DAVID WILLS DISCUSSES HIS NEW BOOK – NAT KING COLE ‘STARDUST’

 

The definitive photo book on Nat King Cole—in honor of his extraordinary legacy as a singer, jazz musician, style icon, and civil rights advocate. 

Foreword by Nat King Cole’s daughters: 

Casey Cole and Timolin Cole
Introduction by Johnny Mathis

Additional contributors:  Quincy Jones and Leslie Uggams.

Produced in a limited edition of 1000 copies, the volume is super luxurious and housed in a clamshell case with a soft cashmere lining. It comes with a limited edition 11×14 inch photographic print from the Capitol Records photo archive.

 

 

Congratulations on such a beautiful book, and congratulations on Nailor Wills Publishing.  We are big fans of many of your previous books such as VeruschkaAra GallantHollywood in Kodachrome, and Seventies Glamour to name a few.  What brought you to launch your new publishing company and to start it with a book on Nat King Cole? 

 Thank you for the kind words—that’s so nice. The main reason my partners and I started Nailor Wills Publishing was to produce books of exceptional quality. I have loved books since I was a kid, and even used to make my own books out of butcher’s paper when I was in primary school. For many years I had noticed that publishers were becoming increasingly more concerned with profit margins than they were with how well the books were made, particularly regarding materials, paper quality, etc. I completely understand this of course—as it’s a business—but when the day came that I found myself having to fight for a book to be shrink-wrapped, I knew it was time to leave and do my own thing. The opportunity to do a book on Nat King Cole actually fell into my lap, as around the time we were considering starting the company the representative for Nat King Cole’s family approached me about doing a book. I was so fortunate.

You collaborated with Nat King Cole’s daughters who were very young when he passed.  What did they bring to your attention about Nat that you were personally unaware of?       

Casey and Timolin were only three years old when their father passed away. Therefore—their personal memories aside—they have primarily come to know him through family photos and stories told to them by their late mother, Maria. What they brought to my attention was the generosity and humility of their father, and the radiating effect that had—still has—on anyone whose lives he ever touched. Casey and Timolin have done an extraordinary job carrying on their father’s legacy with their non-profit foundation Nat King Cole Generation Hope, which provides access to music education for children with the greatest need.

How long did it take for you to put the book together?  

Approximately two years. Johnny Mathis wrote a beautiful introduction for the book and Casey and Timolin provided a heartfelt foreword. As the book is extremely large in format—14×17.75 inches—it was very important that the images be of the most exceptional quality. For this reason, we went back to original negatives, transparencies and photographs. In some cases, images had to be scanned and laboriously cleaned and color corrected to restore them to their original vibrancy. Capitol Records was wonderful in their understanding of our need for first-generation source material, and the book contains many never-before-seen or published images from their archive. Also, Nat King Cole: Stardust includes rare personal letters and telegrams from President John F. Kennedy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. 

 

Where does the title Stardust come from? 

“Stardust” is my favorite Nat King Cole song, and it just seemed an apt title for the book—a metaphor for the magic of his star presence and the soothing quality of his voice. The song has such a serene, dreamlike quality. Every time I hear it I feel like I’m being sprinkled with fairy dust and lullabied by a beautiful whisper. Cole’s producer, Lee Gillette, urged him to record the standard, composed by Hoagy Carmichael, in 1957. Cole initially resisted, even though he had been singing it on stage since 1954. He considered the number to have been covered, and well, by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and others. He did one take, and subsequently sang it on the October 1, 1957 episode of his TV show. The single went to #79 on the US pop chart, #24 in the UK, but grew in status over the years to become nearly everyone’s preferred version. The poignant strings introduce Cole’s mellow tones: “And now the purple dust of twilight time. …”  

Nat started during the Big Band era; what set him apart in those days from other acts?

Having idolized jazz pianist Earl Hines as a teenager, Nat intended to follow his example. Just twenty in 1939, he formed the Swingsters, and played against the prevailing trend of Big Band swing with his three-man (piano, bass, and guitar) bebop. They had their first success in 1940, when Nat’s vocal track was included on their recording of “Sweet Lorraine.”

What was Nat’s first huge hit song?  Did Nat write his own songs or was he performing hits of the times written by others? 

For Decca’s “race records” label, Sepia, the group recorded Nat’s own compositions “Gone With the Draft” and “That Ain’t Right,” highlighting his exceptional jazz piano skills; the latter topped the R&B chart in 1942. They signed with new company Capitol Records that year, and as The King Cole Trio, scored with another Cole tune, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” in 1943, followed up with “(I Love You For) Sentimental Reasons” and “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66.” Encouraged by wife Maria, Cole evolved into a popular music vocalist, soon recording love songs—a notable first for a black male singer. An example would be “Mona Lisa,” arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle in 1950, which was a B-side that turned into a huge hit—five weeks at #1 on the Billboard singles chart—and won the Oscar for Best Song. This was after “The Christmas Song” and “Nature Boy.”

Did Nat experience much racism performing in clubs in America during those times?  I read that he was attacked while on stage by a mob of white men; can you tell us a bit about this incident? 

The King Cole Trio played mostly black clubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, staying in separate but not equal accommodations. However, after one hotel refused Nat and Maria their reserved rooms, he sued and was awarded reparations and damages.  

 The crucial incident played out in Birmingham, Alabama on April 10, 1956, in front of a white audience, which was infiltrated by members of the KKK, seeking to harm, even kidnap, Cole. Mid-performance—Nat at the piano—several of these men rushed the stage, grabbing him, and injuring his head and back. Musicians were assaulted as well as Cole was hustled backstage, and the attackers escaped. Nat returned to address the audience, saying he would not continue the show, and how shocked he was since he simply wanted to entertain. The next night’s performance, for a black audience, was canceled, and Nat vowed to never return to The South.  

 Cole made incremental moves to confront discrimination in Las Vegas. Initially forced to room in the “negro neighborhood,” he later parked a trailer in the back parking lot of the hotel while playing its showroom. His white manager stayed in the hotel. Nat then used his leverage as a Vegas draw to secure rooms, though segregated, for him and his band, as long as they did not enter the casino, dine at the restaurants, or use the pool. Starring at the Sands Hotel, he was able to insist on full accommodations and access. There was also the controversy over his buying a house and moving into a “residential covenant” neighborhood in Los Angeles in 1948: a battle he and Maria won. 

 

What do you feel was Nat King Cole’s most significant contribution to the civil rights movement? 

 He brought people together with his music. For millions of white Americans Nat King Cole was their first experience of a black person being part of their household, their daily soundtrack—whether it was watching him on TV or listening to his records. Also, just by being himself, he broke certain stereotypes unfairly placed on black people through decades of injustice. He was sophisticated, he was elegant, he was charming—he was extraordinarily talented. Some may have criticized him at the time for being a white person’s idealized version of what a black person should be. But I don’t agree. He was just himself—a beautiful and refined human being. One of the most profound statements Nat King Cole ever made was: “The important thing is for negroes and whites to communicate. Even if they sit on separate sides of the room, maybe at intermission a white fellow will ask a negro for a match or something, and maybe he will ask the other how he likes the show. That way, you have started them to communicating, and that’s the answer to the whole problem.”  

Did Nat have a close relationship with Martin Luther King, and did he participate in helping Dr. King fight racism, and bring about justice and equality? 

I don’t know if they were close, as they were both highly scheduled, in demand across the country. They of course knew and highly respected one another. Nat could provide entree to celebrity and Dr. King could count on his financial support as Nat was not comfortable making speeches or marching in the spotlight. He had faith in building connections and understanding between the races, and did state, in his offstage, soft-handed way, “Dr. King’s fight is my fight.” In addition, Nat had a genial rapport with Eisenhower; supported JFK, who thanked him publicly; and visited LBJ at the White House to offer advice during the controversies concerning the Voting Rights Act. 

How did Nat King Cole go from his successful singing career to appearing in movies? How many movies did he make?  Was he under contract as an actor at one of the big Hollywood studios? 

In the ’40s and early ’50s, Cole starred in quite a few musical featurettes. As his fame grew, studios capitalized on his star power in small roles, essentially played himself—for example as a club pianist/singer, establishing the mood, in the LA noir The Blue Gardenia (1953). Cole’s career as an actor climaxed in 1957 with Sam Fuller’s China Gate, in which he convincingly played Goldie, a soldier of fortune, near the end of the French-Indochina War. His only lead role, as composer W.C. Handy in St. Louis Blues, co-starred Eartha Kitt, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald, but made little impression on critics and audiences in 1958, and no studio contract was forthcoming. Nat played a singer in the suspense drama Istanbul (1957), and a club owner in the social/racial melodrama Night of the Quarter Moon (1959), which was never released in The South. His last movie role placed him in the Wild West with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou, released after his death in 1965. As Sunrise Kid, a Greek-chorus-type troubadour, he “narrated” the film, singing verses of “The Ballad of Cat Ballou.” Several times Cole was called upon to lend his authority, tone, and bankability to the recording of movie theme songs—my personal favorite being the Joan Crawford melodrama Autumn Leaves (1955).  

Nat was featured on TV, radio, and film. How was he able to break through and be successful and accepted in all of these medias? 

Even as a praised jazz man in the late ’30s and early ’40s, Nat came across as more than a keyboard talent. When fervently urged to sing as well as play, that smoke-through-silk voice demanded attention, well before he was prepared to accept it. As a pioneering crossover artist and hit maker at Capitol Records, he was compared favorably to Frank Sinatra, his label mate. Nat’s TV show, the first for a black singer, familiarized the American public with a person of color, right in their living rooms, singing of love and romance. The program, though it lasted just over a year, gave many households their first weekly exposure to a black host. It was a uniting experience. Nat became a premiere attraction across the country—singing at the most posh venues—and an international star, touring the UK and Europe, meeting royals, traveling to Japan, Central and South America, Cuba, and Australia, where he was received with Sinatra or Elvis-like fandom.

