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

OLIVER BY KARL SIMONE

Shirt by Givenchy, Pants by Lanvin, Shoes by Dolce and Gabbana

Photographer: Karl Simone @karl_simone
Stylist: Charlie Ward @charliewardstyles
Model: Oliver Kludjeson @oliverkludjeson
Agency: The Society Management @thesocietynyc

Vest by MSGM, Jeans by Tanaka, Belt by Gucci

Shirt by Dries Van Noten, Pants by YSL, Loafers by Prada, Hat by Stetson

Blazer by YSL, Tank by Lanvin, Vintage Boxer Shorts

Overcoat by The Salting, Joggers by Burberry, Boots by Givenchy

Shirt by Dries Van Noten, Hat by Stetson

Blazer by YSL, Tank by Lanvin

Shirt by Givenchy

COMMITTING TO JONATHAN TUCKER

On Left: Coat by Canali, Sweater by Belstaff, On Right: Coat, Sweater, Pants by Missoni

Jewelry by Eli Halili

Photographer: Karl Simone @karl_simone
Stylist: Michael Fusco @mikeystyles
Groomer: Jeff Chastain @mascbyjeffchastain
Stylist Assistant: Merrit Rea @merritt.rea
Special thanks to Gem Saloon

Interview by Matthew Rettenmund

Jonathan Tucker is one of the best parts of all your favorite shows. The actor, who is currently playing devil to the women of Charlie’s Angels as the new film’s villain, is killer-with-a-conscience Frankie on the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-produced Boston crime drama City on a Hill; was mercurial Low Key on American Gods; and was a highlight of Season 2 of Westworld as intense, self-unaware host Major Craddock, to name a few.

Perhaps most memorably, and in a role that will leave a mark, the Boston native trained like a fiend to play MMA fighter Jay Kulina on Kingdom opposite Nick Jonas — and still has the abs to prove it.

In an exclusive interview with Iris Cover Book, the 37-year-old actor talked about his myriad roles on TV and in film, what he’s carried with him from his youthful pursuit of ballet (#JayKulinaDancesToo) and how he hopes to be remembered.

On Left: Suit and Shirt by Missoni, Loafers by Gucci
On Right: Jacket and Shirt by Rag and Bone, Jeans by Helmut Lang

I’ve seen you in so many things over the last few years, but only recently connected that you were the teenager in The Deep End (2001), the dark, gay-themed story with Tilda Swinton.

That movie changed my whole life! I turned 18 the day I shot the sex scene with Josh Lucas.

It’s interesting how choices can lead us in totally different directions. I wondered how you decided early on in favor of acting over ballet, which you’d studied?

My second-grade teacher had seen an advertisement for a national call for a [1992] movie called Lorenzo’s Oil. I’d really fallen in love with ballet, particularly with being onstage, so I took him up on this offer and I went to the audition. I didn’t end up getting the movie, but I ended up getting on the radar of the local casting director’s office, and they’d call me back for national commercials they were shooting in Boston, and I ended up getting one for Fruit Roll-Ups. The moment I was there on set with the camera and the crew and understanding the process, I was like, ‘This is what I wanna do.”

 I remember coming back with my parents saying, “We need to get an agent — do you guys know what an agent is? I found a woman who I think is very reputable, I think we should have a meeting with her,’ so I certainly steered that ship early on, and I was very lucky to have supportive parents that helped make it happen for me. I was 10 years old.

Though you changed courses, have you retained anything from your ballet training?

I think self-discipline, the ability to listen and take direction, punctuality. As much as one can work on the interior of a character — we’re all spiritual vessels — physicality is a really important part of being a human being. That’s a critical component to the process of creating a character. Being in your body is something ballet dancers understand.

On Left: Trench by Belstaff, Tee by Mitchell Evan, Jeans by Linder, Sneakers by Geox
On Right: Jumpsuit by Kyle, Overcoat by Linder, Sneakers by Geox

Being committed physically is something you did for Kingdom. You can be committed to playing a doctor but you won’t be ready to go into surgery, yet on Kingdom, your training had you ready to walk into the ring and be an MMA fighter.

