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

WILLOW SHIELDS STAR OF NEW NETFLIX SERIES SPINNING OUT

Dress and Coat by Versace

Photographers: Fionayeduardo @fionayeduardo
Art Direction: Louis Liu @herecomeslouis
Styling: Marc Sifuentes @marc.sifuentes
Hair: Austin Burns @austinkburns
Make-up: Agus Suga @Agus Suga
Production Assistant: Benjamin Price @benprice4real
Location: Colony Studios @colonystudios

Interview by Regina Moretto

Top by Marc Jacobs

Hunger Games alum Willow Shields deftly navigates her acting career with the confident beauty and grace of an ice skater. 

The beguiling illusion of easy jumps and spins requires many hours of handwork and tenacity; quite similar to the dedication, preparation and training expected of an actor, which makes watching this young star transcend new roles all the more intriguing.  Starting out with a box office smash at the early age of 12, surrounded by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the precedent was set for Shield’s strong work ethic which helps drive her blossoming career. 

We sat down with Shields amidst her busy schedule to talk about her latest project; Netflix series Spinning Out.  Spinning Out, created by Samantha Stratton, is a series based on a figure skating Olympic hopeful struggling to balance her dreams of competition and the state of her family’s battle with mental health all while her dream of winning takes a dizzying hold.  Never one to remain idle for too long, Shields shared with us a few additional projects her fans can look forward to seeing her in soon. 

Sweater by Proenza Schouler White Label, Hat by Dara Senders

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

I started acting when I was about seven but working on my first big film and experiencing the creativity and tight knit community involved in the acting world was when I knew I would love this job.

What was your first big break into entertainment?

I did an episode of a show called In Plain Site when I was about eight and that was my first experience on set. But I guess my big break into entertainment was two years later when I did the first Hunger Games film.

Fans know you from your role as Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games, can you tell us the best part of working on these films?

I truly feel like I learned so much from working on these films. I grew up on set for five years learning from the most brilliant actors from Jennifer Lawrence, to Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and so many more but aside from being able to watch and learn from them everyday I was also able to witness other brilliance from the technical side of filmmaking watching our director Francis Lawrence working. I feel like after those films I had more of an understanding about filmmaking and every detail that goes into making a great film.

Being cast in Hunger Games at age 12 and being surrounded by a cast of seasoned actors, what are the most important lesson you learned on set with this crew?

To work hard, show up on time but to also give yourself room to be creative and have fun at the same time.

Do you have any funny or memorable Hunger Games stories you could share?

We had so many cast members as a part of our whole series that there was always so many fun stories being told everyday on set. When you’re in a room with Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson, you know you’re gonna be laughing all day with those two.

Jacket by Zadig & Voltaire

 

Tell us about your new Netflix series Spinning Out and how did you land the central role as Serena Baker?

Spinning Out was a very exciting project for me after reading the script. The story elements are something I’d never seen in a show before and it deals with a lot of pivotal emotional and physical stories that I feel need to be seen.
I fell in love with the character of Serena because she feels like a real teenage girl who’s very complicated. She has a very unusual home life and deals with a lot of emotional ups and downs between her family life and her time in competitive figure skating. It felt like a bit of a dream come true to play a figure skater as well.

Your character is training for ice-skating  competitions, did you have any formal training in your past?

I did not. I came into this show with zero ice skating abilities but I trained for about two months everyday prior to filming the show. My goal was not only to be able to do as much of my own skating as possible but also experience what it was like to train that hard everyday. I came home black and blue all over my body from falling everyday but it helped me understand my character Serena and how figure skaters train.

The show brought on Sarah Kawahara, a former figure skater and Emmy winning choreographer who has worked on “Blades of Glory” and “I, Tonya”…what was it like to work with Sarah on this series?

Sarah is phenomenal. We were all so excited to work with someone so brilliant in this specific field. She helped us train in Toronto and choreographed all of our routines. The coolest thing about Sarah is she was right there with us on set when we filmed these scenes so any detail that was off she was able to help us fix in order to pull off all of the intense skating involved in our story.

Coat by Kenzo, Top by Zadig & Voltaire

 

Did you have any difficulties learning to ice skate or learning the choreography for the series and how did you work through these challenges?

