Leslie Jones is known for her bold, hilarious characters on "Saturday Night Live" — and her sense of style is just as fearless.
She's made headlines for her showstopping red carpet looks that break sizeist and ageist rules that Hollywood still holds on to. With the guidance of her stylist Brian McPhatter, she's inspired women of all races, shapes, and backgrounds to celebrate their fierceness.
McPhatter met Jones in the most unconventional way. He was working as a store manager at New York and Company in Manhattan!
While McPhatter was assisting at a New York and Company location, Jones entered the store and a flurry of employees rushed to help her. McPhatter told the other employees to help with the holiday rush, and he began styling Jones for a "Saturday Night Live" holiday party. Jones wasn't on "SNL" yet, and was in the running to be the next Black cast member.
When McPhatter started styling her that day, he realized that Jones only had combat boots to wear to the party, but still made it work. "As long as I knew what she had for her footwear... I [knew] I could go from that," he said. "So basically I [got] her some leather [pants], a leather jacket, a nice blouse, and some jewelry... She just got so excited [and she said], ‘How did you know? Like how did you just know like what to pick out for me?'" He replied, “I basically went off what you had and [tried to make] the outfit pop with what I [could] give you."
Jones proposed the idea of making McPhatter her stylist if she ever made it to "SNL" — although McPhatter was skeptical.
Jones told McPhatter, "Well, if I win the competition I’m going to have to move to New York, and I would love to make you my stylist." "I was thinking ‘OK I’ve heard this plenty of times before,'" McPhatter said. He told Jones, "Hopefully... you win the competition and whatnot."
Although Jones wasn't initially chosen to be a cast member on "SNL," she was hired as a writer — and Jones and McPhatter kept in touch. "She had to move from LA back to New York," he said. "And then from there everything just started going — from the 'Ghostbusters' and her being on the update of the show... and becoming a cast member," McPhatter said.
Although he's been working with Jones for almost four years, he only left his job in March of last year to style her full-time. "I was with her for the "Ghostbusters" premiere and then the Olympics... Last year my life changed completely!" McPhatter said. With the exception of the annual American Museum of Natural History gala, McPhatter now styles all of her casual and red carpet looks.
When asked about *that* legendary "Ghostbusters" premiere gown, McPhatter shared the challenges of finding a dress for Jones — especially as a new stylist.
McPhatter, who was still somewhat new in the industry, began asking luxury brands in December 2015 if they'd like to dress Jones for the July 2016 premiere.
"I started reaching out to designers and [asking], ‘Would you like to dress her for big premiere?’ You know “Ghostbusters” was a big thing. I was getting 'no' or 'not at this time' or just no replies at all... Which is totally fine," McPhatter said. Although other designers did reach out to them, McPhatter wanted to focus on a "full house name" or a luxury brand for her first major film premiere.
When they were getting closer to the date, McPhatter told Jones that she may have to buy her own gown, and that's when she posted her concerns on Twitter.
"As soon as that post went on Twitter, I looked down at my phone and it was [making sounds]. I was like ‘whoa’ — emails, Instagrams, DMs!" McPhatter said. "A lot of people reached out to me after that... still to this day, too."
That's when body-positive designer Christian Siriano saw Jones' tweet, which sparked the now-iconic collaboration with McPhatter.
"Honestly, I already knew what I wanted her to wear. It was just getting someone to make my vision come true, which [Siriano] did," McPhatter said. "I knew I wanted a red dress. I knew what [I wanted] the silhouette to be. I wanted it to be a gown. I wanted it to be [a] split. I wanted it to be off-the-shoulder."
The dress also helped break prejudices for what a tall, non-sample size celebrity could wear on the red carpet, with Siriano even calling it Jones' "Pretty Woman" moment. The dress was definitely a pivotal one not only in Jones' career, but also in body-positive history — it expanded the idea of what curvy women should wear on the red carpet, beyond the traditional silhouettes and colors.
Since then, they've worked together to create many jaw-dropping looks — like her 2017 Emmy's red carpet gown.
After researching styles for Jones' Emmy's gown, McPhatter worked with Siriano to create the dramatic gown. "When he drew it [out for] me I thought, 'OK! This is why I love you, because you knew exactly what I meant,'” McPhatter said, laughing.
McPhatter also revealed his creative process — and how he works really closely with Jones and Siriano to create her ~lewks.~
First, McPhatter will present an idea to Jones for what he'd like for her to wear. Once she's approved, he will work with Siriano to bring the look to life.
