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

 

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

Foreword by Nat King Cole’s daughters: 

Casey Cole and Timolin Cole
Introduction by Johnny Mathis

Additional contributors:  Quincy Jones and Leslie Uggams.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Where does the title Stardust come from? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the author (2021)

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

TÉ TIME WITH ANDREKZA

Bow top by Morphine / Gloves via PR Solo

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

SINGER SONGWRITER PETITE MELLER

 

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

 

Interview by Jacquie Trevizo

 

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

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

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

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

What inspirations will we pick up from your new album?

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

I call it Ork-pop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe your fashion style? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petite Meller from Jacqueline L Trevizo on Vimeo.

Photo & Video – Marina Moshkovich @moshkovich.marina

Makeup – Moran Eilat Yanko @moranko_makeup

Hair – Avishay Masty @avishay_masty

Styling: Jacquie Trevizo @jacquietrevizo

Editing – Valeria Zaitseva @yoma_film

DEATHBYROMY BY JOSEF JASSO

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

DeathByRomy

Photographer + Creative Direction Josef Jasso

Styling + Creative Direction Adrian Joseph

Style Assistant Carlos Posadas

Makeup director Nicky Andrea

Hair Stylist Ana Estela

Interview by Izabel Rose

Weird Brain Creation pvc plaid look, Boots by Dolls Kill

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

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

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

Where do you pull your musical inspirations from? 

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

Describe the creative process behind your music? 

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

How would you describe your fashion aesthetic? 

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

From the editorial shoot, which are your favorite designs?

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

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

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

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

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

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

What’s to come from DeathbyRomy?

More music, and infinitely more life.

Queen of hearts dress by Helen Anthony, Jewelry by Couturtore

COVER STORY: ORVILLE PECK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOUND – MAJORLILKWEEN – EXCLUSIVE MUSIC VIDEO RELEASE

Director: Alexandra Elizabeth (@alexelizabethljadov) | Director of Photography: Samuel Levine (@sammy.august) | VHS: Silver (@silvernyc) | Producer: Julia Banas (@banasjulia) | Art Direction: Julia Banas & Alexandra Elizabeth | Editor: Alexandra Elizabeth & Andy Lincoln (@andyestonia) | Music: Majorlilkween (@majorlilkween) ft. Hadar Adora | Stylist: Liz Rundbaken (@iseelizrund) | Stylist Assistant: Drew Harris (@kingdrewharris) | Make Up: Ayaka Nihei using MAC Cosmetics, @ayaka_nihei | Hair: Takuya Yamaguchi (@tak8133)

Cast: Alexandra Elizabeth (@alexelizabethljadov), Alana Terumi (@meru_turao), Bridget Hearst (@bridgethearst), Danusia G (@beingsilver), Teresa J (@teresacarollynn)

Top, Hat, Skirt, and Shoes: Gucci | Gloves and Socks: Vex | Ring : Laruicci 

Photographer: Enmi Yang (@__enmi) | Stylist: Liz Rundbaken (@iseelizrund) | Stylist Assistant: Drew Harris (@kingdrewharris) | Make Up: Ayaka Nihei using MAC Cosmetics, @ayaka_nihei | Hair: Takuya Yamaguchi (@tak8133)

Models: Alexandra Elizabeth (@alexelizabethljadov), Alana Terumi (@meru_turao), Bridget Hearst (@bridgethearst), Danusia G (@beingsilver), Teresa J (@teresacarollynn)

Jacket and Skirt: MSGM | Top: Alon Livné |Boots: Daniel Silverstain | Top necklace (choker): Laruicci | Bottom Necklace: Stylist’s own

Jacket and Skirt: MSGM | Top: Alon Livné | Boots: Daniel Silverstain | Top necklace (choker): Laruicci | Bottom Necklace: Stylist’s own

Dress: MSGM | Belt: Arthur Arbesser | Gloves: Alon Livné | Top and Socks: Vex | Shoes: Gucci

Sunglasses: Bonnie Clyde | Earrings: Laruicci  |Top: Vex

Suit: Claudia Li | Earrings: Laruicci | Top: Vex | Shoes: HAVVA

Suit: MSGM | Leggings: Versus Versace | Necklace: Laruicci | Bodysuit: This Is a Love Song | Shoes: HAVVA

Bridget–Sunglasses: Westward Leaning | Turtleneck: Arthur Arbesser | Suit: Vintage YSL | Gloves: Alon Livné

