DAYLIGHT DISCO

Dress by Moschino, Earrings by Haus of Topper

Photography by Justin von Oldershausen | Styling by Noah Diaz| Models: Kobe Delgado @ Click, Sasha Komissarov @ IMG, Ange Marie Moutambou @ Heroes, Emely Montero @ Wilhelmina, Anita Terenteva @ Wilhelmina

Coat by No.21, Shoes by Valentino, Earrings by Haus of Topper

Dress by Off-White, Shoes by Versace, Earrings by Laruicci

Suit and Shoes by Kenzo

Top Image: Shirt and Trousers by Versace, Necklace Stylist’s Own
Bottom Image: Dress by Valentino, Shoes by Versace and Earrings by Laruicci

Dress, Tights and Shoes by Versace, Earrings by Laruicci

Hair by Sonny Molina using Davines, Makeup by Yuui using Dior makeup, Photo assistants Matt Lesman and Elizabeth Tan

RAUL DE NIEVES

Among a menagerie of rainbow-hued, glittering, plastic beaded life-sized figures, standing like a proud father overlooking his artistic creations, the charmingly unique Raúl de Nieves shares his artistic rituals with us in his cathedral of creations.

Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Mariana Valdes Debes

Blending the lines between the human and the artificial, Raúl de Nieves’ instantly recognizable shoes, masks, and humanoid figures are at once fantastical, desirous art pieces, yet remain relatable and human. Located in the heart of Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY, de Nieves has created a studio filled with beads, fringe, ephemera, and anthropomorphized beings who appear to dance and interact with each other.and it is within that studio where we met the artist and sat down to discuss his art and unique perspective.

Born in Michoacan, Mexico, immigrating to the United States at the age of nine to California, and following the winding path to New York City, Raúl has made a name for himself and cut a swatch of color through the country. In our current state of political turmoil, climate change, and war, it is a breath of fresh air to see the talent that emanates from each piece of art that de Nieves creates as well as from the artist himself.

Here, Mariana Valdes Debes, an international art promoter of Mexican artists, sits in conversation with Raúl for Iris Covet Book.

Hello Raúl!

Hi Mariana, it’s nice to talk to you.

Nice to talk to you as well, I think your work is amazing! I want to start from the beginning and ask how growing up in Michoacan, Mexico influenced your decision to enter into the world of art?

Growing up in Mexico, especially in Michoacan, was really enriching through the different cultures, craftsmen, and artisans. My family was always really pushing for us to see what Mexico had to offer. I remember seeing artisans working in their community, and I came to the United States with that knowledge and those memories. I’m not trying to emulate what I saw, but I am creating these narratives through performances and storytelling, painting, installation, and at the end it’s about creating experiences for yourself and for others to be part of.

Your exhibition last summer “El Rio” was an analysis of the western cultural view of death and the antithetical idea of death as an “ecstatic mystery of life” – how did that concept come to fruition?

I’ve experienced a lot of death in my family, with my friends, and it’s something that we all have to face at one point. My father passed away when I was very young, and it helped me understand that it’s a part of life. Obviously we mourn when someone passes away, but how do we continue to celebrate their lives and what does that mean? To understand that they are not physically here, but emotionally they are closer to me now than ever. Having a really close family member pass away is one of the scariest things, yet it’s also like becoming closer to that person. It’s something that I had to experience and move past.

The majority of your body of work is comprised of fantastical humanoid creatures made of glued beads and other miscellaneous non-traditional material— how did the decision of using these materials come about?

The bead has been utilized by many cultures, but somehow we forget that it’s this beautiful little piece of material that can transform in so many different ways. I went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and came back with a suitcase full of beads. From then on it just made a lot of sense. All of a sudden they just started to appear more and more in my life.

Well the beaded shoes you created in your earlier work are really just to die for. Every time I see them I just wonder what it feels like to wear them.

They are actually really uncomfortable. I think that’s the best part about it—they are beautiful objects of desire, but when you actually put them on they hurt. When I wear these objects in my performances, it becomes part of this struggle to portray myself as this specific character. I don’t know, it’s kind of magical. Sometimes we want these beautiful objects, but they are obviously not the most practical things we should long for, but we still do.

In an interview with MoMA, you stated that one sculpture, Day(Ves) of Wonder, took you seven years to complete but you never gave up on it. How does the process of creating each labor-intensive sculpture strengthen or teach you as an artist, and do you think that the number of years changed the idea behind the piece over time?

The work is made completely of beads and was a very complicated piece to build. I started to make these huge sculptures and was fantasizing about what it would be like to create a full, life-size figure out of beads. It took me so long because there was a lot of trial and error. The piece spoke back to me and taught me that every time I felt like I was failing, there was a possibility that it could continue to work as long as I had the ability to go forward. Till this day, it’s one of my favorite works. Day(Ves) of Wonder derives from my mom’s daycare called “Days of Wonder”, and I was thinking how interesting it is for my mom to have these small periods of time with these kids as they grow up. I think this piece had this same idea of learning from each experience. I don’t know when I’ll have another moment to work on something for that long, or if I need to, but it really gave me so much understanding to know that every time I went back and started working on the piece, it was teaching me something in return. Maybe that’s why that piece is so celebrated, because people feel that energy within its expression and within its movement.

You never gave up and you went through stages creating the piece, becoming a master of the process.

Yeah, exactly! There’s beauty in creating this object that doesn’t have a moving life or a soul. Through our emotions and the experiences that we project into these objects, the energy that resonates with the viewer creates the idea of a life behind it. To me, the sculpture is of a seven year-old child because of the time that I spent with it and how I saw myself growing. It was an ambitious task to take on and I don’t want to reproduce another one because this piece lives on to be a celebration of an experience and a time. I still question what that piece actually continues to mean to me. That’s the beauty of art, you can work on something forever. As humans we’re constantly doing that; we’re always working on who we are and trying to figure out what it means to be human.

That brings me to my other question. Surrounded by these figures every day, do they develop personalities and life stories of their own as you become attached to them?

Yeah, of course! It’s amazing to build each piece with its own identity, and this identity can be processed through the relationship of the other works next to one another. I like to believe that we live in a fantasy world and we should give ourselves some freedom; life doesn’t necessarily always have to be so concrete. As children, we get this beautiful time of our life to dream and imagine, and then we get to a certain age and give up on that. I constantly imagine myself to be this fantastical person, even if it’s just for a moment.

The performance aspect of my work allows me to tap into these roles that I can’t necessarily inhabit on an everyday  basis. It’s a great gift to be able to perform these silly experiences or cathartic moments through these characters, and there’s comfort in putting on a mask and allowing yourself to not really be seen as human, but to be something fantastical. Having this ability to tap out is really cool and I think that’s why a lot of cultures use costumes and perform these beautiful dances, plays, and fables to tap out.

I want to ask about your use of vibrant colors. How did your very maximal use of colors develop over time?

Colors can create very emotional experiences, and I guess that’s why I tend to use so many bright hues of colors. I’m trying to learn how to really control what the color can do, what it means, and what it can put out into the world. In a way, color is like language, it allows for people to feel a certain way. The simplicity of these tools that we already have and putting them into artwork is not necessarily about following rules but following common sense and what feels natural.

Like just going toward the aesthetic of it, the feeling and the emotion that comes through the first time.

Yeah, for awhile my least favorite color was red, so for a year I only wore red to understand why. I had so many different experiences with strangers asking me why I was wearing all red. People would come up to me and try to tell me what they felt red meant to them. It was really interesting to do this exercise for a year, but I’ll probably never do it again.

Well that must have felt like a performance. Yeah, exactly. I wasn’t really intentionally trying to make it a performance, but it was a very interesting exercise. As a Mexican-American artist, how do you feel about the political climate in both countries? Do the current political events inspire or influence your work?

The current President having these views towards Mexico is very archaic. But I realize it’s been happening since the beginning of time, as hard as it is to believe. I try not to be too political about it, because I know it’s not just the United States versus Mexico; it’s the world against one another. When will it end? Who knows? You would think by now we could unite and make this place even better than it is. We are made of the same matter; we need to understand that we will be stronger together. The idea of immigration is beautiful. It has allowed me to believe in acceptance for all. It is beautiful to know that you can somehow be who you are and be accepted and be part of a new nation. That idea has influenced a lot of my work. Everyone has a different experience with immigrating, and in the end I am thankful that I was accepted into a new culture, and that maybe I can influence more people to believe that this is a positive possibility.

A quick scroll through your Instagram reveals an interest in religion and historical references. Where does this interest come from?

Well, I’m a spiritual person. I have a lot of faith, and not just in history or the idea of religion. I like feeling that there is a higher power, or that perhaps believing is what creates a higher power. For me, spirituality is a way of life and it helps to ground myself and cope with all of these catastrophes happening around us.

What do you view as your biggest personal accomplishment to date and why?

Self-acceptance. I’ve been able to really accept myself, and not just myself, but also the people around me. In a way, that’s a huge accomplishment. I think it’s self-love and acceptance that’s made me as open as I am, and as a result I can be my true self.

What can we expect next from you?

I’d like to make art more accessible, to create more experiences that can be accessible not just inside the art world, but also outside. I don’t know whether that means creating public artworks, or if that even changes anything, but I just want to really feel like there is more openness to everything.

And in 10 years?

In 10 years? Maybe I’ll have a dog.

A CONVERSATION BETWEEN MARY BOONE AND PETER SAUL

Through her illustrious career, revolutionary gallerist Mary Boone has represented some of the most influential artists of our time. In a rare opportunity, we get to sit in on the conversation between one of America’s best known fine-art painters, artist Peter Saul, and Mary Boone at her gallery located on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Portrait Photography by Dustin Mansyur

From the beginning of her career, Mary Boone made a name for herself as a brash, subversive, enfant terrible of the New York art scene. David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, Francesco Clemente, Jeff Koons, and Ai WeiWei all have been represented by Boone. Early in her career, Boone revitalized the New York art scene by creating exhibitions for young, unorthodox, avant-garde downtown artists and giving them a new platform made up of influential international collectors. Boone’s keen instinct and bold moves revolutionized the art of dealing, making her the first to have waiting lists of collectors vying to purchase works yet to be created. New York magazine once dubbed Boone “The Queen of the Art Scene”, and now over forty years later and with two New York galleries that remain internationally respected, her crown remains firmly in place.

Of the many controversial artists in Mary Boone’s kingdom, Peter Saul, known for his cartoonish lampoon of American political figures and anti-war commentaries, is perhaps one of the leading contenders. Saul’s fantastic representations of American politics painted in his signature psychedelic, hyper-saturated palette, paired with historical influences and intellectual irreverence, have opened the interpretive, and at times controversial, dialogue between politics and pop culture. Educated in Europe in the 1950’s and keeping his art career under theradar through most of his life, Peter Saul found a champion in Mary Boone, who helped him claim his rightful title as one of the top contemporary artists in the US.

