI
The representation of black women in music videos is complex, as the pendulum usually swings from women’s capacity for complicity or collusion in their own representation, to the desire to break out of the cycle of negative stereotyping perpetuated by directors, stylists and producers. As a stylist is primarily responsible for the visual voice projected towards an artist’s audience, we hope that this interview with Wintter Alex opens up dialogue about the representation and participation of these women in the creative economy, specifically in the urban entertainment sector. As a millennial stylist, Wintter Alex is certainly taking strides to consciously depict women of color positively in various creative forms, which is a stark contrast to the styling and casting observed in late 90s / early 2000s hip-hop music videos, where women’s bodies were rudely commercialized and debased for the interest of profit.
A common claim made by several black feminists such as Bell Hooks and Janet Mock is that Hip Hop owes its success to the ideology of woman-hating. It creates, perpetuates and reaps the rewards of objectification. Few creatives dare to embody equality and respect between the sexes through their music; and those who do have to fight to be heard above the dominant chorus of misogyny. It’s very refreshing, however, that in the music videos of “Bad and Boujee”, “Deadz” and “What The Price” the female characters are styled as powerful, non-victimized women. All credit is of course owed to Wintter Alex, an Atlanta-based stylist who is also the brainchild of The Manner Co., a boutique styling firm which focuses on wardrobe curation, personal shopping and costume design.
As a woman of color, Wintter Alex is a stylist who is championing the liberation of the female body from the containment of silence in an unconventional manner. We spoke to Wintter, whose profession is challenging but all the same rewarding. As a celebrity stylist, she is responsible for coming up with new looks, shopping for outfits and ensuring that they look great on her clients. This could range from dressing a client for a red carpet event, to curating looks for a TV appearance or photo shoot. Without a doubt, Wintter Alex has a phenomenal success story, having worked with leading Hip Hop heads such as Travis Scott, 2 Chainz and Migos. She's also worked with R&B star Keke Palmer.
Kung’ara Kenya: Alex, you've worked with Migos on several hard hitting music videos that became hugely successful. You're the stylist for their “Bad and Boujee” and “Deadz” videos. How does it feel to be so successful at such a young age?
Alex: It's a bit surreal at times, to know you had a hand in the perception of what "Bad and Boujee" looks like and for others to reference your work!
Kung’ara Kenya: How did your journey start?
Alex: I have been dressing people since I can remember. A few years ago myself and then partner Moto, owned a vintage shop called Poor Little Rich Girl in Atlanta. It was literally our rendition of "The Factory." Through PLRG I gained clients such as Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, KeKe Palmer to name few.
Kung’ara Kenya: Are there any other big artists or brands that you've worked with?
Alex: My styling ranges from commercials, film/tv, and artist. I recently worked with Madewell, Doritos, Opening Ceremony, Creme of Nature #SuperNatural Campaign, The Walking Dead, Ne-Yo, 2 Chainz and Lil Yatchy.
Kung’ara Kenya: Your friends Migos won many accolades at the recent BET Awards, taking home the Best Group award. Their nominated videos may have lost the awards to Beyonce but still that is a big deal. How do you feel to have been part of their success journey?
Alex: It's always humbling and fucking amazing to be recognized for your work in any way shape or form. No one knew it would hit this big and now it's a cultural phenom! The opportunity to work with them and to see the journey it's breathtaking and I'm only excited for what else to come!
Kung’ara Kenya: For “Bad and Boujee”, the concept was minimalist but had to perfectly blend with the colorful artistic direction. How did you manage to live up to expectations for such a massive project? How was it working with director Daps and the whole crew?
Alex: Wow, yea that project was crazy. I pulled from 8 showrooms not including shopping. The day of set we had to create racks I had so many items. I wasn't sure what exactly Daps wanted, so I pulled vintage, designer and urban trends... which worked out perfectly because he liked elements from each category. He was very specific about high fashion and pushing the envelope which is right up my alley! The video was shot right around FFW'16 so influence from Dior, Commes des Garçons and NY/Paris street style was definitely an influence.
Kung’ara Kenya: What are some of your biggest names or brands on your collaboration wish list?
Alex: I love Rick Owens, Brian Atwood, Elizabeth and James and Brother Vellies (who produce some of their designs in Kenya).
Kung’ara Kenya: What does it take to be a stylist? Did you go to fashion school?
Alex: To be a stylist takes thick skin and endurance. Especially not being in major fashion capital and having to pull from so many that are not close to you. Most items need to be shipped in due to lack of fresh off runway access in the south. Making lasting relationships and having a strong work ethics. A stylist is only as good as there pulls and artist love "new/exclusive" especially the ones into fashion. Never be afraid to reach and never be afraid to set a piece down and revisit. FIT was my first choice but I ended up in Pharmacy school at Hampton University, lol. My father wanted me to take the safe route.
Kung’ara Kenya: Some people would love to know a bit about the styling process. What are some of the things that you do?
Alex: Once gigs are booked, I plan through mood boards and direction of client. The pulling process begins. It it always better to be over then under prepared because everyone changes their mind last minute. No matter who, what or where, there are always last minute edits and changes. Prepping is key. In order to prep effectively and efficiently you have to communicate with client to ensure the vision is being portrayed through your style and most importantly the artist fucks with it!
Kung’ara Kenya: What do you do for fun during your free time? Atlanta is such a vibrant city...
Alex: Cocktails, good food, great people, estate sales and hanging with Lourd about sums up my fun.
Kung’ara Kenya: Any major challenges that you faced while starting out?
Alex: Always. This industry is tricky and very male oriented and working with managers or male egos, it's always a balance because you have to maintain your ground without coming off as a bitch. It always better to be respected then disregarded.
Kunga’ara Kenya: The Kung'ara store stocks African-inspired designs produced by East African creatives. What would you shop for if you were to style a cast for a music video whose theme is 'girl power'?
Alex: The headwraps are my fav! I love the vibrant colors with jeans and a tee, a grey slip dress or blazer and pumps.
Kung’ara Kenya: How would you describe your personal style? What wouldn't you be caught wearing?
Alex: I love clean lines with a little touch of Wintter. I am an accessory hoarder, from bags to shoes to jewels. TheManner.co is my jewelry site that gives people a chance to shop the jewels seen in my work.
Kung’ara Kenya: Which is that trend that everybody has been jumping on that you feel should just go away?
Alex: I hate see through or thin leggings and those plastics boots that make your feet sweat.
Kung’ara Kenya: On career development, what are some of the things that constantly keep you going in this highly competitive industry?
Alex: The next opportunity and who I will meet in the process.
Kung’ara Kenya: Has your family been supportive in your work? You see, in Africa, there's this stereotype about school first...talent doesn't necessarily pay…
Alex: They are more supportive now than earlier in my career. My mother didn't quite understand and still doesn't at times. My father wanted me to have a solid career first. So I would say we are similar in those cultural aspects of what is success. It's a new age and time so, my career decisions will take some getting used too, for my parents.
Kung’ara Kenya: Finally, how would you advise anyone who wants to venture into fashion but all they see is being a retail store attendant? How wide is the field? What are some of the things that they can do?
Alex: There are endless opportunities in fashion. They should first realize what comes natural and build from there. Whether it's strictly garments or being a seamstress to being a visual coordinator or fashion PR the list is fortunately endless.