It’s definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I trained for hours everyday and was so determined to learn as much as I could. But one of the most challenging things I did was for the final episode of the show I did a portion of my routine in front of an actual crowd of about five hundred extras so it really felt like a performance for me. Which is both stressful and exciting.

In what way is the character you play in this project different from the roles you’ve played in the past?

Her athleticism is unlike any character I’ve played in the past so that’s very different for me. But just like any young woman she’s full of so much life, emotion, drive, and confusion in her teenage life so those were similarities that I’ve seen in characters I’ve played in the past.

The series seems to focus on mental health.  What steps did you take to ensure your role was true to her character when handling her mother and sisters disorders?

My first step was to allow room for Kaya and January (my sister and mom in the show) to dive into those emotions and have room to experience that. I tried everyday to approach playing Serena in a very honest way, I thought through a lot of what she would go through on a daily basis living with her mom and sister who are both bi polar and how hard that truly is for a young woman who is struggling herself with things. But at the end of the day they love each other more than anyone and that was most important to portray.

Top and Skirt by Marc Jacobs

How have your fans reacted to your role in Spinning Out?

They are so excited! It feels great to have fans that follow and appreciate any project I’m a part of.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects When Time Got Louder and A Fall From Grace?

I am currently filming When Time Got Louder in Vancouver and it’s been an incredible experience. Our story is complex and raw following my character Abbie and her family including her brother Kayden who has non verbal autism. Abbie leaves home to go to school and falls in love with a girl named Karly while at college but struggles with being away from Kayden after being there for him his whole life.

Do you have any other projects coming down the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Nothing I can talk about yet haha

Do you have a daily mantra?

Just to be open minded and open to learning from your accomplishments and mistakes throughout everyday.

Coat by Kenzo, Top by Zadig & Voltaire, Turtleneck by Victoria Hayes

 

COVER STORY: ORVILLE PECK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

STUDIO 54 ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

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

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

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

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

Dara Allen

Robert Christy as Divine

Amanda Lepore

Lynn Ban

Corey Grant Tippin

Miss Jay Alexander

Agent Wednesday

Jonte Moaning

Kyle Farmery

Cheng

Michael White

Nadja Giramata

Dianne Brill

Susanne Bartsch

Kenny Kenny

Connie Fleming

Yana Dobroliubova,Valou Weemering, Luisa Laemmel, Grace Valentine

Goli Abivardi, Boy George, Haleh Abivardi

All photos courtesy Andrew Werner

JACQUELINE NOVAK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

JN: I loved it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JN: No! That’s hysterical!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

STEPHAN JAMES

Full Look by Z Zegna

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

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

Full Look by Z Zegna

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Look by Z Zegna

Full Look by The Saltings NYC, Shoes by Bally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Look by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket and Shirt by Helmut Lang, Pants by Burberry

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

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

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

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

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

Jacket by Alexander McQueen, Shirt by Roberto Cavalli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacket and Shirt by Bally

Jacket and Shirt by Bally

JOEY KING

Dress by Zhivago

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

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

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

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

 

Dress by Zhivago

Hi Joey!

Hi, how are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dress by Murmur

Dress by Stella McCartney, Jacket by Roberto Cavalli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blouse by Queenie Cao, Pants by Marc Jacobs

Dress and Shoes by Versace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that’s good advice for everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with you, that shit’s awesome!

 

Dress by Murmur

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

LORENZO “TOTO” FERRO – THE STAR OF LUIS ORTEGA’S “EL ANGEL”

Buenos Aires, 1971. Carlitos was a seventeen-year-old with movie star swagger, blond curls and a baby face. Together with his friend Ramon, the two embark on a journey of discovery, love and crime in Director Luis Ortega’s breathtaking film “El Angel,” produced by the legendary Pedro Almodovar, a twisted “coming of age” tale based on the true crimes of the “Baby Faced Monster” Carlos Robledo Puch.

Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro plays the titular character of Carlitos in a very memorable and haunting acting debut. Luis Ortega, Lorenzo Ferro, and the talented cast behind the film take us on a beautiful journey into the half-real half-imagined life of one of Argentina’s most famous killers. We had the chance to speak with the young actor about his newfound fame, growing up around the movie-making business, and his future as an actor/rapper.

