Kanye may have summoned "all the models to the floor," but it was MTV that called the vertically endowed stunners to the small screen. Two decades before the Chicago MC ever crushed on Veronica Webb, the blossoming music video network bet on the crossover appeal of runway stalkers like V.W. to launch "House of Style."
It was the eve of the 1990s, and a band of "supermodels" had become rock stars in their own right, breathing the same rarefied O2 as the guitar-slingers and the rhyme-slayers: To the visionaries behind "HoS," marrying those worlds was a no-brainer. The show bowed in 1989 and spent a decade on-air before strutting off into pop-culture history in 1999.
With the pre-Y2K decade enjoying a resurgence, a new documentary revisits the iconic series. Key figures including onetime hosts Cindy Crawford and Daisy Fuentes, correspondent Todd Oldham and series producers look back in "Music, Models and MTV," which also sets up MTV's reboot, set to make a multi-platform comeback on October 16. (The new host will be announced at the 2012 VMAs on September 6.)
Style-blog obsessives will light up over the Galliano- and Grunge-era fashions in the film; others will die for the cameos (a young Jon Stewart! an even younger Jay-Z!) And nineties babies like Azealia Banks and Rita Ora give the proceedings a right-now perspective. Read on as we spotlight four key moments:
Nelly and Apple Bottoms. T.I. and Akoo. Rappers and clothing lines are practically a cliché now. But in the early '90s, Jay-Z was still on his hustle and Roc-A-Wear was still a collection of oversize logo jerseys and baggy jeans. A cherubic Hov shows off a shirt from his line in a memorable scene, a fortuitous nod to the mogul he'd become. Still, for sheer stunting, it's hard to top host Cindy Crawford taking rock gods Duran Duran underwear shopping at luxury retailer ... Sears.
These days, most guys couldn't pick fresh-faced Karlie Kloss out of a fashion spread, so it's especially fascinating to watch "Music, Models and MTV" and realize how many of the models of that era locked up no-surname-required status, from Cindy to Naomi. Miss Campbell turns up in a particularly memorable archival clip, slathering "zit cream" on her spots before retiring for some beauty sleep. Models, Clearasil and Cameras? Only on "House of Style."
Speaking of Cindy, the inaugural host of "HoS" was in her early 20s when she landed the plum gig. But while Crawford was stunning and well-traveled, she was also, as we discover in the doc, kinda awkward. Whether she's stumbling over rapper "Humpty Dumpty" in a chat with "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star Will Smith or earnestly asking what cannabis is, MTV producers (refreshingly) let the Illinois native be herself.
A New York Times review at the time described the show as "silly, superficial and wonderful." High praise, according to the creators but, as former "HoS" executive producer Dave Sirulnick also points out in the film, the series was groundbreaking too. A vibrant precursor to fashion-oriented programs like "Project Runway," the program effortlessly joined high and low, designer and DIY, all without ever losing the girl in Peoria — or Harlem for that matter.
Share your thoughts on the doc and any memories of "House of Style" in the comments!
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