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.

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

 

GOODBYE HORSES

On Nadia – Jacket by DSquared2, Shirt by Land of Distraction, Dress and Shoes by Prada, Leggings by Puma

On Jonny – Coat by Prada, Shirt by Adidas x Alexander Wang available at East Dane, Pants by Versace, Boots by DSquared2

Photographer: Menelik Puryear @mr_puryear
Stylist: Nicholas Whitehouse‭ @nicholas_whitehouse
Hair: Mark Alan @mark.alan.hair
‭Casting: Eric Cano @cano_castings
Horse trainer Melanie Lorek
Models:
Shot at Knoll Farm

On Nadia – Vest by Prada, Shirt and Pants by Land of Distraction, Shoes and Earrings by DSquared2

On Jonny – Jacket by Versace, Yellow Hoodie and pants by Tom Ford

Sweatshirt by Private Policy, Boots by DSquared2

On Valentine – Blazer and Pants by Gucci, Windbreaker by MSGM available at East Dane, Shoes by Y-3, Hat by JJ Hat Center

Jacket by Lacoste, Hat by JJ Hat Center

Shirt by DSquared2, Sunglasses by Miu Miu

Jacket by DSquared2, Long Jacket by Public School, Shorts by Prada, Leggings by Asics

Jacket by Lacoste

On Valentine – Vest by Prada, Pants by Adidas x Alexander Wang, Jeans by MSGM, Shoes by DSquared2, Sweater by Z Zegna

On Jonny – Pants by Z Zegna, Sneakers by Adidas x Raf Simons, Vest by Vintage Martin Margiela, Jacket by Vintage Nike

Dress by Bottega Veneta, Sports Bra by Nike, Sunglasses by Miu Miu

On Valentine, Jacket by DSquared2, Long Jacket by Public School available at East Dane, Shorts by Prada, Leggings by  Asics, Socks and Shoes by Prada

On Nadia – Coat by Off-White, Bodysuit Stylists Own, Earrings by DSquared2, Shoes by Y-3

Jacket by Lacoste, Skirt and Belt by Versace, Socks by Prada

On Valentine – Shirt by Stella McCartney, Coat by Z Zegna, On Nadia – Shirt by Versace, Hat by Prada, On Jonny – Shirt by Prada, Jacket by Adidas x Alexander Wang, Mesh Shirt is Vintage Helmut Lang, Pants by DSquared2

STEPHAN JAMES

Full Look by Z Zegna

With a Golden Globe nomination for Homecoming under his belt and rounds of praise for his work in If Beale Street Could Talk, actor Stephan James is a storytelling force to be reckoned with.

Photographer: Karl Simone | Fashion Editor & Stylist: Marc Sifuentes | Interviewer: Stacy-Ann Ellis | Creative Director: Louis Liu | Groomer: Tara Lauren for Epiphany Artist Group using Kiehl’s | Features Editor & Producer: Ben Price | Photo Assistant: Ned Witrogen

Full Look by Z Zegna

Stephan James is well aware of the power of his eyes. For the better part of If Beale Street Could Talk’s two-hour run time, his gaze as Alfonso “Fonny” Hunt from James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, is plastered across the full length of the cinema screen. As his deep, pleading eyes focus maddeningly on his fiancée, Tish Rivers (played by KiKi Layne), or well up from behind prison walls, they wring out raw emotions from the audience scene by scene.

We’ve seen these penetrating eyes before in films like Selma and Race, and in the FOX TV series, Shots Fired. “Some actors, they use their eyes to carry a lot of emotion, I think that’s part of what I do,” James says over an early morning phone call, humbly attributing his affecting stare to the skills he’s honed as an actor. “It’s the subtleties sometimes.”

James’ grasp on director Barry Jenkins’ vision and intention for the Baldwin adaptation is clear, as is the importance of his role in delivering it. The first time the Toronto, Canada native read the novel, or any Baldwin literature for that matter, was after he’d read and fallen in love with Jenkins’ screenplay. However, the gravity of Baldwin’s words (and the necessity to be a proper vessel for them) were not lost on him.

“I was really blown away by the language of Baldwin,” he says, even describing his verbiage as Shakespearean. “Just how descriptive and vivid he was, the way he described love, the way he described tragedy in the same breath. The poetry in which he went about doing it. And then again those themes, the fact that this man wrote this book in 1974 and it just felt so relevant.”

