L.A. Times Stylist Says “Iconic” Kobe Shoot Inspired By Tupac, Lakers Star Spoke Italian On Set

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"LA Times stylist Mark Valeri Says The Kobe shoot was inspired by Tupac, Kobe spoke Italian on set"

When we first set eyes on Kobe’s LA Times photoshoot our thoughts ranged from “WTF” to “Suspect” to “PURE COMEDY,” but ultimately we knew Kobe was probably thrilled with the “Italianesqueness” of the whole concept. James Valeri, the stylist behind those weird getups, stepped forward this week to explain the shoot and we were SO not surprised to hear he and Kobe chatted it up in Italian on set — however learning that Valeri was inspired by Tupac to put that sweatband on Kobe was a complete shocker.

Photo 1: white button-down shirt, white bowtie, hat and headband

This was a prep look, but still unconventional. He’s wearing a shirt buttoned up with a bowtie, but we put a hat on and created a character. Kobe was amazing to work with because he was cool with everything. He trusted us. We took a picture and he liked it so we kept going. We wanted to do a picture with a hat because the photographer wanted to do everything in white. I didn’t want to use accessories that would look too retro. Let’s do it in a cool, young way because that’s what Kobe is. He’s a cool, young and successful athlete. I wanted to give a modern approach. I was thinking of [rapper] Tupac [Shakur] where I put a band underneath in the hat to make it look hip-hop, but … it translates in a surreal look where it creates a strong image. It was something that hasn’t been done before. It’s mixing the inspiration of Tupac and a gentleman with a white hat … a mix of a hip-hop and a conservative look.

Can you say EPIC FAIL????

Mind you, James isn’t at all fazed by the folks laughing at his work — he says the shoot was expected to incite a reaction, good or bad.

The scarf picture and the hat picture were more to create an iconic image. When you do a portrait, you do think of the styling in how they’re going to be different and how they’re going to stand out. In 10 years time, or five years time, there has to be something particular or strange or different that will stand out. That image will stay in your mind. That’s how it’s going to become iconic. … A lot of people aren’t used to that, so when iconic pictures come out, they’re disturbing, insulting, fascinating, it has a strong feeling attached to it, good or bad.

I was struck that he was a gentlemen. He was very polite and very friendly, but at the same time he was a normal guy. I thought he was a noble man and cool at the same time, extremely professional. I’m half-Italian and half-English, and I knew he lived in Italy when he was a kid. So we chatted in Italian on set. It was a way to get to know him. I remember there was hip-hop music in the background, and he was singing it and knew all the lyrics of the songs. It was fun. It wasn’t a normal shoot. We were working and very professional, but it was very fun. … He was very relaxed and didn’t give us an attitude at all.

Can you say FAIL of VAST AND EPIC PROPORTIONS??? Glad to hear they had fun because we will all be getting a laugh out of these pictures for the next decade.

Matter fact, next Halloween we’ll all be rocking the Kobe Bryant special — sweatbands with hats, or scarves on our heads.

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