In the library of her uptown gallery in New York City, Iris Covet Book captured a conversation between the notoriously pressshy Mary Boone and Peter Saul as they discuss the history of the gallery, the politics of fine art, and painting Donald Trump.

So, Peter, to start from the beginning, you began your career in Europe in ‘56, correct?

Yes, and I started showing here in New York in 1962; it was my first show in New York City. I’ve been showing all these years but it hadn’t been appreciated until recently. I’ve had some success in Europe over the years, which is great. That’s really kept me going a lot of the time. In the ‘90s I sold a lot of work in Europe, very inexpensively, but for a college professor it seemed like a miracle of finances. Like, “Wow, 20,000 bucks!” You buy a new car and it’s just wonderful. I didn’t look any further than that. I suffered from modesty somewhat, and now I’m much less modest. Now I grumble at small amounts of money. (laughing)

My early days as a gallerist…I mean it was really a hard struggle too. People kind of think it must have been really glamorous. I worked as a secretary at Bykert for Klaus [Kertess], then the gallery closed and I went off on my own in ‘77. And when I was at Bykert, I met an artist named Ross Bleckner. I put him in a group show in Bykert, and he was showing with me and with Paula Cooper. In those days artists would try different galleries and find which one sells, which one fits. So when I opened my own gallery, he introduced me to a lot of his friends from CalArts, and that included David Salle, Eric Fischl, Barbara Kruger, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons and a lot of other artists. So, I met artists through word of mouth from other artists.

But you have to remember that at the time no one believed in any of the artists I was showing, no one believed in them. No one wanted to see them or hear about them. They were either unknown or too hyped. People didn’t believe in Schnabel or Basquiat or Sally or Fischl, or even Brice Marden. Jean-Michel [Basquiat] and I met when he was 19; he decided he wanted to show in my gallery because he wanted to show with all these other artists who he thought were really good artists. And I was really very, reticent, like, “Is this right?” but he was really a wonderful person, so sweet to me and really a good artist. I showed Francis Picabia in 1983 and got a scathing review from The Times about it.

They’re so dumb!

They said it was a terrible show and that I was just trying to trick the art world. There was this conspiracy theory that I was making fun of art or artists, but eventually they started to believe in them.

It is easy to kind of glamorize things in retrospect, but mostly I like artists that are challenging. I mean, you are challenging. Even though you were not young chronologically, you were really young as an artist. The paintings weren’t just flying off the wall like they are now. It was hard to sell them, but to me you are such a master and such a forward thinker; everybody should want to be grabbing them up. But it takes a long time to make an artist. How were you exposed to the art world in your early career?

Well, I met [art collector] Allan Frumkin, he was very important to me. I accepted a certain amount of money every month for my work. He would show up one day of the year and pick which pieces of mine he wanted and then leave again, and I could do whatever with the ones that were left. This lasted for about 30 years; it was a long relationship. From 1960 through 1990. The last time he arranged a show of my work was ‘97 I believe, so this is 37 years of activity. During this time I took the opportunity to not mess with business. I just enjoyed my life. Unfortunately, I was looking backwards when I decided to be an artist in 1950. I was looking to the 19th century: you have a lot of cigarettes to smoke, wake up late in the morning,  work on your picture, there is a beautiful woman in your life, there is a room you call a studio, you look at the painting, and that’s it. That’s your life, you know. You don’t worry about any business or anything, and I was encouraged in this attitude by my art teachers.

My life was very simple, and not lived fully up until the decision to move to New York City in ‘97, and I thought “Why not normalize my career?” I realized at that point it depends a lot on the artist. You have to present yourself to the buyers, and I hadn’t done this before. I simply hadn’t shown up. I did everything I could to make my paintings attractive and interesting, but I personally didn’t show up, hardly ever. This was weird, and I suddenly realized this was weird, so I said [to myself ], “Hey, from now on, be normal.” So, we showed up. By then I was with Sally, we were in Austin, and I retired from my job at age 66 and came here to proceed with you.

Peter Saul, Nightwatch, 88” by 128”, acrylic/canvas, 1974-1975 ©Peter Saul. Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York.

Peter Saul, QuackQuack, Trump, 78” by 120”, acrylic/canvas, 2017 ©Peter Saul. Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York

We were meant to be.

A lot of it is just showing up and being a nice person. Sally and I show up, we’re nice people, we get along, and that is very attractive because most of the time artists who are married don’t get along. I didn’t know this, but this is the way it is. This has helped us to be liked by important people in the art world who think we are attractive to work with because we get along with each other. It’s crazy, but it’s the truth. You have to be a nice person.

That’s true!

It’s not enough to make an interesting picture or whatever.

Do you think the newfound appreciation you’ve been experiencing has to do with the times?

I guess so.

I remember remarking at your first show that the average age of the audience was like 22. There was us and then all these 20 year-olds. You have become a mentor to a lot of young artists.

It’s true. It’s a blessing; it’s a good sign.

In speaking of mentorships, influencing and teaching, are there any important mentorships or up-and-coming young artists that you are working with, Peter?

Well for example, Erik Parker is an artist that was in my art class, he showed up at some point in the ‘90s and is now in the art world. He has shown some flexibility, he’s stuck around, and he is now going to have a show at this gallery. So I have him and others from Texas. I don’t know… people introduce themselves to me and say, “I remember your art class!” and then say something I never would have said, but that’s okay, I just let it pass. I don’t concentrate on what has already happened, I try to keep my mind open for the painting I’m working on and that’s pretty much it; I’m not a historian.

Well that’s good, because then you’re not looking in the past, you’re always looking forward.

Yeah it’s important not to get hung up. If you’ve been around for 40 or 50 years, it’s easy to begin getting interested in research into those years, and what did you do and all of that stuff, but that’s deadening. Likewise, I like to show at a gallery where there is one person in charge and it’s not a corporate thing. What I don’t like is when a gallery has a selection of people that is based on age and gender and stuff. When they’re like, “Well, we have four male artists in their 70’s, so we got enough of them. Let’s get three women between the ages of 30 and 40.” That kind of thing is nonsense. I like the individuality of this gallery, that’s why I’m here really.

Oh, I love that you said that! I do think of artists in terms of their individuality, I’m not trying to make a movement. So many of the galleries now are going towards assigning different staff members to artists, and I think it is impersonal. I always thought the greatest thing was becoming friends with the artist and having a relationship.

Yes, we want to, sort of, “skip” the corporate scene, don’t we?

I think that it’s ruining the art world. What are your thoughts on the art world today?

Well, I’m seeing a lot more shows than I want because my wife, Sally Saul, who makes ceramic sculpture, is extremely interested in art and what’s going on. She insists that I see a lot of shows. Today we’re going to the Outsider Art Fair, I think, and then to the Tom Laskowski opening, and then a group show where a painting of mine that belongs to Joe Bradley is being shown. Sally insists on a certain number of days a month we go see art. So, I see more art.

And you live in Germantown, so you have to travel a couple of hours to get here.

Yeah, but it’s relaxing to be on the train. You want to take a pause often from the painting so you can rethink certain areas that you’re working on. Painting for me is a slow thing, it gets done in various stages, it develops. And the next development came clear to me this morning so it can happen tomorrow.

We had a chance to show your recent Trump pieces a few months ago. What has the response been to them and have you experienced any backlash?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve treated Trump tenderly compared to the other Presidents I have painted. The most psychotic looking one was actually one of the first, Nixon. I tore the guy apart like he was in the hands of a serial killer or something: bad news. I hope for no particular response, but Trump is a good subject. I didn’t vote for him anymore than anyone else I know. 83% of New York voted for Hillary. I don’t know why she isn’t President. She won the election, but because of the electoral college she isn’t sitting in the Oval Office. As far as I know, Trump is not aware of me. He probably thinks of me as some loser artist. He looks at my prices and goes “This is cheap! He’s a loser, he’s a loser!”

“It’s fake! It’s fake art!” (both laughing)

No, but I’m not looking for trouble. I’m looking for subject.

For more information visit maryboonegallery.com

EXCLUSIVE: RICKY MARTIN

Jacket by Tom Ford

Photography by Greg Swales
Styling and Interview by Marc Sifuentes

Taking over the legendary Sin City strip, making history as the first Latino to headline a Las Vegas residency, and jumping headlong into the world of acting, Ricky Martin shows he is one of the most intriguing and impactful entertainers of our time.

Father, husband, singer, dancer, and actor. Ricky Martin is constantly juggling his many roles with seemingly effortless ease. Currently a resident on the Vegas strip at the Park Theater at Monte Carlo for his solo show, Martin is also eager to further pursue his acting career, release a new album, create a new world tour, and continue helping the people of Puerto Rico and the victims of human trafficking. Filled with love, down-to-earth spirituality, and an effervescent charm, Ricky Martin has proven himself to be an everlasting icon of pop culture.

In an exclusive interview with Iris Covet Book Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, the Puerto Rican star gets personal about his daily life with his husband and twins, life in the limelight, and his continuous efforts to make the world a better place.

Hi Ricky! I wanted to thank you for doing this interview and for being so fun and easy-going on the day of the shoot.

Well, thank you! You and your team were amazing and had such a beautiful energy in the studio.

Thank you! So, I want to start with asking about your second “back by popular demand” Vegas residency at the Park Theater, what is the key to producing such a successful and in-demand show?

I give credit to the people that I work with: the producers, directors, all of the people behind the scenes, the musicians, and the dancers. It really takes a village, and I wouldn’t be able to do this show without an amazing group of people behind me. I’m happy to have these talented producers and directors who can translate my vision and make it magic! To be the first Latino male to have a residency in Vegas is a big responsibility. What I love about this show is having the opportunity to perform every night in front of a very international crowd. Just to be on stage and see all of these faces from all over the world really motivates and inspires me. What I want to do is break boundaries and unite cultures. To see the crowd disconnect from their everyday problems in life and leave the theater with a smile is a very beautiful thing. I wish we could do this show for many more years.

Will you be taking this show on the road at the end of it’s Vegas run?

Well since I have an exclusivity contract I won’t be able to take this particular show on the road or perform it outside of the Park Theater. But I will hopefully be on the road touring a new show next year through Latin America and the United States. The idea is to take a new show all over the world, hopefully by next year.

I was watching clips of the show and it just looks amazing, you seem larger than life and so confident. Do you ever feel insecure? And if you do, what do you tell yourself to get out of that headspace?

I am very insecure. I am insecure when I write music, when I perform, when I act…but what gets me through are my years of experience. I am human and I go through a lot of highs and lows before I go on stage. If you see the show, for the first song I’m coming down from a 300-foot drop! I may look super confident, but I’m not! (laughs) I suffer from vertigo and it can be very difficult to focus, but it is part of confronting my demons and breaking that trauma that triggers my vertigo. By the time the music starts, I just have to forget everything and jump into storytelling mode.

