This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Robyn Carolyn Price, the reporter who interviewed celebrity Stylist Lysa Cooper for Vogue Italia. The uninhibited stylist has worked some of the world’s biggest super stars including Beyonce and Rihanna. Below, I have included a few except’s from Robyn’s interview with Lysa. To read the entire article, go to Vogue Italia
LYSA COOPER, By Robyn Caroline Price
“A lot of people sitting in a room wearing fucked up shoes” are trying to tell Lysa Cooper about fashion. Those were Lysa’s words as she described the rather odd predicament she finds herself in lately – trapped in meetings with ill-heeled executives, mere mortals, telling the legendary stylist how to perform her magic. Cooper blames much of this on the Internet, whose democratization of information has deluded laymen into thinking they’re experts. “It’s almost backwards,” says Cooper, as she delves a bit further. “Shouldn’t we make the beautiful product, and then decide how to sell it, rather than already know what you’re selling and then try to make the product match. It never works like that and that’s why music has sunk to the level that it has. And that’s why everybody looks like a hooker,” she says casually. It’s this environment that has Cooper baffled, and even worse, bored.
Before pop stars and their disciples were posting half naked photos of themselves on social media – in the name of art, rebellion, or whatever. Before the popular, almost embarrassingly self-aggrandizing hashtag “no filter.” Before the recent incarnation of brown beauties confident enough to rock their natural hair in public. Before all of that, there was Lysa Cooper. A barren-faced beauty with natural hair (not styled to perfection, or styled at all for that matter), completely naked, holding a motorcycle helmet, on the last page of the October 1999, Black Girls Rule Edition of TRACE magazine – an issue in which Cooper also guest fashion edited. Lysa’s version of racy read more like art. It was interesting and forward. Not tawdry or simple. And while that image may be a thing of the past, the truth is that, Lysa, her raw talent, unfiltered perspective, her impeccable work, is still informing the present. Just ask the Bajan beauty, whose image Cooper (and others on the glam team) helped to transform from pop star prototype and Beyonce clone, into, well, Rihanna – one of the most powerful and culturally relevant superstars on the planet. For well over a decade, Lysa Cooper has created remarkable moments in fashion for some of the most iconic artists in music, fashion, and film.
You’ve been in the fashion industry for so long. What is it about fashion that you love?
I guess what I love about fashion is that it’s always changing. It’s always evolving, and it’s always going back and forth. It’s completely unpredictable. It’s fun. It’s vibrant. It’s just that, now I guess fashion isn’t quite that anymore, so you look to the past for it. I’d like to say that it would be great to look to the future. We’ll see what’s around the corner.
In what ways have you seen the industry change or evolve?
I think we’re all in this weird moment right now and the World Wide Web, as I like to call it because I’m an old lady, has really fucked some shit up. It’s true that there are many pluses to everybody having access to information, but, what happens, when people have access to information, is that they think they are the authority of that information. Or quite frankly, that they made it up themselves. Or even better, that they know better than you do.
So what you’re dealing with is a lot of marketing people, a lot of executives, a lot of people sitting in a room, wearing fucked up shoes, trying to tell me about fashion. And you don’t even know how to get down to the cobbler and fix your heel, and you’re going to tell me what I should be doing? And the fact that marketing is even involved in the hiring is, to me, insane. It’s almost backwards. Shouldn’t we make a beautiful product, and then decide how to sell it, rather than already know what you’re selling and then try to make the product match? It never works and that’s why music has sunk to the level that it has. And that’s why everybody looks like a hooker.
You were one of the masterminds behind Rihanna’s image transformation (along with Ursula Stephen and others on the team) that helped propel her into superstardom. What was it like working with Rihanna on the cusp of her transformation?