Nat was said to be the Black Frank Sinatra.  Did he have a good friendship with Frank? 

Sinatra loved talent and deplored discrimination; Nat personified one, and was a target of the other. The two men were friendly rivals, but Nat was too much the polished yet shy gentleman, to be part of the raucous Rat Pack. Frank, who was always at the ready to step in, helped Nat make a safe exit out of Birmingham in 1956, swiftly arranging a charter flight.

Nat King Cole was always so beautifully dressed and had such extraordinary style.  Do you see him as a contemporary style icon? 

Absolutely. In fact, the term “natty dresser” was apparently coined in reference to Nat. His personal style, in particular—sleek polo shirts paired with super-slim trousers and dark suede shoes; luxe cardigan sweaters in neutral shades; precise blazers in blue, black, or gray—has had considerable influence. He’s now a sartorial role model: dapper, debonair, snappy in sportswear, elegant in black-tie. Always sharply tailored—usually by “tailor to the stars” Sy Devore—even in the studio, his tweed porkpie hat and black horn-rim shades are now considered the essence of ’60s cool. 

What song do you think is the song that is most associated with that legacy? 

Thanks to daughter Natalie’s 1990 tribute album, the song that has become most identified as his alone, is “Unforgettable.” The virtual video duet was, at the time a technological triumph, a Grammy winner, and a labor of love for Natalie. The 22-song CD engendered a new fan base for the classics of Mr. Cole, whose rich discography had fallen out of favor in the ’70s and early ’80s before being revived as background vocals in film and episodic TV. 

So many people refer to him as a true gentleman, a trailblazer, and someone who commanded respect.  What do you feel his ultimate legacy will be?   

 I think his daughter Timolin said it best: “Our father was a pioneer who transcended color and race.” There’s something about Cole’s voice that reaches into your heart and just stays there—it’s a warmth, a comfort. Being able to extract emotion through your art is an extraordinarily powerful gift. Music is healing, and Nat King Cole was—still is—one of the greatest healers of our time. Ultimately, at the core of his legacy was Mr. Cole’s hope to unite, to convey joy, to give pleasure—as he said, “to make people happy.” 

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About the author (2021)

David Wills is an author, publisher, and photographic preservationist. His books include Veruschka (Assouline); Ara Gallant (Damiani); Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis (HarperCollins); Audrey: The 60s (HarperCollins); Hollywood in Kodachrome (HarperCollins); Seventies Glamour (HarperCollins); Marilyn: In the Flash (Harper Collins); The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra (St. Martin’s Press); Switched On: Women Who Revolutionized Style in the ’60s (Weldon Owen); Vegas Gold (HarperCollins); and SHAG: Palm Springs (Nailor Wills). Wills has produced and curated a series of photography exhibitions including Warhology and Murder, Models, Madness: Photographs from the Motion Picture Blow-Up. His books and exhibitions have received major profiles in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, American Photo, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, and Time. He has also written articles on photography and popular culture for publications including The Huffington Post, V Magazine, and Palm Springs Life.

IN THE HEIGHTS STAR MELISSA BARRERA

Dress – Paco Rabanne

Photography by Dennis Tejero @ ADB Agency

Styling by Marc Sifuentes

Makeup by Talia Sparrow @ Kalpana NYC

Hair by Cameron Rains @ Forward Artists

Interview by Evan Ross Katz 

Melissa Barrera, one of the leads on Starz’s Vida and the upcoming film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, opens up about her journey to success and prioritizing her Latin roots within and outside of her work.

Dress, Belt and Boots by Versace

“It feels like so much more than an acting job,” Melissa Barrera says of her starring role on Starz’s hit series Vida. “I feel like it was a gift that I was given.” Barrera stars as Lyn Hernandez on the series which was recently renewed for a third season. “Barrera’s performance in particular blooms with searing clarity,” Vox wrote. The Hollywood Reporter called Barrera’s performance “absurdly funny.” The A.V. Club called the actress “a force to be reckoned with.” 

“It’s important to see Latin stories out there and to see the dreams that our people have and how hard we work. There’s more to us than just the negative things you see in the media or what certain people want to say about Latinx people.” But it’s not just Barrera’s work on Vida. Whether her upcoming role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights, her time on popular telenovelas like Siempre Tuya Acapulco and Tanto Amor or in regional theater productions in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, much of the conversation with Barrera seems to circle back to her Mexican roots—and it’s no coincidence.  

“I’m Mexican. I’m fully Mexican. I was born and raised in Mexico and now I happen to work in the United States. And I am proud to be a part of this Latinx wave of shows and films that are finally starting to get made and people that have never seen themselves represented on screen are finally getting to see themselves and I get to be a part of it. So I feel that it is important to wear my identity on my sleeve and be one of the faces of this movement and help people see themselves because a lot of people have felt erased in their stories or their stories are never told. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to be a voice for those people who have not had one for so long. And I want to.” 

Dress by Off-White

It’s this passion that emanates from Barrera, who thinks long and hard before responding to questions, constantly aware of the possibilities and pitfalls of a first impression and desiring to represent both herself and her roots with pride. This, according to her friends that I spoke with, is the Melissa they’ve always known. 

Though acting and singing seemed like the natural trajectory from an early age, Barrera did not limit her possibilities. “There was a point where I wanted to be a doctor,” she says, adding that architecture, interior design, even biomedical engineering were all career aspirations at various times. “I even at one point wanted to be a secret agent. I’ve wanted to be so many different things throughout my life. But that’s the thing about being an actor, you get to be everything.” 

She started auditioning for local regional productions in high school and was quickly cast in a musical version of Romeo and Juliet in Monterrey. That was her first taste of the rigor of the theater: working six days a week, with two-shows a day often the norm. It didn’t dissuade her, only making her hungry for more. She furthered her education attending New York University to study theater. She left New York University’s prestigious CAP21 musical theater program two years in after making it into the top 20 on La Academia, a popular Mexican competition reality series that catapulted her star meter. 

“That show definitely prepared me for the industry. It was a very difficult experience because it brought all my insecurities to the surface. It made me doubt if I had what it took to be in this business. It made me fight for it really hard. I’m very grateful I had that experience, even though sometimes I have PTSD about it. Whenever I have to sing in public I get stage fright and I never feel good enough because of all of the harsh judgments I had while I was on that show.” But she’s careful to stress the positives that came from it, like learning to fight for her dream. It’s also the place where she met her future husband, musician Paco Zazueta. 

Dress by Georgine

That show proved a career springboard, landing her roles in a number of popular telenovelas. “I’ve always felt that telenovelas, especially in Mexico, are looked down upon as a genre….but I personally love them,” she says, describing the rigor of the production process as boot camp. “It’s literally shooting 30 scenes a day, one after the other, and it forces you to go through a crazy rollercoaster of emotions, more so than anything else I’ve ever done. I think because of that school of telenovela, it made everything that’s come after much easier for me.”

And thankfully, the “everything” that has come after has been plentiful, from Vida to a recently-announced contemporary reimagining of the opera Carmen opposite Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan, to the upcoming In the Heights, a role Barrera has been eyeing for over a decade before she was cast. “I remember going to see it on Broadway at least ten times. I remember the first time that I saw it, what I felt, it was as though my heart was going to explode with pride and hope. All my dreams of being on Broadway after seeing that show just felt so much more tangible.” From there, she set out to be casted, attending open calls for the show, but never quite landing a spot…until now, nearly a dozen years after the show’s first bow on the Great White Way. 

Dress by Tom Ford

“It’s going to be very different from the stage version,” she says of the movie, set for release next summer. “It’s been updated to reflect the situation of immigrants today, so it has appropriately been adapted to take place in 2020.” For Barrera, it’s about leveling out the audience with the content, noting the disparity between Latinx content consumption and shows casting Latinx actors, created by Latinx people and/or telling Latinx stories. To that end, Barrera says she hopes to begin producing her own work down the line. “Because [Vida creator] Tanya [Saracho] gave opportunities to people like me, I’m going to make sure that I follow in her footsteps.”

And with that, Barrera is back to set to shoot the final week of filming In The Heights. Though she’s not filming any scenes on this particular day, she says she just wants to be around it all, near the cast, watching the process unfold around her. Like much of the pride Barrera so often spoke about, it’s not necessarily about her, but about who she can be to and for those who come after her.

Dress by Victoria Hayes

 

Interview from Issue 12 of IRIS COVET BOOK available in stores and online by clicking —> HERE! 

TÉ TIME WITH ANDREKZA

Bow top by Morphine / Gloves via PR Solo

 

Photographer: Josef Jasso
Creative Director/Wardrobe Stylist/Interview – Adrian Joseph
Make up: April Nicole
Hair: Jefferson T
Assistant: Danny

Few creatives can simultaneously connect music, visual storytelling, and fashion together much like what is exemplified in ANDREKZA’s evolution. With her definitive style of music which combines the traditional dembow riddim and reggaeton, along with eclectic rhythms found in dancehall, ANDREKZA’S music represents harmonies that have stormed into the music scene with a ravenous and poetic sound.

On the edge of the release of her EP “Cassette: Lado A”, and inspired by the memories of her first cassette player, ANDREKZA unifies her creative experiences through her latest endeavor: “Everything was created through my imagination. From the topics I wanted to touch to the creative direction of the videos. I call this album a mixtape because of the variety of rhythms. I’m a mix of different things, which I wanted to embrace on the album. I don’t want to label myself as just reggaeton or Pop.”