Well it’s been getting really great reviews! Would you consider extending your residency for a third round?

Oh, I would love that! And funny you should ask because that’s exactly what we are in discussions about at the moment, and if we do, I will need to create a whole new show for the international audience.

jacket and t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, rings by John Hardy

t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, ring by John Hardy

shirt by Ferragamo, jeans by Tom Ford

You recently teased your fans with a new single, “Fiebre”, when can we expect a new full length album?

I am thinking hopefully by the beginning of next year, but right now we have been pretty focused on the Vegas show and American Crime Story, which we were shooting for eight months. Today, the record company no longer needs the record out at a very specific time so the artists have more freedom, and if a song is ready then I can just release it. Obviously numbers are important in this industry, but it gives us an idea of what the audience likes or dislikes, and I have never felt more relaxed doing music.

Since you mentioned American Crime Story, how did you become involved and what made you say yes to the story?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Murphy on an episode of Glee. We’ve kept in touch and he invited me to dinner to tell me that he thinks he has a role for me. Once I read the script I immediately said yes because it was personal. I knew I wanted to be a part of telling Versace’s story. I wanted to remind the viewers the injustice behind what happened. Because it’s not how Gianni Versace died, but how we allowed it to happen. What angers me most is that Cunanan was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, living on Miami Beach which is a very small community, but the FBI turned the other way because he was a gay man killing gay men. There is no denying to me that this was really an issue of homophobia. I think we did a great job covering that aspect of the story.

I read that Ryan Murphy wants to give you your own show, any word on that project?

Well he told me about it and then made it public, and I got really excited! We haven’t spoken in detail about it because he is transitioning from one network to another and he told me that he will be busy until June, but I’m not in a rush. (laughs) I would love to do something behind the scenes as well. But no, we haven’t talked about it yet.

You brought up the issue of homophobia and it made me think of your new music video. “Fiebre” and of course American Crime Story both show you openly embracing your sexuality. After being forced into the closet for so long, how does it feel for you to finally be able to express being gay through your music videos and now your acting roles?

Amazing! If I could go back and come out in the late ‘90s or early 2000’s then I would, because it felt amazing to come out. When I talk to people who are struggling with their identity, I tell them that it may be bumpy for awhile but in the long run the love that I received from my friends, family, from social media…it was spectacular. I know this is not the case for everyone but at the end of the day it is about dignity and self love.

You recently received a Trailblazer award from The LGBT Community Center in NYC, what did receiving that award mean to you?

Well like receiving any award, it is a big responsibility, but at the end of the day I am proud because it lets me talk about where I have been, who I am, and what I did to finally understand my real essence. In my case, I get to share my story. I meet so many people in the streets or on social media who tell me, “Ricky, thank you so much because I know what you went through and I can better understand my gay father, gay uncle, gay brother, lesbian aunt…” and I think it is a beautiful thing and it is important.

I wanted to talk about your husband, artist Jwan Yosef, a bit. You met on Instagram and I was reading you instant messaged for six months before meeting—

Yes! And nothing sexy! It was very romantic. We talked a lot just about our problems and lives. I never even heard his voice until six months later when I went to visit him in London, where he was based. I said to myself, “This is it. I just met the man who I am going to marry.” Two years later we were married. He is a great man, he loves my kids, and we have so many things in common.

He is a conceptual painter and I have mad respect and admiration for what he does. When I see him and his creative process… it is so sexy. I just love when he locks himself in his studio and starts creating. I become a fly on the wall, watching him paint and create works of art. I am in love, man, I am so in love.

jacket by DSquared2, ring by John Hardy


shirt, pants, and sneakers by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

 

shirt, pants, and shoes by Louis Vuitton, rings by John Hardy

You’ve mentioned in the past that you want more children, what do you love about being a father and what is the most challenging part of raising twins?

Yes, I want more; I’m just getting started! If it was my decision I would have six more, but Jwan says let’s take it one step at a time. (laughs) With kids, and I’m sure every parent out there will say this, but everything is new every day and being a single father with twins was extremely challenging, especially in the first year. No one is sleeping, and it’s two against one. Now that they’re older it’s still two against one, but they are amazing kids and the bonding time over the first year was so important. I took a sabbatical, and I did not accept any help. I wanted to do it all, change every diaper, bathe them everyday, and the relationship I have with my kids… there’s just so much love. They are almost 10 years old and this is when dads stop being cool and they start making fun of you! I’m really happy because I’m not there yet with them (laughs).

I’m sure your spirituality plays a big part in your parenting too, what helped you to discover your spirituality?

When we talk about spirituality we go back in time. Religion has nothing to do with spirituality, but I would say that growing up Catholic, even being an altar boy, was too much for me. I kept searching and looking for other philosophies and dogmas to ascribe to. There was a moment where I was obsessed with India and going about four times a year because they call it the “Cradle of Spirituality.”Then my kids became my religion. It doesn’t matter how late I go to bed, I religiously wake up at 7:00 a.m. everyday to have breakfast with them, and that bonding experience with the three of us is the only way I want to start my day. But once a Catholic, always a Catholic. To this day I sometimes look to God when the boys ask me questions because they ask some really hard questions, and I just want to give them the right answer.

I want to talk about Puerto Rico, from your experience can you give us an update on how the country is doing currently? I know that you were and still are very involved in fundraising after hurricane Maria.

Oh man, well 43% of the island still has no power, and if you go up to the more rural mountain areas, even now nine month later, people still have no power, no running water, and are bathing in the river and using candlelight. It is really frustrating and I wish the federal government would have done more. You have to wonder, if this were any other city in the continental US, would we ever hear that nine months later people have no power? No, I don’t think that would happen. But we have to do our part, and Puerto Ricans have experienced a great level of compassion, empathy, and care from volunteers, and the country has become creative and adapted. This too shall pass, but it will take a long time to go back to normal.

Another cause that is close to your heart is bringing awareness to human trafficking, can you explain where this compassion comes from and tell us more about the Ricky Martin Foundation?

With natural disasters like hurricanes for example, the community becomes more vulnerable and human traffickers take advantage. Traffickers come to the island and see all of these people who have lost everything and need money to buy things, and these kids end up selling their bodies or getting forced into pornography.

jacket by Valentino, shirt by COS

 

sweater by COS, pants by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

How did it first come to your attention?

More than a decade ago a friend of mine was building an orphanage in India, and this was when I was looking for any excuse to go to India. I flew to Calcutta, and he took me to the slums and said, “Come on, let’s rescue girls!” I had no idea what this meant, but when I got to the slums he started to point out girls like, “You see those three? They could be forced into prostitution.” and I’m standing there like, “What?! What do you mean? That girl must be five and her sister must be eight and her older sister must be eleven” and he says, “Yes, Rick. This is human trafficking. These girls live on the streets and they need money to help their family and they get paid for selling their bodies.” I was so astounded and went back home and started to educate myself on the subject. I went to Congress and told them we needed to bring more awareness to this global $150 billion industry. The victims are sex slaves.

Did you know there are more slaves today then back in the slave trade of the 18th century? Today, as soon as you open your computer you could easily fall victim to a criminal persuading you into the world of prostitution.

It’s encouraging to hear you are using your platform to educate others of these injustices.

It’s not easy. Ten years ago I wanted to stop. I said I couldn’t do it anymore because we couldn’t keep up. We were working so hard but I felt like I didn’t see any change. My mentor looked at me and said, “Ricky, you’ve got to stop being so arrogant. Who do you think you are? Do you think you will change the world? You’re not Superman! How about focusing on saving one life? And one life can become two.” We went back and built a holistic center in Puerto Rico in an area affected by trafficking, and right now we have 132 children coming to the center. We are educating them about human trafficking and opening their eyes to the predators. It’s a lifetime commitment. We are not going to save everyone, but we will save one person at a time.

What else can we expect from you this year?

I’m getting more prepared as an actor, meeting with great writers, producers, and directors and I think there are some great opportunities on the table. I am so lucky to be at a place where I can pick and choose the projects that speak to me. Aside from still making my music, I really want to jump into acting more and playing amazing roles that can have a positive impact on society. My acting career is very personal to me right now; I am obsessed and don’t want to stop!

coat and shirt by Prada, pants by COS, sneakers by Dior Homme, ring by John Hardy

Hair by Joey Nieves @ Grey Matter LA using Hanz de Fuko, Makeup by Maital Sabban @ MS Management, BTS Video by Lavoisier Clemente, Photo Assistant Amanda Yanez, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

EXCLUSIVE: EVA LONGORIA


Dress by Helo Rocha, Earrings by Bulgari

Photography by Greg Swales  | Styling by Charlene Roxborough | Interview by Olivia Munn

Inspired by David Hockney’s series of pool polaroid collages, Eva Longoria becomes a modern day Venus in the waters of the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills as she celebrates the miracle of motherhood.

They say there’s no rest for the weary, but Eva Longoria is anything but weary. Co-starring alongside Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez in the remake of the Goldie Hawn fan-favorite Overboard, producing a new television show entitled The Grand Hotel, throwing her hat into the television directing ring with the ABC hit Blackish, designing an eponymous fashion line, being the face of L’Oreal, championing the Time’s Up Movement, and carrying her first child would even make Wonder Woman tired, but Longoria sees no reason to slow down. Amidst these ever unfolding projects, Eva spent an afternoon with Iris Covet Book for an exclusive photoshoot at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, channeling the glamour of the poolside scenes of Old Hollywood.

Longoria began her career competing in the pageant circuit of her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, eventually moving to Los Angeles, playing small roles in daytime TV until landing her big break in the hit television series Desperate Housewives. After eight seasons of success on the ABC show, Eva put her political interest to work by touring across the U.S. with Barack Obama on his re-election campaign, finding a personal and ardent activist voice for immigration reform. Keeping up at marathon pace, Longoria continued her work in Hollywood, while balancing multiple businesses and projects in the world of fashion and restaurants. With her first child on the way, it seems like the perfect time for Longoria to celebrate her many achievements including her greatest one to date, becoming a mother.

Eva has granted Iris Covet Book the exclusive opportunity to document this miraculous moment in her life, her first pregnancy. Interviewed by friend and fellow actress Olivia Munn, Eva Longoria is glowing and glamorous as ever, lounging pool-side in Beverly Hills.

 

Dress by Nili Lotan, Earrings and Bracelet by Bulgari

Dress by Nili Lotan, Earrings and Necklace by Bulgari

Hi Eva! It’s so funny, I was just thinking about us in Miami because usually women are so tired at the beginning of their pregnancy, but I was the one sleeping all day, and you were staying up with me all night and still getting up early in the mornings! (laughs)

I know, I have it reversed… I am so tired now! I was doing so well and had so much energy, running around directing and producing. Then about a week ago I just hit a wall and now get knocked-out four times a day. This was what everyone was talking about! (laughs)

Have you had to pull back on a lot of your projects? It felt like you had a new show to direct every day.

