Mary Alice Stephenson, a metro Detroit native, is a world-renowned fashion expert and stylist to the stars. Whether she’s backstage reporting from Fashion Week or front-and-center on the red carpet, she has served as a fashion and beauty commentator for many networks and shows including: ABC’s Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, E! and The Style Channel—just to name a few. Throughout her career, Stephenson has worked as fashion editor and fashion director for legendary fashion magazines such as Vogue, Allure and Marie Claire.
Today, she serves as contributing fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar. Stephenson has styled Hollywood’s most fashionable celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Beyonce, Drew Barrymore, Nicole Kidman, and Jennifer Aniston. She also is known for her philanthropic work with charities.
On May 1, Stephenson will be the lead runway style coordinator during the fashion show, “Women Helping Women,” to benefit Grace Centers of Hope—a homeless shelter offering comprehensive recovery and rehabilitation services in Pontiac, Mich.
For more information about Grace Centers of Hope and the Women Helping Women fashion show/luncheon fundraiser, visit gracecentersofhope.org.
Mary Alice chatted with The NYLA Report to dish on the fashion industry and working with the likes of Anna Wintour and Rachel Zoe:
You have such a glamorous career and people would kill to be in your shoes, but what challenges do you face?
People like Jennifer Anniston and Drew Barrymore were great. I’ve always worked with great people, but the hardest part is making sure the celebrity feels good and to make sure that the magazine or brand that I’m working for get what they need. Many of these actresses have been shot so many ways, for so long and they want to look a certain way. The magazine and/or brand want the celebrity to look a certain way as well. I consider myself the mediator. So part of being a great fashion editor is like being great psychologist and knowing how to deal with the personalities. You want the magazine or brand to get what they need, while making the actress look and feel beautiful.
Who was the most fun celeb to style?
The funniest person I’ve styled was Will Smith for the Oscars one year. We were all laughing and he was great fun. We styled him in one outfit. We dressed him in Dior and realized he looked like his character in Men in Black. We immediately took away the thin black tie and ended up giving him a bow-tie instead.
Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve read that one of your first jobs was with Vogue. Is that true?
Yes, I went to college and my first job out of school was with American Vogue and Anna Wintour hired me.
How was it like working for Anna?
She’s great. I feel very honored to have worked there at Vogue and it was a great experience. There are a lot of people interested in fashion, but they don’t realize how much work and dedication goes into being nationally known. Fashion is not just playing with clothes and playing dress up, it’s much more than that. Anna has permeated every aspect internationally in the business of fashion. She’s decisive, she has a very strong point of view and that makes her really interesting to work for. I was only an assistant, I never worked for her as an editor, but it was a great learning experience. Vogue is an incredible magazine and Anna deserves all the attention, all the acclaim and she’s a pivotal force in this industry.
I’m all for new beginnings, but I’m kinda sad to see the Tents move to Lincoln Center. What do you think about the move from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center for Fashion Week next season?
I think it’s great. Fashion is about being innovated and I think it will be a breath of fresh air. It’s a new space to see clothes in and it’s a fresh, new way to look at things. I’m definitely looking forward to the change at Lincoln Center.
If you and Rachel Zoe got into a catfight, who would win?
Rachel and I are actually great friends. We’re not fighters, so I guess we’ll have a martini and talk it out. We’ve known each other for 20 years. We’ve always been supportive of each other’s careers and I’m really excited for her show being so successful. In this industry, there’s enough room for everybody and we all help each other out.