LOS ANGELES FEMALE FILMMAKERS FESTIVAL

This weekend Passerbuys and Women & Film will present the first annual Female Filmmakers Festival (FFFEST), a 3-day screening and talk series dedicated to celebrating accomplished female filmmakers and empowering women who want to break into the industry.

FFFEST will take place from October 12th through October 14th at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles, California and will foster a community for female filmmakers to share resources, guidance and inspiration.

FFFEST’s diverse program includes feature-length such as the critically-acclaimed SKATE KITCHEN directed by Crystal Moselle, the award-winning MOSSANE directed by the first Sub-Saharan African woman director, Safi Faye  and short films such as the premiere of MAVERICK by Cara Stricker. Between screenings, FFFEST will host exclusive talks featuring some of the top women working in the contemporary film industry such as Sarah Finn (Casting Director, Black Panther), Lake Bell (Director, In A World), Jameela Jamil (Actress, The Good Place) and Natalie Farrey (Head of Vice Film) as they provide answers to the most pertinent questions facing women working in film today.

The primary mission of the Female Filmmakers Festival is to inspire more women to make films by celebrating the women leading the way, and by creating a space where women can share information amongst each other.

FFFEST has also teamed up with women-owned and women-led fashion brand VEDA to create custom merch for the festival where a portion of proceeds from every sale will go to Camp Reel Stories.

“I founded Passerbuys out of a desire to have women share resources and information amongst one another. As a lifelong fan of cinema, it felt natural to transfer such ethos to a film festival. There are a number of great organizations supporting women in film, and I see FFFEST’s role as a space to bring them together and hopefully become a tradition to celebrate and support female filmmakers.” – Clémence Polès, Founder of Passerbuys and Co-Founder of FFFEST “Women & Film was created to celebrate the women directors that have paved the way as well as the trailblazers and contemporary women of cinema. Our goal is to act as both a learning tool and source of inspiration among filmmakers, both accomplished and budding. We want FFFEST to create a sense of community for women in film in the hopes that more stories by and about women get made.” – Natalie Fält, Founder of Women & Film and Co-Founder of FFFEST

“Women are responsible for creating some of the greatest works of film in the history of cinema, yet the mass media has rarely depicted or celebrated women behind the camera. In response to that, we saw FFFEST as an opportunity for our audience to celebrate the women who’ve made strides in film and continue to today, and to inspire budding women filmmakers to join the industry and share their stories.” – Mimi Packer, Co-Founder of FFFEST

“We have stories to tell and we have a different perspective. Women in general tend to be more emotionally connected and in-tune with their surroundings but the demands of life can cause creative complacency. fffest was created to reawaken these hidden narratives and provide a platform to inspire more women to bring their stories to life.” – Dasha Faires, Co-Founder of FFFEST

For more information, please visit https://fffest.org/

HARI NEF X HILTON DRESDEN EXCLUSIVE

Actress, model, and bona-fide trendsetter Hari Nef has made her feature film debut this week, in the electrifying social media horror movie ‘Assassination Nation.’ She stars as Becks, one of four high school girls caught up in a violent frenzy of small-town hysteria after a mass leak of private cell phone data. Hilton Dresden sat down with her to chat about the nuanced role, her dream collaborators, and how she’s carving her own path in Hollywood.

Interview by Hilton Dresden

THE MANY FACES OF DOMINIQUE FISHBACK

Jacket by Carolina Sarria

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Julia Morris @theindustrymgmt| Interview by Benjamin Price | Hair by Monae Everett | Makeup by Daniel Avilan using MAC Cosmetics @theindustrymgmt

Talent: Dominique Fishback

Dominique is a theatrical chameleon. Whether playing a prostitute in 1970’s New York on HBO’s The Deuce, or a high school girl in a violent and disenfranchised neighborhood in the upcoming The Hate U Give, or playing in a series of sketch comedies in HBO’s midnight show Random Acts of Flyness–Fishback effortlessly glides between personas. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Fishback started her artistic path in her local elementary school. Dominique has propelled herself both onto the silver screen and onto one of the most globally recognized cable networks as an inspirational young voice.

The Hate U Give, Random Acts of Flyness, Night Comes On, and much of Dominique’s personal writing and performances celebrate diversity and critique the constructed barriers between us. The writer, actress, and artist clearly has a wide breadth of talents, but what is truly spectacular is her ability to apply these to helping shed light on systemic problems in our society. Watching Dominique perform is a true joy, as you are immersed into the world of the characters she embodies and witness a complex array of emotion enfold on screen. Here, with Iris Covet Book, Dominique dives deep into the many layers of social discourse in her work, her roots as a child drama queen, and her plans to change Hollywood.

 

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

We recently attended a screening of The Hate U Give and your performance felt so natural that it made me wonder how you first got into acting. Were you always a natural?

When I was 10 years old my mom said I was so dramatic and should give acting a try! She really believed that I could do it which was awesome! I had been writing little poems and I wanted to perform anyway. My mom tells stories of when I was 5 years old and pretending that I was the Wicked Witch of the West saying, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” When I was 10 I auditioned to be part of a children’s theater organization called Ta-Da! I auditioned three times but never got accepted…but 10 year-old Dom didn’t let it stop her, she just kept going! We got pulled into one or two scams after that, but when I was 15, I got into a company that requires you to write and perform your own material which I think helped make me into the artist that I am today.

But you know there is so much rejection and hate out there with actors, especially on social media. Everyone has an opinion or something to say about your performance, your look, or a mistake you make. It’s hard; you need a tough skin.

Speaking of exposure, social media, and having a tough skin–do you think your exposure in The Deuce and The Hate U Give has changed  your day to day life or are you still that girl from Brooklyn?

I’m definitely still that girl from Brooklyn!  Sometimes I bump into people from my childhood who say I still look the same and are surprised to see I’m still down-to-earth, but I think I am really a chameleon personally and professionally. But because of The Deuce I have had some people come up to me on the street, as well as my episode on (HBO’s) Random Acts of Flyness. I have been receiving such a great reception.

It seems like you are cast in roles that exist in chaotic and disadvantaged environments – playing a sex worker in The Deuce in 1970’s New York, convicted felon in Night Comes On, and a young girl in a rough, drug-filled neighborhood in The Hate U Give. What attracts you to these roles and what would you say is the common thread with the characters you like to play?