"I’m not a designer," McPhatter said. "But I can have the idea in my mind and I just need someone to just draw it down for me." Including the black Emmys gown, Siriano has designed four looks for Jones, like the "Ghostbusters" premiere gown, an orange suit when she hosted the 2017 BET awards, and a blue jumpsuit for the 2016 Emmys.
Many of Jones' red carpet outfits are custom-made — because even though she slays on and off the red carpet, finding ready-made clothes is a lot harder than it looks.
When they began working together, Jones was a size 14/16 in pants and had a 35 inch inseam, McPhatter said. Now she's a size 10/12, but McPhatter still has to work hard to find clothes that will fit her and make her feel amazing — jeans generally stop at a 34 inch inseam, for instance.
"When I first started I was going actually to...Long Tall Sally. Leslie used to shop there before she met me," McPhatter said. "She loves jeans that fit great and ar] comfortable, [like those from] New York & Co. and Express — because they have tall sizes."
It was challenging at the beginning of his styling career to find off-the-rack clothes for Jones, who is a size L in tops and a L/XL in jackets. He would watch what other celebrities were wearing who had a similar body type to Jones' to see what brands could work.
Jones is now master of the high-low fashion mix — like when she wore Gucci sneakers with a New York & Company jacket on "Late Night with Seth Myers."
"I’m a bargain shopper and I like to make sure stuff looks and fits her good," McPhatter said. Jones' closet has expensive pieces from labels like Gucci, all the way down to clothes from affordable stores such as Zara.
The only thing that McPhatter ALWAYS spends a lot of money on? Leslie's shoes; she wears a size 12. She frequently wears Stuart Weitzman's Nudist sandal, which he'll have stretched to make it comfortable for her.
Although Jones must have an impressive shoe closet, she would wear sneakers all of the time if she could! "She’s not really a fan of heels," McPhatter said. "If she [could] wear some dope Nike’s or Yeezy’s or Gucci sneakers...[she would] wear those all the time."
McPhatter has helped Jones discover her personal style — and push her fashion boundaries.
Jones has never really liked stripes, but McPhatter talked Jones into wearing a striped jumpsuit for a talk show appearance.
"As she put it on [she said], 'I don’t think this is going to work, Brian,'" McPhatter told Revelist. But once she shared the jumpsuit with her fans on social media, they loved it — and according to McPhatter, that's when she learned that fashion challenges are always for the best.
"[She said], ‘It’s always the thing that I think will not be good that always turns out good,'" McPhatter said. "The evolution of how when I first met her to now — it’s just incredible," he said.
He also emphasized how important trust is when working together too. "[Being a stylist is] supposed to be... a partnership," McPhatter said. "You have to build that great rapport with each other so you guys can feed off of each other."
McPhatter helped Leslie venture out of her comfort zone again with a low-cut green Stello dress when she hosted the 2017 BET awards.
McPhatter encouraged Jones to try a more daring look, but it took a bit of convincing. "She was like, 'Whoa — what about my titties?'" McPhatter said, laughing.
But Jones was overcome when she finally saw it. "So then when the dress got done [she said], 'Oh my god... I think I’m going to cry,'” McPhatter said. This was the beginning of her daring red carpet style.
But it wasn't the end of it. When McPhatter proposed Jones' iconic sheer skirt and bodysuit 50th birthday look, she said, “My ass is going to be all out, Brian!”
"When she put it on she was like, 'Oh my God. You don’t think this is too much?' and I was like, 'No you look great!,'" McPhatter said to Jones. "'You’ve been working out all year...You need to show them that you can look 50 and great.'"
From sheer to leg-baring looks, McPhatter aspires to dismantle ageism by styling Jones, and proving that you can be fierce at any age.
"I want to show you don’t have to have on Givenchy and Louis Vuitton...to look good. You don’t have to be a certain age to wear certain things," McPhatter said.
Whether Jones is wearing a ball gown and designer heels or a $20 thrift store jacket with sneakers, McPhatter wants Jones to feel confident in whatever she's wearing.
What McPhatter accomplishes as a stylist is remarkable. He ensures that Jones is comfortable and puts her opinion first, while also challenging her to see how she — and women of all sizes — deserves to wear edgy looks.
"You have to dress for your body and your personality," McPhatter said. "Dress the way that you feel good in it. If you don’t feel good in it, [then] it’s not for you," McPhatter said.
A body-positive stylist who is breaking antiquated fashion norms? That's definitely something to get behind. We can't wait to see what McPhatter and Jones put together next.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.