Jenkins’ Beale Street follows the newly engaged black Harlem couple as they navigate major life hurdles occurring at the same time. (Shortly after Fonny is falsely ID’d and imprisoned for the rape of a Puerto Rican woman, Tish finds out she is pregnant with his son.) As the story weaves in and out of the befores, durings and afters of Fonny’s grim predicament, Jenkins explores topics such as community, vulnerability, restraint and sacrifice. However, one particular theme is paramount: bonafide black love. “This film is showing what the power of black love is able to help us get through,” he says.

IRIS Covet Book caught up with Stephan James to dig into his future as a leading man, the threads that bind him with his character, Fonny, and the way If Beale Street Could Talk challenged society’s narrow expectations of black men.

Full Look by Z Zegna

Full Look by The Saltings NYC, Shoes by Bally

Once If Beale Street Could Talk wrapped, what was your experience watching the finished film for the first time?

The first thing that struck me about the film was it felt very much like a Barry Jenkins film. It felt like a movie about faces more so than places, and I think that it’s pretty striking when you have these characters talking directly to camera, cutting out the middleman. And Barry Jenkins, by the way, would never tell us when he’s doing those shots. He would never plan them. He would feel it out as a scene was going along and say, “Okay, well now I’m going to put it directly in your face, so let’s go.” It’s a great tool to cut out the space between the audience and the characters and just have a direct line of conversation.

When pursuing the role, what part of yourself did you see in Fonny reading from the page?

First and foremost, Fonny is an artist. He’s an artist much like I’m an artist. Outside of acting I also like to paint, and Fonny is a sculptor. He’s deeply, deeply sentimental and artistic and he loves a lot, so I found some similarities with just his artistry. And then maybe a couple of months before hearing about this film, I had become infatuated with the Kalief Browder story. It was striking because as soon as I read this screenplay, I thought of Kalief immediately. I thought that their stories were so similar, almost unfortunately similar. The fact that Baldwin wrote these words in 1974 and they had so much resonance in 2017 when I was reading this script and when I was reading this novel. It was just something inside of me that told me, wow, Fonny is Kalief’s story. Fonny is an opportunity to give a voice to young men like Kalief and so many other young men across the country who are going through the same sort of ordeal. So I feel like I kind of made the connection really quickly. And ultimately it just felt important. It felt important to embody somebody like Fonny. Although he is a fictional character, and all these characters are fictional characters, they’re representative of very real people.

It was refreshing to see a black man being just an artist—not sketchy, not a hustler—on screen. What does that communicate about the scope of the black man?

This film challenges a lot of ideologies in terms of what it means to be a black man, what black love means and the idea of what black families mean. Seeing Fonny as this deeply sentimental artist—he’s a sculptor, he takes something that is seemingly nothing and it’s a labor of love for him—I think that it’s important for the psyche of black men, young black men, watching this film. Often, especially in state of mind and art in general, I feel like there’s a very limited perspective when it comes to the portrayal of black men and what black masculinity looks like. Especially when it comes to these men who have been criminalized. We never get to see them as artists, sculptors, lovers, fathers, husbands. I think that this film is revolutionary in that way.

You look at some of the scenes—particularly the scene between Daniel and Fonny. To have these two young black men who have been criminalized be able to sit down at the table and open up to one another, be completely vulnerable with each other and share their deepest darkest secrets with each other, their fears, the things that keep them up [at night]. What a special thing that is, just for the psychology of these young men watching this film. The fact that they get to see that we can be like this, we can lean on our brothers like this… If it’s only one person, then we can use our brothers in this way and love in this way. I just think it’s a powerful, powerful message that’s being said.

Did you find yourself at any point angry just thinking about the helplessness conveyed in Fonny’s story?

Yeah… I mean the thing is this. Baldwin says, “to be a black person in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” but on a bigger scale, I think that the biggest theme in this book and in this movie in general is love. And in particular, it’s black love. It’s this idea that for hundreds of years the black community in general has been born into a world where the chips are stacked against them. Where we have an unjust system, a system that’s supposed to be a place to protect us but is seemingly failing to protect a group of people time and time and time again. I think that this film is showing what the power of black love is able to help us get through.