The characters really find me, and they refuse to let me go! For Night Comes On I was introduced to the character and the story after playing Darlene on The Deuce and I didn’t want to be typecast into tough characters all of the time because I am fun and silly…but I took the weekend and read the script considering what my agent was saying, and I just really felt like I had the experiences and authenticity to really go after this character! But I love to play dress up and dance and perform too, which I think really shows another side of me, like the photoshoot we did for this. When I was a kid I would watch I Love Lucy, and Lucille Ball was a big inspiration for me and I would stay up and watch her until 1:00 am every day! I would love to do a show like that, whether I write it myself or not.

Dress by Kelsey Randall, Gloves by Livne NYC, Earrings by Laruicci

Bralette, Pants, and Clear Jacket all by Livne NYC

It sounds like you really are a chameleon and are interested in so many genres! So back to The Hate U Give and the messages and layers that it has within it such as racism, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, etc. — how did that layer of commentary affect your performance?

Well, actually, I have a one-woman show that I wrote and have performed for the past 5 years called Subverted where I play 22 different characters, and it’s about the destruction of black identity in America. The show has a slavery-era side and a modern-day-era side, and both comment on issues like police brutality, education deficits, lack of healthy food in areas like East New York, Brooklyn where I grew up. So I was already very aware of these issues and the injustices that African Americans experience, and that I experienced, in my neighborhood or when I was working at the local movie theater just praying and hoping to be on the screen. When I was at Pace University I was often the only African American person in my classes. I remember in one of my classes this caucasian boy said that African American males in low-income communities would not be stopped by the police at random if they “dressed normally.” I was infuriated, choking on my words, debating with him, and I realized that no one around me could understand my point of view, so instead of getting mad and yelling and cursing I decided to use this as an opportunity to start my one-woman show, educate people, and have them watch and relate to a character who they normally wouldn’t. Just like the few scenes of Khalil in The Hate U Give change the way you see the representation of him later on through the movie. I graduated from my high school as valedictorian in Brownsville, BK, but when I got to Pace I was admitted as below average in a curriculum for students who needed more academic attention. Then I looked around and realized that these schools only prepare you for colleges at the same level…but we need to overcome this adversity and talk about this issue on a bigger scale.

I think The Hate U Give really achieved that and personally it took me from laughing to crying to anger…What are the main points that you want people to take away from the movie?

I would want them to take away the moments where they felt sad for Kahlil, where they laughed with him and saw his eyes twinkle at the beginning of the film, and when another (police brutality) event like this happens in America they can care about that victim in the same way. I really believe that art changes people’s minds and hearts the most and gives power to our feelings. Being able to see it, not just hear a name or see a mugshot, is so powerful.

Jacket and Pants by LEHHO, Gloves by Livne NYC

Jacket and Skirt by Victoria Hayes

As a woman of color, how do you feel about the changing castings and views of POC and women in Hollywood?

I definitely believe that it has changed over the years, and as a younger person I can sometimes only see the injustice because that’s all I know, but when you ask people who came before and hear their stories then you can really see how far we’ve come. I have been honored to have my first feature film on demand and online called Night Comes On, starring myself and this 10 year old African American girl named Tatum Marilyn Hall, and it is great to be able to watch African American girls not have to be super funny or sexy in a film, but that wasn’t possible a few years ago. It was still hard, and the director would tell us about how difficult it was to get funding with the subject matter, and as a female director, but we are fighting the fight and are very hopeful.

I am very excited to see Night Comes On, and hopefully it just means we will see even more diverse story-telling in the future. What would you want to change or add to the world of film and television if you owned a studio?

I would want to tell more stories about African Americans and people of color and celebrate diversity from the casting to the writers’ room. I don’t want to have the question of “What was it like working with a female director?” Like why does that matter if you are a woman or a person of color? I really don’t know though, and I am just researching, writing, and taking it day-by-day. I just finished writing my feature film that takes place in 1968 which is about a male Black Panther who falls in love with a girl who isn’t a part of that culture and over the course of the film they learn more about each other, and I think that is an important story to tell.

I hope we can see that soon! What can you tell us about upcoming roles or screenplays that you are working on?

The Deuce is coming back September 9, and then The Hate U Give comes out so of course I am very excited for both of those opportunities! I am very excited about my role in Random Acts of Flyness on HBO, and it’s just a really fun way to show different sides of myself as an actress. I am excited about the projects I am writing and being seen as a writer for theater, films, and graphic novels. I am excited to start my own production company one day and have longevity in the industry as a CEO.

Jacket by Victoria Hayes

WEB EXCLUSIVE – ON THE MOVE

VICTORIA HAYES jacket

Photography LILY & LILAC (@lilyandlilac)
Styling TATIANA CINQUINO (@tatianacinquino)
Model ROSE SMITH @ Marilyn Model Management

VICTORIA HAYES jacket and pants

VICTORIA HAYES suit  | HUF striped sweater | RAF SIMONS for ADIDAS slides | & OTHER STORIES socks

JOHN PAUL ATAKER coat | HUF button up shirt | GEORGINE pants | GUCCI loafers

JOHN PAUL ATAKER coat | HUF button up shirt

ANNA SUI @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES jumpsuit | GUCCI loafers

FIORUCCI @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top | JOHN PAUL ATAKER pants

 

 

STYLIST OWN vintage shirt | KYLE’LYK jumpsuit | CAROLINA SARRIA fur & denim jacket | GUCCI loafers | & OTHER STORIES socks | STYLIST OWN earrings

GALILEO @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top | KYLE’LYK denim jacket and pants

GALILEO @ FRAMD STUDIO Eyewear | VICTORIA HAYES top

THE ORIGIN OF LOVE: THE SONGS AND STORIES OF HEDWIG – INTERVIEW WITH COSTUME DESIGNER ERIK BERGRIN

Photographs of Hedwig by Mick Rock | Talent: John Cameron Mitchell | Interview by Benjamin Price | Costume Design by Erik Bergin @ The Industry MGMT | Video by Brian Lynch and Pier 59 Studios | Production by Liz Vap/FeralCat Productions | Wig and Makeup by Mike Potter using MAC Cosmetics @ Ray Brown | Costume Assistant Lauren Hoffman | Makeup Assistant Andrew D’Angelo 

John Cameron Mitchell rose in the world of cult-entertainment after directing, writing, and starring in the award-winning film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). His Broadway production of Hedwig garnered him a 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of Musical and a Special Tony Award for his return to the role in 2015. His seriously impressive depth of work includes the improv-based film Shortbus (2006), and 2010’s Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman which scored an Academy Award nomination for her role. He executive produced Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (2004) and has played recurring roles in HBO’s Girls, Martin Scorsese’s HBO series Vinyl, The Good Fight and current season of Mozart in the Jungle. Mitchell has also been busy behind the camera directing and co-writing the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s punk-era How to Talk to Girls at Parties starring Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman.