Danusia–Hat and Top: Vex | Suit: Topshop | Earrings: Laruicci

Teresa – Jacket, Bralette, and Pants: Milly | Top: Alon Livné | Sunglasses: (no label) Slim Cat EyeRetro Women’s Sunglasses

Danusia – Hat and Bra: Vex | Suit: Topshop | Earrings: Laruicci

Terumi – Suit: Roberto Cavalli | Shirt: Vex | Earrings: Valen & Jette

Bridget – Suit: Topshop | Necklace: Laruicci | Top: Vex | Sunglasses: Bonnie Clyde “Layer Cake”

Terumi – Suit: MSGM | Necklace: Laruicci | Bodysuit: This Is a Love Song

Teresa – Jacket: MSGM | Top: Alon Livné | Skirt: MSGM | Top necklace (choker): Laruicci | Bottom Necklace: Stylist’s own

Teresa – Jacket, Bralette, and Pants: Milly | Top: Alon Livné | Sunglasses: (no label) Slim Cat EyeRetro Women’s Sunglasses

Danusia – Hat and Bra: Vex | Suit: Topshop | Earrings: Laruicci

Terumi – Suit: Roberto Cavalli | Shirt: Vex | Earrings: Valen & Jette

Bridget – Suit: Topshop | Necklace: Laruicci | Top: Vex | Sunglasses: Bonnie Clyde “Layer Cake”

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

HARRY STYLES RELEASES NEW SINGLE “KIWI”

Harry Styles has released the music video for his new single “Kiwi.” Directed by acclaimed duo Us (Chris Barrett and Luke Taylor), the video was shot in the UK and features young breakout actress Beau Gadsdon (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

Harry Styles released his first piece of solo music with his self-titled debut album Harry Styles in May 2017. The 10-track album features the platinum single “Sign of the Times,” and current single “Kiwi.” The album made history in the U.S. with the biggest debut sales week for a U.K. male artist’s first full-length album since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991, topping official charts at #1 in more than 55 countries. Following the album’s release, Styles made his acting debut in Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed film “Dunkirk” in July 2017. “Dunkirk” topped the US box office in its first weekend and was one of the top grossing films of the summerrounding off an incredible year for Styles as the first British artist with a #1 debut single, album and film in the same year. Styles is currently on his sold-out Fall 2017 world tour, Harry Styles Live on Tour, which kicked off with intimate venues and will expand to arenas in 2018.
 
For more information, visit: http://hstyles.co.uk/

HARRY STYLES SHARES LIVE PERFORMANCE VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “TWO GHOSTS”

Harry Styles shares a live performance video for his new single “Two Ghosts” 

The clip first premiered as part of “Harry Styles: Behind the Album,” a documentary film by production company Fullwell 73 that was released only on Apple Music. The documentary chronicles Harry’s musical journey while creating his much anticipated debut solo album, features exclusive interviews and behind the scenes footage, and is complemented by Harry and his band performing songs from it for the first time at the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London.


“Two Ghosts” is one of 10 performances to be included on the forthcoming “Behind The Album: The Performances” film. Coming soon. Only on Apple Music.


The first leg of
Harry Styles Live On Tour, which sold out in record time, will kick off next month visiting intimate venues around the world and will feature support from MUNA. The tour will expand to arenas in 2018.

BLONDIE

On the brink of a summer tour promoting the release of her 11th studio album with Blondie, the punk/new-wave/rock goddess, Debbie Harry,
shows no signs of slowing down.

Blazer by Vivienne Westwood | Fox Fur Leopard Print Boa by Georgine | Sunglasses by Le Specs Luxe

Photography by Nicolas Kern | Styling by Britt McCamey | Interview by Roger Padilha

Ever since she injected New York City’s ground-breaking, underground music scene with her infectious presence, Debbie Harry found her rightful place as Queen of Cool, and for the past 41 years has reigned as a trailblazing pioneer within the realms of pop culture, fine art, high fashion, and music. Arriving at Splashlight studios with an entourage of one, the low key Harry informs us there is no need for the more discreet side entrance. Instead she prefers to stand in line and check in with the front desk security like everyone else. This drama free attitude seems in line with her polite demeanor upon entering the set with a shopping bag full of past Blondie tour t-shirts and introducing herself to everyone on the crew. “Hi, I’m Debbie. Would anyone like a t-shirt?”