Leading the project is “TÉ,” a playfully light track that showcases her stylistic transitions in melody and lyricism. It’s also the creation that solidified her essence: “It’s one of the songs that left an imprint in my life. When I wrote the song, everything made sense. It all came together; I finally found my style, my sound, and voice.”

As the first Latina signed to Steve Aoki’s new Latin imprint – Dim Mak en Fuego, ANDREKZA keeps one goal in mind. “I hope to encourage people to express themselves through various art forms.”

 

Dress by Jovana Louis SS21 / Ear Rings- Bitch Fist / Socks – Dolls Kill

Before you were writing songs, you were writing poetry at a very young age in Venezuela. When did you write your first poem, and do you know what inspired you to do so?

I think I was 10 when I wrote my first poem about the moon. I love the moon, I didn’t understand why we could only see it at night until I understood that it was only necessary to look up to the sky to find it, red, gray or gold.

What music was in your house growing up and what impact, if any, do you feel it had on your music today?

Each person in my house had a preferred musical style and genre, but when it came to sharing, we were all DJs for a bit. I think that when you connect with music, it automatically moves your feet, I go into the studio, close my eyes and let myself flow. I always have influences in my heart, but no idea or style that I cling to in particular.

Reggaetón, Salsa, Venezuelan Rap, Rock, Pop, Celia Cruz, Oscar de Leon, la Fania, on the Reggaetón side, Wisin y Yandel, Daddy Yankee, Tego Calderón, Tres Dueños, Apache, Residente, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Natalia Lafourcade, Jesse & Joy, there are so many.

 

Crystallized Jacket, ruffle pants by Morphine / Fashion Top – PR Solo / Earrings – Stylist Own

I know you graduated high school at age 15, who did you stan musically when you were a teenager? And are you still a fan of them? 

Yes, definitely! When I was 15, I loved Natalia Lafourcade, La Mala Rodríguez and Residente and I still admire them a lot.

Your first EP Cassette – Lado A (Side A) just released with your catchy and infectious first date anthem “TÉ,” the song produced by Orlando Vitto. What makes a good first date for you?

Spontaneity, tea and a good sunset, the most beautiful show in the world and it’s free every day.

I know you probably get this a lot nowadays. What’s your favorite kind of tea? 

It really depends on my mood. In the morning I love to have black tea, in the afternoon passion fruit tea, and in the evening green tea with lavender.

Cassette – Lado A features “Nerviosa” which is a track that showcases your versatility as a singer with trap rhymes and melodic verses. You accompanied the song with a video directed by you and Macksimo. What inspired you in the creation of the “Nerviosa” music video and story?

We always wait for a special moment to celebrate, but every day is special. Macksimo and I wanted to celebrate the feelings, the connection between two people, with a “happy non-birthday” party.

 

Bow skirt by Morphine Pink / Crystal hem jacket by Pink Crystal / Top by PR Solo / Boots by Current Mood Dolls Kill

 

What would you like people to take away from listening to Cassette – Lado A?

That fear of speaking only takes away the opportunity to know each other and live. Say what you feel and when you feel it. Let’s not have it be a taboo, let’s be emotionally free.

In your recent single “Tuve” ft. Gabriel Garzón-Montano your chemistry is unmatched, and you follow that by being featured in his “Mira my look” remix! How has it been collaborating with the fellow artist?

I’ve never admired an artist’s creative process as much as I do Gabriel’s, I feel very fortunate to be able to share art and love with him, we are working on a very cool project together, which we will soon be able to give more details about!

I know it’s a challenging time but what are you most looking forward to this year? 

I’m looking forward to sharing my art, being able to hug each other again, and having people enjoy my full debut Album CASSETTE, which will be available in September!

 

Dress by Morphine Fashion (Harpers PR)/ Earrings by Bitchfist / Ring – PR Solo

 

 

SINGER SONGWRITER PETITE MELLER

 

Petite Meller is a French singer, songwriter and musician who is favored for the viral music videos that complement her songs. Typically sporting a high-energy brand of pop, artist Petite Meller recently released her new single, “Dying out of Love,” a song from her long awaited and forthcoming second album. This single is different from her usual work in that it’s melancholic and cathartic. A mirror to the tribulations of the year. Iris Covet Book recently had a virtual meet and greet with Petite who was eager to answer our questions. 

 

Interview by Jacquie Trevizo

 

For those of us that may just have gotten to know you, how did you get started?

I released my first video “NYC Time” on YouTube and funny enough, a manager from the UK found me online while searching what the time was in NY. He then signed me to Island records. My first album, “Lil Empire”,  was released with a #1 Radio hit in Europe called “Baby Love”. The video, shot in Kenya, was dedicated to the girls kidnapped by Boko Haraam. It was very much a girl power song with strong visual impact. After those releases, I made a few others including “The Flute,” shot in Mongolia and nominated for the EMA’s and “Barbaric,” shot in Miami. Such has been the impact that iconic artists like Lorde have tweeted about how they love my music. I’ve also received emails from Beyonce’s manager telling me how I’ve inspired her. 

Your new music video, “Dying out of Love,” has moments in it that resonate like a performance art piece. What inspired the multiple resting women in your music video? 

The video idea was inspired by my friends blog @Present_Passive, who documents what she sees as “Our Resting Era.” I had asked my friends to film themselves in their own room, in a passive posture somewhat like sleeping beauties, looking a little tired leaning against their laptops. It’s the way I feel about our generation right now. Once covid exploded, I started receiving videos with a bigger loneliness vibe. Like the heart quarantined, the longing for a loved one. Holding your hand, sheltering your eyes. I saw a lot of wet eyes on the screen in the editing room. Lior Susana directed me inside a pool as a womb of self birth. A safe place for unconditional love. The result ended up reminding everyone of Nirvana’s album cover “Nevermind,” which is an album I grew up listening to. 

What inspirations will we pick up from your new album?

It took me time to experiment and find my new sound. I wanted to combine classical music like Vivaldi and Mahler with electronic Pop sounds. I recorded with The Moscow Royal Symphony to make it cinematic as a soundtrack of life.

I call it Ork-pop

How is this new album different from your last, “Lil Empire?” 

If in “Lil Empire” I was traveling to far away countries inspired by world music like the bongos of Africa and the Mongolian Flute, in this album I am traveling inside myself, writing to uplift my soul and through this hopefully others.

If Lil Empire was inspired by Paul Simon, inspiring this one is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. 

Tell us a little about your new single, “Dying out of Love.” How did that come to be?

Swedish producer Andreas Söderlund wrote a string piece as a present to his wife for their wedding. He and Erik Arvinder tracked a 40 piece orchestra in the old EMI studio in Stockholm. They then reached out to me to see if it was something I’d be interested in working with. I fell in love with it. I remember my friend once citing for me some verses from the Bible…”Song of Solomon 8:6-7: 6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death…” These verses came up for me when I listened to Andreas’s song. The fiercity of love was already inside the notes and the lyrics spelled that out easily.  

Tell me more about this dream you have of being a music conductor? 

As a little girl I used to dream of conducting a symphony, going to concerts with my parents. I fell in love with the job of the conductor.

The way he moves, his body language, the drama in his hands , the fact that he controls the intensity of all those beautiful instruments playing together, the vibrations that he creates and transmits through his body into the crowd of listeners in the room, seemed to me magical and sublime.

You have an MA in Philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris. Who is your favorite philosopher and why?

I think Emmanuel Kant is a very relevant philosopher for this time of COVID-19.

His notion of “The Sublime ” where a phenomenon happens in art or nature, and tackles the mind, breaking it in a way that helps it feel the existence of the transcendental sublime helped me. Go out and connect with nature, reflect in nature, in lakes, in desserts it made me and others look at the world in a new different perspective.

How would you describe your fashion style? 

Minimalist, absurd, Cinematic. As is life. I live out of a suitcase, All I need is a hat, a book and some blush. 

Tell us about the art forms that inspire your unique sense of style.

I’m mostly inspired by cinema, I watch a classical movie every day, my favorite is Antonioni, but I love Tarkovsky , Bergman Fellini , I love the extravagant woman on the screen, like Monica Vitti, a larger than life creature. Epic, strong and absurd.

Tell us about the recent Marie Antoinette look you debuted at Milan Fashion Week.

It was all a funny series of events. I was invited to the Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini fashion show. My friend Dana Winshman designed me this long hair down to the floor. When I tried on the Philosophy dress, my hair went up by mistake.  When I took off the dress, suddenly the whole modern Marie Antoinette look came to life. 

Rebecca Baglini dressed me, I took my mini Aristo book as an accessory and a mask designed by Betka. When I arrived in some odd way the whole scenery was a 19th century garden vibe, with Vivaldi playing as the soundtrack. I felt like reality adapted itself to my dream, it’s funny how this happens to me all the time. 

Petite Meller from Jacqueline L Trevizo on Vimeo.

Photo & Video – Marina Moshkovich @moshkovich.marina

Makeup – Moran Eilat Yanko @moranko_makeup

Hair – Avishay Masty @avishay_masty

Styling: Jacquie Trevizo @jacquietrevizo

Editing – Valeria Zaitseva @yoma_film

TAIPEI FASHION WEEK SS2021 – RE:CONNEXT

In the hopes to reconnect people during these uncertain times through the art of fashion, as well as present the industry with digital experience concepts to inspire the future of fashion show events, this year’s Taipei Fashion Week SS 2021 RE:CONNEXT brought together the classic aspects of a conventional fashion show with a number of virtual, interactive elements.

Taiwan is a country mix of cultures and talented designers who have often studied abroad in New York, Paris, and Italy. As 2020 had an unusual beginning: the energy crisis, global warming, and a worldwide pandemic that has not only created social distances between humans but also redefined how we communicate. Designers remain true to our heritage, returning here to showcase their dazzling and original contributions to a global fashion language.”
Many of designers are taking humanity as its concept, exploring nature, sustainable textile, and the post pandemic complex matters.