“At last! My journey to Oz, long-deferred by silly obstacles like unemployment and air fare, is a reality! I shall strap on a Cubist corsette and chromium wig, regale you with haphazard stories from 55 years of fake rock stardom and wail your favorite Hedwig songs like some kind of wonder woman within. Please prepare for my eminent arrival”, Mitchell said.

Producer David M Hawkins said, “John Cameron Mitchell is one of the great artists of our generation – a multi-award winning writer, actor and director. I first saw him on Broadway as Dickon in ‘The Secret Garden’ in the early 90’s and next in his Tony winning rock star turn in ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’. Since producing Hedwig in Australia in 2006 I have become good friends with John, our connection means the world to me. We have talked since 2008 about a concert tour to Australia and at last the stars have aligned. We intend to bring a decent hit of the Greenwich Village vibe to Oz. I am so very excited to share  this incredible artist with my country. You are in the best hands for one hell of a ride meeting the original Hedwig, and the man behind her!”

We had the chance to interview the artist behind the transformational costumes, Erik Bergrin, and discuss Hedwig, lucid dreaming, and finding inspiration as a bored teen at Blockbuster.

Photo by Eva Mueller at the artist’s studio

What was your inspiration behind the costumes for the tour?

John came to me and said he was thinking about a costume that had this cubist, geometric, Trompe-l’œil, black and white thing happening that wasn’t Hedwig but Meta-Hedwig. As in, it has some reference to Hedwig in the costume and there should be panels that are removed during the show to become more boy in the end. He mentioned there was not going to be a built set, but that the costume should act somehow like a set–which was the sentence that made me convulse with excitement. I love doing huge wearable things, which I think is one of the reasons he came to me.

Initially I made tons of drawings of huge pieces on wheels that would drag behind him. All of these outfits packed with tricks such as a gigantic overcoat that would slowly come apart and piece by piece be thrown onto a giant magnet board behind him to reveal a story on the inside. Or this huge mirrored contraption that would come out backstage and be placed around John, and he would spin in a circle and the drawings on the costume would come to life in an animation reflected through the mirrors of the contraption. But I had to edit it down after every meeting and not let my imagination get carried away. I knew he was going to the Sydney Opera House, so I thought it would be fun to play with multiple overlapping triangle shapes. Basically my inspiration was working in these parameters, but still making it my own.

How did you get involved with the project?

I met John years ago as an extra on one of his films, “Shortbus.” We stayed in touch and I guess he thought of me after seeing the pictures from my latest art exhibition, Shadowwork. It is a series of 9 large figurative fiber sculptures, each about 7 feet tall. I have a background in costuming and I work as a costume tailor for Broadway shows, so I think it was the combination of my large costume work and the fact that I know how to create for the stage. I was working on the costumes at the same time as preparing for Shaddowwork. At a meeting with John, I met Mike Potter who did the wigs, hair, and makeup for Hedwig since the very beginning and we became very close. He was helping me with both shows and I was helping him with sewing the wigs. We worked closely, bouncing ideas off each other, so the wig and costume were from the same world. It made the whole process such a blast!

How did the idea of the gender binary and Hedwig’s transformation from female fantasy to undressed man come about?

I always felt that the film is more about finding yourself and less about gender or another person that can define you.

And speaking of Mike Potter who has been with the show since the beginning, the film and original show, I will quote him as a more qualified source…, “It’s like she gradually sheds her armor. Her costume and hair are almost a defense mechanism. But she comes to realize she doesn’t need any of the things that she think she needs. i.e. all her artifice, in order to be whole. She’s only whole when she’s stripped bare. It’s like being reborn.”

How does the idea of Hedwig’s iconic character come into the costume construction?

Hedwig was always famous for her brilliant handmade-style clothes and is now busting out on an international stage. Enjoying the spoils of her riches, she is debuting a next-level, more mature, steel-hued Meta-Hedwig look. Shining like the brightest star. The tour is called The Origin of Love, and when the show opens John comes out singing the titular song. The sleeves open up to reveal the faces from the origin of love animation, and when closed the front of the sleeves form Hedwig’s tattoo. Mike Potter’s wig and makeup are classic Hedwig, but aged to show her impending mortality, as he says in the show.

When you began your artistic career making costumes for the clubs in NYC while in school, did you ever think it would become a career in fine art/ performance?

I don’t think so? But I’m not sure because I never really had any goals. Which I know is unusual to say, but I never really did anything with a goal in the end. I started sewing when I started making costumes. Eventually, I put a book together of the things I made and got hired at a costume shop my friend was working in. Then I hopped to other shops and spent a long time working with really brilliant tailors. Every day I used to leave feeling terrible because I was working with super talented and experienced people and I wasn’t able to do anything properly. That kind of experience really humbles you when trying to learn. It taught me to put severe focus into everything, because I never wanted to have that feeling of a broken spirit when I left the shop. I soon realized that the fear of not wanting to feel like that caused a snowball effect that grew until it was impossible to do anything right. As soon as the tiny seed of fear was planted, I kept at it and at some point something shifted, and I can’t at all tell you when, but things seem to work like that with me.

Some of Erik’s early sketches of Hedwig’s transforming costume

Can you elaborate on how your background/education in psychology influenced your work on Hedwig?

