Zoom chat with him about his costume design work for “Respect,”Clint Ramos poses a hypothetical question. Would he have liked to work in real life with Aretha Franklin after learning so much about the Queen of Soul?
Tony winner and Tony nominee, Franklin, reimagined for the movie opening Friday. He answered with a firm yes.
“She understood her sensuality, she understood her body and she was unapologetic about that,” says Ramos. “To me, that would have been such an honor to create something for a woman who actually understands that (about) herself. It would have been amazing, a life-changing experience.”
Jennifer Hudson stars in the role, which Franklin chose for her. “Respect” chronicles the iconic diva’s rise from a choir singer for her father — the Rev. C.L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker), a legend in his own right — to a superstar with a profound voice in terms of both music and social activism.
Franklin was a figure beloved by millions of fans around the globe and is still admired. fashionIt is a form of personal expression. She wasn’t always perfect but she dressed in a way that was true and authentic to her emotions.
“More than any other music icon, Aretha to me really exemplified how clothing really expressed the way she was feeling. … what she was experiencing as a human being, what she was experiencing on a spiritual level and what she was experiencing on a political level,” says Ramos.
“And I say this because on every photograph you see of Aretha, it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. It doesn’t matter who she’s wearing. There’s always a humanity that you see.”
Ramos is still relatively new to the movie world, but he has an impressive theater background. He was a five-time Tony nominee and became the first person of color to win the costume award at Broadway in 2016. designFor his work in “Eclipsed,”The acclaimed drama starring Lupita Nyong’o and written entirely by her “Black Panther” co-star Danai Gurira.
His Broadway credits include “Slave Play,”The provocative drama by Jeremy O. Harris, who also co-wrote the film “Zola”)? the musical “Once on This Island”; “Sunday in the Park with George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal; “Burn This”Keri Russell and Adam Driver “Six Degrees of Separation”This play features Allison Janney, as well as many other high-profile performances.
Ramos is currently up for two Tonys in the 2019-2020 season. One for scenic. designFor “Slave Play”One for costume designFor “The Rose Tattoo.”The pandemic caused delays in the broadcast of the ceremony. The ceremony will air on CBS September 26th.
Ramos made a splash as a costume designerProduction and co-production designer2019 “Lingua Franca,”Isabel Sandoval directs a film about a Filipina transgender woman living in New York City. His next big project is a biopic on Whitney Houston. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Multi-tasker and also a professor of designFordham University. He is a committed activist for inclusion in the arts and equity. He was born in the Philippines, and moved to New York to obtain his master’s degree from the Tisch School of the Arts.
As a child, Franklin was the first thing he heard about. “My mother, she’s 80 years old, so in truth that was her era of music. We played a lot of Aretha over the years.”
Ramos did not get to meet Franklin, either before or after her death in Detroit 2018, nor to see her perform live.
“The closest (I got) was the inauguration, but I was so far away. I was just watching a big screen,”Ramos, who was in Washington, D.C., to witness President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, said Franklin’s inspiring performance. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”
He was on board the “Respect”After previously working with Liesl Tommy, the movie’s director on, the team. “Eclipsed.”
Ramos did extensive research for the film, and read extensively “all of the biographies not only of Aretha but of the whole family, C.L. and everything, and really plunged into that whole world.”
He also studied the styles of the eras depicted in the films. “Respect,”Particularly in Black communities. He visited African American churches and looked through their photo archives. He was particularly interested in specific fabric shades. Franklin’s early years were documented with black-and-white photographs and film clips.
Ramos claims that Franklin became a matter for him after he had absorbed the visual and textual information. “figuring out what was not in the words or the pictures.”
He believes Franklin spoke volumes about her clothing in a different manner than other glamorous contemporaries such as Diana Ross or Dionne Warwick. She let her humanity shine through, no matter if she was wearing a stylish gown or casually dressed without makeup. designerLabels
“In everything, you saw the human being behind the clothing,”Ramos notes that Franklin’s clothing can reveal vulnerability and defiance.
Ramos claims that Franklin conveyed a sense of reality or, as he puts, a certainness. “I will move the way I move and you will capture me. The photograph will be whatever it will be, but I will not be posed.”
Famous consumer of designerclothing, Franklin also stood up to women with curves who were often ignored by the top in the past decades. fashionHouses
Says Ramos: “Way before we all were conscious about sizeism, she went after Calvin Klein and Valentino and told them, ‘You need to make bigger clothes.’ And I loved that, and that was … in the ’70s or early ’80s.”
Franklin’s dedication to civil rights was also expressed through her style. “You can track when she started wearing the Afro with her decision to actually say, ‘Hey, Dad, I’m going to go further than you in terms of your social justice activism, I’m going to go further left,'” says Ramos.
He believes people should learn more about her activism. “more than (any) other person in her position and a woman in her position during that period of time, Aretha was the most activist of all of them.”
Ramos describes two of Franklin’s favorite accessories as the protective gear of someone who endured childhood trauma and achieved a hard-won level of artistic control — a creative power often denied to female artists, especially women of color.
“The fur and the handbag, those were all armor. … Part of what the fur meant is she surrounded herself with success that she made and she protected herself with that. She famously got paid with cash and all of that went into that purse. So that purse will go onstage with her.”
Ramos recalls Franklin’s performance at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors while holding her purse and playing the piano. “The president of the United States is right there. The Secret Service is all around you. No one is going to take that (purse) away,”He says. “But she needed that. And through the film, you understand where that comes from.”
Ramos claims that he made 85 costumes for Hudson, which he wore as Franklin, according to the original script. More than 50 costumes were eventually used. He was responsible for making sure that more than 1000 people looked era-appropriate in certain scenes, like the one that recreates her 1968 Madison Square Garden concert.
The movie’s outfits are his vision of Franklin’s. Others pay homage at well-known looks from her past. “had taken on an iconic, semiotic meaning.”
One of them was a green-and-white paisley paisley caftan Franklin wore in 1972 when she recorded her brilliant songs. “Amazing Grace”Album in a Los Angeles church. Ramos created Hudson’s costume using his own paisley fabric and gave it a deeper shade of green.
“Among all of the costumes, that made me the most anxious,”He acknowledges, noting that many moviegoers today may recall the look from the “Amazing Grace”Documentary shot in 1972 and finally released by the filmmakers in 2018.
Ramos claims that his approach to cinema is very similar to his stage philosophy. It’s not about style for its own sake. His goal is to portray character and add to the story through his costumes.
“For me, a costume is not only a piece of clothing, but it’s literally a container for a human life,”He says.
Ramos has worked on large theatre productions and helped him to understand how to. “deploy spectacle,”As he puts it. This skill proved to be very useful. “Respect.”
“When we do those big concert scenes or when we do something that requires a gasp from the audience, my work in both opera and the theater has prepared me for that,”He says.
Aretha Franklin was a talent that is truly remarkable.
Through August, the Detroit Historical Museum will be hosting a temporary exhibition that commemorates Aretha Franklin. It features costumes from “Respect.”
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