 

#Damur works with textile manufacturers and chemical plants to create water-proof, light and foldable clothes made by grade P2-rated protective medical materials. “We add houndstooth prints, denim flash prints, animal prints on to the non-woven fabrics with 3D printing technology to broaden the use of medical fabrics. These garments will have diversified uses, including travel and in-flight wear.”

“With the advancement of digital technology and materials, we can produce excellent products everywhere. Designing a piece of garment is actually about designing the language of a society. The important key is to find a community that recognizes and resonates with your language or perspectives,” stated Damur Huang as he prepares for his #kiosk project that aims to “up-cycle” clothes.

 

Stephane Dou and Changlee Yugin, a rare designer duo, is a brand known for many firsts in Taiwan, including a large concept store in the alley of Taipei’s Chung Shan North Road in 2003 and being the first to initiate gender fluidity in Taiwan’s fashion scene. This year marks the brand’s 25th anniversary. For them, the brand is one that comes into maturity, becoming a brand that knows what it wants, what it does not want, and what responsibilities it has. DOUCHANGLEE’s 2021 Spring-Summer collection takes the palette of black, white, hemp, denim and neutral colors such as tones of stone, moss, and cement. “We like natural fibers and we mix them with high-tech materials to make our garments more comfortable and structured.” The play of sporty and luxurious elements symbolizes a mixture of values.

 

Founded by Jill Shen in 2017, the name Seivson is derived from two French words – Nos and Vies that mean we and inspiration. Seivson’s logo is adorned by a small screw bolt, signifying the pursuit of perfection in details. The designer contemplates deeply on the functionality of her designs. For the 2021 Spring-Summer collection, Jill Shen plays with Hermes carre and the Burberry trench to portray a story from the end of century. Her inspirations came from her dreams and her observations about society: In a theatrical style, she uses multiple looks for daily wear, illogical and oversized clothes. For the fashion show, Seivson collaborated with floral artists to create a stage with withered plants to portray the imagery of apocalypse. Seivson uses the environmental friendly elements and materials, plays with the eco- friendly fabric and naturally-dyed techniques in our new 2021 series. Expressing through Seivson’s signature print developments and the pattern cutting constructions, fusing the design and art energies, Seivson considers the practicability and uniqueness of how a garment can be. Speaking out the reflection of environmental sustainability through the designs.

 

“The more you stay true to your roots, the more globalized you become.” This is one of the values Justin Chou believes deeply in his creative process. He is very skillful in mixing and deconstructing elements of East and West. Luxxury Godbage, a sub label from JUST IN XX, offers products from reusing and upcycling materials, second-hand garments, used accessories and vintage pieces. To Kuo, it’s sort of like molecular cuisines. Kuo feels the idea of luxury is time – how to express craftsmanship in fast fashion. We may not need massive clothes. We need clothes with meaning, stories, and crafts. He says: “During this time, I had time to think. Being a part of fashion, what can we do to minimize waste and pollution? This is an issue that we all have to think about, not just the fashion industry but everyone on this planet.”

 

Founded in 2011, Dleet started as a designer for menswear. Upon demands by female consumers after its initial success, Dleet launched its womenswear which rapidly became the main business for the brand. In the beginning, Dleet was a small label showcased in a friend’s boutique.
By chance, Dleet participated in a joint event for local rising designers at Eslite Tun-nan. In the 2-week event, the brand received overwhelming responses. Until this day, Dleet has a strong client base in the Eslite stores with loyal followers. The 2021 Spring-Summer collection takes the theme of dual personalities, interpreted by layering and mixing two individual styles, such as uneven sleeves and collars. His garments are known for sleek lines and high wearability, Dleet has very high aspiration for Taipei Fashion Week. He says: “I hope it would be very energetic and free from boundaries – an event that is not limited to local fashion and culture, but more global in its outlook.”

Just like an epic poem, after the setting from earlier chapters, the story of Shiatzy Chen evolves with richness, broadness, and imageries. As a pioneer for Taiwan’s fashion brand. Shiatzy Chen was one of the first brands that has successfully established itself in the Paris fashion scene. Founder Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia speaks of the brand’s future plans for the international market with lights in her eyes. Starting with pattern-making, selection of materials to making of embroideries, all the processes have become globalized: patterns made in Paris, fabrics from Milan, and embroideries that combine aesthetics of the East and the West. The embroideries are developed by Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia, utilizing techniques and advantages of European court garments, Suzhou embroideries, Miao embroideries, and more to make the ultimate creations. “The key to luxury products is the commitment. When we are committed, we can embark on a road less traveled.” The theme for 2021 Spring-Summer collection is “Circular Journey”. It’s a part of the brand’s mission to expand on the richness of Chinese culture. Although fashion is an industry based on constant changes, Wang Chen Tsai-Hsia has a longer vision. “When we have a global vision, we realize how small we are. That realization allows us to see a different world.”

 

Inspiring ourselves through sustainability, ecosystems, and ancient crafts to evoke a primitive wisdom of ancient times where humanity suffered but also persevered against the heavens. Land should not be forgotten and each article of this planet has nourished our cultures. We must seek within ourselves for an innate instinct and create value through recycling.

In the “PRIMITIVE SENSE” themed exhibition, we showcase two design teams : SABRA ANDRE and Paru Cunuq as representatives of the aboriginal viewpoints.

The student team of the Taiwan contemporary aboriginal experimental clothing course at Shih Chien University also woven out with their own design language. The beautiful vitality dedicated to this land. Paru Cunuq is committed to the research of traditional fabric crafts, and has long invested in the teaching of native tribal crafts and industrial development, sorted out the development context of aboriginal clothing culture, promoted the development that emphasizes differentiation, and conveyed more precise lichen decoration culture to the indigenous The balanced development of fabric culture in various regions is regarded as the ambition to invest in the industry, and the pattern record and fabric experiment are regarded as the brand purpose.

SABRA ANDRE presents us the first part of the Taitung trilogy this time. Designer ANDRE transformed the childhood memories of Taitung into bright prints and decorations on clothing. The strong colors are impressionist canvases spread out under the sun in Taitung. All the packages displayed are hand-made with the elderly , contributing to the inheritance of Taitung culture. Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines is matched with the second-year clothing design course of the Fashion Design Department of the Shih Chien University, aiming at the in-depth field adjustment and reorganization of the aboriginal culture, integrating the logic of clothing fashion and the use of different materials to produce experimental clothing.

 

 

TAIPEI FASHION WEEK SS21

 

This is an era of rebirth and innovation, and Taipei Fashion Week returns this year with a whole new look. The Digital Terminal, which many will transit, uses an immersive theatrical experience to communicate the designers’ creative thinking. The Fashion Mart provides Taiwanese designers with a window to the consumer market. And for international buyers stuck elsewhere, an interactive matchmaking service in a novel digital format helps with business opportunities, marking a new approach for international fashion.
We cordially invite you to join us for this annual fashion extravaganza, and to be warmed by Taiwan’s glow as it sparkles on the international fashion stage.
– Lee Yung-te Minister of Culture

 

 

The pinnacle of the 2020 Taipei Fashion Week SS21 was the SS Launch Party hosted by the Ministry of Culture at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park on October 6th. A total of sixteen fashion shows by Taiwanese designers, two themed shows (Themed Exhibition for Materials & Themed Exhibition for Indigenous Peoples’ Culture), and over forty designer exhibits took place over the course of five days.

The theme of “Re” will connect all the inspirations and creative concepts found throughout the Taipei Fashion Week. The Chinese title of Re:connext leaves a blank space that is open to individual interpretation so the audience may express their own attitudes toward fashion. The English title Re:connext is the combination of “connect” and “next,” a hope for the fashion industry to reconnect on a personal and industrial level following the pandemic and a broken supply chain. The fashion show hosted by the Taipei City Government is titled Re:PLAY to redefine the possibilities of design through sustainability, respect, technology, innovation, urban vitality, and interdisciplinary integration

 

Fashion by Primitive Sense

 

Renown designer Yen Po Chun and his team will be responsible for the key visuals. The fundamental element of fiber will be combined with situational backgrounds of a digital era to create an image of culture and technology intertwined. Chun uses vibrant colors as metaphors with blue signifying elegance and personality while red represents passion and sensibility; the two colors connect sensibility with reason. The shifting landscape poses a challenge and we must adapt accordingly. As the primary platform for Taiwan’s apparel industry, how can the Taipei Fashion Week incite new discourse? How will fashion be redefined and how will the industry be reborn?

 

Virtual Escape

 

The year 2020 had an unusual beginning: the energy crisis, global warming, and a worldwide pandemic that has not only created social distances between humans but also redefined how we communicate. Quarantine, telecommuting, face masks, and temperature checks are fictional measures that have now become a part of our daily lives. The whole of humanity is at the crossroads as the unusual has now become the usual while existing norms are rendered obsolete. A shared belief system woven into the fabrics of society throughout the passing of time is now disintegrating and crushing the old world order. This is a sign and a revelation: nature is fickle and this time, the human race has been caught off guard. Now, more than ever, we will be exploring our relationship with the planet Earth, with others, with nature, with organic matters, and inorganic matters; the complex web of interrelationships have never been so provoking.

 

Fashion by Weavism

 

For the Taipei Fashion Week only, the Multi-Showcase Exhibition Hall at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park will be transformed into the Digital Terminal, a large floating island. Each and every visitor will become sky walkers that will be led on board by dedicated navigators after their identity is confirmed. The visitors will embark on a journey into a highly-developed dystopian society where conflicting elements of body and mind, the human and the mechanical, and reality and the virtual interweave. The world is filled with modified humans, fantastical creatures, supernatural devices, and extravagant apparel. Visitors will be able to experience the dystopian world for themselves, rewriting their stories and encountering surprises throughout.