Interview by Rene Garza
Transcribed by Daniel Gomez

“El Angel” is your first leading role as an actor, as well as your first feature film, how did you find yourself in an audition for this role and were you surprised when you got it?

My father actually told me about the film. He said they were looking for someone to portray “The Angel,” but I really didn’t know his story or who he was. But I did a lot of research and went to a casting the following week. The week after, I got a call that the director wanted to meet with me. I ended up doing seven call-backs until they said “you’ve got the movie,” and that all took about six months.

Were you surprised when you landed the role? Or having gone through seven castings, did you feel that you were going to get it?

Well, I was going to be very sad if they said no. (laughs) Obviously I was surprised, I had dropped everything to be in the movie, without knowing if it would ever happen. It was blind faith.

Good, you have to give it your all.

Yes, you always have to give it your all.

Did you always want to be an actor? Did you have interest in movies or theater growing up?

Acting interested me because my father is an actor. I remember as a kid I went on to movie sets where he was filming. He always showed me movies or took me to the movies. So unconsciously I started to be interested in that world…and obviously the theater too, but more movies. As a kid I would ask my dad to watch three movies a day. I remember that when I was 6 years old I got to see “Kill Bill”, and we went to the cinema to see it. Later, when all this (El Angel) happened, I thought maybe it’s in my blood or something… or, let’s say, it was ingrained in me.

How did you get into the character of Carlitos? Even though in real life he was a notorious criminal, did you relate with Carlitos on some level?

Well…after the initial six months of casting, I worked for another seven months with the director Luis and an acting coach. The three of us met almost every day to read the script, to dance, to shout, to do everything. Luis would put a camera in front of me and say “go and try to break into this house” and we filmed it, we documented it. Then, little by little, the three of us got into the skin of the characters… He is so simple yet so complex, at least that’s how I see him… And it helped listening to Luis talk all the time, all the information he threw at me, and his thoughts on how he saw the character. What I really had to do to get into the character was to get rid of the pressures I put on myself and laugh my ass off, as if there were no problems in life. I was looking at life through rose-colored glasses, more or less how I think Carlitos is.

Are you personally interested in crime? Did you find the material fascinating?

Yes. I mean, I’m interested, but not so much that I’d be a criminologist. Those stories attract because they happened in real life and could have happened to you. And that really draws you in and gives you goosebumps, and it’s very rich material to make movies with. Crime is much better to do on film; unless you want to go to prison. (laughing)

How was your experience working with director Luis Ortega?

The truth is that it was great because of his process. We became friends, we became like brothers, and when we started shooting the film we were like siamese twins. If he was scratching, I was scratching. (laughs) With just a look we already understood what one or the other wanted. Then a bond of friendship formed through the work, it was like getting on a boat in which we only reached land when we wrapped filming, receiving the love from all the people. But the experience was the best, and I think that that is what I take away most of all. Maybe it will never happen again, but for now it’s the only movie I have done, so that’s my idea of what it’s like to make movies.

The main character is a beautiful and famous killer/thief, did the material intimidate you?

Ah no! To tell you the truth, you have to open your wings and let yourself fly like…a proper angel… It did not scare me; it intrigued me more than anything because one tries to understand these kind of people, but one only has assumptions. We will never know how it is, and the good thing is our movie is pure assumption. We did not want to get to the real case; Luis based the story on that picture of Carlitos coming out of the patrol car, the one that looks like a criminal shampoo ad. (laughs) The truth is that it did intrigue, it did not scare me, it made me curious.

Carlitos sees himself as a spy for God, how did you feel about his views of human nature vs Christianity? Did you find it difficult to separate the two?

Yes and no. You see, if you judge the character then things will go wrong. It is better to put on their skin and their shoes, because if there is distance between you and the character then that will be seen in the film. You have to stop judging because otherwise it will be seen in the camera, regardless of whether it is moral or not, you need to understand it. Even though acting is a job, it’s also a game, and if you do not let yourself play…then you have to rethink why you are doing it.

Do you have a role of your dreams?

I’m not sure “of my dreams,” but I would like to do Joker’s childhood for example, eh…and also maybe a gymnastics teacher addicted to heroin.

Do you have a director that you would like to work with?

