Ty-Ron Mayes: A Style Maven with Much to Tell 

Confidently standing in a career that spans nearly three decades, Celebrity Stylist Ty-Ron Mayes steps in front of the camera in this leopard and gold motor cycle jacket, The Blonds. Gold necklace and bracelet, Erickson Beamon. Spiked gloves, Patricia Field. 

Celebrity stylist and fashion editor Ty-Ron Mayes’ life reads like the cover story for one of the high-profile magazines he’s styled. With a career spanning close to three decades in an industry known for its competitive nature, Mayes attributes his success to talent, strong work ethic, respect and a deep passion for the very thing he was first drawn to at an early age: fashion and design. The highly-talented artist has come a long way from those days shopping at Leohman’s with his grandmother. He spoke with Millennium Magazine about his work, some of his favorite looks and a cause that’s close to his heart.

You’ve styled some of the biggest names and been a successful career stylist for many years now. Can you speak to us a little about how you came into your career, and what led you to styling? 

Thank you so much for taking out the time to sit with me and ask questions about my  crazy world of styling. I think I was always a stylist at heart. My grandmother, who has since passed,  was “The First Lady” of the church and we would shop at various stores for her Sunday best. Loehman’s was always our first stop and we would select through exquisite gowns, dresses and power suits for weekly sermons, conferences and fundraisers. I was about 10-years-old; and I would help select and coordinate pieces. I grew up in the church and anyone who knows the Black church culture knows that we dress our best and we are very coordinated. Needless to say, my grandmother was the best dressed woman week after week.

Was styling something you knew you always wanted to do professionally?

Being a stylist was not on my radar. Not only did I not know what a stylist was, I actually wanted to be a Marvel comic book artist. I was a really good illustrator. I was obsessed with The X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four. I loved the sexy strong women of Marvel Comics. I would enter drawing contests, but my parents wanted me to focus on academics. While studying law, I used the models on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine as my sitting models and illustrated them. Of course Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tyra Banks were my favorites. While drawing these stunning beauties, I started to study the incredible designers that were also featured on the covers as well. At that time, I started expanding on my artistic skills and began to model as a teenager. While I was in college, I had a friend who was just signed to a top modeling agency ask me to style her shoot. After explaining what “styling” was I took my gold Mastercard and purchased clothing that I called “Model Clothes.” I purchased everything that was tight, skimpy and weird. If you couldn’t wear it in the streets, I knew it would be perfect in the fantasy world of modeling. The shoot was a huge success. Photographers loved me and would call on me to style their shoots. In a matter of days, I had a fierce book with top models. Eventually, I met Marlena Bielinska who really knew how to shoot young women. We teamed up and shot with just about every up-and-coming model signed to agencies like Elite and Ford. I approached magazines such as Amica. They would always call me kid because I was super young. Eventually the editors would book me to do stories featuring designers and top brands like Versace, Fendi, Tom Ford’s Gucci, Missoni, Jill Sanders, Moschino and more. When they paired me up with the late legend Francesco Scavullo, my career skyrocketed to the top. It was a full circle moment for me because I would collect the Cosmo covers for my illustrations and now I was working with the photographer who shot 30 years of Cosmopolitan Magazine. He created the Cosmo look! Francesco knew that I had a talent for understanding luxurious clothing, but an irreverent point of view as a stylist. At the time I was secretly attending F.I.T. as well, enrolled in their continuing education program focusing on fashion history, fashion illustration and design. So, I knew how to speak fashion. I was paired with Oprah Winfrey when she was everything. I styled several covers with her and we hit it off. I put her in Azzedine Alaia, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Christian LaCroix. They were in awe of the young, black man from the North Bronx that  understood high-end clothing and couture. 

This business is not for the faint of heart and many times people only see the glamorous side of things. What do you think is the one thing that sets you apart, and has led to such a consistent career? 