Yeah, my Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony was the last official thing I had to do for work, and I have some press for Overboard left to do. I was on the Ellen show the other day and I felt like I was going to fall asleep, like uncontrollable sleep, and I was like, “Ellen, if I fall asleep can you edit around it?” (laughs)

You’re growing like literal body parts inside of you and that takes a lot of energy!

Yeah it takes so much energy making a human. (laughs)

So, I heard that the cover story you shot for Iris Covet Book is the only magazine cover you shot while pregnant?

Yes it is!

I cannot believe this is your only magazine shoot while pregnant! Did it feel weird?

It was so awesome and freeing because I didn’t have to suck in! You know how it is on a shoot or on the red carpet and you have to suck in and pay attention to your posture? But this time I was just letting it all hang out! (both laugh)

You were telling me that now the dialogue has changed with the paparazzi from when they would take pictures of you before—

Oh yeah! Before I was pregnant, I would just be eating a burger or something and they would write, “Baby Bump Watch!” (laughs) When we found out I was pregnant, my husband Pepe was worried about hiding it, and I said, “It doesn’t matter, they say I’m pregnant all the time. It’s fine.” And then the paparazzi would say “Oh, Eva’s getting fat! Eva’s overeating!” and I’m like, “No, no, no! Now I’m really pregnant!” (laughs)

One thing I don’t think people realize about you is that it’s not fun to be around this constant speculation, but you just let it roll off your back and it’s so admirable. I have learned a lot from you because of that.

I think I’ve always been like that. I grew up with three older sisters so I think I developed a thick skin. I read this amazing book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and one of the agreements is to not take things personally. It stuck out to me because I really never let things get to me. I try not to be affected by a bad audition, not getting the part in a movie, having a bad breakup. I was kind of born optimistic and it was how I grew up. We were a family of four daughters who were all very sharing and loving. My parents always taught me that failure was just another step to success.

I’ve thought about that a lot, and I was talking to a friend who did not get a role recently and told her what you told me when you had gone out for some big movie and did not get the part, but right after that denial you got Desperate Housewives. At that moment, getting a big movie could have really catapulted your career and it’s hard to see that in a positive light. Were you bummed at all or did you just move on?

Well you know I really just forgot about it! Like what part? Which movie? Maybe I’m not that invested! (laughs) But no, I remember when I got that call I said, “Oh, ok no problem!” If it’s your role, it’s your role. There’s no one who can play your role and nobody can take it from you.

Right, that’s true. You’re just able to roll through so much in life and still look so freaking young! It’s so interesting to think of you as a first time mother. You are just so nurturing and it is so weird to think of you as having your first child because I feel like there’s no big change. You’ll have the baby and keep rolling. Does it feel like a shock to you?

My friends always say the same thing, that I have been a mother to so many in my life. But I’m not freaked out at all, even with all of the other mother’s advice and everyone telling me how exhausted I’m going to be and blah blah blah, I’m like… yeah, that sounds about right. There’s nothing new that is being said to me or that I haven’t already read which…I mean, unless a monkey comes out of me, nothing is really going to shock me! (both laugh)

And even if a little maltese came out of you, you would just say, “Ok, so I had a dog!” and keep on rolling. (both laugh)

Yeah, I’d roll with it! And i’m not saying it is going to be easy because motherhood is never easy, but Im just saying that I’m prepared for the challenges in the greatest way possible.

Is there anything that worries you?

Health always worries me. You just don’t know what can happen with their health at any stage of life. From the time of their birth, to walking, to teething, to their first heartbreak. I want to protect my child from everything in the world, but there are certain things you won’t be able to.

Honestly, I think one of the best ways to protect your child from heartbreak is picking the right partner and Pepe, your husband, is literally one of the best human beings I have ever met. I love him so much and he is just one of those people who instantly becomes family. I think picking a great father for your child is so important, and your son will have it made with the two of you as his parents.

He really is the greatest human being in the world and he’s an amazing dad and husband. We can talk about anything from our day-to-day, politics, world events, or artificial intelligence, but at the same time we can just watch TV and he’ll laugh at me when I turn on my crime shows. There couldn’t be a better person made for me in the world. He is such a good father, so I already know that he will be a good father to our son. It feels like we’ve been together forever, but it also feels new and fresh every day.

Speaking of spirituality and being connected to people, how does the experience of being pregnant affect you spiritually, if at all?

It’s funny because the minute I got pregnant I wanted to know everything that was happening in my body. Not only physically, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, but also spiritually. It is the greatest change you can experience, creating another human. My friend, Deepak Chopra, wrote a book about spirituality and pregnancy and it was just what I needed because it takes you through the whole pregnancy journey and what is happening metaphysically, physically, spiritually, what your baby can hear, when he can smell. He spoke about being careful of the images you take in because the baby can absorb fear from even a scary movie, for example.

It’s true, the baby is absorbing the energy around you. I read this interesting story about these horses which were the top competitors in all of the horse races and they were clones. The interesting thing is that the horse which was cloned had an incident with a water hose that hit him in the face and from then on he was always afraid of water hoses, and then his clone was born and since birth that clone horse would freak out in the same way whenever he saw a water hose. It raises the question of where our memories lie. People think it is our brain, but it is really in every cell of our body. So it makes sense that your baby is not only absorbing the food and drink but also the energy that is around you and produced by you.

Yes— energy, thoughts, meditation. I was really obsessed from the beginning wondering what is he feeling? What is he hearing? What is he thinking?

Bodysuit with mesh by Naked Wardrobe, Choker and Rings by David Webb, Robe by Ralph Lauren, Sunglasses by Celine

Bodysuit by Wolford, Wrap Dress by Murmur and Ring by David Webb

Bodysuit by Wolford, Ring and Necklace by David Webb

I learned a lot about sound therapy and it is really interesting because you can use this sound tool with the baby and it relaxes them, and then whenever they hear it again they instantly go into a state of relaxation.

No way! Well I’ve been playing meditation music with him and I do aromatherapy. I sleep with an essential oil diffuser with lavender oil at night, but that sound therapy sounds amazing!

To switch gears a bit, you are in the remake of Overboard which is such a beloved and highly anticipated release, is it a lot of pressure on you to work on a new rendition of such a classic movie?

Yeah…well it’s funny because I don’t have as much pressure as Anna Faris! She ran into Goldie and Kurt and they were like, “We heard you were doing Overboard”, and I would have freaked out! But it’s different because it’s a change in gender and it’s a much more contemporary version of the idea. It’s current for the time. I don’t think you could do the original today due to where we are socially. It’s funny, and I am such a big Anna Faris fan. I just think she’s a comedy genius. Eugenio Derbez, who is just the biggest Latin star ever, plays a wealthy playboy with a ton of money. It was so much fun shooting with them and playing with them, and seeing the movie was so exciting. People are going to love it!

Oh, I can’t wait to watch it! So you’ve directed the season finale of Blackish which is such a big show. It’s such a big deal to direct a season finale, and I know you want to direct more, but do you have a movie that you want to do?

Well I’ve been offered a couple of movies that I didn’t really connect to. I didn’t feel like I had a perspective to offer, and as a director I think that’s everything. I just love the medium of television, the pace of television, and working with actors who really know their characters. Not too much actor directing or motivation because they really know their role better than you do. So you’re really there to create camera choreography and make it better. I’d love to do a feature film, and I’ve been looking for one, but it’s just such a time commitment. You prep for six months, shoot for four months, and edit for a year…so it’s really just two years of your life dedicated to one project, one idea. It has to speak to me and I have to have a point of view and something to contribute. There’s a relevance and a purpose for a movie to be out there, even if it is just to make people laugh. I haven’t found that perfect script for me yet.

You have a project called Grand Hotel which you produced, did you direct as well?

No, I just produced it, but I will be directing if we go to series.

Was it hard to produce it then step back and let someone else take the director’s chair?

Well that’s why we usually pick a collaborative person, and Ken Olin (This Is Us) is an amazing director and was really perfect for this project. He brought so much to this project and I was excited to work with him, observe him, and have him mentor and teach me. He was so amazing and collaborative, and I asked him all of these questions like, “Why would you put the camera here instead of here? Why would you put the lens here instead of here?” I’m super nosy and curious and not scared to ask questions. So just using that opportunity to learn from someone who has been in the industry for a very long time was invaluable.

I think that is why you can do so many things and do them so well because you are so collaborative. I think the most successful people are some of the nicest and most collaborative, and you really show that with everything you do. You launched your eponymous clothing line in 2016. What have you learned from that process as a designer?

Well I’ve been sewing since I was seven, so for me it was a natural extension of what I wanted to do in my life. I love clothing, seams, textiles, and garment construction. It was really exciting, but also a completely different language for me. It’s a totally different industry and I’m not one of those celebrities who’s just like, “Put my name on a label! Look at my shirt!” I really wanted to get into the process, not just design, but everything from sourcing to design to marketing. It’s different press, different events, and the fashion world is its own animal. To jump in and navigate that was definitely challenging but so exciting because it challenged me in a different way then acting, producing or directing.

And I had no idea that you had a Master’s degree in Chicano studies. How did you have the time to get a Master’s degree!?

When I started it I was on Desperate Housewives and we were the #1 show in the world, and I was going to night school… it was crazy. It stressed me out, overwhelmed me, and I didn’t want the news to get to the press in case I didn’t finish. I was just taking classes, but the press found out and I was like, “Great, now I have to finish!” (laughs)

So were you in a private class or being taught with other students?

Yeah I was with other students, but they were graduate courses so they were smaller classes. I was with all these 22 year-olds who were way smarter than me! I’m sure people thought I would be the intimidating one, like a big star coming in, but it was the other way around. I walked in and they were like, “So, the Oedipus theory is applicable to…” and I was like, “Wait? I’m sorry…what is that…?” (laughs)

You know, it is so interesting what your intuition can pull you towards, like when I saw you give your speech at the DNC which was so eloquent and so articulate and smart and thought-provoking and it makes sense because all of those things that you spoke about were so powerful not just to the Latino community but to minorities in general. As an Asian-American, I felt that it connected us all whether going through those experiences or not.

I loved that time of my life because Desperate Housewives had ended and I was focusing all of my time on getting Obama re-elected, and so I spent eight months on the road with him and the campaign. People don’t realize how hard it is to be President because the states are all so different. We are so lucky to live in such a diverse country, but to unite all of those states is such a challenge because of our different needs and values. Just to travel the country and listen to all of these people was such a lesson in and of itself. I encourage it on a global level to reach across our state and country borders to learn about each other. I wish everyone could do what I did and listen to the people and hear their differences, but yet realize that we are all Americans and have that commonality.