At the age of 71, Harry and her world-famous, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Blondie, have released their eleventh studio album entitled Pollinator. Since their debut album in 1976, through the band’s signature look and pioneering new wave/punk music, Blondie has become an internationally recognized and praised band. With her photogenic face, two-toned hair, and punk style Harry quickly rose to the level of fashion and pop culture icon. Debbie quickly became a muse for Andy Warhol, the late fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, and famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel, to name a few. She was and remains very influential across music genres, and Blondie’s song Rapture became the first #1 song in the US to feature rap, thanks to her influence by friends Fab Five Freddy, and hip- hop pioneer, Grandmaster Flash.

Frontwoman Harry and guitarist/conceptual mastermind Chris Stein were the founding members of Blondie, along with drummer Clem Burke, whose powerhouse playing always distinguished Blondie’s sound. Their newest project, Pollinator, is a fusion of pop and disco with that ineffable Blondie sound. The newly released album is mostly comprised of collaborations with outside performers and songwriters. The list of collaborators include Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Charlie XCX, Sia, Laurie Anderson, Joan Jett, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, comedian John Roberts, and Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. The album’s first single, “Fun”, sets the tone for the album, with a music video that features technicolor footage of an astronaut flying to Mars cut with scenes of the band performing at a psychedelic rave in space.

The album title, Pollinator, refers to Blondie’s creative cross-pollination over the years with many other icons in the industry. With the fabulous collaborations between Blondie and other artists throughout the studio album, Pollinator is a veritable hive of delicious tracks and beats to enjoy. The Rage and Rapture Tour kicks off on July 5th and features the acclaimed alternative rock band Garbage.

Though the tunes were culled from disparate sources, the feel of the album is impressively unified, with a playful nod to 1978’s groundbreaking Parallel Lines. Harry, Stein, Burke, and company took this raw material and deftly transformed it in the studio into an album that’s quintessentially Blondie. The emphasis is on arrangements that are fast and fun, lyrics that are romantic and teasing, and synth-stoked hooks that evoke the New Wave era. It was Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (Franz Ferdinand, St. Vincent, Sigur Ros, David Byrne, War on Drugs) that brought the late 70’s attitude out of Blondie again. He found himself having breakfast with Debbie and Chris in the summer of 2015. “We hung out for an hour, talked about music, about where they were as people and what they thought a Blondie record should sound like these days. We were simpatico on that.”

“I had more of a deliberate agenda than they did,” says John. “Their agenda was the best agenda: they still love each other; they like playing music, so let’s have fun. At the end of the day Blondie doesn’t have anything to prove. My agenda was more dogmatic. I didn’t want to make a pastiche lifestyle record or a modern pop record that sounded like Blondie being influenced by what’s happening now. I wanted to know what it’s like to be Blondie at this age.” Debbie, Chris, and Clem joined by band members bassist Leigh Foxx, guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen have embarked on a new Blondie summer tour.

Leather Trench by Georgine | Bloomers by Miu Miu | Tights by Falke | Patent Pumps by Laurence Dacade | Earrings by Orchid & Art Deco

We were fortunate enough to chat with the legendary rockstar at Splashlight Studios in Manhattan during her exclusive Iris Covet Book photoshoot.

How have you managed fame as an artist? Do you find that the commercial aspect of making music gets in the way of artistry?

Being a more private type, fame has sometimes been disturbing. But as a commercial artist, it is the goal isn’t it? To become known and get your music out into the world market.

I feel like I see your face and image every day on t-shirts and instagram. Are you ever overwhelmed by the global impact of the band and the image you played a definitive part in creating?

If I stop to think about it, yes it is overwhelming. That’s all part of the game though, isn’t it?

You’ve always seemed to be very reserved and a bit of an introvert in person, but yet you have been able to get onstage and perform in huge venues in front of millions throughout your career. What is the process you undergo to change into that onstage, larger-than-life persona?

I don’t really think of myself as an introvert but I have been described as being very polite. I was encouraged growing up to be well mannered and able to listen to others. To not always have to be the center of attention when in social situations. On stage it’s a different story…….it’s MY stage.

On Debbie: Jacket by Marc Jacobs | Skirt (Worn as a dress) by Comme des Garçons from New York Vintage | Tights by Falke | Pumps by Laurence Dacade 
On Chris: His Own Clothing

Never satisfied to rest on your laurels, Blondie’s incessant need to fly the flag for cross-genre rock never relinquishes because your punk spirit never died. How do you keep your punk spirit alive?

Punk spirit…just stubborn I guess. Always have been. Independence has always been important to me. I grew up in a sheltered home and was always wanting to see more of the big bad world.