I was living that life. Actors are always toggling between “truth” and “truthful.” Everybody wants truth in their lives, but sometimes we have to settle for truthful, as an actor. Certain roles afford you the ability to get closer to truth, but it’s an actor’s responsibility to be the voice for at least truthful, as the bare minimum. No one’s gonna buy you as a fighter, if you don’t look like a fighter.

That must’ve been a tremendous commitment.

I like tremendous commitments and setting goals and achieving them, and discipline. I think my wife had a significantly more challenging time with what was required to keep and maintain Jake than I did; your mood is profoundly affected. When you hear about people who are imprisoned, they get out and the first thing they wanna do, they don’t care about revenge, they want to eat. That was very understandable for me at that point.

You’d been acting since you were so young, did you have a special bond with Nick Jonas when you were shooting Kingdom?

He’s a very important friend to me for a lot of reasons. I would say when you have been through the crucible of this profession and the craft, you then realize you’re always in it. It provides a great deal of wisdom that you can’t buy. People who have stood with you, people you thought would who don’t, people you didn’t think would support you when things were tough but who end up being the most supportive, making money, losing money, fame, no fame, successful movies, bomb TV shows — it’s a business that provides these artificial highs and lows until after a certain point in time, you start to realize what’s really important. Those people who have that understanding can spot each other from across a crowded room. I feel that way about Nick, and he’s had even more complicated experiences than I have. Growing up in the business and getting to see it for as many years as we both have is certainly a connection that we both share — and we value.

 

Trench by Belstaff, Jeans by Linder, Sneakers by Geox

 Were there any older actors you’ve worked with who served as role models?

You learn early on there are many classrooms providing an education, not all of them academic, and the teachers are not always society’s notable ones. It’s not just the famous people, it’s the dolly grip sharing how they made a lot of money when they were young, but now their back and knees are gone but they can’t do anything else because they didn’t take a larger perspective on their life.

I wanna have people say, when I die, that I was able to honor different kinds of people and reflect honestly a variety of worlds, or a host of experiences. So, if I could bring that authentic light and shine it in those places or on those people, it’s exciting to me. I don’t see the world in blacks and whites. The more educated I am on certain topics, the less clear they become. What ends up becoming immutable are certain themes in terms of how I want to live my life, rather than unequivocal truths about kinds of people or certain political topics or certain systems. What I’m looking for is truth, and I find that characters that interest me are significantly more complicated than people think they are — sometimes more than even the writer thinks they are — and I’m interested in that sort of dynamic.

You’ve been in the industry long enough to see the push for diversity. Would you agree that Westworld is an example of a show that is diverse, and organically so?

Westworld was diverse before this was a national conversation, or at least a business conversation, and I think it’s a really important point to share because diversity, just throwing around “diversity” as a cultural token does a disservice, rather than trying to address in a meaningful way a system that hasn’t been able to offer the same sort of opportunities to groups of people that it should.

It also comes from the system that [Westworld creators] Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have created and cultivated, which is, “How do we mentor different and unique voices and support and guide them?” versus trying to plug holes for the sake of optics. The business has a lot to offer every culture, every faith, every skin color, every economic background, we’re all storytellers.

Being on Westworld thrust you into the realm of a series where storylines are top-secret. Are you good at keeping secrets?

I like secrets. As an actor, you never want to tell anyone anything about your work. Your experiences are bifurcated between work and employment — you’re oftentimes working more than you’re employed. People say, “What’s going on?” What, are you gonna tell them about all the auditions you went on that you probably won’t get? About the movie that’s coming together that probably won’t come together? So, I’m pretty good about being tight-lipped. I might not even talk about it when it comes out — I’ll let you see it. I’ve sat next to people that have been cut out of movies and they had a great role and we’re at the premiere. [Laughs] It’s like — just keep your mouth shut.

Trench by Belstaff, Jeans by Linder, Sneakers by Geox

Can you keep your mouth open about Charlie’s Angels?

There’s something great about making a movie that’s simply a lot of fun, about three very talented young actresses kicking ass. It doesn’t need to say anything more than that. A great movie stands on its own, so if it happens to be about three young women doing things that we typically expect only three young males to do, I think that sends a greater message than having to explain to everybody what the message is.