We are all human beings and we are all trying to do our best, but we live in a time where people are being specifically targeted. Specifically, the Latin community. When you spoke at the DNC you did not mince words on your stance on immigration, and now we are forced to deal with the attack on DACA, The Dreamers and deportation. It makes me wonder if you have any advice you would give to young people who may be facing this reality?

There are so many things we can do to help The Dreamers who are great citizens, have a lot to contribute, and have been contributing with no criminal history. There are many great organizations, and a lot of progress is done locally on a state level. I know this is a national topic that has been on the administration’s agenda for many many decades, but a lot of these rules, regulations, and policies are on a state level—so figuring out what you can do locally is very important.

What’s interesting to me is that you are so busy and are doing so many things but you are also a huge philanthropist and activist. We are in such an amazing time in our world right now with the Time’s Up Movement and women’s rights being up front and center. What do you think is next for gender equality, and how do we keep pushing forward so justice continues on for future generations?

I think that’s it. We have to keep putting on pressure. There’s the private sector and the public sector, and in the private sector you can hold people accountable and create change in your industry. We started the Time’s Up movement in our industry, but it is not for actors, it is for all women in every industry to make sure men and women have a safe work environment. And something like that should be guaranteed and should be a no-brainer. Everyone should have a safe work environment. That’s when you should approach the problem through many aspects whether it is through legislation like equal pay, a pipeline for leadership from more women, and then there are just so many things we have to work for in the interest of gender equality. There are so many systematic barriers which have been ingrained, subconscious biases that people never see, and just getting our stories out and hearing women’s side is game-changing.

Allowing other people to tell their story and listen and be outraged, and whether you love this person or this actor, it doesn’t matter. People that you love can have dark and disappointing sides, and the line needs to be drawn.

Out of all of the hats you wear—from acting, directing, producing, designing, philanthropy—which do you connect to the most and which gives you the most excitement?

Definitely my family and friends give me the most excitement. You would think it would be my job, but there are so many adventures, so many great things in our life that happen to us, and if you can’t share that with your family and friends then none of it matters!

 

Vest by Maison Martin Margiela, Bottoms by Wolford

Hair by Ken Paves, Makeup by Elan Bongiorno @ Rouge Artists using Tatcha, BTS Video by Lavoisier Clemente, Photo Assistant Amanda Yanez, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production Assistant Benjamin Price, Special Thanks to Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Christina Vu, Kendal Hurley of Ballantines PR, Liza Anderson and Whitney Peterson of Anderson Group PR, Marcel Pariseau of True PR

MATTHEW STONE

Beginning his career with an involvement in numerous counter-cultural movements, and rising to notoriety as a founding member of the South London art collective, !WOWOW!, Artist and Art Shaman Matthew Stone is bringing bodies together through his life-sized digital paintings.


Photography by Wikkie Hermkens | Styling by Sonny Groo | Interview by Ashleigh Kane

In the early 00s, Matthew Stone took the teachings of Andy Warhol’s Factory era and the concept behind Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture and transplanted them to London, where he and a group of friends had just graduated from Camberwell College of Arts. Consciously eschewing the rental market, they founded !WOWOW! and housed it, and themselves, in an abandoned store in South London with a revolving roster of exhibitions, residencies, studios and parties. “When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life”, Stone recalls over the phone from his studio in Hackney, “and I was specifically interested in squatting.” Having grown up with his family in a cottage on a canal in Bath, England with no permanent source of electricity – just a generator which Stone says was often not in use – it’s not hard to understand his draw towards other people. Now 35, content with living alone and much less the party animal he once was, Stone’s work is still crowded with bodies. He contributes to his own series titled “Interconnected Echoes” whereby he interviews the people he admires, has participated in several group as well as solo exhibitions, photographed the cover of FKA Twigs’ M3LL155X album cover, and most recently exhibited his life-sized digital paintings at Somerset House under the title Healing With Wounds.

Here he talks to IRIS Covet Book about connection, spirituality, and shares some invaluable advice for young artists.

Upper World Portrait, 2017

Can you talk about the process in which you make your paintings?

I physically paint and then photograph the strokes individually and create really high-resolution images of each brush stroke. Then I cut them out in Photoshop and use them to texture 3D models that I make of people. I’m working in 3D CGI software and using virtual cameras and lighting setups. Then with a printer, they’re finally printed onto linen with a technique that I developed. I only ever print each once so they live like actual paintings in the sense that there is only one of them.

Why did you want to work in a digital realm?

I didn’t want to make something that was backwards facing. I wanted people to look at them in a way that they look at contemporary imagery, in that they have not seen something else exactly like it before. To look at it with that freshness, with those eyes, and then start thinking about their bodies and each other. For a long time, I wondered whether that was through photography, or pushing photography into sculpture. With this technique, I feel like I’ve nailed the method (laughs) and now I can get on with just making paintings. The majority of the work was developing the technique and there were years when I worked on it without showing anyone any development. I went through waves of development without over-excitedly sharing it with everybody, and that was a big education for me.

One of the reasons that I’ve stopped doing lots of other different things and focused on the paintings is because I’ve realized that I can do everything I need to do within other realms, within this world of painting. Because of the way that I work in 3D virtual space, I can’t help but think of them, when I hang them on the wall, as a window into that space. Increasingly, I’m doing things in life-size so as you look at them, you’re looking into a virtual reality or mixed reality.

The people who appear in the paintings are not based on real people, they are completely invented like avatars that I’ve posed and painted. But those figures have started reappearing through different images, so it’s almost as if I’m investing in these metaphysical beings that live in the world that is my painting.

You came to London from Bath at age 18 and began to study at Camberwell College of Arts. What artists did you admire back then?

I wrote my dissertation on the spiritual content in Andy Warhol’s work and argued that you could read a religious trajectory in his work. Then I came across Joseph Beuys and was really interested in his work from a performative perspective. Through him, I developed these ideas around the artist as Shaman.

Were you always intrigued by spirituality?

My mum was a Catholic and as a result – and as a reaction to that – she was very much like, ‘You are not going to be indoctrinated in any way.’ We were left to work that stuff out on our own. Looking back, I had an interest from a very young age in mysticism; The X Files and UFOs, which I feel were very much of the times.

Can you talk about the out of body experiences that you have had?

They’re not something that I had a ton of but there are some significant ones – and I wish I could go into them at will, but I can also go into altered trance-like states. I used to do a series of performances where I would perform under the stage name “The Art Shaman” and the structure of the performance was that I would get a cover band to play Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones, and I would use the song to enter altered states.

What was the significance of Paint It Black?

Maybe something about the drumming. It has this rhythmic pull. In a sense, me talking about myself as a Shaman stemmed from that period. At that time it was very playful, essentially. But people, other artists, have found it intensely problematic. Someone wanted me to publicly apologize – which is almost as pretentious as me calling myself a Shaman (Laughs).

Why did it bother people?

I think they thought that it shouldn’t be a self-bestowed title. There’s definitely a question about using something like that – like spiritual appropriation – but, for me, the word itself, in its contemporary usage, describes behavioural patterns that are different on every continent and so it doesn’t feel super specific as a term, it feels quite general. I’m not trying to cut into any tradition that I’m not a part of. It’s more in an abstract sense that I’m trying to push the boundaries, or trigger thoughts, about the role of the artists and whether that extends beyond an individual creating expensive objects.

I use it to trigger intellectual debate because increasingly I’m interested in intuitive moments of thinking. There are certain points when I’ve thought – because of explaining it, over and over again – ‘why am I doing this?’ and that maybe I should just say that it was a phase, but I realized that me having said it had its own resonance and power anyway and that I have to live with the consequences of that – whether or not they are uncomfortable. More recently, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit more of a practical and personal practice that relates to it – there’s more humility. But I’m not going to take it off my Instagram account.

After university, !WOWOW! was founded. Did that come about because of situational circumstances or was it planned?

When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life and I was specifically interested in squatting. In college, I was obsessed with reading about Warhol’s Factory and had this idea of collaborative and collective living. I was thinking about Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture, which was the idea of an evolving artwork that was multi-author – it was all of society.

Once we graduated, we were like ‘let’s not pay rent, let’s go and squat!’ and so we started it and invited people in and it spiraled from there. My hope at that time was that people would perceive some of my activities within it as being a kind of living artwork and certainly not one that I’m the only author of. I was really interested in the idea of presenting a network of people as an artwork and I always had a great reticence to concretely transfer that to a gallery – in terms of installing people into a gallery. So yes, it felt like something that was situational in a sense because if you took it out of the environment that it had sprung from, it would become an illustration of it.

Feminine Teachers, 2017

Other People’s Energy, 2017

You mentioned earlier that you want to see if the artist can be more than someone who is just making expensive objects. What do you think the role of the artist is today?

Everyone as an individual has a political responsibility, so obviously, that includes artists. I don’t think my work has ever really been about art or the art world. Obviously, it emerges from the history of art and in lots of ways my work is very much about the history of religious art in terms of the use of the body and flesh, but I feel like my work has always been about interactions between people. Looking at the idea of collaboration over competition. Coexistence and compromise in conflict and how complex networks of power and connection occur. When I was younger I felt like I had the answers for things, but as I go on my thinking changes. Now I know that my thinking will probably change again in the future. I feel, with my work, I’m trying to frame the development of that thinking more than my thinking specifically.

Healing With Wounds featured the Somerset House show titled Utopia. Is utopia something you explore in your work?

I’ve always been interested in the idea of being engaged in developing ideas or using creativity to envision a more just world, but I’ve never claimed to be an activist. Essentially my thinking about optimism and utopias has always been about questioning if these dialogues are useful? Is it better to acknowledge the violence that already exists by making violent work? Or should I, as an artist, focus on promoting visions of a post-violent world? I’ve looked at art and culture that has explicitly been violent and understood it as potentially being part of a critique of violence, but instinctively, I’ve never said, “well I’m going to make violent imagery because that is a way to show people that it’s a bad thing.” I feel uncomfortable thinking in that way and I don’t know if that’s because I’m naive and I can’t deal with reality, or it’s because that type of imagery can be traumatic and does little to destabilise violence.

I go back and forth between thinking about how the power structures unfold in the images I make and how they deal with violence and what they suggest. More recently, I’m realizing that there is a lot of ambiguity in the ways in which you can read the body language of the people in my paintings. That’s quite important because I don’t think the world needs simple illustrations like “violence is bad” because the world is more complex and intelligent than that. If I can create anything where when people look at it and think about what’s happening, then that feels like the more useful contribution. Ultimately, when people look at my work, I want them to feel something and I want them to think about what they feel.