Fashion by Allenko3

Digital Terminal is inherently a large imaginative space and each space can be further divided into multiple scenarios. Fashion houses can convey a message or display their artwork which could be outfits, textiles, images or sketches. We encourage brands to think outside of the box and showcase their own unique and untamed creativity.
Digital Terminal is a show for the Taipei Fashion Week that blends the virtual and the reality. The Digital Brands Exhibit will deliver an experimental immersive experience constructed by six outstanding designers and creators. The exhibit will take place in a dark venue and will be complemented with audio, projections, interactive technologies, and other forms of digital art. Available to the public throughout the entire day, the exhibit will combine the dynamic with the static. In this giant space, the lines between apparel and apparel, apparel and audience, and audience and others will be intentionally blurred, allowing the audience to roam freely within the flowing space as they get a closer look at the works and become a part of the Digital Terminal. Unlike conventional fashion shows and generic exhibits, each designer has been given a space where they can unleash their creativity and where their models can walk freely among the audience. The audience can interact with the designer and get an up-close look at the collection which will be complimented with installation art, audio, and visuals. The exhibits are open to the public for the entire day to help make fashion an accessible and tangible construct rather than a distant concept.

 

Fashion by C Jean

DEATHBYROMY BY JOSEF JASSO

Dress by House of Mua Mua, Head-piece and crucifix by Mariana Harutunian

DeathByRomy

Photographer + Creative Direction Josef Jasso

Styling + Creative Direction Adrian Joseph

Style Assistant Carlos Posadas

Makeup director Nicky Andrea

Hair Stylist Ana Estela

Interview by Izabel Rose

Weird Brain Creation pvc plaid look, Boots by Dolls Kill

Singer, songwriter, and dark-pop provocateur DeathbyRomy pays attention to every last detail. She pours both pain and euphoria into her catchy but heavy music, pitting electronic melodies and propulsive beats against hypnotic vocals and deeply personal lyrics. Now 20 years old, the Los Angeles-born Romy Flores wrote her first song at age 5 and began releasing her music at 15, mining inspiration from the iconoclastic artists she was raised on (The Beatles, Björk, Kanye West, to name a few). With her 2018 debut album Monsters, she soon drew an avid following and found countless fans turning up to her shows adorned in her signature eye makeup. Her Capitol Records debut, 2019’s Love u — to Death EP, was short but sickly sweet, emphasizing her unique interweaving of rap boldness, electronic innovation, and raw rock ‘n’ roll passion. As Romy’s sound has taken shape, so has her DeathbyRomy persona: the Harajuku punk fashion, the corpse-like makeup, and her hard-earned, utterly badass confidence. Stay tuned for more new music coming soon.

How did you find out that you wanted to be an artist? 

I was raised in a home covered in art, by two people who were not only artists themselves but who honored and valued art in all mediums. My mom would sing all the time to me when I was little, and museums were a regular outings during my childhood. I started writing at five, but it wasn’t until I had experienced what I knew was real pain, did I know that I wanted to console and touch others who had felt the same. My best means to do so was through my art.

Where do you pull your musical inspirations from? 

My biggest inspirations are Bjork, Kanye West, Bring Me The Horizon, and Lady Gaga. But I pull my own inspirations to write from everything around me. From the void, to mania, to pain and love.

Describe the creative process behind your music? 

It constantly varies and is not limited to one set formula. I write everywhere. My favorite place to write is on the plane.

How would you describe your fashion aesthetic? 

hmmmm…bi-polar? Just kidding, Japanese Lolita meets goth hype beast and a sprinkle of Renaissance witch.

From the editorial shoot, which are your favorite designs?

I loved the Weird Brain Creations outfit best. I love her work.

Black Dress by Michael Costello, Glove by Mariana Harutunian, Earrings & Necklace by Coutorture

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

To never take anything personally. To not let compliments and high regards to be the only reason I am happy with myself or the only thing that makes me feel good about myself. And in hand, to not let negative energy or comments about me be the reason that changes how I see myself.

What song(s) would you most likely sing in the shower?

Anything that allows me to belt because you sound better with the bathroom acoustics. Maybe “Cry” By ashnikko.

What’s to come from DeathbyRomy?

More music, and infinitely more life.

Queen of hearts dress by Helen Anthony, Jewelry by Couturtore

COVER STORY: ORVILLE PECK

Photographer: Emma Craft @emmacraft
Stylist: Angel Emmanuel @angelemmanuel
Photo Assistant: Michael Decristofaro @m.decristo
Editor in Chief: Marc Sifuentes @marc.sifuentes
Creative Director: Louis Liu @herecomeslouis
Interview by: Dustin Mansyur @dmansyur

With his fringed masks, rhinestone suits, and shoegazing lyricism, Orville Peck is every bit the part of “lonesome outlaw”. Reimagining tropes of tradition, Peck’s take on country music reinvents the genre as a decorated landscape ready for queer expression.

Orville Peck is a nomad. Like a cowboy on a cattle drive, home is an elusive feeling; the masked musician who’s been described as every imaginable synonym for “enigma” feels happiest hanging his hat just off the highway in a roadside motel. The open road is a part of his DNA, having traversed and inhabited several continents, countries, and cities as a boy. His incessancy for wanderlust belies a romantic narrative spun in the stories of his songs, lulling his listeners on a quixotic journey through a memoryscape evocative of another time and place.

Releasing Pony in March earlier this year, Peck’s sincere approach to his storytelling and lyricism is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Patsy Cline, intimate and unadulterated. His vocals are as hypnotic and coaxing as a desert oasis on Route 190 through Death Valley. Somewhere between the inexplicable pain of loss resides the unparalleled elation of love and lust. It is the proverbial longhorn skull and rose motif. As a queer artist who croons about gay hustlers or doomed love affairs, his sincerity is the foundation for his music’s transcendency, appealing to longtime country music fans while attracting a younger, more diverse audience to the genre. In an era demanding the commodity of content, Peck deciphers himself apart from the formulaic clout of music industry contemporaries through his visceral ability to be truthful. It is this vulnerability that cannot be faked nor bought, and an even rarer quality for a performer as sensitive as Peck, fearlessly weaving the stories of his experiences and muses into the embroidery of his album; Pony is forthcoming and unapologetic. While the illusion of his shrouded pageantry may have him pegged as the “musical outlaw”, coupled with the intimacy of his music, it creates a contrasting dichotomy that is equal parts mystifying and infatuating.

Ready to saddle up and lead a cavalry of change in the country music industry, IRIS Covet Book shares a conversation with the artist just before he embarked on the European leg of his tour.

Jacket from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Maison Fabre, Necklace: His own

Listening to your album, really took me back to my experience as a gay person of color who grew up in the rural Midwest on country music, struggling to find acceptance in the 500-person town I was raised in. Because of your music’s authenticity, one might easily assume you had a similar experience. Where are you from and what was your experience like growing up?

I mean I grew up in a bunch of different places, by the time I was in my early twenties I reckon 5 different countries and many many cities. I’ve lived in Africa, in Canada, in the States, and in Europe—so I moved around a lot. My parents were both from kind of humble beginnings and whenever they did kind of have any money they would put the emphasis on traveling and getting to go and experience new places and cultures. So I think I grew up with a pretty diverse view of the world, in general, but especially in music and art. And I think country music always connected with me because, not only did I love the instrumentation and the themes, but I also related to the environment that it’s set in. I was born and grew up in a desert area, so there were obvious connections to it. As a young gay weirdo, I was really drawn towards the campness of it, the bold storytelling, the theatrical nature of it, which also ran kind of congruent with a lot of sincerity, heartbreak and loneliness which are all kinds of things that I felt and I still carry around with me now.

It’s funny because country music has this stigma surrounding it that it’s supposed to be for well-adjusted conservative, aggressive, white men. It’s sad because like you said yourself, a lot of queer people of color or marginalized people that grow up in small towns feel outside of country music. But the stories within country music—even going back to artists like Patsy Cline—I think those stories speak clearly to people like us. I think also that’s why it’s so obvious that someone like Dolly Parton is such an icon for gay people because she’s someone that had to blaze her own trail and really really convince people to listen to her by dressing provocatively and wearing crazy wigs and essentially being, you know, like a drag queen. But, she could also write some of the most heartbreaking gut wrenching songs of our whole civilization. I think country music has always been written by outsiders and it’s always been for outsiders. I hope to help to break that stigma down because it’s not supposed to be only for white men in trucks or whatever.

How did you break into the music industry; was it something you always imagined you’d be doing?

I was a performer since I was about 10 years old. I started with acting and I was a dancer for a long time and I’ve always been a singer. There were always instruments around my house, I never had formal lessons but I taught myself how to play guitar and piano. I think I just always knew that I was going to be a performer in some way. I’ve been in a bunch of different types of bands all through my twenties, but I knew that I always wanted to make country music and I always wanted to really sing and I never had the confidence to do it for a long time. Then I took a break from music for about 6 years at one point and then when I came back to it I knew I wanted to do country music because it had always been in the back of my mind.

You’ve toured extensively with punk rock bands. Do you find a correlation between the genres and your approach?

Definitely, there’s a similar rebellion, of course. I think there’s a similar aesthetic in some ways. The punk that I grew up loving was early seventies kind of punk. Those people all had pseudonyms; they all had costumes that they wore. You know they spent more time on hair and makeup than most musicians probably do now. So I think that there’s a lot of correlations between country music which is essentially pageantry and drama mixed with vulturous sincerity and heartbreak and I think that that’s kind of what punk is too.

