With so many efforts to erase, rewrite or revise history in all aspects of society from books to what we see and hear across social media depending on the source, it’s important to have source information to refer to. Jody Watley was a part of the first celebrity ad campaign for GAP in 1989. The inclusion in this particular campaign and theme “Portraits: Individuals Of Style” photography by the legendary Herb Ritts is important for a variety of reasons. The campaign included ‘Larger Than Life’ images in-store, bus stops and billboards across the country. Jody Watley was one of the few black crossover stars of that time to be featured in this what is now called ‘rebranding’ or ‘artist branding’. Jody received notice not just from her breakout solo hits, she became a stand-out in her personal self-styling in music videos, album and single art, appearances and promotional photography.
“When asked to be apart of this, I was so excited at the opportunity. The team said I could wear the T-shirt however I chose. In addition, it gave me an opportunity to change up the big hair to a sleek short pixie-cut. My fans at the time hated it but I loved it, felt fresh and modern. Today’s artists are the luxury to change it up frequently, fans almost expect it now, unlike the 80’s and 90’s.”
Jody Watley was recognized as a style icon going back to her teen years on the iconic show Soul Train. Excerpt from Nelson George “The Hippest Trip In America – Soul Train and the evolution of culture and style “….with Jody emerging as a late 70’s style icon. She could rock silver shorts and red glitter converse sneakers, vintage 1940’s inspired dresses with pumps or her prom dress. Her hair was an ongoing adventure, sometimes filled with tons of ribbons, sometimes long ponytails, or a 1940’s hairdo..” ~ Book published by William Morrow Imprint of Harper Collins Books.
“Working with Herb Ritts in this campaign was just incredible. California born and raised Herb was relaxed, charming and so kind, easy to work with.” Watley has said. “He also threw incredible birthday parties that were a virtual who’s who and I was thrilled to be invited to a few!”
In addition to the GAP campaign, Jody Watley’s Herb Ritts portrait of disco mirrored eyes was featured in 2008’s historic Black Issue of Vogue Italia. The “Outstanding Ladies” in the issue included Jody Watley and actress Angela Bassett.
The work of Herb Ritts as a photographer and video director is iconic and renowned – never forgotten.