Professionalism! As an artist, I approached this industry and treated it with the highest level of respect. I was and still am a class act. I cut my teeth on gowns and couture. I don’t speak other languages, but I speak fashion. I learned to pronounce the designer’s odd names and learned their techniques. But, if I can address this question in a very frank manner: The fashion industry of today is oversaturated and it is bursting at the seams with people who really should NOT be in the industry. There are a lot of posers, a lot of self-appointed so called “celebrity stylists” and the industry is peppered with unqualified individuals who are trying to strong-arm, party and “freebie” their way into a career because they want to be ”famous”. Many stylists do not have the class or taste level to be a real stylist. The industry is suffering because of it. The styling world and the advent of “the influencers” have morphed into a cacophony of confusion with oddly dressed characters colliding in a cluster fuck-like manner steeped with unauthorized individuals pushing their way through in order to hustle an opinion that lands in the world of Google. All so they can go viral and spin that moment into a tidal wave of success. I am glad I established myself when I did. I was trained by masters in the field and I am the real deal. 

Ty-Ron Mayes joined Team Members for Millennium Magazine to style Ice-T for his cover shoot at his New Jersey home.

To go back to styling in general, styling is not glamorous. What I do is to provide a service. I am a styling architect that molds and creates a visual; a fashion identity that exists in magazines and for celebrities who need a visual fashion blueprint. I am often heavily negotiating looks and wardrobes for actors, singers, performers and supermodels. My job is to make sense out of nonsense. I transport hundreds of pounds of clothes around the world and I design a wardrobe vision for my clients. I have to have my finger on the pulse of what designers are creating, I have to know what department stores and boutiques are offering. Often, I am sewing and adjusting clothing on set. I am budgeting for wardrobe and securing my fees as well. I am a mind reader, a psychiatrist and a confidant. I am the first line of defense. That being said, before that artist stands in front of the camera or a crowd, I build them up and help them find the confidence that they need when presenting new fashion concepts and ideas. This process is a powerful exchange and I make this stressful job look easy. But, it is often a career that is thankless, under-appreciated and rarely acknowledged.  

The reason I’ve had a nearly 30-year career is because I not only have an eye, but I am good at what I do. I have been called “The Arbitrator of Good Taste.” I am on time. I am gifted with the ability to communicate and articulate concepts, thoughts and ideas effortlessly. Because I am able to make people look good and feel good and execute the administrative part of fashion, I was trusted with styling close to 150 high-fashion covers and styling the world’s greatest fashion-related reality show in history: America’s Next Top Model. On the “celebrity” side of my industry, I am starting to experience aspects of the glamorous side of the business. I have designers gifting me and dressing me for the shows. I am being shot for covers of magazines and I travel a lot for free. But, trust me, I do not suffer from imposter syndrome. I am the real deal and I have earned all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me. 

“I once advised supermodel Shaun Ross… ‘First they laugh, then they follow’. Never be afraid of being a fashion vanguard.” Black veil. Kat & Clarese at The Confessional Showroom. Brocade embossed satin blazer and black satin slacks, Barabas. Black sequin ankle boots, Christian Louboutin. 

Is there one outfit or celebrity that you’ve styled in a certain look that stands out to you as one of your favorite looks?

There have been many throughout the years. I did some beautiful moments on Leelee Sobieski with the fingerwave hair era. That moto jacket over gown and chunky combat boots had her on the best dressed list across the board. I am Daymond John’s personal stylist and together we created the Shark look. He books me for special projects like his New York Times bestselling book covers. I’ve also been the official stylist to his successful Black Entrepreneurs Day. But if I had to only pick one look I’m proud of, I think it would be my work with Tyra Banks. I created the Tyra 15 Art Exhibit and worked directly with Tyra and Udo Spreitzenbarth on an unprecedented, “no retouching” black & white fine arts shoot that included 15 supermodels. Our red carpet looks were iconic as well. During my tenure at America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), I put her in every top designer I could. I wanted to remind the world that she is one of the greatest supermodels of our time and I fought for the budget to do so. Week after week, she wore looks from great designers. We shot the show opener in The Blonds with Tyra looking like a rock star! After we shot each judging look, we would shoot pictures for the internet with Tyra in glamorous gowns and sexy dresses with her donning a mustache. It was a way to advertise that men were competing on the show now. Social media named the look, “Gender Fluid,” but we were setting trends as well. I brought back the turban, outfitting Banks in them for red carpet looks. I single-handedly bought Tyra out of retirement and ushered her back onto the newsstands. I partnered with my friend photographer Udo Spreitzenbarth and I styled, produced, coordinated and interviewed Tyra Banks for 18 cover stories in one year, including an unprecedented 11 Cosmopolitan covers from one sitting. It was a publishing coup if I may say so. Eventually, Sports Illustrated saw my swimwear shot and all of the covers, which led them to putting Tyra on the cover again. She said that Sports Illustrated officially bought her out of retirement… hmmm. I’ll let her retell her history but, timelines don’t lie (wink wink). 