What advice do you have for young people coming up?

I always say, “listen very carefully to the advice that you give others because we verbalize our own insecurities when we criticize other people, when we give them advice.” The other thing is, “pay attention to your own mistakes, they might be the only original ideas you have.”

    Matthew Stone with his dog Beau. Follow Beau @ beauthehound on Instagram 

All art work © Matthew Stone images courtesy of Choi&Lager
For more information visit matthewstone.co.uk

LUKE EDWARD HALL

Charmingly-maximal, Luke Edward Hall’s whimsical take on interiors offers an escape from the mundane white box of minimalism.

Photography by Wikkie Hermkens | Styling by Sonny Groo | Interview by Dustin Mansyur
Full look by Burberry 

Peruse through Luke Edward Hall’s instagram feed, and one will find a story vibrantlylayered in color-clad interiors, candy-colored hues of hand painted ceramics and drawings, and peppered with images documenting the 27-year-old creative’s quixotic travels. Stylishly dandy and tousle-haired, Hall curates a dreamy world as if seen through the most decadent shade of millennial pink lenses. A visit to his North London studio enforces the idea, with it’s bubblegum-painted walls and scatter of colorful tools and materials strewn across his work table. Daring fabric remnants, bouquets of colored pencils and brushes sprout charmingly in a collection of vintage mugs and vases, vintage photographs, magazine clippings, and the occasional tchotchke clutter the artist’s space like a decorated nest. In the center, a spot is cleared away, just big enough to entertain a drawing in progress.

Hall has been dubbed by Vogue.com as the ‘interior design world’s wunderkind’, a hefty seal of approval for a budding artist and designer. With a variety of blue-chip collaborations with companies like Burberry, Drakes, and Stubbs & Wootton already in his portfolio, Hall is positioned thoughtfully for longevity. His idyllic watercolor brush strokes, and gestural, simplified drawings elicit an understanding of the same subtleties of Matisse or Picasso’s more expressionistic works, while an array of products he’s created in-house suggests similar branding sensibilities of such design heavyweights as Jonathan Adler or Kelly Wearstler. The romance exists in the visual language Hall uses to couple his creative vision with commercial potential, resulting in the fanciful prism of his nostalgia inspired work.

Here IRIS Covet Book offers a glimpse into the auspicious world of Luke Edward Hall.

‘Gervase by the Pool’, 2017 (has been sold)

You actually studied menswear at Central Saint Martins before you established your studio in 2015. Your career has really blossomed as an artist, but also as a designer of objects. What influenced your decision, or what shifted your focus, I should say rather, post-graduation, so that you went down this career path as opposed to choosing to stay in men’s wear design?

I always had an interest in antiques and interiors as well as fashion. While I was studying menswear, I was also selling antiques online. When I graduated I met an interior designer in London, whose style I really admired. So I ended up going to work for him, and that’s how I got more involved with interiors. It wasn’t something that I decided, it happened quite naturally.

Then what helped you to make the decision to venture out on your own after working with that architect that you mentioned?

I always knew that I wanted to have my own thing. When I was working full time, I started designing fabrics. I began putting more work up online, and I started doing much more drawing. Then, eventually, I got a few commissions — enough that allowed me to set my own thing up. I worked quite hard to get my work out there, so that I could be able to go out on my own.

What avenues did you pursue to increase your exposure?

Obviously, I’ve had a lot of work up on Instagram from the beginning. But, early on, I started making products like cushions, fabrics, and prints of my work. I had a lot of product that I could sell. I just tried to make sure that I had my work out there as much as I could. Eventually it began being published in magazines.

Do you do all of your fabrics in-house or are you licensing your designs through a fabric company?

It’s full-time in-house. Coming from a fashion and interiors background, I always appreciated good fabric. After I sketch up the design, I’ll print them out and work with a factory to produce them in very small runs to be used in my cushions and other products.

Can you describe what your studio’s like? Do you share space with others? What is it like when you are there?

I work with my friends in an art gallery where I have a space in the back. It’s really nice because it’s very close to where I live, five minutes away. I have this corner of a room that I’ve painted pink. It’s where I work on all of my projects.

What’s a typical day in the workroom like for you?

I go in every day because there are lots of new things happening. I always have meetings and a variety of projects to work on. Sometimes I’m working on foreign accounts, sometimes I’m drawing, other times I’m painting pottery or sourcing fabrics.

Voluta and Luca Cushion by Luke Edward Hall

You describe your aesthetic as being informed by a love of history, an appreciation of beauty, and a sense of playfulness. Do you have any specific historical influences that you find inspiring from which you pull inspiration?

I draw inspiration from history because often I’m inspired by the stories. I love looking back at ancient Greek myths and legends, also English folklore. I love reading about times in history, like the 1920s and ‘30s, especially in London. I’m quite nostalgic.

Your work is very sophisticated. How do you draw the line between playfulness and something that’s considered kitsch?

The thing is, I do like a little bit of kitsch, but I don’t want what I do to be so gaudy and outrageously mad that it becomes off-putting. I think you can be playful with color and print without sacrificing elegance and sophistication, which is a nice balance for interiors. I love playing with tradition or history, and trying to achieve the balance of pairing something very old with something very new. Curating the right pieces together is always a fun process.

I feel like today people consider minimalism and modern design as being somewhat synonymous, especially when we’re talking about interior spaces. Your approach is anything but minimal and yet reads as modern. Do you think there is a shift in the consumer market towards a more “decorated” approach?

There’s a general shift toward people being more interested in a more maximal approach, which I think there’s lots of reasons for that. Like with fashion, things come in cycles. I don’t really think of my lifestyle as maximal…it’s more that I just like being surrounded by my “stuff ”. I like having lots of color and pattern, and that look is typically classified as maximalism. The thing with maximalism in the interiors I like, is that it offers a little bit of a fantasy. I guess that’s why I look at the past, as well. I like the idea of creating something magical into which you can escape. The world we live in at the moment is quite grim at times. I think that’s partly why more people are taking to this trend because perhaps they need an escape from the everyday as opposed to living in a white box.

Based on your Instagram, it appears as though you travel a great deal. Is it a source of inspiration as well?

Travel is a huge source of inspiration. Italy is a really inspiring place for me to visit and work; I go there a lot and bring inspiration back. I always feel refreshed after going to the countryside in England because I find the city to be quite intense. Travel for me is just as important as my studio days. When I travel, I end up working every day, and always get re-inspired by the many things I come across.

You’ve collaborated with so many high profile companies already across several different luxury consumer markets, Burberry, Drakes, Christie’s, Stubbs and Wootton, and even Samsung, what have been some of your favorite collaborations to work on and why?

They’ve all been great for their own reasons. I only collaborate when it feels like the right fit. It has to be something that I feel really passionate about and connected with. Burberry is an amazing company to collaborate with because their reach is worldwide. It was very exciting when that opportunity happened. I also have always loved Stubbs and Wootton, so it was really fun to work with them to turn my drawings into embroideries for their slippers. Drakes was also a great collaboration that gave me the opportunity to see my drawings on silk for ties and scarves. It’s a great experience working with other people when they do something really well. It allows me to add my touch to it, and we come together and create something beautiful.

Luke Edward Hall x The Store ‘Face Bowl’ (available from The Store x Soho House Berlin and The Store x Soho Farmhouse)

Vases From Left: Lemons, 2016, Flower Prince, 2017 (Personal Collection)

You’re working on many different projects that span different disciplines, do you do all the your own business development or do you work with an agent?

It’s sort of a mixture. I don’t employ anyone. I just work by myself. I have an agent for Europe and they get me more illustration jobs. Most of the work comes to me, though. If the project involves working with a bigger company, I may hire someone short-term if needed, and I have relationships with vendors to produce what needs to be done.

I feel like drawing, itself, is such pure, analog art form. Now, we’re living in a post-digital world, all connected to a screen, advertising ourselves online on whatever platform we can. Do you think that social media and the Internet are simply just an extension of the artist’s tool kit?

I don’t think everyone has to engage in social media. I completely appreciate the people being like, “Oh, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing Instagram,” and that’s totally fine. For me, I like having a visual diary to see and process what I’m working on. I’ve always liked working on blogs and documenting what I’m doing. I’ve received lots of work through Instagram. When I got my first big job, which was for the Parker Palm Springs, it came from Instagram. So I owe a lot to it really, because it’s helped me. If you don’t need it, fine, but it can definitely be a great tool. If you can get greater exposure, then I think, why not make the most of it?

Warhol said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” You have an ecommerce portal on your website, you also have 1stDibs shop, and you did a pop-up shop last year. I’m curious what entrepreneurship means to you. How do you maintain the balance between art and commerce, being commercial without sacrificing your vision?

I’ve always been fascinated by retail. And while I like drawing and painting, I also like making products. When I first started selling antiques online, I’d go buy old antiques and restore them for resale on 1stDibs. I love graphic design and the process of branding things, so creating a variety of products with my artwork was natural. Now, I’m thinking about doing a little exhibition next year, so I’m setting aside time to work on those pieces. Maybe people think, “Oh, well, you’re not a real artist, you’re more of a designer.” I don’t really mind what label I’ve got. I think you can have all of these worlds that fit together, and I quite enjoy doing it.

I saw images online of your pop-up shop. Do you ever think you’ll venture into doing a little shop, a flagship store, for all your creations to live within?

At some point, I will probably do some shop type of thing. The thing is that at the moment I’m doing one-off pieces. I almost went down the route doing more products, but I’m now fixating more on hand-made ceramics, which are hand-painted and all one-off pieces. During the holiday season, I make more pieces and products for online and pop-ups. Right now my focus is on projects like the exhibition next year, which is going to be drawings, prints, and ceramics.

Do you have any advice that you might give to a young person considering to choose this as a career path?

Make sure you feel it pulling your heart; be brave. Go for it and believe in yourself. When something is completely yours, I think people always pick up on that. So do what makes you happy, because that’s what people respond to. You need to couple that with being on it as a business, thinking about social media, and having a bit of a strategy to give you direction. I do think you do need to have both sides – a creative side and a business side – in order to make it a success.

You’ve worked on many of amazing projects and I’m sure you only want more, but what do you envision for yourself in your future?

That’s the thing. I don’t actually have a plan. I’ve got so many exciting stuff happening, like the exhibition next year, and I’m going to carry on doing more interior projects. I’ve only been doing it for two years by myself so there’s still a lot that I want to do. I’d love to do a book and I like the idea you have, maybe, opening some sort of showroom. But for now I’m also just playing it by ear. I’m happy to just let things happen.For more information visit lukeedwardhall.com

TATJANA PATITZ


Dress by Lana Mueller

Known as one of the original supermodels and fashion icons, Tatjana Patitz takes on a trip through the dreamy, psychedelic landscape of a deserted beach.