Shirt and Jeans: R13, Vest and Chaps from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Stetson, Boots: Star Boots

Returning to country music, did it feel like you were returning to your roots in a way?

What I do now feels so easy in a way because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s the easiest thing to just be yourself. The best qualities about you are the most sincere ones. Of course, I still struggle with insecurities about it and I have self-doubts, but the older I’ve gotten, it’s become easier for me. Even though I’ve been a performer for so long and been doing it as a job for a long time, I think this time I can really sit back and enjoy it for the first time because it’s become fun and easy to be myself.

You’re about to embark on your European Tour for “Pony”. You’ve described yourself as a “born drifter”, which kind of furthers the romanticism of your musical canon and persona. What is it about the open road or a nomadic lifestyle that calls you?

I’ve just always felt anxious. As I’ve said, I moved around a lot when I was younger, so I think the idea of moving to new places and kind of making your home wherever you are—that’s always just been part of me I suppose. I find it very hard to put roots down. Oftentimes I’ve tried to stay in cities for long periods of time and I’ve always kind of gotten anxious and not really known where my place is. Part of what appeals to me now is that I’ve learned to really find the adventure in it and not look at it as a downside. When people ask me where I’m from and I say lots of places, it’s not to be obtuse or enigmatic, it’s just because I genuinely feel like I have left little pieces of myself in all these different places that I’ve lived. That to me is so special because I can go back to those cities and feel like I’m right back at home in a way that I’ve gotten to meet incredible friends and family all over the world. So I think those are things that appeal to me about it. I’m just someone that’s never been able to sit still.

Do you feel most at home when you’re on tour?

Yes, I do. I definitely feel most comfortable. When I’m stuck in one city and I have a lot to do like I am right now— I’m about to leave in two days again for tour—but I tend to have the most anxiety and stress when I’m stuck in one place. I do feel at home on tour; I just feel at home when I’m traveling.

Pants: Gucci, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Wing + Weft Gloves, Belt: Diesel, Belt Buckle: Stylists Own, Boots: Frye, Necklace: His own

What is your song-writing process? How often do you write? Is it an ongoing discipline or something you do only when you apportion studio time for it?

I’m kind of writing all the time. It’s all different. Sometimes it’s an idea just based around a concept for a song. Sometimes it’s based around a melody that I have in my head. Other times it’s based around one lyric or a line that I want to try to incorporate. Oftentimes I start from more of a visual or kind of an emotive place where I know what kind of vibe I want the song to be or what emotion I want to evoke for the person listening to it. Then I go from there by making it personal to me and hopefully telling a good story at the same time.

Pony was released in March earlier this year and received with splashy critical praise as well as excitement from your fans who’ve been waiting for it since your single release of “Dead of Night” in 2017. What are you most proud of about the album, and can you share any personal anecdotes from the recording process?

What I’m most proud about and just generally about the past year is that I’ve been able to express myself as an artist. That includes collaborating with people, which is something I never used to be very good at doing. I’ve learned in the past year to really embrace that. And I find it really fun and exciting now being able to work with people on videos, visuals, aesthetics, stylists… as an artist I think it’s really important. Then in addition to that, getting to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was little, which is to be a singer and really sing, and sing about heartache and things that are important to me and things that are sometimes difficult for me to sing about. I think the bonus of that is everyone enjoying it; it’s more than you could ask for and I find it very fulfilling.

I’m curious if you ever struggled with proclaiming yourself as a gay artist right from the start or did you ever feel that you would embark on your career and let it come out naturally? How important is it to your brand?

I’ve never struggled with it. I think it’s important to me and it’s also not important at all in a way. As an artist, if I’m going to write songs with any kind of authenticity they’re going to have to be from my perspective and my experiences. And my perspective and my experiences happen to be of someone who has been with men. To me it’s kind of a non topic in a sense, but not because I’m dismissive of it, but because to me I’m just following in the footsteps of every other singer and songwriter who sang about the people they were with and sang about their problems. I just feel like I’m being genuine to myself so of course it’s going to be about men if that’s who I’ve been with. So I think on one hand it’s a huge part of who I am, what I do, and what I sing about. I’m completely proud and open about being gay and being part of that community, but I also think it could hold just as much weight if it wasn’t my background either.

What has been your greatest internal or professional challenge that you’ve had to overcome as an artist thus far?

My biggest challenge I guess has been trusting and really believing in myself I guess, which is something I learned through the help of other people a lot more in the past couple of years. I always was a creative child. I knew what I always wanted to do; I knew that I could write songs and I knew I could perform and make people smile and clap. But I think I still had a lot of barriers and defenses up,and in some ways I still do. I just never had much opportunity to really collaborate with people growing up, so that’s been a big learning curve for me. It’s interesting because I used to think that opening myself up to working with other people or even really opening myself up to sharing personal things about myself through my art would in some weird way dilute me as an artist. But it’s only just really enriched me as an artist and made it far more exciting. That’s been a struggle for me but it’s been a nice struggle in a way — It’s important to be far more open than I used to be.

Vintage Jean Paul Gaultier top from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Hat: Silverado Hats, Gloves: Perrin Paris

Was there a defining moment in your career that proved to be a turning point or breakout moment that propelled you to the next level?

I think a lot of artists and creative people struggle with the fact of embracing that they’re going to do this for real or whatever. Like of course you have to supplement art with an income and usually that means working some job you’re not really interested in and that’s kind of soul sucking. But it’s also about a state of mind, just fully deciding one day that you know you are going to do it for real and you are going to own it. Even though I was a performer since I was very young, I still had those fears. It wasn’t until maybe my mid-twenties that I decided that I’m only going to be an artist and everything else is purely to facilitate that. It’s just that mine is a change of mindframe and a “jumping-out-the-airplane” thing. You just have to do it.

Queer people working in media and entertainment have enriched the sector, and provided more representation for fans who identify with and relate to what you’re creating as an artist. When you were growing up, did you have any queer icons you looked up to?

Definitely, I was a fan of the obvious ones like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I grew up loving dance and theater so there was no shortage of queer icons in that world. But I also grew up with a lot of icons who weren’t queer, I never felt outside of those people being references or inspiration for what I do. I never let the fact that I was gay define anything about me as an artist. Of course it’s enriched me in lots of ways, but I never let it be a barrier.

Now that you have this platform and visibility, how do you hope you can influence a younger generation of LGBTQ fans through your music?

It’s really lovely when I hear from young queer or trans people that tell me I represent something for them in country music that they never thought was there, or that they never felt a part of. If I can be that for someone, then I feel completely honored and thrilled by that. I hope that people feel welcome to express themselves and be a part of anything that they feel they want to be a part of, and not feel like the color of their skin or their gender, sexual orientation, or anything else should limit them. I think as marginalized people we tend to have to stand on the sidelines and be a fan from a distance or feel like maybe we don’t belong. I hope it inspires people to take up more room and get on and be a part of it because it is part of them, it’s already part of them, and there’s no invitation needed.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews the landscape of country music is diversifying to include many new types of sounds and voices. How important is it to you to expand the genre and/or to receive acceptance from the mainstream country music industry?

I think it’s important to me in the sense that country music has always been diverse and there’s always been people of color making country music, there’s always been gay people making country music. Unfortunately, those things haven’t been able to be very visible. So I think it’s been a long time coming now that those different perspectives in country music are visible. I think it’s happening quite quickly now, and those walls put up by industry people in mainstream country music are starting to crumble. We’re getting a lot of weird new voices in country music, some have always been there, but they’re starting to creep through the cracks now. I think that’s great because it’ll just start ending the stigma about who country music is for.

Shirt, Coat, Pants, Boxer Briefs: Versace, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Lincoln, Boots: Star Boots

You’ve talked about your mask as having dual-purpose: an element of showmanship and a tool that allows you to be more raw / exposed as an artist. How did you arrive at the mask? Did you create the first one or did you work with a stylist or designer to engineer the look?

It’s all me and I make them. I think it was just my version of following in the footsteps of many country performers who had bold, camp, flamboyant visual imagery to their performance. There’s a huge lineage of that and a lot of them are very straight, conservative people in country music that would wear bedazzled rhinestone suits. Dolly Parton would wear 3-foot high wigs. It’s all in that sphere, so I’m definitely not the first person to do it. Maybe for newer country musicians it’s not as common, but that’s basically where I’m coming from.

Do you connect more with your audience because of the mask?

I think so. I think it eliminates a certain amount of pretense. I think it destroys the mask that people walk around wearing everyday, which you know, isn’t a real necessarily mask. I think it eliminates a lot of bullshit especially. It’s the same as when people feel so comfortable around a drag queen or someone like that. Something about it just puts people at ease and makes them feel like they can be comfortable and be themselves. That’s what I experience in my shows with people and they all look like they’re really connected to the performance because of it I think.

Jacket from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Pants: Gucci, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Maison Fabre, Boots:Off-White, Necklace: His own

You’ve been described as a musical “outlaw” and the mask reinforces this idea. In a way it’s reminiscent of a bandana-wearing bandit hero, like Zorro or the Lone Ranger. Do you think your audience responds or relates to it because of this idea of a hero-like figure?

I think so. I think people project a lot of different interpretations of it. That’s what I love about it and that’s also why I hate to talk too much about it because I don’t want to put too much narrative on top of it. I actually like that people can have their own interpretation of it. Some people look at it and think of the Lone Ranger and then some people look at it and see an S&M mask and it’s like, well that tells me a lot about that person. That’s what I like about it—that it is open for interpretation. And it allows people to be involved in what I do. For a fan to feel involved in it and that they can get a piece of that too, then that is what you could only hope for as an artist. People not only enjoy what you do but they’re invested and they feel a part of it. Some of the musicians, visual artists, actors, filmmakers, and authors that I still respect to this day are people that made me feel like I had some ownership of what they did as well.