I think that despite these tumultuous circumstances thet Tish and Fonny find themselves in, the darkest times, it’s this love. It’s this unbroken, undying love in the face of adversity that has kept them going. That’s the only reason why at the end of the film, despite the circumstances, Fonny is still in prison, but it’s this love that’s helping to raise their child, this five-year-old boy now. That’s the only thing that’s kept them going. That’s the bigger message. So of course you get angry, and it’d be impossible not to get angry. It’s sort of the world that we live in, but I think Baldwin’s making a statement on the power of black love.

Full Look by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket and Shirt by Helmut Lang, Pants by Burberry

The nuance of that love really presents itself at the grocery store. After Fonny defended Tish from a creep in the store, Tish had to protect Fonny from a racist police officer who threatened to arrest him and called him “boy” in the same breath. Tish didn’t think twice when she spoke up to Officer Bell and said, “He is not a boy.” There’s so much energy packed into the scene where Fonny defends Tish, then she turns around and defends his manhood from a racist police officer. There’s tension between you and the officer, the restraint you have to exercise, and Tish’s fearlessness overcoming her physical fear.

I definitely saw that. I saw the restraint that many young men have to learn at a very young age and black men have to learn at a very young age, in terms of how to deal with police. It’s something we’re sort of instructed to [do] as young men. There’s definitely a lot of energy between Tish and Officer Bell, the idea that a black woman can be strong and stand behind her partner in this way. I saw a level of frustration, too, maybe between Tish and Fonny. Almost like, I don’t need you to protect me, and I should be the one protecting you. It’s ironic that I was protecting you and now you have to protect me. It’s interesting how the shift in the scene happens so quickly.

It seems to also speak to the power of the black woman in general. In the film, we see Tish, her mother, Sharon, and her sister, Ernestine—even Fonny’s mother, Mrs. Hunt, has a powerful (albeit negative) presence. Do you feel like there’s something to intentionally be said about women with this film?

In general, our ideologies have been challenged in this film. What it means to be a strong black woman. The fact that it wasn’t Frank who went to Puerto Rico to find Fonny’s accuser, it was Sharon. She hopped up on the plane and she went to find the accuser to see if she could plead for Fonny’s innocence and for his freedom. I think there’s something to be said for the family dynamic and how there’s a balance of power. Especially if you look at Tish’s family, how sometimes it’s Frank that’s out working and trying to make sure that everything’s good before the baby comes out. Sharon’s version of working is, I’m gonna hop on a plane and go to Puerto Rico. It’s just the balance of sharing those duties of the responsibilities. It’s Tish showing the strength of a black woman. She’s working all the way up until the last minute that this baby’s supposed to come into the world. There’s a lot of commentary in terms of what it means to be a strong black woman. This whole novel, this whole story, is told from the perspective of a strong black woman. It’s told from Tish’s eyes, and I think that Tish really grows into herself in this film. You see her grow up pretty quickly and step into that womanly, motherly type of role.

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

Do you think that you would be able to maintain that sense of togetherness—in terms of love, sanity, optimism—if you were in Fonny’s legal situation? Especially if there was not a guarantee of freedom in sight.

I really couldn’t say, man, I really couldn’t say. I’ve never been to prison. I have no clue what that’s like. Those walls are meant to break people—physically, mentally, spiritually, all the above. So I can’t say. I really, really, can’t say. I’m thankful I’ve seen examples now in cinema of Fonny who was able to sustain himself through all this, but I’ve also seen examples of Kalief Browder who even after two years after his release from prison committed suicide. So there’s no telling what a thing like that puts you through.

That plays out with Fonny and Daniel’s conversation. Fonny tried to console him about his post-prison emotions and his acclimation to the world, and Daniel stressed that he just didn’t understand.

Absolutely, and like I said, these walls are meant to break these men, so after they come out, they’re still dealing with all of this trauma. This PTSD, if you will. So the conversation is not only about why they’re in there—obviously wrongfully, of course—but what to do to them and with them after they come out? How do we treat them? Especially when we know that we’ve wronged them. The system has wronged them. Is there a system in place now to help them get their lives back together and to regain humanity? What do we do with these young men who have been wrongfully imprisoned and are now having to deal with the trauma and the acclimation back into civilian life in general?

After both this performance and your role in Homecoming, the world is paying attention. How does it feel to see that growth and recognition?

We don’t make art from a place where we want a bunch of awards and stuff like that. I appreciate the recognition, that the people are seeing the work, and ultimately if that sort of recognition means that more people will see the work, you know, because it’s being regarded and respected as such, then that’s what I want. If [Golden Globe] nominations mean more people get to see Beale Street and more people get to see Homecoming, then I’m all for it.