I would say everything in my life up until I made this costume are causes and conditions for the way I designed it. All of the experiences in my past have subtle effects on how I design, so its difficult to distinguish how each particular experience directly influences me. I can, however, tell you that my psychology education brought me to my study of eastern philosophy and meditation, and lucid dreaming. One instance where lucid dreaming directly influenced the costume happened a couple of weeks into the project..

I was hitting a block when I was sketching. When I get stuck sometimes I’ll turn to my dream practice for advice. I do several exercises during the day that help me become aware of the fact I am dreaming when I am asleep. When you’re in a dream you’re in a subtle part of your subconscious, so there are all of these practices you can do to explore the darkness or shadows you have lurking in there. I was in the middle of a dream that had my best friend in it, who I have a deep and long history with, and I became lucid and turned to him to ask for help.

I turned to my friend and said, ”What should I do with my project?,” In a quick and desperate manner, because I wanted the answer before I woke up. Every time I leaned in close to ask him this question, his face morphed into wolf features. He wasn’t answering so I asked again, “WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY PROJECT?” The wolf morph happened again, and again he didn’t answer, so I asked a third time and this time we fell together off of a balcony to the ground floor. We were looking at each other and he said to me,”This is all I ever wanted. For you to be nice to me…” I completely froze and remained still for a minute, just staring, and it generated this incredibly raw feeling of tenderness. I immediately had my heart broken open. I woke up after a minute or so and even when recalling this now I get choked-up. It left me in a sensitive and vulnerable state. I woke up a minute later and the strong feeling was still there. I knew what I had to do was stop working from a mass of thoughts and references and just hold this feeling to guide my mind to make the decisions. I made some drawings from this place of vulnerability and it all came together that day. I trust any design that comes from that place. I had so many moments like that when I was making, “Shaddowwork.” These experiences have taught me my creativity is best accessed from a place of vulnerability and tenderness.

What was it like working with John Cameron Mitchell?

Magical. He’s the perfect mixture of professionalism and fun. He is super sharp, always coming up with new puns. Working with someone who can bring a costume to life so magically is so valuable. I had my idea of what the costume would look like on him, and then he would try it on and animate it in a whole new way. You just have to surrender to the magic because it’s so much greater than anything you could have come up with in your head. It forces you to detach yourself from your original ideas. Something like that can only come from someone who has the magic.

When did you first watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch (the movie or the Broadway adaptation) and what did you feel from that experience?

I think I was 18 on a really boring vacation in Florida with family, and I rented it from Blockbuster video. VHS. My sister fell asleep and I watched it alone, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. I don’t think I fully understood all of it, but was so mesmerized by the way it looked and sounded, that I watched it a couple of times in the 2 days. The songs stayed with me. I got the soundtrack and the more I listened to the soundtrack the more I wanted to watch the film, and the more I watched the film the more I wanted to listen to it.

What was it like working with the legendary rock ‘n’ roll photographer Mick Rock?

It feels like you’re working with a legend. Reading about his background and everyone he’s been on tour with and the iconic shots he has photographed, it’s all in him as soon as he walks in the room. He had amazing stories; I could listen to them all day.

What was the inspiration behind the photoshoot and video?

The goal was to really capture this next interpretation of Hedwig in an amazing way. This is a whole new direction for the character, which was truly born for The stage. Mick Rock, who already shot one of the penultimate Hedwig photos as well as so many other iconic rock photographs, was the perfect photographer to capture it.

As an artist and costume designer, what is your goal with each piece? What do you want the viewer to take away from your work’s message?

I definitely made Shadowwork as a way to get something out of me. I know there are ways to merge the dream state and the conscious state. I’ve read a lot of about it and have experienced glimpses where the lines were almost blurred. It’s like lucid dreaming. When you become lucid in the dream state you can call out to different shadows in your subconscious. Shadowwork was one of my ways of doing this in the waking state. Building this series of my own mental hell in order to get it out and confront it. So one of the larger goals is to merge the dream state and the waking state.

For this costume, I think I just wanted to live up to the legacy of Hedwig and make the fans excited and proud.

What can we expect next from you? Are you going to collaborate further with John Cameron Mitchell on any other projects? Or Mick Rock?

I am currently doing a book called WORDS AND PICTURES  about my Shaddowwork series consisting of stories, drawings, and photos… and about John and Mick: I HOPE SO!!!!!!!!

WEB EXCLUSIVE – LEX SCOTT DAVIS

Leather Jacket by All Saints, Bra by For Love and Lemons, Vintage Leather Pants

Talent: Lex Scott Davis | Photographer: Raul Romo | Stylist: Mimi Le | Hair Stylist: Malaika Frazier | Makeup Artist: Rob Scheppy @ The Only Agency

Lex Scott Davis started off as a dancer but soon diverged onto the road towards acting in commercials and television and eventually starring in one of this summers blockbuster hits. After landing the role of Toni Braxton in the television-movie Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, the snowball started rolling and Davis’ career has taken off. Now starring as the lead heroine in The First Purge, Lex Scott Davis is a no-nonsense force on-screen, and her performances in The First Purge and SuperFly have proved that Davis is here to stay.

In this exclusive interview with Iris Covet Book, we learned more about her role in the latest installment of the Purge thriller franchise and how the film and her character resonated with her personal story.

Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland, then made the move to Philly, then New York, and now Los Angeles. The move to New York was challenging in the beginning,  especially when you don’t have family there. New York wasn’t necessarily the safest place either. Living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and commuting to work in the city everyday was a culture shock, but also a great growing experience.

When did you first know that you wanted to go into acting?

I went to Drexel University in Philadelphia and majored in dance and physical therapy. I started to grow out of it; I didn’t see the longevity of becoming a dancer. So in my third year in the program I decided to leave and move to NYC where I started acting classes at the New York Film Academy.

Was there a certain incident that confirmed in your mind you needed to pursue acting?

When I begin to realize that dancing had a cap to it. I think after a certain age you either become a teacher or a choreographer and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  I understood from a very young age that I loved performing, so for me it was like ‘what can I do that will allow me to perform for people the rest of my life?’ and the answer was acting. You never run out of opportunities as an actor. They will always need some 80-year-old black lady to come in and play someone’s grandma, you know what I mean? (Laughing). 

How do you compare the differences between living and working in New York versus Los Angeles?

