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Kelly Rowland was all flash and sass onstage at the filming of last night’s Rip the Runway (BET’s ninth annual fashion showcase), sashaying down the long catwalk in a gold sequined number. “Remember, you dictate what fashion means in your life,” she told the crowd, who’d packed into the Hammerstein Ballroom on a wet New York night last month to see their favorite music artists and fashion designers debut new works.
Joined by actor Boris Kudjoe, Rowland—whose new sexy single “Kisses Down Low” was still rising up the Billboard chart—emceed as young aspiring models sported wares from the hottest emerging designers in swimwear, streetwear and high-fashion couture. Sheer floor-length dresses were accessorized with gaudy headdresses in a couture catwalk segment that looked like designer Alexander McQueen met diva Nicki Minaj. Later, slim-suited men joined women dripping in fur for a luxe eveningwear showing.
But Rip the Runway wouldn’t be in its ninth season if it were just about the fashion. And so Rick Ross took to a fiery red stage, dictating his style savvy in drooping tamale-red leather sweatpants, a white tank top and signature chunky gold jewelry. The Miami rapper laced through his latex “Duffle Bag,” as models swarmed around him in River Island by Rihanna mullet dresses and Italian-bred Moschino jumpsuits.
Omarion, in a buttery soft leather tee and matching pants, followed up and slowed down things down as “sexy-sized” women flaunted form-fitting dresses with thigh-high slits. But surprisingly, the night’s musical highlight came in the form of pint-sized fashion maven, Jaden Smith. Son of Hollywood’s black elite, Smith performed a high-octane single from his Cool Café mixtape and debuted his new skater collection of sweatshirts and tank tops called MSFTS. Other performers of the night included rising stars Sevyn Streeter, Luke James and rapper Trinidad James.
As the evening wore on, well-known fashion bloggers like Dapper Lou and Willy Green joined hosts Rowland and Kudjoe to explain how fashion plays into their lives, not just professionally but personally. “Fashion is a reflection of one’s inner self,” said blogger Willy Green (decked out in a leather bomber, skinny denim and combat boots), “not a representation of what people want you to wear.” And among BET’s millennial audience—the kids who love the fashion zany Lady Gaga and the style clashing Nicki Minaj—the blatant disregard of wearing “what’s trendy” in favor of “what feels personal” really does seem to be the new trend.
But when Kelly Rowland stepped out onto the stage to close the show in a trendy $3,500 floral Balmain dress, matched with Christian Louboutin pumps, the young crowd still roared with applause. That’s because, designer label or not, one’s fashion is only as glamorous as its muse. And with a new album, a new look, and a Super Bowl halftime show under her belt, Kelly Rowland owned last night’s Rip the Runway stage as its only true supermodel.
Sian-Pierre Regis is an award-winning journalist, on-camera personality and cultural critic with infectious energy and an undying love for both pop culture and social responsibility. He has contributed to MTV, BET, Ebony, Men's Journal, Boston magazine and more. Follow him on Twitter @sianpierre.