Here in Argentina, I would like to work with Luis again, maybe with Lucrecia Martel, I’m interested in her films, she has a lot of personality. If we’re speaking in the United States, I do not know; I have a huge list of directors. I saw a new director, who was an actor, called Paul Dano. He made a cool movie called Wildlife, so if I go to the United States I would like to work with Paul Dano.

Many of the actors you worked with in the film are veteran actors. Did some of them take you under their wing and teach you some things? And what was the best advice you received from them?

No, it was not exactly like that, but they gave me all the experience they had through a glance. They did not need to say anything, just watching them I already understood what the situation was like, and  at the same time, I helped them too because I had the fresh perspective of a child who had never made movies. It became something reciprocal, we fed off one another, some with the freshness and others with experience.

Did your dad give you advice on acting?

Yes, but not on acting. As every parent gives advice, he did not give me advice on acting or working, but about life. If I try to explain now, it would take three hours or more on the phone.

Pedro Almodovar and his company were the executive producers for “EL ANGEL;” was he on the set?

Not on the set, but he was present in France and in Spain when we screened the film. I had the opportunity to meet him, not in the manner I would have liked, but what little I learned about him is astonishing; you see that magic that he has from afar.

Were you a fan?

Um no, to tell you the truth, no. I don’t know even know if I  am now, but I do not have to be a fan of his films. I’m a fan of his career, maybe of his imprint. But I have not seen all of his movies, I saw some, and the ones I saw I like. I would have to see them all to be able to say it, but they have a lot of personality.

In what movies or television programs can we expect to see in the future? Or what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

The truth is that I have enough circling, but I still do not know which ones to say yes. So I better not tell you anything, so I do not lie to you. What I can tell you is that I am currently making rap music with my friends, and between November and December we are going to drop a mixtape. I am the rapper and my friends are producing.

How do you feel about all the attention the movie is getting in Latin America?

It is very difficult, because I became famous over night, and I don’t know if that’s what I want… But hey, it’s also great because people received the movie with a lot of love. On that note I’m very happy, but on the other hand I’m a bit paranoid.

But there have been many actors who also make music, do you think that makes it easier?

I did rap before I made the movie, but after the movie I forgot about it a bit, and once I finished and was able to get the weight of the movie off my shoulders, I started doing music again. I knew I wanted to make music, even before being an actor.

Will you concentrate on one or the other? Or see what comes your way?

I don’t know if something is more important than the other, but the importance that one assigns to something gives it importance. I think both are like therapy.

There’s a phrase in the movie that says “I am a thief by birth” do you think that life is predestined from birth?

Ehh… no. I do not think so…uhh, maybe in my case, yes, but no, no. Like I was saying before, it’s just an assumption, but I don’t think it is destined from birth. I know that everything we do is a gift. There are people who would die to find it and live being a slave of the system.

Carlitos based his life on destiny, what is Toto’s destiny?

The destiny of Toto is: to continue working, to continue being happy, to get together with his friends, and to make more music.

“El Angel” is released in US theaters November 9.

EXCLUSIVE: ERIKA JAYNE


Photography by Alexandra Gavillet | Styling by Rafael Linares @ Art Department | Interview by Cecily Strong

From dancing on gin-soaked stages in the dive bars of West Hollywood, navigating the many dramas of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, to being immortally satirized on Saturday Night Live, the reality star, pop culture icon, and now New York Times best-selling author is taking the world by storm.

Erika Jayne is embracing opportunities with open arms, switching at the drop of a hat between author, international performer, “housewife,” and the icon we didn’t even know we needed. The Real Housewives franchises are filled with meme-worthy moments, unforgettable quotes, and exciting drama, but few women from the reality series have become household names to the degree of Erika Girardi, AKA Erika Jayne. In an exclusive interview between Erika and Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong, who parodied Jayne on the legendary sketch show and cemented Erika’s status as a cultural touchstone, the two women discuss ageism in the entertainment industry, creating a public persona, and her new Simon & Schuster bestselling book, Pretty Mess.

Jacket by Tom Ford, Earrings by House of Emmanuele

Earrings by House of Emmanuele

Hello! How are you Erika?

Hi Cecily, I am so good—it’s so nice to talk to you.

You too, what a treat! I am such a fan! A real fan, not just an Instagram fan. I am so excited. I’ve been bragging to everyone at SNL about getting to do this interview! So, starting with your new book, how did the idea to publish a memoir take off?