Well, they were two totally different experiences for me. NY was really about school and learning the craft of acting and when I moved to LA it was all about auditions and hustling for the jobs. When I first moved to LA I realized I wasn’t really as prepared as I would like to have been. I knew I couldn’t just dive straight into grabbing a professional acting job. I definitely had to work my way up with commercials and stage plays until I eventually found my way into the audition for the Toni Braxton biopic which was the first real opportunity within my first year of living in LA.

Dress by Stella McCartney

Leather Jacket by All Saints

How was it to work alongside Toni Braxton on the production of her biopic?

When I booked the movie my manager called to tell me I had to be on a plane to meet her in Vegas the next day.  I attended her show that night and she pulled me up on stage. That was our first time ever meeting. She was very involved in all the pre-production, table reads, and made herself available to us if we ever had any questions. She would do whatever it took for us to get to know her. I choose to be more of an observer and watched her every move, even when she didn’t know she was being watched (laughs). I wanted to see how she interacted with people and the little nuances that she does.  I think I learned more about her that way.

Tell us about your latest film The First Purge. What should fans know going in?

Well I think each Purge is a stand alone story, so you don’t have to see the previous movies to understand this one. And this is the prequel, so it’s setting you up for the previous ones. It’s not a horror slasher film like some would assume, it’s actually way more evolved. The film is more of an action thriller and has a refreshing storyline where we get to see young black people being the hero’s of their community. It’s really fun to watch and I don’t want to give too much away but it’s very exciting. Oh, and the music is DOPE.  

Tell us a how you prepared for your role in The First Purge?

This role was so hard, and I fought very hard to get it. I went in to audition at least four times in a pretty rigorous process. In terms of preparation–I felt I could really relate to the script because of how I grew up, the people I grew up with, and the circumstances these characters lived with that were very relatable to me.  I’m from Baltimore and was raised around the circumstances of lower income neighborhoods.

So you felt a strong connection to your character?

It’s a relatable story. Nia’s story isn’t exactly my story or how I grew up but it’s definitely a story that I know and it is close to me. I think it’s relatable to any woman in this scenario.  Nia is taking care of her brother and her household. She’s working multiple jobs to make sure her family is supported and is a strong voice for her community. I know a lot of women who are that person. Women who are trying to make things work despite their circumstances, who push for resistance against the political matters at hand that are up against them.

Bikini Top by All Saints, Pants by Stella McCartney, Heels by Jimmy Choo

Jacket by Stella McCartney, Bra by Thistle and Spire, Pants by COS

We get to see a small glimpse of you as an action hero in The First Purge. Do you see yourself playing more parts like this?

Yes, definitely. I remember one of my earlier experiences that made me want to be an actor was when my mother took me to see Tomb Raider when I was young. Seeing Angelina Jolie in a kick ass role made me say, “Oh my god, I want to do that!” She was so beautiful and so physical and strong, and that was something I could relate to at the time because I had the dance background. To see her on the same playing field as men, and showing that dominance and strength, was amazing to me.

Is there a favorite movie that you would love to star in if there were ever a remake?

I would love to be in a role similar to Charlize Theron’s character in Monster.  To be someone that is so put-together but then stripped down from all of that and completely raw. Seeing a different component of her level of acting and the layers and complexity of the role is to bring truth to the story. It’s equally as beautiful as when she’s all done up and doing her J’adore commercial. It was just a brilliant film. My mother showed me that film years ago. (Laughs)

What advice would you give to aspiring actors?

Even while Toni Braxton happened for me within my first year, a lot of people didn’t see the other side when I was working at a salon. I worked for a massage therapy office, I was driving a Lyft–there were so many things going on. It certainly wasn’t easy. Yes, I acknowledge it was quicker than some to obtain, but it certainly wasn’t handed to me. There was a lot of hard work in between.

Nothing is by coincidence, and I’m a firm believer that if you truly love and are persistent in the thing you know you can do, then keep on doing it. What people don’t always see is that on a day-to-day basis actors are handed a handful of auditions a week and it only takes one of those for something to happen. My advice would be to keep being persistent and to not be defeated by the ‘no’s’. Remember those ‘no’s’ are leading up to that ‘yes’, and it’s not by coincidence. Maybe the role that passed on you allows you to find a role thats going to catapult you into that big break. Everything happens for a reason.

Bra Top by All Saints

WEB EXCLUSIVE – HIGHER LOVE

Coat by Philipp Plein

Photography by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Grooming by Nina Soriano | Production by Ben Price | Video Director of Photography Johnny Vicari | Model Dagsen Love @ Wilhelmina Models
Photographed at Baby Love Studio – Brooklyn, NY

Jacket by Coach, Vintage T-Shirt, Jeans by Levi, and Boots by Vintage Gianni Versace, Ring stylist’s own

Jacket and Pants by Zara, T-Shirt What Goes Around Comes Around, Cuff and Bandana stylist’s own

Coat by Philipp Plein

Shirt by Philipp Plein, Scarf stylist’s own

Jacket by Philipp Plein, Shirt by Versus

Jacket and Jeans by Coach, T-Shirt and Necklaces stylist’s own, Boots by Philipp Plein

 

Jacket, Cummerbund, and Pants by Moschino, Boots by Vintage Gianni Versace

WEB EXCLUSIVE – RED HOOK VIBEOLOGY

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Photographer:  Kimber Capriotti @KimberCapriotti
Model:  Barbra Lee Grant @barbraleegrant @newyorkmodels
Casting:  Chad Thompson @communa_k
Stylist:  Molly Haring @Mollyruthharing_styling
Makeup/Hair:  Sarah Bednar @Sarahbednarmakeup
Digital Tech: Evan Lubinger
Photo Assist:  Jillian Bresin

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Shirt Layer: Han Wen, Shoe: Acne, Fanny pack: Manokhi

Top: Han Wen, Pant: Victoria Hayes, Belt: Jivomir Domoustchiev, Shoes: Marco De Vincenzo, Sunglasses: Han Wen, Bag: MM6 Maison Margiela

Dress: Kelsey Randall, Turtleneck: Han Wen, Shoe: Dorateymur, Head piece: Miu Miu

