DIGITAL COVER: DIEGO BONETA

Jacket by Dsquared2

 

Photography by: Emilio G Hernandez

Styling by: Marc Sifuentes

Creative Direction: Louis Liu

Grooming by: Benjamin Thigpen

Location: @alloy.bk @168plymouth @rebeccarobertsoninteriors

 

Some might call it fate when an 11-year-old Diego Boneta won a televised singing competition with his rendition of a classic Luis Miguel hit song “La Chica del Bikini Azul”. Fast forward 20 years later, and Boneta is not only the star of the three season Netflix hit series Luis Miguel: The Series, but was an integral part in creating the series as Executive Producer to the project. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Boneta recreated and re-recorded some of Miguel’s top hits for the series, a nearly impossible task for those that understand the complexity of Miguel’s catalog of music.  

Boneta spoke to Iris Covet Book about the time and preparation involved in playing the legendary crooner and the craft of perfecting a beloved real life character while still making it his own. Boneta also discusses the inspiration behind producing, starting his own production company, and his determination to open more doors for Latino actors.

 

Suit by TEDDY VONRANSON, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

The Luis Miguel series has been a huge hit for Netflix for three seasons, but I want to go back to the beginning and talk about your process preparing to play the role of this international superstar.

Of course. Well, when I got offered the part I knew the challenge it would entail because Luis Miguel is somebody who is still very relevant and more importantly still alive. Normally a show like this happens once the artist has passed away. I knew that there was only one way to do this right and that was to really take the preparation part seriously, even more seriously than the actual shooting. It was the first time that I worked on a movie that was a full transformative role and becoming someone else is very, very intense. 

It’s me becoming someone else, and not only acting but also singing. I basically took a year to just work on that. I had a vocal coach, Ron Anderson, and then I had my acting coach, Juan Carlos Corazza, helping me on the acting front, and I was also an Executive Producer on the series! It’s the most demanding project I’ve ever been a part of. 

Some people might not know that you originally are from a musical background ,you were in a singing competition show at eleven years old and starring opposite Tom Cruise in the movie musical Rock of Ages. Did you know that you would have to take on the responsibility of re-recording all of the songs in the series in your own voice?

I sat down with Jamie Foxx one day,I’ve been a big fan of his work and his Oscar winning performance in the movie Ray about Ray Charles, I think he absolutely crushed that movie, and what he told me was, “the key is to do everything.” You know, he told me if we recreate all the songs, don’t stop there. I needed to recreate the music videos, the album covers,even the prop pictures on the set had to be me. He was also the person to say I needed to sing in the series. You know, Luis Miguel has crazy pipes. He’s one of the best singers of all time. And I wanted to give it a shot. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it. Ron Anderson, who was the vocal coach of Rock of Ages, helped me try to replicate the sound of Luis Miguel. It was like learning how to sing again. Going from changing your vibrato, to seeing where you have to place your voice to sound closer to his tone, to how to pronounce his vowels, where he places each vowel. It was crazy, and that’s all I did for a year. 

 

Full look by Thom Browne, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

If you didn’t have the musical background, do you think you would have taken on that challenge or is that part of your personality to push yourself out of your comfort zone? 

I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without having a musical background. Because Luis has one of those voices that, I mean, what that man can do with his voice is insane. I don’t think I would have been able to do it without having my 20 years of vocal training. 

A key part of the success was having Kiko Cibrian, who produced a lot of Luis’ records, produce this soundtrack. All the songs were re-recorded, all the instruments were re-recorded. So I wasn’t just singing over recorded tracks. Kiko made sure we re-recorded every single song. A lot of those songs were written and recorded back in the 90’s by Kiko, so it was incredible to have him as the music producer for all three seasons of the soundtracks. 

And what about Luis Miguel? Did he have any advice for you during the recording process?

Well, I met him before we started shooting. There’s actually a scene in season three that recreates when we met. He shared some very personal stories with me and he told me ‘this is just for you for no one else, use it for your interpretation’. We hung out a few more times and he got to listen to the songs. He was extremely nice and very supportive. After seeing the show he said, ‘Man, you killed it.’ Hearing that from the person that you’re playing, I don’t think you can get any better than that. 