How was it collaborating with all of these amazing, boundary-pushing artists such as Sia, Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, and Joan Jett?

Collaboration has always been something I enjoy doing. It can be so much fun tossing ideas around. I loved working with Dev Hynes and Joan Jett, whom I’ve known for years. Sia actually wrote the song [on the new album] and I only met her briefly at a Saturday Night Live party. I’m happy the way it all came together. It was a different approach for us, to draw in all of these things. I feel like we did what we did back then, and we put out these sounds and ideas and now have come full circle. We are pulling it back in, continuing this ongoing chain of events, this circular motion.

You will be touring the country with the legendary rock band, Garbage, fronted by Shirley Manson. Tell us about how this tour collaboration came to be, have you worked together before?

I don’t think we ever worked together before, but I met Shirley many years ago in Scotland when she was singing with Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. Years later we ran into each other at Gary Kurfirst’s office. We were both being managed by Gary at the time. Shirley and her band Garbage are one of my faves.

40 million album sales and countless accolades later (including a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2006 and NME Godlike Genius Award in 2014) has cemented the band’s importance. After all of the success, what inspires you to keep creating new music?

One of the most inspiring things to happen in the last year has been the David Bowie release after his death. I only hope that I can be one-tenth as creative as he has been, and to leave a parting gift of music or art is truly what art is about.

Jacket by Song Seoyoon | T-Shirt by Han københavn

Two of the original members of the band have been replaced with other musicians over the years, how has the new dynamic of Blondie shifted the energy of the band?

Good question. Blondie has always been, or tried to be, a true ensemble situation. Input by musicians or actors in a group is extremely valuable, but not always easy. We have one fucking great band now, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear us play the new material.

When you first moved to New York, it was a much more dangerous and rough city, but that energy also helped fuel many creatives at the time. Now that NYC has gone through so much gentrification and commercialism, do you think it’s possible for artists to make profound music and art in the “new” New York City?

Food for thought…that’s what cities and colleges supply. So why not, in spite of all the odds against it, why can’t a fresh, alert mind be creative in any circumstance. Although chaos is famous for being the founder of great creativity.

Which album or song are you most proud of? And beyond that, what are you most proud of in your life?

I don’t think I can limit myself to one album or song, they all seem connected to each other for me. As for my life, I’m amazed that I actually achieved my dreams and that I’m still at it.

You’ve done 11 albums with Blondie and 5 albums as a solo artist, not to mention compilations and collaborations on other artists’ albums. How do you stay inspired? Is there anything you feel you haven’t said through your art yet?

Knowing what you like and what excites you is the most important part and Blondie is really the only group I’ve ever been in with the exception of singing with the Jazz Passengers for about four years. Fortunately, now I’m on a collision course with environmental issues. As I’ve gotten older and climate, clean air and water have become more important issues for us, I want to do my part to draw attention to these problems and their solutions.

The world lost a great contributor to the arts recently with the passing of your friend Glenn O’Brien. Glenn was very supportive of Iris Covet Book and agreed to be interviewed for our first issue. He was always very generous to emerging creatives. Can you share a favorite memory you had with Glenn?

Oh yes, Glenn was a great writer and a keen observer of the arts. He had such a wonderful style: dry and funny, so sharp. I will miss him. Before he passed he gave me his newest book, LIKE ART which I have enjoyed thoroughly. I have had lots of good times hanging out with Glenn and Chris. Just talking and making fun of things like on TV Party when they were co-hosts. I feel lucky to have known him.

Blondie really incorporated so many different genres and types of music that it seems unfair to call you just a Punk pioneer as many people do. What would you like your music legacy to be?

A lot of the music that I’ve made over the years was never even recorded and maybe this is something special. Food for the spheres. Blondie albums and Deborah Harry albums have had a lot of different musical and cultural influences but this is the city we live in and the world of today. Let’s face it, we can know as much as we want about all the cultures of the world. What we need is time travel.

Patent Coat by Miu Miu | Earrings by Ana Khori

Buy Pollinator at http://www.blondie.net/ or stream on Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon

Art Direction by Louis Liu | Editor Marc Sifuentes | Hair by Adam Markarian | Makeup by Yumi Lee @ Streeters | Manicure by Narina Chan @ Wilhelmina Artists for Chanel Le Vernis in Roubachka | Set Design by Mila Taylor Young @ D+V Management | Editor’s assistant Ben Price | Filming by Scott Keenan | Video editor/post production YaYa Xu | Special Thanks to Splashlight Studios NYC