Dress & Skirt: Han Wen, Trench Coat: Han Wen, Shoes: Han Wen, Sunglasses: Oakley

Top: Kelsey Randall, Jacket: Victoria Hayes, Pant: Marques Almeida, Shoe: Dorateymur, Hat: Marni

WEB EXCLUSIVE – VENUS OF VENICE

Dress and Boots by Moschino Couture | T-shirt by Black Beat Rags | Diamonds by Chris Aire Beverly Hills

Photographer: Emily Soto
Makeup: Natasha Severino @ Forward Artists
Hair: Dimitris Giannetos @ Forward Artists
Model:  Madison Tabeek @ Next Models

Dress and Boots by Moschino Couture | T-shirt by Black Beat Rags | Diamonds by Chris Aire Beverly Hills

Top and Skirt by Victoria Hayes | Belt by Prada | Earrings by Jennifer Fisher

Sequined Jumpsuit by Dundas | Boots by Moschino | Earrings by Chris Aire Beverly Hills

Choker by Moschino | Dress by Carolina Sarria | Fur by Georgine

Choker by Moschino | Dress and Fur by TKTKT

Top by Victoria Hayes | Diamond Stud Earrings by Chris Aire Beverly Hills

Top by Victoria Hayes | Diamond Stud Earrings by Chris Aire Beverly Hills

Dress by Off-White | Boots by Moschino | Earrings by Jennifer Fisher

WEB EXCLUSIVE – DESAMPA: NIGHTSKIN

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Photography: Hans Eric Olson | Stylist: Michael Louis Umesiobi  | Talent: DESAMPA
Interview: Sarah Conboy | Creative Direction/Production/Grooming using EVO Hair Products and Lab Series for Men by: Mike Fernandez

DESAMPA isn’t an artist that’s afraid to get controversial. In fact, his work seems to beg for controversy. In our conversation with the Brazilian-native, the number of taboo subjects we touch on is numerous. But it’s not just with us: these subjects come through in all his work as a musician, whether lyrically or in his various music videos and art projects. From sexuality to immigration to the constraints of the music industry, nothing is off-limits. Rather than shy away from it, DESAMPA talks about these things with a refreshing honesty and passion, finding inspiration in these taboo realms.

Self-described as an artist for a “dystopian future filled with hope,” DESAMPA tackles the issues most personal to himself, and in the end, produces a product that everyone can somehow relate to. It’s his emotional depth and harrowing voice that draws the listener in, and his smart aesthetic that keeps them guessing and interested. DESAMPA is an enigmatic figure, always disguised by elaborate masks; an intriguing, partially-hidden identity. But despite this, DESAMPA wears his heart on his sleeve—speaking to the love and loss, trials and tribulations that all humans experience.

Here DESAMPA talks to Iris Covet Book about being an immigrant in Trump’s America, gathering inspiration from fetish play, and why he wants to be this generation’s Björk.

KYE “Rave Me” sleeveless tea, LUAR Origami belt, Reebok by Pyer Moss Vector Track Pants, Adidas shin guards, Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2, Mask by DESAMPA

 Grapa Wrap Vest – Sigilo, Mask by DESAMPA

To start, can you share your background?

I’m Brazilian. Born in São Paulo, 1991. I moved to New York two and a half years ago. I decided to move here right after a residency program. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Red Bull Music Academy. It’s this amazing residency program that they do every two years in a different city, and they bring out 60 musicians from around the world. It’s really competitive, and I was selected in 2015 to go to Paris. So that really changed everything for me, musically. I got more contacts and networking and I was like, “It’s finally time to move to New York.” Because it’s been my dream since I was a teenager, due to my influences in architecture and artists, musicians, films. After Paris in 2016, I was like, “Okay, I’m leaving São Paulo. There’s no scene here for me.” I was trying to create one, and it didn’t pick up. So I just moved [to New York].

How did you get into music? Is it something you always have wanted to do from an early age? Did you take music lessons, et cetera?

Yeah, I started taking piano lessons when I was seven. I was also classically trained at one point. I had the option to pursue classical music, but I was too confined. I thought, “I don’t see myself in this. Maybe I don’t want to be perfect; I just want to be honest,” and that’s when I left classical music to the side. Not that you can’t be honest with classical music, but it’s just that what I was doing, my compositions…they weren’t looked at as good, from the classical perspective. I’m like, “Well, they’re good for me and they’re honest, so I’m just gonna do my own thing.” That’s when I started using the computer to produce music, instead of the piano. I started making beats and electronic music. So I jumped towards that part, and also tried to incorporate the classical music aspect into my compositions. But yeah, it was always music. I don’t know how to do anything else; I suck at everything else. So it’s just music. I don’t even know if I’m good at it—it’s just the only thing that I know how to do.

Your music seems to defy categorization—how would you describe it yourself?

I just usually say it’s “futuristic soul” music. Because when I say I’m an electronic musician, people go listen to my music and they’re like, “Yeah, this is not electronic music.” I’m like, “Okay, so…soul?” and then they’re like, “Yeah, this is not soul.” So I’m like, “Okay. Futuristic soul.” Meet in-between. I tend to use soul music on top of the electronic beats, so I would say “futuristic soul.” It sounds cheesy…

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I usually tend to just look to the future, you know? Try to create the sound of what people are going to be listening to in the future. Like what Björk was doing 10 years ago—people are doing it now. I kind of drink from her fountain. I want to do something that people will be doing 10 years from now. So Björk is a really big influence for me, artistically. Sonically also, but artistically. [She has] a consistent career, and that’s what I want to have. It’s not based on hype, it’s just based on consistently good work and good music. That’s what I’m about.

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Reebok x Pyer Moss Printed Turtleneck, Craig Green X Bjorn Borg Padded Trousers, Face Harness by Stian Louw

What about Brazilian heritage—how has it influenced your work? Specifically, how did growing up in São Paulo influence your work?