Were there any key professional takeaways from working with Barry Jenkins for Beale Street and Julia Roberts for Homecoming?

There’s just so much. I’m so grateful for Barry Jenkins, who’s probably one of the great humanists that we have in this business. One of the incredible storytellers who’s always pushing the envelope, I believe, in cinema. I’m grateful to be able to tell stories with a man like that. Probably one of the most patient directors I’ve ever worked with who just allows moments to breathe and live. And then Homecoming, obviously I’m in a position where I’m sitting across from one of the biggest actresses in the history of acting. I’m able to pick up gems from her on a daily basis about etiquette, how you go about your work day, and how you do your homework. I wouldn’t say it’s one particular thing, but getting to spend months with these people with my favorite filmmakers and to be able to pick up the nuances in their work, it’s really an invaluable experience, altogether.

You’ve tackled stories of black love, injustice, tragedy, etc. Are there any stories or characters you’d like to explore next?

I don’t know, I wanna be in a comedy. I wanna be James Bond, I wanna do a Mission Impossible. I wanna be Batman. I don’t see any limits in terms of what I wanna do. I just see a whole world of… I mean I really feel like I’m scratching the surface, honestly. I want to do everything.

Jacket and Shirt by Bally

Jacket and Shirt by Bally

JOEY KING

Dress by Zhivago

Photography by Greg Swales | Styling by Lisa Jarvis | Creative Direction by Louis Liu | Hair by Dimitri Giannetos | Makeup by Jamie Greenberg | Interview by Benjamin Price

Equipped with a dazzling personality, expressive eyes, charming sense of humor, and a girl-next-door smile, it is no wonder that 19 year-old Joey King has found herself to be one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood today. In what stands to be her most emotionally challenging role to date, Joey King has transformed herself into the abused victim-turned-convicted-killer Gypsy Rose Blanchard for Hulu’s new series The Act. Gypsy Rose lived in an environment of abuse, manipulation, dependence, and exploitation at the hands of her mother Dee Dee Blanchard, played by the Academy Award winning actress Patricia Arquette, which Joey King portrays in a shockingly sincere and earnest performance in this disturbing, re-telling of true events.

Joey King’s career and devoted fan following surged after her performance in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth, which was one of the streaming service’s most watched and re-watched films – landing the cast a sequel to be released sometime in 2020. Now, in her new role for Hulu’s latest series The Act, King proves her acting can range from cute, romantic comedy ingenue to psychologically disturbing and multi-dimensional true-crime dramatic starlet.

Taking a break from filming her upcoming productions, Joey King takes the stage as Iris Covet Book’s spring cover. The teenage actress sat down with Iris Covet Book to discuss The Act, the importance of badass women and minorities in Hollywood, and why she would love to direct the next Girl,Interrupted.

 

Dress by Zhivago

Hi Joey!

Hi, how are you?

I’m doing well, thank you – Ok, so let’s jump into this! Can you tell us about your start as an actress at 4 years old? Did you think as a kid that you would be starring in major film and television projects today?

No, definitely not! But it’s interesting because when I started acting, my very first job was actually a LIFE cereal commercial. I thought this was what I was always going to do and had no doubt about that, but I never imagined I would be where I am today. It’s just been an insane journey and opportunity to be where I am, and to meet the people I have met along the way. I have been so incredibly lucky.

That’s a good point. Making the right connections is important in any career – especially as a young actress in the industry I imagine it can be hard to trust everyone.

Exactly! With all of the things that have happened in the past few years with the Times Up Movement and Me Too, I think it’s so exciting to see what new things are happening and how people can feel more safe in the industry. I’ve been in this business for a pretty long time and I feel like I have been pretty lucky to have avoided most of that. I mean of course I have experienced it every now and then, but I know what it looks like, I know how to stay clear, and I haven’t seen a really really dark side as much as other people have. And I feel very lucky for that.

And starting out young would definitely teach you what to avoid later on as you grow and mature by meeting more experienced actors who can show you the lay of the land. And speaking of the Times Up Movement and what’s going on in America at-large, but specifically in Hollywood, what changes have you seen personally in the industry?