You told me that you just walked in the 8th Annual Blue Jacket Fashion Show for the Prevention and Awareness of Prostate Cancer for the fifth consecutive year. Can you speak to the event, and tell us why this is such an important cause for you? 

Thank you so much for bringing this up. I am so excited to be part of what I call the Blue Jacket Soldiers. The Blue Jacket Fashion Show was founded by designer Frederick Anderson. He was concerned that there was no conversation about men’s health, especially when it pertains to prostate health. With that being said, every first week of February, we are  the kick off to New York Fashion Week. We all come together sponsored by Zero Prostate Cancer and Johnson&Johnson to get the word out about how necessary it is for men to get tested. Frederick Anderson and The Blue Jacket Fashion Show is dedicated to not only raising awareness but funds for prostate cancer. The prostate specific antigen test is administered by taking a little bit of blood and that PSA test can detect the protein that indicates whether or not you have prostate cancer. Until the Blue Jacket Fashion Show, I had no idea how prevalent prostate cancer is. The statistics are staggering.

We need to bring more awareness and funding for the early detection and prevention of prostate cancer. Every man should have his prostate checked. Too many men today are so busy and not putting their health first. Here is the problem… YOU MUST ASK YOUR DOCTOR FOR THE PSA BLOOD TEST TO BE CONDUCTED! Most do not do it automatically. Sadly, it doesn’t cost that much. Men just do not know that they have to ask. Many people just do not know what to ask! Men need to be more proactive with our healthcare and focus on Executive Physicals. They are more in-depth than a regular physical exam. Executive Physicals include comprehensive exams that aggressively search for early signs of cancer through extensive blood work. Our sponsor, Janssen Oncology, the pharmaceutical company of Johnson&Johnson states that the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test is the earliest detection we have in the war against prostate cancer. Zero Prostate Cancer – is a 501 non-profit organization dedicated to prostate cancer education, testing, patient support, research and advocacy. Their statistics show that prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer. When diagnosed at an early stage, it can be treated successfully. In fact, almost 100% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer today will be alive in five years.

I know this because my father, John Mayes (PHD with a Doctoral in Integrated Health and Nutrition DIM, CDN, NHA), is a recent prostate cancer survivor. I am so happy that we were able to find his cancer in its earliest stage. And the only reason we’re able to do so was due to him taking a PSA test right around the time I was about to walk in my first Blue Jacket Show. I was by his side every step of the way. We found it at a very low stage. As a result, my brother and I now get tested every year and we fan out  into our communities to ask Black and Brown men to check their prostate. 1 in 8 Caucasian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. But, the statistics skyrocket to 1 in 7 men in the Black community.

My father Dr. John Mayes advises, “You can help reduce the PSA level by following a healthy diet, which includes eating less meat and less unhealthy fats, and eating more cooked tomatoes which are high in lycopene. Drinking pomegranate juice, which also contains lycopene and exercising more. Moderate aerobic, yoga and meditation are all preventative measures that men should incorporate into their daily lives. Taking aspirins for heart and prostate health as prescribed by your medical doctor is optimum for a healthy life. When detected early, this is the most beatable type of cancer.”