We have a lot of national holidays, [and] they have specific music for them. Like we have specific music for Carnival. They’re kind of like jingles, you would say, but they’re not promoting any product. They seem like a jingle; a small track. It’s like Samba and Bossa Nova. So yeah, I grew up every year being inserted in this scenario, of Brazilian holidays and Brazilian holiday music. That led me to Bossa Nova. Dug deeper, and found the voice of Elis Regina. She was like the biggest singer in Brazil in the ’60s. I got obsessed with her voice. I’m like, “How come we don’t talk about her? How is she not being talked about everyday?” Because what she did was so…nobody was doing that back then, in Brazil. She really inspired me. I said, “I want to do something that nobody’s doing here in São Paulo.” I grew up Brazilian, and  [I’m influenced by Brazil], not even [just] with music, but art and food and architecture as well…we wear our emotions on our skin, so I tend to do that with my music. It’s very raw. I don’t know if you’ve been to or read anything about São Paulo, but it’s such a raw city. It’s violent and beautiful and concrete and ugly. It’s everything at the same time. Graffiti tags everywhere. I’m tending to bring more of that aggression from São Paulo into my own music. I think that’s really important. Because in New York, compared to Brazil, everything’s safe and well-kept. It’s polished; [the United States] is a polished country. Brazil is definitely not a polished country. It’s how it comes…dirty and clean…contradictions all around. That really inspires me, and the architecture there inspires me. We have this…he’s the national treasure: his name is Oscar Niemeyer. He’s brilliant. He did some buildings that are oval and very round, curvy buildings. He really inspires my music as well.

So, you describe yourself as a multimedia artist—what does this mean to you?

I use that term just so I’m not stuck inside one box, you know? When I try in the future to do something [like] I don’t know, maybe fashion, I want people to take me seriously. Or anything else. Architecture. If I want to design a building, I have to study for that. But eventually, if I’m interested in that, and I accomplish that, I don’t want people to be like, “Ugh. That singer designed this building.” But at the same time, right now, I’m experimenting with different materials to create masks and molds of my face. I’m really obsessed with face masks and heads and torsos. So I’m experimenting with that…and currently I’m doing some faces with ice; I’m studying ice and how it sticks to the face. I did a mold, and I’m trying to create a lot of replicas of my face and eyes. Also, I do a lot of videos. I have so many videos that I shot in Brazil this past year, that haven’t been released yet. I direct. I’m not doing all these things by myself, by any means. I have always had friends and other creative people helping me out with all this stuff. So I have plenty of videos that I directed and came up with the storyboard and the mood and everything. Also some videos don’t even have music. I’m itching myself to put music, because that’s what I know how to do. But at the same time, I’m like, “No, maybe this should be a silent film” or something. So I’m exercising that. I don’t need to put my music out everywhere; it can be silent as well sometimes.

You explore themes of sexuality and politics in your work, to name a few. Do you think it’s important as an artist to spread a larger or public message, or are these just personal to you?

Both. They’re really personal to me. In any of my tracks, I’m not talking about things that I haven’t experienced, or that I’m not close to. Everything that I’m talking about like immigration and sexuality and being dumped and loving unconditionally, all of that is close to me. I’m facing that right now. Immigration—what is [it like] being a Latino guy from Brazil in New York, in this country ruled by Trump? It’s something [in which] I have no option. I live it 24/7. Because in Brazil I’m “white,” and then I leave there and come here, and I’m “Latino.” But at the same time, in some Latino communities, Brazilians are not considered Latinos. Where do I belong even? If Brazilians are not considered Latinos, but they are considered Latinos to white people, and in Brazil I’m white…I fluctuate between things. So I’m trying to find the light in all that, in the difficulties. The track  I am referring to has not been released yet, it’s going to be on my EP that I’m hopefully releasing by the end of this year. It’s just taking so long because of labels and life…

Speaking of labels—you’ve self-released music. What is your reasoning behind this? Do you think the music industry is restrictive in your artistic process in any way?

It is pretty restrictive. From what I’ve learned, labels are not signing albums anymore unless you’re a bigger artist. They don’t want to risk it. It’s a risk for them to sign a full album––nine tracks. It’s a lot of tracks to be mastered; it’s more promotion and more singles and videos and all that. There’s no money in the music industry anymore, so they’re signing smaller EPs, and if that works out, then maybe a second EP and if that works out, maybe an album. So nothing’s certain anymore in the industry. That passes onto the musicians, because they’re like, “Shit. Should I maybe just format my music for how people are consuming music nowadays?” Because people just listen to singles and [watch] music videos. People just want to see visuals with music, and singles. So that affects me, because my biggest dream is to tell a story in an album, in a 10-track album. A lot of people are like, “Don’t do that. Because you’re gonna end up self-releasing it again, and nobody’s gonna hear it.” So I have to work around the walls of the music industry, that’s for sure. It’s kind of limiting, at some points. Even if I’m an independent musician. But I also want to have a career in music, so I need to think of those things when I’m finalizing my project. Whether it’s an EP, an album, a single—I gotta have in mind the way people are consuming music nowadays.

LUAR Brooklyn Jacket, Willy Chavarria track pant, Mask Slick It Up

KYE “Rave Me” sleeveless tea, LUAR Origami belt, Reebok by Pyer Moss Vector Track Pants, Adidas shin guards, Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit 2, Mask by DESAMPA

You are working on a new album, correct? You posted on Facebook about losing most of your work for it. Can you tell me the story about losing your external hard drive?

I had 50% of my album done, or something…70%…I forget the percentage. But I had a large amount of my album. I started four years ago, and I had a lot of music that I was gonna put in it. Then I went to Brazil, and I just lost it. It was taken from me. I don’t know what happened. I put “Lost” signs on the streets and tried to find it at all costs and I learned my lesson. Because now I save all my projects in like seven different places, you know? I’m not losing this shit again. It broke my heart; it broke my trust in myself. Four years of work that I had done, and I’ll never find those tracks again. I don’t even know where to begin to make them again. I just don’t know. So I gave up on trying to find them, and I’m focusing on creating new material. That really forced me to make more stuff, and it’s more current. Because when I started writing it, I wasn’t an immigrant yet. So I had a different take. Now I have more to talk about, more life experience. More ugly, sad shit happened to me, and I have this anger to write about. So it helped in a sense. That EP came for me…I was like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna do an album again, so I’m just gonna start writing music and then I’ll figure it out.” I finish all my songs at Red Bull Studios in Chelsea, New York. They’re really great. I have an engineer there, and I have some people that are really interested in me and want to help. So they’re organizing, and giving me a bunch of dates on the schedule for me to finish this project. They were like, “I really think you should do an EP, because all these tracks that you have are really strong. They could be pushed into a successful EP.” So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m finishing that. I’m not losing that for anything. Like I said, I saved it in seven different places. I plan on releasing it by the end of this year, with two videos as well. Both were shot in São Paulo.