I was approached to do the book and said yes because these days I am just saying yes to everything. Obviously, you see a little bit of it on TV, but sharing 45 minutes of screen time with five other women is difficult. Writing a memoir is a way to give the audience a more in-depth peek into my life.

How open are you in this book and are you nervous about revealing too much?

There’s always the version of the truth which you can never tell or else all of your friends and family will never talk to you again (laughs), and then there is the book that I wrote, and then there is the book that got published – which went through two legal processes. Hopefully it works out well and people like it.

(laughs) What was the most challenging part writing the book?

Well, my mother and I were discussing how my father left when I was nine months old, and then she remarried and divorced again. I feel like I had blocked out that part of my childhood. I went back with her trying to piece it all back together. I was looking at it through 46 year-old eyes and thinking it was basically ten years of bullshit!

Do you think that your childhood experiences are the reason that you have this amazing life and personality and are so fabulous and youthful—or in other words, do you think that you’re basking in the things you didn’t have in your childhood?

I feel like I’m eternally 16. I had a nice car, a hot boyfriend, good grades, was performing all the time, and I looked cute. I don’t know if that’s because of my childhood, but I definitely know that all of that has an effect on you growing up.

Well, I understand feeling like you’re eternally a teenager because I feel like I’m 16 even though I’m like… 34, but have you confronted ageism in your industry? Is it something you even think about? I know I don’t think about it much.

Good, and I’m glad you don’t, and the only time I do is when someone tells me, “Oh, aren’t you a little too old to be doing this?” and I’m like, “No, actually I’m not.” I think that it’s important to keep doing it and keep pushing and dreaming because that’s an old way of thinking that is falling by the wayside as women continue to improve and show how powerful we are. You know, when you’re in your 40’s you’re not dead, you’re not done! I feel the most powerful now. I didn’t feel powerful in my 20’s, I was a ding-dong!

I couldn’t wait to turn 30 because I thought, “Finally, people will take me seriously!” And I can’t imagine someone saying to you that you’re too old, that’s insane to me. I’d be like, “Just watch me perform!”

Thank you! Could you imagine telling a man that? Could you imagine telling a man, “Sir, don’t you think you’re a little too old to be running the company?” It’s not fair for us to get a tap on the shoulder like, “Sit down honey, you’ve had enough fun, you’ve had your day, people don’t find you attractive, you can’t sell anything, and your time is up” No! I’m not going to do that.

Good, me neither. We’re taking a vow! What do you hope that people take away from your book and your personal story?

First off, I want people to laugh and have fun. It’s an easy read and a fun read, and if one person walks away inspired to go to dance class again or back to college or just see that, through this human story, we are all the same. My experience is just this way, but it’s the same bullshit for everybody, so don’t quit. You never know what the future holds.

So let’s talk about your persona Erika Jayne, how she was born and how you found her within yourself?

I was about 35 years old, had been married to Tom for six or seven years, and had been exclusively living his lifestyle. I was going to every event and socializing with a whole new set of very educated, super interesting people. I am glad I did it because it was an invaluable education, but it wasn’t me. I was wealthy and living in a bubble where I would shop, go to the gym, and then go to dinners, but what the fuck was I really doing with myself? I longed to go out, create again, and have my own identity.

I just don’t think that Tom expected the book deal, concerts, or this interview in my future. I don’t think anybody did! I started to create on my own, it was something that I loved, and here we are today. And thank God he has been so supportive. I have learned so much, and I am really grateful because without him I wouldn’t be here at all.

That’s so great, and good for you two! You’re a great example for couples. So, when did you get your big break and what was the beginning of your career as Erika Jayne like?

Well, if you take the Erika Jayne Project, it was very small potatoes. It started at my kitchen table and it was just something that I wanted to do. I created the persona with a friend of mine from high school. He took me to a producer friend of his and we made the Pretty Mess album, and I started to perform because that’s what I really love to do. It was the typical beginning. A few people in some terrible dump, no one paying attention, and just begging to get on stage. I thought to myself, “I don’t have to fucking do this, I’m rich! What the fuck am I doing?” (Cecily laughs) I hate to break it down and sound so rude, but there are a lot of naysayers and rejection. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and building it, and slowly but surely people started to pay more attention and come to my shows. The biggest break into pop culture was definitely being cast in the Real Housewives because it took Erika Jayne out of the clubs and into people’s homes, and she even became a parody on Saturday Night Live! (laughs) But I think the most interesting thing was seeing young women, like high school and college-aged girls tell me how much they love my music and style, and I’m like, “Wow, really? I’m old enough to be your mom.” That acknowledgement makes it all worth it.