I see a lot of inclusiveness and I think it’s beautiful. I just think it’s fucking awesome that more African American people and more Asian people get to tell their stories on-screen more often now, and that’s a new thing to see. I’m really happy that I get to see more of that. It’s great that I am not just being cast to be the daughter anymore, or the little best friend role, and seeing the change in available roles for young women like me is really exciting. I love it so much and I hope we get to continue on this path because things are really starting to change for the better!

It seems to be a really exciting time to be an actor or actress right now. It brings to mind Reese Witherspoon’s production company that works with female-led and female-centric stories, and I wonder if you have any interest in going into writing or producing something like that?

I do! I’m always amazed by writers and directors and how you can come up with a story in your mind and translate it onto paper. I’d love to learn more about the writing process and to direct one day. I feel like now that I am a bit older I have such an interest with what goes on behind the scenes, like I love to hear the Director of Photography talk about the shots, the order of the scenes, and all of those things. I am actually paying attention, and it’s so cool to see how much work and thought goes into making a film or TV show. It’s the coolest thing in the world! I am amazed every day with what they do.

It’s such an exciting time to be listening and aware of all of the different stories out there, especially with social media. You have nearly 9 million Instagram followers and have the ability to tell your story to all those people around the world. How do you feel as an actress and role model to have access to all of your fans directly?

It’s so cool! I get to hear from people every day who look up to me, and I am lucky to have them. My fans are so so sweet, and I am excited that I get to have such direct contact with them. I mean, they are the reason that I am where I am, you know? The Kissing Booth couldn’t have the success that it had without them and some fans watched it over and over again and because of that it became Netflix’s #1 movie in 2018!

 

Dress by Murmur

Dress by Stella McCartney, Jacket by Roberto Cavalli

Paris Hilton said in The American Meme documentary that she loves her fans because she can feel so alone on the road, and doing press, and she feels like her fans are like her family.

Absolutely! I totally agree with that, and I love that she said that. It’s true, like now I am filming in Georgia and working every day, but when I have free time it’s nice to hear from my fans and feel their support through social media.

Yeah absolutely! To pivot the conversation a bit, I really want to hear more about your upcoming role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard on Hulu’s The Act.

Yes! I’ve actually really never been able to transform myself like this before and this is the first time where I can become a different person – a real person! She is alive and in prison as we speak, and the experience has just been incredible! Playing Gypsy was weird…I want to do right by her and I want people to understand her situation, and why she did what she did. Not that what she did was right, but I also don’t think that she deserved to be completely blasted for her thought process. And working with Patricia Arquette is just genuinely the greatest experience of my life.

Were you able to meet Gypsy to prepare for the role or during the process? Does she know about it?

I know that she knows about that show, but I wasn’t able to contact her. I would have loved to get to know more about her as a person, but all I can do is research her story and try to do the best I can and do right by her.

When the story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee came out three years ago were you aware of it? Did you watch the HBO documentary?

When I got the call to come in and read for Gypsy I had heard of the story, but I didn’t know a lot and hadn’t seen the documentary. I watched it before the audition and was like, “Are you freaking kidding me??” I went into the audition and was so nervous, but I am so happy that I got to portray her story.

Was there a lot of added pressure playing somebody real? Many actors and actresses have said it can be a bigger challenge.

It is a challenge, and I want people to understand and think about this, and I have conflicting emotions myself over Gypsy. She was raised by a master manipulator and so she kind of became one herself. I understand why a lot of people have a hard time sympathizing with her but I also think this show will hopefully open people’s eyes and show how messed up the conditions really were. It’s a lot of pressure playing a real person, one who is literally just sitting in prison right now, but at the same time I feel really good about it. I hope that I am doing right by her and if she sees it one day she will be like, “Thank God they portrayed me that way!” The series is partially fictional, it is a TV show, but a lot of the shit we are putting in there is true as hell!  

This is one of those stories, like you were saying earlier, that needs to be told. And it’s a story that people can see multiple sides of this very famous, national news story retold in a different way.

Absolutely and there are parts of the show where you will start to feel bad for DeeDee or maybe not like Gypsy very much. The show goes over several years of their life, and you can’t help but go through a lot of emotions while watching it.

It’s real life and there are multiple dimensions and you won’t always like it. I think that’s what is so amazing for actors today because it seems like there are so many dimensional roles for women.

It’s amazing how many female directors we have on the show! It is so awesome getting to work with these super smart women. I have a lot of “firsts” on this show, and these amazing male and female directors made me feel safe to try new, uncomfortable, and weird things.