I worked with her without knowing who she was. She was just some cute girl, and Ellen von Unwerth and I were shooting her. The one good thing she had was Ursula Stephen, who I knew. And so when I walked in, to tell you the truth, the only person out of her crew that I knew was Ursula. And I thought, Ursula is here, so at least I know the level I’m on. Then she wasn’t working yet, with Mylah Morales doing her makeup. Mylah is one of the best in the business. Her hair was to here (shoulder length), and we cut her shit up to here (above her shoulders).
She had a lot of hair back then. And now, there is a lot of hair again. We’ll get into that later. Everybody needs to stop with the hair, including Beyoncé.
So that was how I kind of connected with her. It was on a job with Ellen. They’re all looking at me like “you don’t even know who you’re working with?” And I was like “no, I don’t really care.” She’s cute. She’s nice. She’s an island girl. I had a good time. We did some really sexy pictures. I kept it moving. I’m not a big practitioner of staying too long. Her and Shakira were probably the two girls that I worked with for a long period of time. I’m more of a hit and run kind of a person. I like to hit it and run.
Why is that?
I don’t know. That way you’re not bored. That way you don’t become somebody’s slave. That way there are boundaries. And those boundaries got blurred with Rihanna. And with her previous management, we had some major falling out. Also, I’m a lot older than her. I don’t entourage it up. I don’t like to hang out like that. And when I do hang out, I hang out hard and I think that can be very intimidating to people who aren’t use to the old way of partying.
In terms of the current numbers, she might be ahead. I’m not sure though.
But I think Beyoncé is more revered. I mean, we’ll see, right? I almost love Rihanna’s personal taste, more than what she does on stage. And the one thing I can say about her is that she is very big on wearing new people and young designers. She’ll buy anything. I love that. And I’m kind of like that. Because where we are right now in fashion is everybody is wearing the same thing. And I don’t want to go buy something and know that ten other girls are wearing the same thing. I just don’t anymore. Especially now that everyone is taking pictures of what they’re wearing and doing, and shitting, and eating.
You mentioned Beyoncé earlier…
Who I love, love, love, love. I’m not joking. She has to be one of the nicest people on the planet. She is a joy to be around. She is kind.
Really? I’ve always wondered if it was authentic.
Oh yeah. And super-southern. I mean, she’s really from Texas. It is not a joke. And it is so authentic and so sweet. She’s had the same stylist since day one. They are intimately close. I work with her a lot, because we’re so close (her stylist and I), that he’ll hire me for things that he’s not available to do. I love them. She is lovely. And she’s one of those people that remembers everything. Things that there would be no reason for her to remember. She’s aware of the people around her, in a good way.
It’s nice to hear from you that the “persona” mirrors the “person.”
And it’s weird that people can’t tell [how nice she is]. And for me, that’s a problem. If people only they knew exactly how sweet she was.
There are a lot of people I don’t like, and I like her. I like how she feels about herself. I like that she likes herself. I like that she likes her body. I like that she likes her life. She’s appreciative. I think we need more examples in the world of pop culture that encompass, life, passion, art, and skill altogether. And I think it’s great to see her and Jay-Z have a kid – it’s a great example of all those elements coming together.
What was it like working with her on the GQ Super Bowl-inspired cover?
Hilarious. So funny. Magazines now are so nervous. Everyone is afraid to lose their job. They’ve already planned every shot. Nothing is very organic anymore. They had an idea of what they wanted to do. And then Beyoncé told me that she didn’t want to do any of that; so we didn’t. And, what I loved, is that Beyoncé knows what she’s going to do, and what she’s not going to do. And what’s she’s comfortable with and what she’s not. And I thought that was a very racy shoot for her. And I kept teasing her and saying that this is going to become the cover. It was amazing. And of course that’s not what they wanted. They wanted some white t-shirt GQ bullshit. And I kept saying to her “Watch, this is the cover.” And it was. And it was so cute. Little vintage shirt. And you know, they wanted to put their designers on it. And really at the end of the day, I think a lot of the way things are run now is about selling shit and they forget that they’re dealing with personalities. She looked great.