 

Jacket by Vitor Zerbinato, Dress by Nookie, Boots by Christian Louboutin, Earrings and Ring by Glynneth B.

Jacket by Vitor Zerbinato

Most of my circle of friends are gay men, and so I’m curious when did your relationship with the gay community start?

Children’s theater! (laughs)

Oh my God! Same for me! I was raised in a theater in Chicago by a group of gay men.

That was where I started! And then I went to a performing arts high school where everyone in dance and theater was gay, even our instructors were gay. They were always a part of my life. These are my people and that’s that.

Right, it’s so true, and it’s so funny that I had a very similar experience. When my parents split up I felt that the gay men of my Chicago theater were raising me while my family was a mess.

And I think that’s a wonderful thing to have and I can’t imagine life without gay people in it. They are my closest confidants.

Now what about drag culture? Has drag had an influence on your life and career?

I mean, just take one look at me! What do you think? (laughs) Of course! I love drag because you get to transform into a superhuman. It’s a true art form that is not for the faint of heart. Your costumes, hair, makeup, the whole look, and your style of drag too! There are so many different styles.

What style would you be?

Hooker drag! I want to be hooker drag (both laugh). Are you kidding? Basically that’s what I already am so why not? Keep it going!

So let’s talk Housewives of Beverly Hills! Obviously I am a huge fan, but how has being on the show changed your life? Cameras catching you crying, drunk…I drink a lot, so I could never do reality TV.

I don’t really like crying on camera because you are embarrassed worldwide, and that sucks. But without that exposure I wouldn’t be talking to Cecily Strong and I wouldn’t have a book out today! See what I’m saying? You have to roll with the punches and make the best of it. At the end of the day, it is reality television and I try to be as authentic as I can and have a good time doing it!

As I say in my book, it’s like professional wrestling. There are heroes, villains, costumes, pyrotechnics, but at the end of the day the injuries are real! It’s like we are participating in this absurd narrative, but these are still my feelings and sometimes they get really hurt.

People are awful! Celebrity in general, people feel like they have some sort of ownership over you, and because you get to do your job they get to hurl insults at you. It seems even worse for people in reality TV because it is your name and your life.

Thank god I am 46 and not 26! I have lived a full life, have a successful marriage, had an unsuccessful marriage, I have an adult child, I can pay the bills. Forget it, if I were a kid and did not know who I was, I may not have made it and I would have been crazy-town. Honestly, I consider myself pretty fucking normal.

I think about that all the time. Like I was crazy enough at 22—

Right! I didn’t need anyone telling me I sucked and was awful and should kill myself. You can imagine how the younger ones feel.

I will say that my favorite piece of advice I’ve ever gotten, and I don’t mean to name drop, but it was from Jim Carey at a host dinner for SNL and he told me “Don’t ever let anyone tell you the narrative of your career.”

He’s right, and thank you for sharing that. I’ll split when I’m ready and I’ll do what I need to do. That’s very well said.

Well, thank you Jim Carey! So, what’s next for you? What do you see in the future?

I am on my way to a book signing in New Jersey which is right across the street from a terrible go-go place I used to go-go in when I was younger.

Wow.

I know, it’s really interesting, Cecily. I’m continuing to create, and there’s going to be more music and more shows, and who knows what’s coming, but I feel like it’s going to be really good.

 

Jacket by The Blonds, Bangles, Cuffs, Earrings and Hat by Glynneth B.

Jumpsuit by Any Old Iron, Shoes by Christian Louboutin

Dress by Gucci

Makeup by Etienne Ortega @ The Only Agency using NARS and KKW Beauty, Hair by Castillo @ Tack Artist Group using Sexy Hair styling products & T3 styling tools, Art Direction Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Photo Assistant Mallory, DP Vanessa Konn, Gaffer Zachary Burnett, Production Assistant Benjamin Price, Produced by XTheStudio.com, Special Thanks to Jack Ketsoyan, Laia and Mikey Minden

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