 Your character in that seems thrillingly without merit as a human being.

I would say certainly without merit, but not without a clear intention. [Laughs] I think I was cast as the manifestation of violence against women.

How was director Elizabeth Banks, who also acts in the film, to work with?

She’s pretty, pretty outstanding. I’ve known her for quite a few years, so when this opportunity came we jumped on the phone and I said, “I’m gonna send you a text of what I think this character looks like, aesthetically speaking,” and she said, “You’ve gotta be kidding, check your texts,” and she had sent me the same model — different picture, but the same very distinctive model, so we were on the same page from the jump.

On Right: Helmut Lang full look, Boots by Saint Laurent

You’ve been in so many things, I don’t think there is a type that screams “Jonathan Tucker character.” Is there a role you’ve played to which you most relate, that’s closest to you?

I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that. It’s kind of like: you’re a pitcher, you have a certain kind of pitch you know you’re really good at, and you have a strike box you know you’re guaranteed to get an umpire to call a strike in, and you’re trying to work the corners a whole bunch. You’re always you, but if it’s not a strike, then at least you attempted it.

Being scared to throw in the corners, being scared of being unsuccessful with the choices you’re making as an actor is the death of a good actor. You have to be willing to throw a few balls or have that errant pitch.

Are you an actor who enjoys photo shoots, like the one you did for Iris Covet Book?

You gotta commit to those things. You’re relying on the team so you can walk in there and just jump. You wanna commit to things in your life. If you’re not willing to do that, don’t show up.

SIMONA

 

Dress by Aida Kaas

Photographer: Rodrigo Cid @rodrigocidstudio
Photo Assistant: JP Herrera @_jp.herrera
Stylist: Tiffani Williams @tiffanistyles
1st Fashion Assistant: Marcus Elliott @marcusjameselliott
2nd Fashion Assistant: Celest Khosravanlou
Hair: Niko Weddle using Amika Haircare @nikoweddle
Makeup: Kim Webber using Surratt @kwmakeup
Model: Simona Godalova @ The Identity Models @simonagodal


Dress by Kalmanovich, Coat by Greta Constantine, Hosiery by Falke, Shoe by Attico


Blazer and Dress by Aalto, Cuff by Ben Amun


Jumpsuit by Georgine, Coat by DROMe, Jewelry by Ben Amun, Hat by Harlem’s Heaven


Top by Cheng Chai Chuang, Shorts- model’s own


Dress by Attico, Jewelry by Ben Amun 


Dress by Kalmanovich, Coat by Greta Constatine 


Top by Attico, Pants by Alexa Chapman, Gloves by Cheng Chai Chuang


Top and Skirt by Aalto, Hosiery by Falke, Shoes by Pierre Hardy, Hat by Harlem’s Heaven


Dress by Kalmanovich, Hosiery by Falke, Shoes by Attico


Jumpsuit by Georgine, Coat by DROMe, Jewelry by Ben Amun, Hat by Harlem’s Heaven, Shoes by Pierre Hardy


Top by Alexa Chapman


Dress by Kalmanovich, Hosiery by Falke, Shoes by Attico

BRYANT STREET

Top by Harris Reed, Pant by Jamal Studios, Shoes by MM6 Maison Margiela, Bow by Montana

Photographer: Kimber Capriotti @kimbercapriotti
Model: Leah Svoboda @leahsvoboda, @anthmmgmt
Stylist: Molly Haring @mollyruthharing_styling
Hair and Make-Up: Lydia Brock @lydiabrock
Style Assistant: Shane Mastel @mastonianwarlord

On the Left: Kimono by Jamal Studios, Bodysuit by Montana, Leggings by Off-White, Boots by Ganni, Balaclava by Jean Paul Gaultier
On the Right: Scarf by Jamal Studios

Top by Montana, Earring by Marni

Dress by Ganni, Shoes y Nike X Undercover React Element 87 Sneakers

On the Right: Dress by Ganni
On the Left: Blazer by Montana, Hat by Harris Reed

GRUNGE SHANGHAI

 