The dichotomy of being an openly queer artist while hiding your physical features is a striking juxtaposition. Do you think you’ll ever “out” yourself physically from under the mask?

I don’t know. To me I don’t feel like I’m hiding at all. I feel like I wear my heart on my sleeve in a lot of ways. We’ll see what that evolution is. At the moment I’m really happy just doing my thing as I’m doing it.

Your music explores the nostalgia of Americana and its sound. It’s a staple source of inspiration for many iconic popular country and folk-rock ballads. Having such a diverse international background, what inspires you most about Americana?

I think it’s the seemingly normality. I think Americana as we’ve been told to believe is apple pie. It’s very clean and neat with a picket fence. The reality of American culture is far weirder and darker than that at times. It involves a lot of trauma and craziness. I think that’s the part of Americana that I find far more fascinating. I think that is the real Americana. I always talk about how I love motels because the idea of this like chic version of a hotel that is on a highway and it’s very cheap, there’s no questions asked and sometimes people live in them for months at a time. That doesn’t even exist anywhere else in the world and that’s like a whole culture of America that is of its own. I find that really fascinating and I think the people and characters that inhabit those kind of worlds are really interesting.

Shirt from Screaming Mimi’s Vintage, Vest: Gucci, Jeans: R13, Hat: Stetson, Gloves: Agnelle, Belt: Kippys, Boots: Fyre

So many artists reinvent themselves over the course of their career. With your musical training, background, and musical influences being so diverse – Do you think you’ll stay exclusively a country music artist or begin to incorporate other sounds into your work?

I think I’ve always been kind of incorporating different sounds into it, but at heart I’m a country boy and I’ll continue to be a country musician. I think I’ll always try and push that to not leave it strictly in what other people’s idea of what country music is.

That darkness has, in recent times, become much more visible. Concentration camps have quickly become a new norm in America under the current administration. Trans rights have been challenged through rollbacks on protection for military service and healthcare provisions under the Affordable Care Act. Do you foresee this escalating its target on more LGBTQ+ people?

Unfortunately, I think I do. I think across the board not just with LGBTQ people, but also people of color, women, and marginalized people. In America we’ve been allowed to believe that things are changing but at the root of it nothing has been changing. Now that’s become more obvious to us and I think, strangely, not to sound flippant about it, but I believe that’s where this resurgence of cowboy aesthetic has actually come into play in our culture. To me being a cowboy has nothing to do with wearing a cowboy hat or being a rancher and roping cows or charging steers. I think being a cowboy is being someone who is intrinsically, innately on the outside of things and given a bad rap, maybe getting the short end of the straw, and forced to live on the outskirts of town. But instead of letting that be a negative, it’s about finding the power within that and the adventure and the freedom. The idea of getting on a horse and riding into the sunset, I think that sounds really beautiful for people like us right now where we can find our posse of rebels and cowboys, make our own rules and essentially live as outlaws. Those all sound like motifs and pastiche kind of ideas, but they do hold bearing. I think that is what being marginalized is about. It’s about not assimilating to the status quo, finding our community, our power, and charging ahead in the face of whatever. I think it’s a powerful thing, and I actually do believe that is why we’re seeing so much cowboy imagery in fashion and sub-culture and because there is something adventurous and powerful about that.

You alluded to this earlier in our conversation and in previous interviews drawn upon similarities between the Old West and the present state of affairs today saying, “We lived in a recent time when we hoped everything was going to be okay, that the powers that be were going to sort it out. But now everyone’s fending for themselves because they’re disappointed. Everyone’s on their own horse, doing their own thing.” So, if we’re all on our own horses, do you think we are equipped to become a calvary for change?

I think so. I do like to believe that. Listen, I have lived in countries other than America where I have seen, witnessed, had to live through massive social change on a really huge scale. I think it comes through perseverance and I think it comes to sticking to your guns and not swaying from who you are and what you believe in. I do believe that is powerful enough to make change because I’ve seen it happen. I think it’s time for all our posse, to find our community, and do exactly that—form a calvary and stick to who we are in the face of no matter what for change.

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

On Saturday, December 7th the New York glitterati from the worlds of Art, Fashion, and Nightlife mingled with the society set from Zurich in a Studio 54 themed gala atop One World Trade.

The event, to celebrate the Swiss beauty innovators Haleh and Goli Abivardi, culminated with a private concert by Boy George.  Transforming the entire floor of the event space ASPIRE, MAO PR outfitted the cavernous space with 15 foot high disco ball inspired islands, a 25 foot LED wall projecting pulsating lights which synced with the retro disco music played and even recreated Studio 54 famous Moon with the coke spoon (replacing the spoon with a toothbrush with a nod to the Abivardi sister’s dental care brand).

Guests, who took the 70s dress code to heart, included Lynn Ban, Michael Musto, Peter Davis, James Aguiar, Gabriella Forte, Grazia D’Annunzio, Edmundo Castillo, Stephen Knoll, Shannon Hoey, Christopher Makos, Mathew Yokobosky, Miss Jay Alexander, Susanne Bartsch, model Dara Allen, Dianne Brill, Romero Jennings, Victoria Hayes, Joey Arias, Freddie Leiba, Amanda Lepore and the original Studio 54’s very own Carmen D’Alessio.

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

Dara Allen

Robert Christy as Divine

Amanda Lepore

Lynn Ban

Corey Grant Tippin

Miss Jay Alexander

Agent Wednesday

Jonte Moaning

Kyle Farmery

Cheng

Michael White

Nadja Giramata

Dianne Brill

Susanne Bartsch

Kenny Kenny

Connie Fleming

Yana Dobroliubova,Valou Weemering, Luisa Laemmel, Grace Valentine

Goli Abivardi, Boy George, Haleh Abivardi

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

JACQUELINE NOVAK

Suit by Escada, Gloves by Dior, Choker by Christian Lacroix,
Courtesy of Gabriel Held Vintage

Photographed and Interviewed by: Dustin Mansyur @dmansyur
Talent: Jacqueline Novak @jacnov
Stylist: Gabriel Held @gabriel_held_vintage
Lighting Tech: Johnny Vicari @johnnyvicari
Hair: Isaac Davidson @isaacdavidsonhair @Industry Mgmt.
Make-up: Nina Soriano @ninasorianomakeup
Production Assistance: Genaro Ordonez @genaroordonez
Special Thanks to Cherry Lane Theater for providing location

Going up from going down, Jacqueline Novak’s sold-out one woman show is extending its West Village run. With her prolix and personal storytelling style, Novak’s Get On Your Knees is sure to please. 

Jacqueline Novak is on the floor. Stretched out languid and feline in a vintage black and white color block three-piece suit, knees bent and feet mid-air kicking back and forth like an 80’s teen flick fantasy. In lieu of a landline phone she cradles the microphone, a fitting prop for her to divulge all of her juiciest momentos to. After flexing about her floorwork in hair and makeup, the Get On Your Knees comedian is happy to oblige for our shoot. Today she’s giving us a montage of her realest moments of recent: the backstage nerves before her entrance, the tenuous question, “Can she do it”, to finally owning the stage with her one-woman show. Glammed up is a good look for Novak, who’s giving us nods of comedic “it girl” with appearances on Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon and sparkly reviews from the New York Times and Rolling Stone. Sold-out and extending are also good looks–with its initial stellar off-broadway sell-out run at Cherry Lane Theater, the one-woman show Get On Your Knees presented by Natasha Lyonne and executive produced by Mike Birbiglia will remain in the West Village, continuing its run at the larger Lucille Lortel Theatre through the fall. 

Exploring the etymology of a blowjob, Knees takes us on a meandering discursive journey filled with Novak’s hilariously self-reflective personal anecdotes, hyperbolic metaphor peppered with sage wisdom weaving a story of sexual coming-of-age. Poetically examining all the feminine qualities of the penis was an entertaining concept for me to embrace as a gay man, and coupled with Novak’s articulate script-flipping on long-held stereotypes of masculinity was nuanced, comedically refreshing if not insightful. Profoundly-layered and self-aware, Novak’s delivery comes across at times like an unadulterated soliloquy of the voice inside her head conducting a many-angled dissection of the conundrum of catalogued oral sex experiences, preconceived ideas and expectations pushed upon her since youth, a storytelling technique that drives you to lean in. With Get On Your Knees, Novak proves comedically there’s no question of “if” or “can”–she’s done it and she’ll do it again. 

IRIS Covet Book caught up with Jacqueline in her dressing room just before her final show at Cherry Lane Theater.  [read more below] 

Suit by Escada, Gloves by Dior, Choker by Christian Lacroix, Boots by Jeffrey Campbell,
Courtesy of Gabriel Held Vintage

 

DM: I had a really great time on our shoot yesterday. I’m so happy you trusted the team to push you off into a campy kind of character which is a departure from your show. Gabriel is such a genius with styling and character reference. Did you have fun? 

JN: Oh my god yes, I had the time of my life!

DM: We were in love with this Bette Midler kind of “Big Business” fashion reference for the styling with lots of prints and costume jewelry. 

JN: I loved it!

DM: You took our photo direction so well – I love how you put your spin on the idea. What’s that like when you’re asked to play a kind of character like that for a shoot? 

JN: I think I played my cards right by basically keeping it incredibly simple for my show wardrobe, right? Part of the thrill of the shoot was the departure from that. It’s a really exciting time right now with my show going up and going well, and as I said yesterday at the shoot, I felt like I was playing out an 80’s fantasy–like a montage in a movie for my big break. There were lights flashing and I’m in those kind of looks representing these moments–so it was really fun.