 

Blouse by Queenie Cao, Pants by Marc Jacobs

Dress and Shoes by Versace

How was the experience as an actress immersing yourself into such a dark space?

It really feels like being born again into this world. I’ve never been able to experience this before, and I am so lucky to have Patricia Arquette by my side every day because she was so supportive, she is so talented, and just a super kind person. And I know being her shooting partner that there are no judgments ever, and I feel like it is honestly so important who you work with because you are in such a vulnerable place as an actor. If you feel judged or feel that the other person is not there for you 100%, then it’s really freaking hard to do your job. She has just been the best partner, and I am so grateful for her, and I am so excited to have everyone see her work on the show. She’s mind-blowing–I mean it’s fucking Patricia Arquette!

Yeah that’s such an amazing opportunity! Have you had any moments while working with her where she has shown you a new layer of the craft?

Definitely! Patricia has definitely shown me a new way of looking at acting. She has such great advice, personally and professionally. She’s just so amazing and I have learned so much from her in the past three months that we have worked together.

That’s fantastic, you are so lucky to have that opportunity.

I know, I can’t believe it! Like every day I’m like, “Oh my god, I get to work again!”

(laughing) That’s great! Are there any other projects that you can hint at in pre-production?

Yes! But…I can’t tell you about any of them. (laughs) I am going to be in Georgia for awhile, and I cannot wait to start doing more press for The Act’s premiere.

What advice would you give another young actress? What would you warn them about?

I would absolutely warn them of people trying to use them or people being friends for the wrong reason, and when you find someone who is there for the right reasons then you have to be sure to hold onto them. Whether it’s a friend, a relationship, a peer, or a mentor, just make sure to hold onto the good people and steer clear of the bullshit! (laughs)

I think that’s good advice for everybody!

I think so too! And it’s so hard to find the right people, but you know I am so lucky to have my family. Not everyone has a strong and supportive family, and if you don’t then you need to surround yourself with really great people and create your own family. It’s going to be hard and it will take awhile, you’re going to cry a few times, but in the end it’ll be worth it!

I love that, that’s good advice! Following-up on our discussion of #TimesUp, minority roles, and the great projects coming out, especially in today’s political climate, is there any movie that you would want to re-tell from your perspective or some story that you would love to produce or direct one day?

Oh my god! That’s such a good question… I don’t know…if I would want to retell a story and direct it myself…the movie I really am thinking about is Girl, Interrupted. I don’t know why that is the first thing that came to mind, but I would love to direct the shit out of that.

Oh my god! Please do that! That’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but I would definitely be very critical of it because it’s just such a fantastic movie.

I would expect nothing but honesty from you! (both laugh) I love that movie so much and I am so happy you love it too. If I were to ever direct something, then that is the first movie to come to mind. I honestly would be open to anything. I have a lot more to learn about this business and a lot more to experience, so I couldn’t tell you exactly what my directorial debut would be just yet!

Well even if it is not Girl, Interrupted, then I think that theme that we have been discussing of women’s stories is so important and telling female-centric, multi-dimensional stories like that would be a great path for you.

I agree with you, that shit’s awesome!

 

Dress by Murmur

Special Thanks to Hammer and Spear in Los Angeles and Larissa Saenz at i-D Public Relations

NO VACANCY

All Clothing by Tom Ford

Photography by Go Minami
Styling by Jungle Lin
Model by Flora Carter @ MUSE Models
Hair by Koji Ichikawa for LAICALE
Makeup by Ayana Awata using MAC Cosmetics

Top Image: Top by Jil Sander, Coat by Roberto Cavalli, Shoes by Lacoste
Bottom Image: Coat by Oscar de la Renta, Sweater Dress by Lacoste, Shoes by Mulberry

Turtleneck by Ulla Johnson, Coat by Jil Sander, Shoes by Thom Browne

Top Image: Suit by Adeam, Shirt by Salvatore Ferragamo
Bottom Image: Coat and Skirt by Issey Miyake, Sweater by Prabal Gurung

Coat by Mulberry, Sweater, Shirt, Pants and Shoes by 3.1 Phillip Lim

Top Image: All Clothing by Thom Browne
Bottom Image: All Clothing by Mulberry

WINDOW SHOPPING

Photography by Ruo Bing Li
Styling by Krisana Sotelo @ The Only Agency
Model Alexandra Elizabeth @ The Society