Photography by Djeneba Aduayom | Styling by Sarah Toshiko West | Model Tatjana Patitz @ New York Models


Sweater by Issey Miyake

 


Coat by Versace and Dress by Lana Mueller

 


Dress by Lana Mueller, Earrings by Lucky Brand

 


Jumpsuit by Julia Clancey

 


Turtleneck by Jil Sander, Dress by Peggy Hartano

 


Dress by Prada

 

Dress by Julia Clancey

 

Coat by Missoni, Dress by House of CB

 


Dress by Aya By DK, Skirt by Jil Sander

 

Hair by Preston Wada using Kevin Murphy, Makeup by Amy Clarke using skincare by Patyka, makeup by Vapour Beauty, Art Direction by David Moran, Stylist Assistants Taylor Murray and Andrew Earley, Production Assistant Tommy Johnson

AI WEIWEI

Ai Weiwei’s fight for the human rights of others has meant that his own have been jeopardized. Creating work that is both dangerously loud and quietly considered, the artist-activist is a true revolutionary of his time. By using the internet as his soapbox, he has become a global figure for those without a voice.

Portrait Photography by Zachary Bako
Essay by Ashleigh Kane

“I consider myself more of a chess player. My opponent makes a move. I make a move. Now I’m waiting for my opponent to make the next move.”

This is how Ai Weiwei responded in Never Sorry, the 2012 documentary about his life, when asked how he would describe himself. Aside from a chess player, Weiwei has been called many things; artist, curator, filmmaker, activist, philosophist. Also dissident and criminal. While the Chinese government has gone to extreme measures to stop Weiwei raising his voice, his fellow Chinese people have heralded him as a figure of worship. As have many of us in the wider world. Technically into his third decade as an artist, Weiwei’s art became increasingly reactionary and prevalent ten years ago, after he launched a citizen’s investigation into the devastating 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.

The tragedy pushed his frustrations with China’s oppression, surveillance, and lack of transparency to a boiling point, and he began to create works that questioned the mechanics of the country he called home. Weiwei also found the tension between old and new China fascinating, and the ways in which it denied the advancements of the Western world, particularly the internet – a realm which he has wholeheartedly embraced, and, in turn, has embraced him. Since relocating to Germany in 2015, Weiwei has become most recognised for his work with the ongoing refugee crisis. Seeing no distinction between the artist and the activist, earlier this year he told CBS, “I think artist and activist is the same thing. As artist, you always have to be an activist.” When pressed by the interviewer whether one had to be political to be a good artist, he responded, “I think every art, if it’s relevant, is political.”

A self-described “natural outsider”, the seeds of Weiwei’s rebellion were planted by his father, the famous poet, denounced traitor and accused ‘rightest’, Ai Qing. Shortly after Weiwei was born in 1957, Qing, along with his family, was exiled to Heilongjiang, followed by Xinjiang. In 1976, at the end of the Cultural Revolution, the family was allowed to return to Beijing. But Weiwei’s growing fascination with art led him to leave his home in 1981 for New York where he attended Parsons School of Design. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp – who said anything can be art – and Joseph Beuys – who said anyone can be an artist – Weiwei’s only art show in New York, Old Shoes, Safe Sex, was held at Art Waves gallery in 1988 and featured a series of readymades, such as a trenchcoat with a hole and a condom attached (Safe Sex, 1986). In 1993, his father’s incurable illness brought him back to China, after 12 years abroad. Bringing with him the lessons of the artists he’d come to admire.

Above: Sunflower Seeds (5 tons) Installation: Mary Boone Gallery, 541 West 24 Street, New York, January 2012

 Tree with The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca wallpaper Installation: Mary Boone Gallery, 541 West 24 Street, New York, November 2016.

At home, Weiwei submerged himself in the underground art scene by creating a series of publications which profiled American artists such as Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, as well as contemporary Chinese artists. Described as “a free space” where “you could write anything”, “Black Cover” (1994), “White Cover” (1995) and “Gray Cover” (1997), were only available through word-of-mouth. In 2000, Weiwei was included in Feng Boyi’s exhibition, FUCK OFF – an alternative to the Shanghai Biennale. The show debuted his series, “Study of Perspective” (1995-2010), alongside “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” (1995). The latter an early documentation of Weiwei’s growing penchant for smashing or modifying Chinese antiques, and one he would continue throughout his career. Such as “Neolithic Vase and Coca-Cola Logo” (2010), which crosses capitalism with a classic cultural relic.

In 2003, Weiwei began work on the Bird’s Nest, the stadium for Beijing’s 2008 Olympics. But after seeing the impact of the event’s looming arrival on local homes and businesses, he became critical of it. In 2008, he was the first prominent Chinese person to oppose the games when he published an article on The Guardian, titled, “Why I’ll stay away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics”. Three months later, the Sichuan Earthquake struck, killing 70,000 people – 5,000 of them children. Devastated by the government’s refusal to release the death toll, Weiwei and his volunteers collected the names and birthdays of all the children who perished and published them on his blog on the tragedy’s one-year anniversary. Authorities shut down the platform, but Weiwei found a way to subvert the Great Firewall (of China) – he joined Twitter.

It would be a disservice to Weiwei to think all of his work is overt middle-finger-up, in-your-face art-activism. His 2010 installation, “Sunflower Seeds” (2008), at London’s Tate Modern, which included 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds and covered 1000 square meters with a depth of 10cm, shows a more considered side to the artist. The piece, which took two-and-a-half years to create, is a nod to China’s conformity and censorship. At a distance, the seeds all look the same, but on closer inspection, viewers will find signs of individuality. “Tree” (2010) is another work that peacefully pushes Weiwei’s message. The sculpture is made up of different species of trees. It pays homage market vendors who sell branches, roots and tree trunks as decorative items to be displayed in homes, but a more complex political reading symbolizes the rapid urbanization and economic growth of China.

Below: Neolithic Vase with CocaCola Logo, 2010

Surveillance Camera and Plinth, 2015

Despite this, no matter the volume of Weiwei’s messaging, his refusal to cease making work about his home country led to the Chinese authorities detaining him on 3 April 2011 for 81 days. Initially reported as missing – news which sparked a worldwide #FreeWeiwei campaign – authorities claimed they had arrested the artist on suspicion of tax evasion. While he was never charged or convicted of a crime, Weiwei’s passport was confiscated for four years and he was banned from leaving the Beijing for one year. After his release, Chinese authorities installed at least 15 cameras outside of Weiwei’s Beijing studio. He retaliated by launching “WeiweiCam”, a self-surveillance project which live streamed from within his own house. Later, he would create “Surveillance Camera and Plinth” (2015), a marble reincarnation of the CCTV cameras.

With the return of his passport in 2015, Weiwei relocated to Germany. Initially unsure what his purpose would be in a foreign country, he quickly found his cause; the refugee crisis. Weiwei set to work creating 70 meter sculptures from inflatable life boats (“Law of the Journey”, 2017) and building 100 fences and to be displayed in New York (“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”, 2017). He even set up a studio on the Greek island of Lesbos to facilitate his increased artistic output. More recently, Weiwei premiered Human Flow, a documentary which put a face to a crisis which has seen more than 65 million people flee their homes after famine, war and climate change claimed their safety.

Even as one of the most recognisable artists in the world, Weiwei continues to place other people’s fight for freedom above his own safety. Like all true revolutionaries of their eras, many have tried to quell his voice and his spirit, only for him to show that no matter how many people, or governments, want to silence him, Weiwei’s voice will only get louder.

All artwork courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery New York
For more information visit aiweiwei.com | maryboonegallery.com

 

TARAJI P. HENSON

Taraji P. Henson and Pam Grier talk shop on their shared experiences playing formidable roles for women of color, executing death-defying stunts, and uniting women in entertainment.


Dress by Alexandre Vauthier, Hat by Eric Javits, Stay-Up Tights by Falke, Shoes by Aquazzura
Interview by Pam Grier | Photography by Alexander Saladrigas @ Cerutti and Co | Styling by Ron Hartleben

Taraji P. Henson is a typhoon of energy when she arrives curbside at the Plaza Hotel for her cover shoot. With an entourage in tow, Henson’s seven-day work weeks are the new normal for an actor in such high demand. Rising to fame years ago with her Academy Award nomination for her lauded role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Henson proved with her talent and tenacity that she had staying power. Now, beloved by Empire fans as the one-and-only Cookie Lyon, Henson’s take on the badass-boss-queen character earned her a Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice Award, and two Emmy nominations, as well as fashion-cred from her fans for her character’s memorable high-drama designer looks. Gaining international recognition and several awards and nominations for her role as NASA scientist Katherine Johnson in the historical drama Hidden Figures, it’s evident that Taraji brings a range and depth to her characters that incites a devoted audience, and garners accolades of esteem from an industry that has an infamous history of shortchanging roles for women of color.

After years of working odd jobs as a Pentagon secretary and a singing waitress while completing her degree at Howard University, Taraji moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. With her young son Marcell accompanying her, Taraji juggled being a mother while working as many roles as she could – a work ethic she refuses to shake to this day. Through her years in Hollywood, Henson has grown a thick skin and learned to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of show business, building off of the foundation laid by the women who came before her, and adding her contribution to the empowerment of women in entertainment. Dressed to kill in the upcoming action thriller, Proud Mary, as a hired hit-woman, Taraji chooses yet another career-defining role, pushing the envelope while balancing the razor wire between her signature bulletproof strength and intrepid vulnerability – something she’s managed to turn into a touchstone of her work.

One pioneering actress who helped pave the way for women of color in entertainment is legendary cultural symbol, Pam Grier, known for her iconic roles in Foxy Brown; Coffy; Sheba, Baby; and Jackie Brown. Here she interviews the newest face of black female action stars: Taraji P. Henson, for an IRIS Covet Book exclusive.


Jacket by Michael Kors Collection, Jewelry by Marc Jacobs, Stay-Up by Wolford

Coat by Landlord, Bra, garter and underwear are Vintage Christian Dior at My Haute Wardrobe, Stay-Up Tights by Wolford, Shoes by Manolo Blahnik

 

Taraji, how are you? Girl, congratulations I am so happy for you! I can’t wait to see Proud Mary.

Thank you, thank you! I can’t wait to see it either–we’ve just finished shooting.

Well, the trailers look fantastic! And to see that 50 years later is overwhelming because I was out there by myself, I was just trying to show an example of our culture, our black women, who we are. This is who we are. Nothing can stop you. You have wings, spread them.

Yes, ma’am.

When you won your Golden Globe for playing the role of Cookie Lyon on Empire, girl, I think I screamed louder than you! What does Cookie mean to you? How much do you identify with Cookie’s character?

