When the Kansas City-provoked reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” begins streaming Sunday, its creator won’t be the only recognizable local name to roll in the credits.
“This has been a dream opportunity,” said Whitney Manney, founder of the WHITNEYMANNEY (WM) fashion label, announcing her participation in costuming “Bel-Air” — the dramatic retelling of the ’90s sitcom.
Manney sent clothing and accessories for the characters of Ashley Banks and Lisa Wilkes to Los Angeles in fall 2021. Viewers can spot her mini doodle earrings and primary cityscape satin charmeuse scarf in series previews — stitching her namesake label’s first placement on television.
“When the team sent their picks, I was so excited because they chose pieces that really showcase my eye for color and pattern,” she said.
“I’ve seen a few hints of WM in the sneak peeks and can’t wait to see what’s to come. The ‘Bel-Air’ costume department is incredibly talented.”
“Bel-Air” is set to begin streaming its first three episodes on Peacock, the NBCUniversal streaming service, Sunday in competition with Super Bowl LVI.
Click here to watch the series or to subscribe to Peacock.
The series was inspired by a fan-fiction trailer for a darker, edgy version of Fresh Prince made by Morgan Cooper, a Kansas City native. The YouTube video went viral in 2019 and caught the attention of Will Smith, star of the original series.
“… I knew big things would come from it — and to be a part of something so major with a KC connection is wild,” Manney said, adding that to this day she has no idea how the show’s production team chose her to participate in the project.
“I got a text from one of the costume designers the day after my birthday,” she laughed.
“At first I thought someone was trolling me — but I just knew it had to be real and went for it. The team sent me what options they were interested in and I went to work quickly making new items and pulling existing samples.”
Having spent much of the last year working on projects related to wardrobe design for locally-run RW2 Productions and 8183 Productions — and working with clients that include Wendy’s, Radkey, and Vans — the timing of WM’s debut in Bel-Air couldn’t be better, Manney said.
“I’ve been able to get the experience of what it’s like to work on a crew and have a really intense timeline,” she explained, adding she’s hopeful the opportunity leads to more television work.
“To go from crew experience to having the experience of working with a costume department to have work featured on a set is crazy. I can only imagine what it takes for a costume department to pull off something iconic like ‘Bel-Air.’”
Having grown up watching the original sitcom — and still catching reruns — the chance to see her own work on screen, in a reimagined version of a world she’s long been a fan of, further fuels Manney’s passion for design and culture; two things the series itself has also been known for celebrating.
Its impact could be life changing, she said.
“An opportunity like this just helps present me to a national stage in a way that may be hard for me to do on my own. I am really hoping that I can get more eyes on my work — whether it’s the viewers or the crew that worked on the set,” Manney said.
“It’s one of those moments that definitely reminds me I’m on the right path.”
Click here to learn more about Manney or to shop her latest designs.
Watch the official trailer for Peacock’s series “Bel Air.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
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