I am honored to share the Blue Jacket Fashion Show platform and walk with A-listers such as: Billy Porter, Mario Cantone, Carson Kressley, Dr. Oz, Nigel Barker, Phillip Bloch, Ty Hunter, James Aguiar, Jesse Palmer, Bill Nye, Alex Lundqvist, Marcus Samuelsson, Don Lemon and more. My tagline is, “You know what’s always in fashion? Having a healthy prostate.” 

“My love for fashion helps me to dress up for the haters that come along with the territory”. Red rose moto jacket with gold trim, The Blonds. Dress shirt with bow, Manfinity. Red and black lace print pants, Mardana. Red and gold bracelet, Erickson Beamon. 18K gold porcelain and lava rocks bracelet, Pagana. 

This is no surprise, as your brand is all about bridging the gap between fashion and philanthropy. You’re also working with Maria Borges to help bring tourism to Angola. This sounds like an amazing project to be a part of. Can you tell our readers about this initiative? 

Maria is one of the greatest supermodels of our time. I am Maria Borges’ personal stylist and makeup artist. She is the Official Travel Ambassador to Angola. And I have been appointed by her and the US Ambassador for Angola as an officer to help assist in the creation of a travel exchange that will stimulate travel from the US to Angola in order to help the African country share their culture, music and beautiful tourist destinations. We are using the power of fashion, media and future photo shoots  that will specifically feature the beauty of Angola.

You’ve worked and continue to work with some of the  biggest, boldest names in the world of entertainment. Is there someone who’d be your dream client to style? 

Of course I would love to style Beyoncé. You can call me anytime, Bey! And I passed on styling Rihanna. I absolutely love her but I hated the concept that the magazine had in mind for her and I refused to do it. Not all styling jobs are good styling jobs. I have to be selective at this point. But, I would like to work, work, work, work, work with you! But, my dream has always been to style Janet Jackson for a world tour! I have been a true Janet Jackson fan since day one. Dressing Janet would be the pinnacle of my career!

What else is on Ty-Ron’s list of goals for the future? 

Well, I am putting the finishing touches on my first hardcover book based on fashion, beauty and style. I spent the entire time during the pandemic writing my book. When we were under lockdown and I was not able to work, I cracked open my computer and started working on what I call “future monies.” I also have a t-shirt line on Amazon. This spring I will be dropping my next wave of wearable art t-shirts. The first wave was stolen and copied so anyone who is looking to have a Paper Faces T-Shirt by Ty-Ron Mayes… please buy it on my Amazon store directly from me. Anywhere else is a bootleg! 

Do you have any favorite fashion designers, or go-to shopping destinations you can share with us? 

I spent many years promoting high-end luxury designers. No disrespect, but I’m getting a little bored. I am WAY more interested in the new fresh design talents that are on the scene now. Also, I am incorporating Black designers into my editorials and celebrity dressing sessions. The innovative talents of Laurence Basse and the Project Runway All Stars winner Bishme Cromartie is what’s fresh and next in fashion. Victor de Souza has such a fresh approach to a modern Victorian point of view. A. Potts is really doing some fresh drip… oh yes I said “drip”. Epperson is got some fire point of view with his unconventional layering of prints and textures. Carlton Jones is exploring beautiful silhouettes. Sergio Hudson continues to deliver what women need season after season. Byron Lars has reignited his line and is now called In Earnest. Frederick Anderson’s last two collections should be in The Met. Its all about The Anderson Swans! 

What’s one piece of fashion advice you can leave us with?

I wish women would stop obsessing over the size and think about their silhouette. I would advise women to befriend their local tailor. Buy a size that fits the largest part of your body and then tailor that dress or suit to fit your unique shape. Sculpting your clothes to your body as opposed to squeezing into a vanity size will help you look better and feel better in your clothes. This way you can elevate your wardrobe to who you say you are.

Credits: Photographer: Udo Spreitzenbarth at Loft 29. Stylist and Art Director: Ty-Ron Mayes. Make-up and Hair: Ty-Ron Mayes (Paper Faces using Dermablend Cosmetics).