Jody Watley. Blue Issey Miyake Plastic Body Mold. Performing on Soul Train 1988. I had red as well as black though I believe I had the red customized to black.
I originally wore the Issey Miyake plastic bodice on my U.K. solo single in 1984. The label didn’t believe in the project or my direction so things never got off the ground—until I returned to USA
In 1984 – London ironically not fitting their image and box of “R&B artist” the UK label wanted me to just be the girl from Shalamar and to do something similar .. I had other plans. “You have to have a vision and believe in it. It paid off for me ultimately” – Jody Watley
I was tagged in a post with the very fashion forward Zendaya rocking a Tom Ford plastic bodice this week. Gorgeous.
This was a big deal for me at the time in another of firsts.. my former group Shalamar had never been featured in a magazine like this. Everything about my solo debut is significant because no one predicted it or expected it.
Looking back, I see a determined, authentic and self-assured young woman no matter those who were against me and expected my demise…I’ve always believed in myself and tenacious about living my own life and being happy as much as I can.
Trendsetting style and attitude, letting black girls know we could be eclectic, ‘weird’, offbeat..whatever box you want to check off too.
Jody Watley 1988 in May’s issue of Harper’s Bazaar photographed by Francesco Scavullo wearing Angel Estrada, hair by Jeff Woodley, make up by John Evans.
I’ve told the story before, but here it is again in a quick snapshot. When my publicist notified that Harper’s Bazaar wanted to feature me in the magazine with photo session in New York by the legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo who has lensed some iconic images over the decades. They had no idea who he was or the additional significance.
this wasn’t a common occurrence in the music business at that time. My label did not agree to fly me to New York for this major opportunity asking me what did being in a fashion magazine have to do with selling records – forget the major exposure, the broadening of the audience, establishing me beyond music as a budding fashion icon and brand or however one wishes to look at things. I didn’t want to miss out and so I paid for my own flights and hotel to do this. Always invest in yourself if you have the means to do so.
Eventually of course major labels embraced the concept and additional prestigious PR and it became commonplace -and of course went even further with black superstar women in music like Rihanna, Beyonce, and more (Ciara, Alicia Keys) gracing the cover of high fashion magazines.
My solo debut was so monumental in a variety of ways beyond the Grammy nominations, winning Best New Artist, the hit singles and more. Always believe in yourself.
Via Steven Houseman Music Chart Facts: November 13, 1993 – 26 Years Ago Today: Jody Watley debuted at No. 100 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with her single, “Your Love Keeps Working On Me.” This was the R&B singer’s 12th consecutive solo chart entry and despite not budging from the No. 100 spot for 2 weeks on the chart, it did climb all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart becoming her 10th solo Top 20 and 9th Top Ten Dance hit as well as her 6th Top 3. The song was written by John Barnes, Joey Diggs and Robert White.
This single from “Intimacy” continued to add more soulful rhythms and a touch of jazz into the mix. Decidedly less pop on purpose – still top notch, though my label was disappointed at the lack of crossover despite it not being that vein. To their credit, they always for the most part let me be know..with a compromise on my part here and there.
Showing a bit more skin was the label’s idea..that’s a wider ranging topic for my book covering being a woman in music and those unique dynamics.
One of my favorite television performances was “Your Love Keeps Working On Me” on The Arsenio Hall Show. Slayed it, pixie cut, bohemian, unexpected…folks weren’t ready as usual.
One of my favorite lyrics in the song is “Through you I have learned how to fly..” performing it in concert to this day my spirit gets real connected to the audience because that’s the feeling I get from the support of those supporting what I do.
One of the positive things that occurs on social media is when someone points to a release that isn’t the obvious. Such was the case today with a reminder and celebration from someone on Instagram that today my soulful and introspective “Intimacy” was released.
Very slept on – but a quality project I remain proud of. When you are an artist and songwriter not wanting to be trapped in the “Pop-star” box and machine – you have to be unafraid to grow and take what others will see as creative risks as personal and artistic growth. Very organic, bohemian .. I was even burning incense onstage, really setting the mood beyond the record. Both “Affairs of The Heart” and “Intimacy” were and are decidedly more R&B though I have never been completely embraced by that audience or part of the industry ..
Each endeavor from my solo debut through recent works always comes with a strong vision and passion of what I want to do and how I feel at the time. Goals change as I change – that’s an artist.
It’s a choice- be authentic, be bold and be happy with your choices or stay stuck in what others want you to do and be. I’ll always be about that authentic true to myself life.
If you missed it – it’s available to open your ears as it’s another that has gotten better with time.
“Working On A Groove” starts it off a very summer feel good song before the some of the stories unfold through the songs. Two R&B hits “Your Love Keeps Working On Me” the spoken word “When A Man Loves A Woman” the psychedelic funk rock “Are You The One” my makeover of “Too Shy To Say” and the house vibes of “Ecstasy” – and several ballads.. I wrote and recorded this as my marriage was unraveling, my heart was broken, it wasn’t what my record label or pop fans wanted — while asking myself so many questions-my art reflected my life at that time.
More mature, less sass and party but all heart and soul.
I’ve had many styles and looks over the years..no doubt my solo debut looks from the late 80’s are what many emulated back then and continue to with variations of it present day. My thing was black girls, Latin girls and other ethnicities could be edgy, funky and different too. Before it was a thing, vintage or thrift store pieces have always played a role in my personal style and pairing high end pieces with those others may consider as bargain bin. Sunglasses have also always been a staple in my wardrobe, not to mention the signature jumbo hoop earrings. In my in progress memoirs, I cover the politics of being a black girl who didn’t fit the box for the many in R&B, radio (why is she dressed like that?) and media and with some fans. It’s an interesting subject to reflect upon and to have pushed past and in my own way, broken through some of those obstacles.
Fast forward to 2019 and moving into the new decade it’s a good idea to continue to repurpose clothes, mend, buy second hand – it’s good for the environment and your wallet. Always donate, consign, mix it up and be you.