Silk green and black print dress and silk black belt worn over the shoulder by Marc Jacobs, Vinyl body corset by Alexander Wang, Crystal headband and kitten heels by Tom Ford, Spandex liquid leggings Stylist own

Sofa – Cloud by Richard Shemtov, Table – Double Zero by Richard Shemtov

Green and black print, silk dress and black silk belt worn over the shoulder by Marc Jacobs, Vinyl body corset by Alexander Wang, Crystal headband and kitten heels by Tom Ford, Spandex liquid leggings Stylist own

Sofa – Cloud by Richard Shemtov, Table – Double Zero by Richard Shemtov

Black velvet embroidered cape by Erdem, black latex cape + crystal and latex belt worn over the neck by Tableaux Vivents, crystal earrings and hair clip by Area

Mirror – Ledge by Michael Solis, Desk – Halo by Karim Rashid

Crystal embroidered colorful dress by Tom Ford, clear vinyl jacket by Philipp Plein, crystal embroidered kitten heels by Tom Ford, green spandex liquid full bodysuit stylist own, pastel pink pop socks by Maria La Rosa

Dining Table and Chairs – Margot by Sarah Fels, Stool – Jedi by Richard Shemtov

Crystal embroidered colorful dress by Tom Ford, clear vinyl jacket by Philipp Plein, crystal embroidered kitten heels by Tom Ford, green spandex liquid full bodysuit stylist own, pastel pink pop socks by Maria La Rosa

Dining Table and Chairs – Margot by Sarah Fels, Stool – Jedi by Richard Shemtov

Green and pink sequin dress with nude body cape by Gucci, Pink spandex leggings stylists own, pink pop socks by Falke, crystal sandal by Area

Sofa – landscape by Nina Edwards Anker

Pastel fur coat by Sies Marjan, turquoise sequin arm bands by DSquared2, purple latex liquid full bodysuit stylist’s own, pink pop socks by Maria La Rosa, crystal sneakers by Gucci

Cabinet – Fu Console by Nick Dine

Grey wool sweater with stones by Christopher Kane, metal mesh skirt worn around the neck by Paco Rabanne

Sofa – Deluxe by Richard Shemtov, Table – Four Forty by Michael Solis

Grey wool sweater with stones by Christopher Kane, metal mesh skirt worn around the neck by Paco Rabanne

Sofa – Deluxe by Richard Shemtov, Table – Four Forty by Michael Solis

Crystal and tulle sheer top by Givenchy, latex skirt with crystals by Tableaux Vivents, blue spandex liquid full bodysuit stylist own, crystal and mesh stockings by Area, vinyl and leather heel by Alexander Wang

Bench – Pipeline by Harry Allen

Iridescent vinyl jacket by Area, mesh nude gloves by Carolina Amato, pink pop socks by Maria La Rosa, crystal multi-colored sneakers by Gucci

Sofa – Stealth by Richard Shemtov

Makeup by Liset Garza @ The Wall Group using MAC Cosmetics
Hair by Yukiko Tajima @See Management
Production by Benjamin Price of LEO Creatives
Fashion Assistants Patrick Surach and Ashley Wooten
Production intern Louis Kang
Special thanks to Aaron Shemtov of Dune, for more information visit: dune-ny.com

PLASTIC FANTASTIC

Photography by Ruo Bing Li | Styling by Connie Berg Model Manami Kinoshita @ Muse Model Management

 Blazer and Pants (With Belt) by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Earrings by Rachel Comey, Shoes by Sigerson Morrison 

Blazer by 3.1 Phillip Lim, Earrings by Rachel Comey

Blazer and Corset by Tibi, Earrings by Rachel Comey, Shoes by Nicholas K

Blazer and Corset by Tibi, Earrings by Rachel Comey

Vest and Trousers by Alexander Wang

 Blazer and Trousers by Rachel Comey, Top by Oresund Iris

Blazer by Nomia, Choker Stylist’s Own

Top by COS, Earrings by Monies

Top by Oresund Iris, Shoes by Nicholas K, Earrings by Rachel Comey

Makeup by Liset Garza @ The Wall Group, Hair by Kiyo Igarashi, Manicure by Yukie Miyakawa @ Kate Ryan Using YSL Beauty, BTS Video by Xixi, Stylist Assistants Yinka Akinmola and Belle Bakst, Production by XTheStudio, Special Thanks to Splashlight Studios

IN THE MOOD

Top: On Trevor–Jacket by Versus Versace, Underwear by Versace, Trousers by Moschino.