Your new logo is being released in conjunction with your upcoming single “Still Here.” Can you explain the inspiration behind it?

Are you familiar with the website CAM4? It’s a website that people go to strip their clothes, but they get paid for it; they get tips. People are like, “I’ll pay you $25 and you take your clothes off ” You know? People testing out sex toys or fucking. It’s voyeuristic. It fascinates me, but it also scares me to think that relationships are turning virtual. It’s satisfying for them, just to watch another person around the world being naked or jerking off or fucking. That’s enough; they don’t want to meet people in person. It’s a combination of scary and fascinating. So my music video for “Still Here” is a play on that. It’s me in different rooms, with different fetish masks and fetish outfits. It doesn’t go directly with what I’m talking about in the song. It’s more of visual thing that I created and then decided to put the music, and bring the two of them together. In the song, “Still Here,” I’m talking about this Tinder date—the only one that I had. It was kind of successful, but then the person just vanished. In this short amount of time you give a lot of your secrets to this stranger, and the stranger just vanishes with all of your secrets. They’re expecting you to be hurt or something. I’m just saying that, “I’m still here.” Even though everything was taken from me, the fucked up things that happened, I’m still existing and still here. Also, at one point, it turns into me criticizing myself. Like, “How do I allow myself to continuously be in these shitty positions?”

You talked a little about this earlier—you often employ masks in your work. What’s the meaning behind them, and why are they so important to you?

So I never really liked showing my face, anywhere. This whole Kardashian era, [where] you have to put your face on everything all the time, doing everything possible—showering, brushing your teeth, eating, going down a slide, riding a bike—it’s too much. I’m not like that. My life is very private; I don’t share. So that mask is something that I can utilize to be creative, and create a new face for myself. That’s something I’m really interested in. At the same time, I can protect my identity. I was a kid that was obsessed with superheroes, so you can kind of see how that led into protecting my identity. That’s mainly it: I’m gonna hide my face everywhere. But also, my sci-fi obsession with different materials. Like plastic and silicone and fake robotic lenses. You know Alien, the movies? I really love that type of stuff. It’s something I can play with, “Oh, I’m gonna create this mask now. Oh, I’m gonna use this to illustrate my changed mood.” I can play with it, and it’s art that I’m producing. It’s art itself—my second face, second skin.

LUAR Brooklyn Jacket, Mask Slick It Up

Reebok x Pyer Moss Printed Turtleneck, Craig Green X Bjorn Borg Padded Trousers, Face Harness by Stian Louw

Do you create all of them yourself?

For the most part. Back in the day, when I started, no. I had someone doing them for me. I designed them, but someone else actually made them. I didn’t even touch them before they were made. But nowadays, I’m doing it myself with my boyfriend. We do it together. We find the material; we trick them out; we paint over it and put the straps. Right now, my inspirations are really the fetish masks. I’m not a fetish-y person; I don’t have a lot of fetishes. But the imagery of BDSM, the aesthetic of it, is really interesting to me. They’re made from really beautiful materials and employ symmetry. Deprive you of air, deprive you of vision. It’s really interesting. I’m leaning towards that,studying and experimenting with those materials… plastic and leather and metal, but I always have people helping me out. I really don’t like doing art by myself. I think it’s a time to bring people together—different backgrounds, different visions. Because otherwise it’s just 2-D. I want 3-D, 4-D. I want more dimensions than just my own.

As an artist, what has been one of your career highlights so far?

I think definitely the highlight was the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) in 2015, in Paris. Because a lot of musicians that do what I do—electronic and the more contemporary musicians—it’s their dream to go to this thing. It helps you out a lot, and you get to meet people. I got to meet Laurie Anderson. Sheila E., Prince’s drummer. The amount of people that they put you in contact with in the lectures and the studio space and the other musicians that they select; it’s such a good exchange, and they don’t ask for anything back. I got to play an amazing show in Paris and expand my fanbase and spread my music through Europe. That’s definitely a highlight. Then after that, I played SXSW the following year. But the highlight was definitely RBMA.

Are there any other artists that you are loving right now? Ones who inspire your work, or you admire?

There’s so many. Let’s see. The first that comes to mind: I’m really obsessed with Smerz. They’re from Oslo, and it’s this really cool, experimental House. It’s like ABRA, but more experimental, and very European. I really like serpentwithfeet. I think he’s insanely talented. I’ve never seen anyone that can sing like him. Kind of nerve-wracking to hear someone that good. Oneohtrix Point Never definitely. He’s an amazing producer. He also works closely with Red Bull, which hits close to heart. His music is really, really boundary-breaking. He’s worked with ANOHNI; he’s worked with FKA Twigs, and a bunch of female artists that I’m really into right now. ANOHNI is a really amazing artist that I get inspired by. Björk, Kelela…I don’t know. Every time people ask me that question I don’t know what to do. They shift.

What can we expect from you in the future? You’re going to be releasing music at the end of the year, but what else? What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

In the future, you can expect my EP. In the nearest future. I’m just gonna talk about the nearest future, because if I go on with my future, I’m just gonna be here all day because I have so many plans. But nearest future, an EP and music videos. A bunch of visuals—shoots, and hopefully an installation that I’m working on, with face casting and molds. What else? More collaborations. This next EP that I’m releasing, I’m not gonna have collaborations with different musicians, in the sense of “Oh, I’m getting a singer to sing with me on this.” I’m having collaborations in production, but not on the forefront. So I want to do more of that, and keep producing more and more. I really want to write a soundtrack for something, either a dance piece or a movie. I really like soundtracking things. I always have a soundtrack for things in my head, and I really want to get this out, and put it into a movie or dance piece or something.

Undercover Double Breasted Raincoat, DESAMPA’S Mask

Listen here:

Support Your Local Immigrants – DESAMPA

Ventre– DESAMPA

Red Bull Radio Alumni Mix– DESAMPA

 

 Photo Retoucher: Amanda Sperry