Johnetta Boone shines again! She earned her stars as a costume designer for films such as “For Colored Girls,” “Cadillac Records” and “The Notebook.” Boone now shines bright as costume designer for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s new drama series “Greenleaf.”

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A Washington, D.C. native, Boone studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in the 1980s.  In an exclusive interview, Boone discussed dressing leading Emmy award-winning African-American actors Oprah Winfrey, Lynn Whitfield, Keith David, and critically acclaimed actress Merle Dandridge.  Boone is currently serving up fashion on a new project, “Girl From Compton,” by Sony Pictures Television, Lifetime Entertainment and Thinkfactory Media. 

AFRO: Congratulations on “Greenleaf.”  Who are you working with now?

Boone: I am currently working on a TV movie of the week, “Girl from Compton.” It’s a biopic of the singer Michel’le, formerly with Ruthless Records.


A: How do you get involved in costume design?

B: I was an art major in high school, then I went to Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and studied fashion design. A fashion editor began to freelance and took a friend and me on as her assistants, and it launched my whole career.


A: Explain the culture of costume design in the movies.

B: It wasn’t our culture. It wasn’t open to Black culture at all, with the exception of Spike Lee.  Lee and Ruth Carter segued into film-making. But for the most part, making movies for the Black community was not something that was attainable. Spike and Bill Duke were pioneers in the forefront.


A: What was it like styling Oprah Winfrey, Lynn Whitfield and Merle Dandridge?

B:  It was a great experience operating as the style master for these three ladies. Oprah (Mavis McCready) was inspired by Maya Angelou and wanted to have that flow through her character: someone who traveled the world, who really embraces African-American culture.  Lynn Whitfield (Lady Mae Greenleaf) is very polished, she is the first lady of the church, who knows how to wear fine garments. She’s from that culture and era where women were dressed all the time. Merle Dandridge (GiGi Greenleaf) was fantastic. She is the perfect canvas, because she is so statuesque and familiar with brands that drape her body successfully. [Gigi has] just joined back with the Greenleaf family. Dandridge doesn’t necessarily have that church look, which everyone seemingly has when you are born and raised in a church family.


A:  How did you choose to style Keith David’s character, Bishop Greenleaf?

B:  Keith David’s role is a traditionalist. He leads a large church, he’s not flashy and ostentatious with his delivery. I didn’t want to bring over-accentuated flair to his style, because it could take away from his interaction with the church.


A: How do you source wardrobe?

B: Sometimes I get from vendors directly. Other times I shop from the stores directly. It depends on the project, the character and the time period. If it’s a vintage show, then I shop vintage, build original pieces. Sometimes I shop vintage to add eclectic flavor if it’s a contemporary piece.  I reach out to designers, they are excited to land product for the show.

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Andrea “Aunni” Young

A: What do you think of the Paolo “PNiddy” Nieddu’s work as costume designer for Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) on Fox’s “Empire” TV series?

B:  That’s a different culture, genre and time period altogether. Nieddu is taking some license, he is in the world of music, where it’s very fabulous and over the top. It’s wonderful how much distance we’ve come in a short period of time in the cinema, in the entertainment industry.