I think what I have in common with Cookie is her fight; you’ve got to fight to be in this business, especially as a woman, and a woman of color. You’re always fighting. So, I think I have that in common with her for sure. The mother lion… I identify with how protective she is of her family. I identify with how protective she is of her family. I identify with what she will do for her family, the great lengths she will go for her family. Cookie chose to go to jail to save her boys from becoming a statistic in the hood. She didn’t want them selling crack like she did. She sacrificed her freedom for her family. Now, I don’t know if I would sell drugs for my family. That side of Cookie, I have to find another way to hustle! (laughs).

At the same time, I grew up in the hood. I grew up in the ‘80s, and I remember when crack was dropped off in the hood, so I can understand her thinking. Your [tax] refund, your McDonald’s income, or working at the grocery store as a clerk are not going to do it. So I understand your back being pushed up against the wall and that’s all you’ve got; I get it. But growing up in the hood, I saw all my friends who chose that path, and well…I couldn’t. That life was not enough for me, I needed more. I chose to go the tough route.

That’s where Cookie and I are different. I had friends in the drug gang, but I chose not to be. I chose to work doing data entry at 16-years-old making $4 an hour. I didn’t want to risk my freedom because I had things to do, and I knew there were other ways to be successful. There are other ways to accomplish your dreams. But I still understand her, that’s why I didn’t judge her. As an actor, you can’t judge. At first, she scared the hell out of me. I was like, “Oh my God, this character is crazy. The viewers are going to hate me. Black people are going to be like, ‘Why did you make us look like this?’” And then, you know, I peeled back the layers and found her truth. I thought if I play her truth then the audience will empathize with her, they will understand her, and they will understand why she made the choices she made.

And now you’ve got the support and they are moved, touched, and rooting for you! Sometimes as we work, there’s so much going on from scene to scene that the audience doesn’t get a chance to really absorb or savor all of those elements that you just described as the actor.

And especially on TV. I mean, you have to follow the series because you only have 43 minutes to tell a story. The beautiful thing about TV is that you get to watch each episode through the series and track the character’s journey and struggle. If I feel like I can’t bring the truth to a character, then it’s not the job for me. I’m not the only actress on this planet. There’s enough work for all of us. (laughs)

That was my philosophy as well! It’s a beautiful platform to have. When I would be working on a project and I would be sent scripts, sometimes I’d say, “You know who’s good for this? Vonetta McGee. Send this to her.” We always shared, and there weren’t that many movie roles.

I also wanted to welcome you to the “Action Woman’s Club!” You’ve got to tell me about Proud Mary, who she is, and the challenges you faced playing her. Now this looks like you’re going to take some blood!

Mary’s a different character for me. I played a killer before, but she was an ex-army sniper. Mary struck a chord in me because she’s a woman and she is a hired killer. She gets paid to kill. That was interesting to me because that’s usually something men do. We’re emotional creatures; we feel. I wanted to explore that side. The beautiful thing about Mary is you’re meeting her at a crossroad. The audience is meeting her where she wants something else for her life. She has never felt maternal, and all of a sudden she meets this kid through whom she sees herself. She sees a chance to not only save herself, but save this kid from the same life she’s had.

Mary was an orphan and she was found by Danny Glover’s character who is a big mob boss. She just was, instinctively, a good killer. I think people are going to want to see this movie because Mary is different, they’ve never seen a serious female black killer. She is a real, straight up, all-about-her-business hit woman. It’s not funny, it’s not jokey, there is no wink-wink on the side. It is very serious, like when you see Liam Neeson or Tom Cruise. You’ve seen white women do it on this level, but you have never seen a black woman in this light.

No, because black women have been so invisible, but not now, not today. I hear you like to take on roles that scare you, why is that?

I know right away that it’s going to be a challenge. I don’t want anything easy. Those are the roles I look for because, in those roles, I will grow. That means it’s going to stretch me. That means, Oh I’ve never done this before. I’ve never tapped into this emotional shit, how do I get there? Proud Mary scared the hell out of me. I’ve never done action before in my life. I wasn’t used to being as physical. If I had it all to do again, I wish we had had more time to train. The great thing about it is, we did reshoot to make it even better because that’s how much the studio believes in this film. I worked seven days a week like a crazy woman to get it right. When we went back to reshoot, the stunt coordinator was really blown away. He was like, I can’t believe you caught on that fast, and I was like, Imagine if we had three weeks to train!


Jumpsuit by Dundas, Boa by Helmut Lang, Earring by Erickson Beamon, Shoes by Aquazzura

 


Clothing and Shoes by Alexander Wang


What was the research you had to do to play a character who kills?

I came across this guy called The Iceman and I can’t let him go. He was a very handsome man. I forget where he operated out of… New York maybe? But what I found so interesting about him was that he had a family. This man had a family! He had two beautiful daughters and a wife, and he was a hitman. He would go home to his family and they did not know what he did. Finally, he got caught.

I watched his interviews to research the role and psychology. There was a charm about him. He was dangerously charming, and I found myself thinking he was handsome…this is a man who kills people. So, then I thought, Wow, what do you turn on and off inside you to just go out and kill people, and then go back home to your family like nothing ever happened? But Mary is a woman, so how do I make this make sense? Is she void of her feelings and then all of a sudden it changes? It was just a lot of things that I had to explore, and I think after awhile it just became too much, too much blood on her hands. Where is my retirement? You know? When do I get to kick up and get my pedicure, my manicure and live a normal life? You know, everybody wants to retire at some point; I don’t care what you do.

Were there any challenging stunts?

I was shooting a MP5 rifle and you have to smack the trigger to make it look cool on camera. They kept saying, Karate chop it. Well, thank you because now I have blood blisters on my hands! I threw my shoulder out when I had to do this stunt where I had to swing that rifle around with one arm. That’s a heavy rifle! In another stunt, I had to throw a guy over my back. I bit my lip. I got smacked in the head with the magazine of my partner’s rifle. I have bruises. These are the things people don’t realize when they see it on the screen, it’s, Oh that was incredible! No one really understands that you’re risking your life in it. If you’re tired, if you’re fatigued, you make the wrong step, you could really hurt yourself.

Oh yes, I’ve gotten many bruises and scrapes too. Often people couldn’t believe I was a lead that held a gun, that I played a character that could actually take a life and defend my family and myself. They were so shocked, and that realm created the audience for a woman in action films.

Now, I know you’re about to star in the upcoming movie, Best of Enemies. Tell me about playing the real life civil rights leader, Ann Atwater, and her association with the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

This movie is about how love can conquer hate. Ann Atwater was a poor woman; so was Claiborne Paul Ellis, the Ku Klux Klan character that Sam Rockwell plays. They were both poor, living in a poor neighborhood. The school where the black children attended burned down, so the children had to integrate into the white school. Well, of course, the white people of the town had an issue with that because there was a heavy Ku Klux Klan influence. The councilmen and a lawyer from the North had to step in to come to some kind of agreement for these kids.

Through this process, things were very hateful and scary. People’s lives were threatened. It wasn’t easy back then trying to mix the races, but Ann was boisterous; she didn’t care. She spent her entire life in poverty, but she fought for those people just like her. She was very loud about it; you could hear her before you see her. So, she and Claiborne developed a friendship through this tumultuous time and he ended up denouncing the KKK. They were the best of friends; their story is beautiful and I can’t wait until it comes out.

To play Ann Atwater, I had to totally change the way I look. I wore a fat-suit because we don’t look anything alike. I remember the paparazzi came on set one day. They saw a light skin woman with hair slick and styled, and they thought that was me. But Ann Atwater had a short afro and I had darkened my skin because she’s a little darker. So, they didn’t spot me. So, when it came out in the local newspaper, that Taraji P. Henson was in town filming her movie, the picture wasn’t of me and I was so happy because I didn’t want those images floating around yet. It would have been like they kind of gave us away before the movie poster had been released. You’re not going to believe who you’re looking at when you see me.

That’s a part of our craft that we so cherish, our transformations into our characters. I gained weight for mine, cut my hair, shaved off my eyebrows, but it’s part of the work. You want to become that character because you’re not going to be able to redo it or reshoot it, and it’s going into the future. Oh, a historical political story of love, I can’t wait for that one! Do you have a motto or philosophy that you live your life by?

Treat others the way that you will have them treat you. It’s got me a long way in life. You are kind to me, I’ll be kind to you because that’s what I want from you.

There you go! I guess most people attempt to live their life by how they treat someone because it comes back to you.

It’s called karma, and I believe in it. I have great karma around me because I give good karma. I’m just love, love, love.

And you know what, when you have great karma, great roles come to you, great people, great situations, because I do believe in the law of attraction.

Absolutely, me too.

You know, recently there has been a lot of press exposing the reality of treatment of women in Hollywood/entertainment. Tell me about your thoughts on women supporting women in the industry.

Well, I’ve always been a big supporter of women, even before I got into the industry. I just think overall that that needs to be the narrative. Not just in the industry, but in the world, because art imitates life. If we’re artists, then we need to be setting examples for the world. That’s how I was raised, that’s all I know.

My mother was one of five sisters, so I grew up watching sisterhood. I’m real tight with all of my cousins. We never snitched on each other. We all got in trouble together, and we all went down together. We learned that from our mothers, watching them and how close they are. So, of course I’m going to be like that with other women. I don’t understand hating another woman.

We go through so much as women. Why am I, another woman, going to add to the stresses that women already have? Why would I do that?

Yeah, why tear each other down competitively? We should be supporting each other as women.

Yeah, why would you want to be that selfish? God didn’t make you the only human. He certainly didn’t make you the only female and he certainly didn’t make you the only female actor. How can I learn if I don’t have my counterpart’s work to watch? You know what I mean? I’m so happy with what’s happening right now in the industry. All of my friends are working. All of them.

Yes, and working at various levels, not only as actors but, you know, writers, producers, directors, costume designers. It’s all across the board in so many ways, and each door that they open, 100 follow.

That’s true.

What advice would you give to young women coming to Hollywood?

Be very clear and know why you’re coming to Hollywood. Whatever that dream is, don’t let anyone deter you. Keep focused on your bigger picture, stay in your lane, do not compare yourself, put in the work, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and don’t take no shit!

Absolutely! Don’t take no shit!


Jacket, Bodysuit, and Skirt Vintage Gianni Versace at My Haute Wardrobe, Tights by Wolford, Shoes by Christian Louboutin

Hair by Tym Wallace @ Master Mind Artist Management, Makeup by Ashunta Sheriff @ The Montgomery Group for Ashunta Sheriff Beauty, Manicure by Honey @ Exposure NY using Debrorah Lippman, BTS Video DP Francis Chen, Photography Assistants Diego Bendezu and Casanova Cabrera, Stylist Assistant Clair Tang, Production Assistant Benjamin Price, Special Thanks to The Plaza Hotel and Pamela Sharp of Sharp & Associates.