Bottom: On Pietro– Underwear by Emporio Armani

Photography by Greg Swales | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Models.Trevor Signorino @ Next New York, Pietro Baltazar @ Next New York,
Thom Gwin @ Soul Artist Management, Augusta Alexander @ Soul Artist Management, Tomas Skoloudik @ Heroes Models

 

Left: On Thomas– Jacket by Michael Kors and Trousers by Kenzo

Right: On Augusta– Necklaces by Coach 1941

Top Left: On Tomas– Trousers by Philipp Plein, Underwear by Versace.

Top Right: On Pietro– Sweater by Off-White, Underwear by Calvin Klein.

Bottom Left: On Augusta–Shirt by Vivienne Westwood.

Bottom Right: On Tomas–Jacket and Trousers by Coach 1941, Polo Shirt by Calvin Klein

On Augusta– Shirt and Trousers by Versus Versace

Top Left: On Augusta–Shorts by Moschino.

Top Right: On Pietro–Sweater by Off-White, Underwear by Calvin Klein.

Top: On Thom– Jacket and Shirt by Thom Browne.

Bottom Left: On Augusta–Jacket, Necklaces, Trousers and Shoes by Coach 1941, Underwear by Calvin Klein.

Bottom Right: On Pietro– Sweater by Vivienne Westwood, Shorts by Kenzo and Socks by Stance

 

On Tom–Jacket, Shirt, Cumberbun and Trousers by Tom Ford.

Top Right: On Pietro–Tank Top by McQ, Underwear by Calvin Klein, Socks by Stance.

Bottom: On Thomas– Jacket and Trousers by Philipp Plein, Underwear by Versace.

 

Top Left: On Augusta–Tank Top and Speedo by Moschino.

Top Right: On Pietro–Trousers and Shirt by Kenzo.

Bottom: On Pietro– Shirt by COS, Underwear by Emporio Armani.

Groomers: Austin Burns using Oribe (Augusta and Trevor), Gianluca Mandelli using Kerastase (Thom and Tomas), and Wendi Miyake (Pietro) Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in- Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price, Stylist Assistant Justin Dahlgren, Production/ Photo Assistant Lavoisier Clemente.

LUST FOR LUX

Suit by Roberto Cavalli, Bra by Bordelle, Choker, Bangles, Earrings, and Ring by Khiry, Earrings (small) Model’s Own

Photography by Johnny Vicari | Styling by Marc Anthony George | Model Delilah Belle @ IMG Models

Makeup by Kanako Takase @ Streeters using Shiseido | Hair Shingo Shibata @ The Wall Group | Manicure by Jini Lim using Chanel le Vernis

Jacket and Top by Sacai, Earring (large) by Jennifer Fisher, Earrings (small) Model’s Own

Jacket by Valentino, Bra by Bluebella, Necklace, earring and ring (left hand) by Lynn Ban, Ring (right hand) by Jennifer Fisher

Sweater and pants by Stella McCartney, Shoes by Missoni, Earring by Jennifer Fisher, Bangles by Roberto Cavalli, Rings by Swati Dhanak

Top and Skirt by Valentino, Earring by Bond Hardware, Small Earrings Model’s Own, Necklace by Missoni, Bracelets by Lynn Ban, Ring (far left) by Lynn Ban, Ring (middle left hand) by Chrishabana, Ring (pointer right hand) by Chrishabana, Ring (ring finger right hand) by Lynn Ban, Ring (right pinky) by Chrishabana

Dress and earring by Missoni, Body suit by Bluebella, Necklace by Bond Hardware, Bracelet by Khiry, Ring by Chrishabana

Corset by The Blonds, Vintage Necklace and arm cuff Stylist’s studio, Earring by Lynn Ban, Rings by Chrishabana

Photography by Johnny Vicari | Styling by Marc Anthony George | Model Delilah Belle @ IMG Models

Makeup by Kanako Takase @ Streeters using Shiseido | Hair Shingo Shibata @ The Wall Group | Manicure by Jini Lim using Chanel le Vernis

Trench Coat, Body suit, necklace and earring (large) by Roberto Cavalli, Earrings (small) Model’s Own

Photo Assistants Fujio Eumera and Marion Aguas | Producer Dustin Mansyur | Retouching by Cloak Studios | Photographed at Baby Love Studio