DM: When you were growing up, who were your comedy icons?

JN: Probably people in specific roles. Steve Martin in…Roxanne. Thenardier in Les Mis. Chris Elliot in Get a Life. In high school, Parker Posey in Christopher Guest stuff and of course, House of Yes. Chris Rock.

DM: In your stand-up, you mention writing poetry. I was just curious how you began your career writing…was it always satirical comedy or was that something that came later?

JN: I started writing poetry and short stories in high school. Then in college, I started doing dramatic writing, play writing. Then, personal essays. Around the time that I was doing improv in college. Stand up allowed me to be both a writer and a performer.

DM: So, it was more of a natural transition because it combined all the things that you were exploring at the time…

JN: Well there is no natural transition to stand up. It’s always an uncomfortable, awkward and outrageous leap. Unless, it’s 1902 and you sort of find yourself talking in a saloon night after night with an ever growing crowd. Otherwise, it’s showing up to open mics which isn’t natural. But for me, looking back, sure, it’s natural. It was the intersection between comedy, performance and different parts of what I was interested in.

DM: Your show has been a huge success, you sold out and you have moved to a new theater and extending it. When did you start to realize that your show was becoming somewhat of a phenomenon?

JN: I’m still in shock! Even when you articulate it that way, I’m like oh my God! Is it true? Well, it’s very absorbing doing the show and there’s no time to think. I moved to LA and I put it up for a few nights and got a great response which was exciting because it felt like “these people don’t know me and they enjoyed it.”  In terms of the NY run, in previews we were selling well which the producers said was a positive sign. I keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. Then with great reviews, the run kept selling…until we sold it out! I’m truly still processing it. This is one of the cases where my brain works for me – my ADD hyper-focus brain keeps me weirdly in the present with it.

 

Jacket by Christian Lacroix, Jewelry vintage,
Courtesy of Gabriel Held Vintage

DM: The producer Natasha Lyonne has been complimentary. She said that she thinks of you as “a great new philosopher with a fully existential show.” In your words, how would you describe your show and where did your inspiration come from for the material?

JN: It’s a show about blow jobs, but really it’s a show about ideas. I love how that sounds so I keep saying it. But it’s kind of a show about thinking, and one’s evolving thoughts around a particular subject. Yes, it traces a narrative but it’s a narrative of ideas – here’s what I thought at 12 about the blowjob, then at 16, then at 20, etc, with a few key moments shaping the whole thing.

DM: You share a lot of vulnerable and personal anecdotes. Does it feel liberating to just lay it all out there in this format?

JN: I’ve always been pretty comfortable with that kind of personal divulging, so that aspect didn’t feel new. The liberating part was letting more of me into the show – not just what I think of as ‘suitable for stand-up.’

DM: I love how you poke on the anxiety of walking from the door of the stage onto the stage. When you began doing stand-up, what were you most nervous about that no longer phases you?

JN: When I started, I was very scared of the embarrassment of having people perceive me attempting to be funny, but I also found it embarrassing to try to act like you had not just said the punchline that you wanted to [say]. It was embarrassing to cover up a joke that I had just said by rushing into more speaking to make it seem like the audience’s lack of laughter was not a problem. I wanted to skip the landing of every joke, so to speak, but then that requires kind of admitting that you think what you just said is funny and just pausing for laughter, it’s kind of the inherit thing of being a comedian. I think Mitch Hedberg had a joke that said something like, “I pre-approved all these jokes as funny.” That expressed what’s most embarrassing to me in comedy. The self-appointment. Inherent in standing up there, you have informed people that you believe you deserve to be up there, to make them laugh, and that you think you’re capable of doing so. Seems like something only an asshole would think.

DM: What’s the last thing that you say to yourself in your head before you walk onto stage, or what’s the last thought that goes through your mind?

JN: At the beginning of the show, Madonna’s ”Like a Prayer” is playing. I feel the physical nerves before going on stage. I try to experience gratitude for what’s happening…in a juicy way not in a moralistic way. I remind myself that feeling this kind of fear is exactly the fear I wanted to be in a position to feel. So take note and appreciate it, bitch.

 

Jacket by Moschino, Necklace by Chanel, Bodysuit by Bill Blass, Pants by Agnes B., Shoes by Fluevog,
Courtesy of Gabriel Held Vintage

DM: What do you like most about performing for a live audience, and in particular, the audience for this show?

JN: It’s nice how few distractions there are generally in theater versus a comedy club. I remember Mike Birbiglia, in a conversation before the run, when I was running the show on the road in clubs. He likened performing in a comedy club to driving a car on a bumpy road and that performing in a proper theater is like driving that car on a racetrack. Everything is tuned up and ready to go. It’s a more ideal circumstance to present your ideas.”

DM: One of the brilliant things that I loved about your show is that feminization of the penis and how you personified it with the stereotypical qualities that are assigned to women like it being over-sensitive or hysterical in nature. How did you come to the realization that the penis has feminine qualities?

JN: I had noted that the vulva is compared to a flower, but I never found that image suitable. I then liken a penis to a flower instead, and from there the feminine imagery expanded. It’s hard to say though, it all kind of develops simultaneously.

DM: When we were at the show, there was this older gentleman behind us that was goading his wife to leave when you started to unpack the idea and she kept telling him to calm down and to let it play out. I was just curious…have you encountered anything of this among the attendees who didn’t know the nature of the show?

JN: I feel like for the most part people have been pretty well behaved in the first couple rows, which is where I could see. Do you remember specifically what I was saying?

DM:  I think it’s when you used the floral kind of reference.

JN: No! That’s hysterical!

DM: Yeah, you had just started to unpack it. You hadn’t gone too far into it and I thought [about the couple] are you serious right now? This is a comedy show so chill out!

JN: That’s wild! It hasn’t been too bad. Occasionally, I’ll see someone’s face in the front row and they start opening the program and look in it. I’m like, if you’re not enjoying the show, there is nothing in there that can help you. It’s just bios. I have a sense of some of my audience – like the people that come are comedy fans in general and then there’s the audience that just comes because it’s an off-Broadway show in NY. I particularly enjoy mixing the high and lowbrow, so to speak. I honestly get some pleasure of that mix.

DM: You take us on a journey of your experiences giving a blowjob, beginning with your initial insecurities surrounding it, overcoming those insecurities, and feeling as though you mastered it. I couldn’t help but feel like it was a metaphor for something a little more subliminal. I guess, without trying to get too Freudian about it, what is the blowjob implying to you and what do you hope that your audience takes away from the show or  the material?

JN: The blow job was something I was worried about, wanted to do well, had my own ideas about, and found this in conflict with the world’s. One thing I would like for people to have more understanding or empathy about is the idea of a teenage girl giving a blowjob is a pretty limited idea that is reduced to a stereotype, so it’s trying to complicate that image a little bit for people. It bothered me at the time when adults knew that you gave a blowjob they would think you were not a good girl. And in that way, a big part of the story is the blowjob could represent my changing perceptions around it, what it meant in different points in my adolescence. Then the question is – do you live your life by what other people think things mean or what you think things mean. Ultimately, the message, I guess, if I may be so vulgar, is that in this life you can cultivate your own narrative about yourself, even if it’s not bulletproof, even if it’s tenuous, even if all the proof is not there.

DM: In your book How to Weep in Public, you discuss your experience with depression. How did comedy help you make sense with the experience of it?

JN: I don’t think it really did. I think comedy, like anything, is just made harder to do when you are depressed.

DM: Was it therapeutic in any way to write and explore this darker form of humor?

JN: In order to write that book, I had to be in a better place than I was when I conceptualized it. I like to be clear about that. I feel like writing a book is NOT a therapeutic experience, and getting feedback and working on it is incredibly difficult. Writing is hell. Just happens to be my favorite kind. I’d love to be able to say it was therapeutic but that ain’t it.

DM:  So much of the work of a comedian and a writer is observing life experiences and dynamics and then finding the humor or meaning in them. Do you feel like you have a heightened ability for empathy as a comedian and a writer?

JN: I wouldn’t want to say I have heightened ability over someone else. I suppose I’m a little looser with my thinking than non-comedians. I am willing to draw inappropriate comparisons.  Comedians are never upset by that. Comedians are usually willing to go on thought experiments.

DM: You’ve written for popular TV series, such as “Broad City.” If you had a chance to create your own scripted series and star, what kind of storyline and character would you create?

JN: I’m actually too vain to properly do an autobiographical show.  I’d want my character to always be right and lovable. Ha! I’d rather not tell a story about a comedian, I know that. I’d rather go far and wide, away!

DM: I am excited that your show has been extended. I’m just curious – after the show concludes, do you have any other projects that you are willing to share?

JN: Nah. Gotta keep it all secret, while it’s still in the cauldron. Can’t open that oven door. And other analogies.

DM: Besides overcoming the insecurity of a blowjob, what’s the thing in your life and career that you overcame that you’re most proud of?

JN: Let’s see … doing stand-up at all. I’ve been doing stand-up for a long time, and the original leap, it seems, was the scariest part.  I’m most proud of the initial leap and I’m most proud of sticking with it. I’m proud of myself for being continually consistent and I’m in a position where I’m really getting to do it at a level that I want to do it.

DM: I feel that’s relatable for anyone working in a creative industry. I watched an interview you did a few years back and I think you said, ‘some of us are just scratching and crawling at relevance behind the scenes trying to make it’ and I was like, ‘I totally get that’. I completely agree with you.

JN: The long-term part isn’t flashy, but it certainly is important. And it can pay off. Even if it seems like it won’t. And I don’t think anyone regrets effort.

 

Dress by Casadei, Shoes by Christian Lacroix,
Courtesy of Gabriel Held Vintage