Trenchcoat by C+plus Series, Shoes by MISBHV

Photographer/ Videographer: Yuti Chang @yutiphotography
Fashion Stylist: Avivi Wang @aviviwang
Make-up Artist: Jonathan Wu @jonathanbyjwmakeup
Hair Stylist: David Z.
Model: Mengwei Luo with Longteng Model Management
Photography Assistant: Jianjun
Styling Assistant: Danney Li


Top by Private Policy, Dress by C+plus Series, Skirt by Angus Chiang, Shoes by Dr. Martens

 

On the Left: Entire Outfit by C+plus Series, Shoes by Yeezy from Canal St.
On the Right: Entire Outfit by C+plus Series, Shoes by Converse

 

Entire Outfit by C+plus Series, Shoes by Dr. Martens

 

 

Entire Outfit by C+plus Series, Shoes by MISBHV

 

 

Entire Outfit is Stylist’s Own

Top by MISBHV, Body Chain by Justine Clenquet,  Skirt by C+plus Series, Bottom by C+plus Series, Shoes by Converse

 

 

Top by Angus Chiang, Bottom by C+plus Series, Shoes by Yeezy from Canal St.

 

 

Entire Outfit is Stylist’s Own

 

PRIVATE PLACE

Left pearl earring: Ana Khouri | Left gold ear cuff:  Jennifer Fisher | Right gold ear cuff: Ana Khouri | Pearl ring: Ana Khouri | Flower ring and necklace:  Versace | Lingerie:  Agent Provocateur

The line between IRL and online has quickly become indecipherable through our interaction with social media platforms. In our desperation for clout to garner an audience, clicks, likes, or hits as well as the all-too-real insecurity of fomo, we’ve become quick to expose ourselves (or a version of ourselves) online. Corporations, government agencies, and hackers all know us better than we know ourselves. Yet this disconcerting fact seems to render us unphased. We leave ourselves vulnerable and unarmed online. 

In the real life scenario of this, many are only comfortable exposing themselves if they work in a profession that requires publicity. Scopophilia in real life isn’t readily welcomed, especially when we aren’t aware of being watched. Private Place approaches this through the idea of fantasy, using the metaphor of exhibitionism and voyeurism as an illustrative contrast to this vulnerability. The exhibitionist’s strength is that they control just how much they choose to expose themselves to the voyeur, but their power is only as strong as the audience they are able to attract. Here the subject invites an audience to become her voyeur for the emotional release of strength, vulnerability, fear, and power. The idea of privacy invasion becomes inverted and something longed for, much like our attitude has become with online followers.

Photography: Dustin Mansyur @dmansyur | Model: Liz Harlan @f3mm3n1stn1ghtm4r3_ | Styling: Ella Cepeda @ella_cepeda | Beauty and Hair: Agata Helena @agatahelena | Set Design: Dustin Mansyur | Poem and Excerpt Summary: Dustin Mansyur | Digital Tech: Johnny Vicari @johnnyvicari | Video Editor: Ricardo Martinez Roa @ricardomartinezroa

Left pearl earring: Ana Khouri | Left gold ear cuff:  Jennifer Fisher | Right gold ear cuff: Ana Khouri | Pearl ring: Ana Khouri | Flower ring and necklace:  Versace | Lingerie:  Agent Provocateur

Jewelry by Laruicci | Suit by Missoni

Jacket: Erdem | Earrings: Laruicci

Corset: Graham Tyler | Pants: Alexander Wang | Jewelry: Versace | Bracelet: Jennifer Fisher | Shoes: Chloe Gosselin

Top and pants: Alexander Wang | Earrings: Jennifer Fisher

Top: Alexander Wang | Earrings: Jennifer Fisher

Blouse and bag: Versace | Lingerie:  Agent Provocateur | Glasses: Chris Habana | Earrings:  Jennifer Fisher | Shoes: Chloe Gosselin

Blouse and bag: Versace | Lingerie:  Agent Provocateur | Glasses: Chris Habana | Earrings:  Jennifer Fisher | Shoes: Chloe Gosselin

Top: Issey Miyake | Earring: Chris Habana

All Beauty looks created using Mac Cosmetics

BOUND – MAJORLILKWEEN – EXCLUSIVE MUSIC VIDEO RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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