 

Full Look by Alexander McQueen

 

You prepared for this role for over a year, when did you feel that you had mastered the part? 

I’d say whenever we started doing rehearsals in Mexico City, before we started shooting with the director. He’s really the one that found the tone for the show. In those rehearsals, in talking to him, going over the scenes and just playing with the script, that’s where we found it. 

Just knowing and having that confidence that there was nothing else I could have done to prepare anymore. I had done my homework and no one knew the character better than I did. That gave me the freedom and the confidence to know that I was ready.

You also put in the work to be in a makeup chair for 4 to 6 hours a day getting your prosthetics on. What was that experience like? 

That was a whole different ball game because it’s not just putting on the prosthetics and then boom you’re the part, you know? Studying him and being him for 33 years of his life, from 17 to 50 years old. Studying each of those stages of his life, changing the mannerisms and the way he spoke throughout his life. 

The hardest part was trying to understand and imagine what life must have been like for him. The prosthetics consisted of six hours of makeup, wigs and body suits everyday to become that older Luis Miguel. The team behind it was amazing. Bill Corso is a two time Academy Award winning special effects makeup artist alongside Alfredo Moda, an amazing Mexican makeup artist.The fusion between both teams was a really cool experience, and they paid attention to the smallest details

 

Full Look by Zegna

 

This series is your first project as an Executive Producer, and I was reading that Mark Burnett called you and threw out the idea. Had the thought of being an EP ever occurred to you before this project? Is that a role you were interested in?

I worked with Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages and observed how he did business and how he manages his career in-between making movies. He was always working on the next thing and working through pre-production on another. I thought that’s what I wanted to do. 

Mark Burnett and I worked together on a TV show called the Dovekeepers, back in 2014. And I told Mark I really wanted to get into producing. It’s not something that I want just to have a vanity credit. I actually wanted to learn all the in’s and out’s. So when Luis Miguel came around, he called me and said ‘I have the perfect project. There is no script but I know you’re very familiar with the music, with his life, with his story. Be a part of this production team and let’s do this together.’

Producing together was the best part of the learning experience. Fully learning before there is even any scripts, no actor, no one cast yet. Really shaping this project from the very beginning. That was the best part and I got a big satisfaction out of it.

Full look by Casablanca, Jewelry by Konstantino

So tell me more about your production company Three Amigos. What is your team’s vision? 

We see it as a media company because of our focus on television, film, books, and broadcasts. We want to find projects that show Latinos in an uplifting light. We are so excited to team up with some of the best filmmakers in the industry. At the moment, we are working on a romantic comedy with Paramount called At Midnight, it’s something of a fusion between Hollywood and Mexico. Today, with more opportunities through streaming services, the business is realizing that people don’t really care as much about the language as they do about a relatable and interesting story. Spanish is a global language. There are a lot of hugely successful Spanish speaking shows watched all over the world and we are looking forward to being a major player in bringing quality content to a global audience.

Full Look by Dries Van Noten

 

There has always been a lack of representation in Hollywood for the Latin community, and a lot of the roles that were out there leaned towards a certain stereotype. Did you ever have to confront a time where there were roles being pitched to you that were not a good fit for you as a representative of the Latin community. 

I think times have definitely changed from when I first moved to LA in 2007. There are more roles and better roles. But back then, yes, it was difficult to get good latino roles. 

There are plenty of actors of different races out there that can play different nationalities, and so can we. So yes, I think things are better today. I think they’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot of work to do. There’s still a lot of room to grow and improve and that’s why I’m so passionate about my production company Three Amigos, which is creating those vehicles for other actors as well. 

 

Suit and Pant by Zegna, Jewelry by Konstantino

 

Shot at 168 Plymouth, the last historic factory to residential loft conversions in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, composed of two 100-year-old paint factory buildings which have been attentively transformed by Alloy Development’s architecture team. Pictured is the new Brick and Timber model residence with interior design by Rebecca Robertson Interiors.

RAUL DE NIEVES

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

Photography by Tiffany Nicholson | Interview by Mariana Valdes Debes

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

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

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

Hello Raúl!

Hi Mariana, it’s nice to talk to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we expect next from you?

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

And in 10 years?

In 10 years? Maybe I’ll have a dog.