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 – 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 – 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 – 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  

EXCLUSIVE: ERIKA JAYNE


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

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

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

Jacket by Tom Ford, Earrings by House of Emmanuele

Earrings by House of Emmanuele

Hello! How are you Erika?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Jacket by Vitor Zerbinato

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

Children’s theater! (laughs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What style would you be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

 

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

Jumpsuit by Any Old Iron, Shoes by Christian Louboutin

Dress by Gucci

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

EXCLUSIVE: RICKY MARTIN

Jacket by Tom Ford

Photography by Greg Swales
Styling and Interview by Marc Sifuentes

Taking over the legendary Sin City strip, making history as the first Latino to headline a Las Vegas residency, and jumping headlong into the world of acting, Ricky Martin shows he is one of the most intriguing and impactful entertainers of our time.

Father, husband, singer, dancer, and actor. Ricky Martin is constantly juggling his many roles with seemingly effortless ease. Currently a resident on the Vegas strip at the Park Theater at Monte Carlo for his solo show, Martin is also eager to further pursue his acting career, release a new album, create a new world tour, and continue helping the people of Puerto Rico and the victims of human trafficking. Filled with love, down-to-earth spirituality, and an effervescent charm, Ricky Martin has proven himself to be an everlasting icon of pop culture.

In an exclusive interview with Iris Covet Book Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, the Puerto Rican star gets personal about his daily life with his husband and twins, life in the limelight, and his continuous efforts to make the world a better place.

Hi Ricky! I wanted to thank you for doing this interview and for being so fun and easy-going on the day of the shoot.

Well, thank you! You and your team were amazing and had such a beautiful energy in the studio.

Thank you! So, I want to start with asking about your second “back by popular demand” Vegas residency at the Park Theater, what is the key to producing such a successful and in-demand show?

I give credit to the people that I work with: the producers, directors, all of the people behind the scenes, the musicians, and the dancers. It really takes a village, and I wouldn’t be able to do this show without an amazing group of people behind me. I’m happy to have these talented producers and directors who can translate my vision and make it magic! To be the first Latino male to have a residency in Vegas is a big responsibility. What I love about this show is having the opportunity to perform every night in front of a very international crowd. Just to be on stage and see all of these faces from all over the world really motivates and inspires me. What I want to do is break boundaries and unite cultures. To see the crowd disconnect from their everyday problems in life and leave the theater with a smile is a very beautiful thing. I wish we could do this show for many more years.

Will you be taking this show on the road at the end of it’s Vegas run?

Well since I have an exclusivity contract I won’t be able to take this particular show on the road or perform it outside of the Park Theater. But I will hopefully be on the road touring a new show next year through Latin America and the United States. The idea is to take a new show all over the world, hopefully by next year.

I was watching clips of the show and it just looks amazing, you seem larger than life and so confident. Do you ever feel insecure? And if you do, what do you tell yourself to get out of that headspace?

I am very insecure. I am insecure when I write music, when I perform, when I act…but what gets me through are my years of experience. I am human and I go through a lot of highs and lows before I go on stage. If you see the show, for the first song I’m coming down from a 300-foot drop! I may look super confident, but I’m not! (laughs) I suffer from vertigo and it can be very difficult to focus, but it is part of confronting my demons and breaking that trauma that triggers my vertigo. By the time the music starts, I just have to forget everything and jump into storytelling mode.

Well it’s been getting really great reviews! Would you consider extending your residency for a third round?

Oh, I would love that! And funny you should ask because that’s exactly what we are in discussions about at the moment, and if we do, I will need to create a whole new show for the international audience.

jacket and t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, rings by John Hardy

t-shirt by Philipp Plein, jeans by Tom Ford, ring by John Hardy

shirt by Ferragamo, jeans by Tom Ford

You recently teased your fans with a new single, “Fiebre”, when can we expect a new full length album?

I am thinking hopefully by the beginning of next year, but right now we have been pretty focused on the Vegas show and American Crime Story, which we were shooting for eight months. Today, the record company no longer needs the record out at a very specific time so the artists have more freedom, and if a song is ready then I can just release it. Obviously numbers are important in this industry, but it gives us an idea of what the audience likes or dislikes, and I have never felt more relaxed doing music.

Since you mentioned American Crime Story, how did you become involved and what made you say yes to the story?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Murphy on an episode of Glee. We’ve kept in touch and he invited me to dinner to tell me that he thinks he has a role for me. Once I read the script I immediately said yes because it was personal. I knew I wanted to be a part of telling Versace’s story. I wanted to remind the viewers the injustice behind what happened. Because it’s not how Gianni Versace died, but how we allowed it to happen. What angers me most is that Cunanan was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, living on Miami Beach which is a very small community, but the FBI turned the other way because he was a gay man killing gay men. There is no denying to me that this was really an issue of homophobia. I think we did a great job covering that aspect of the story.

I read that Ryan Murphy wants to give you your own show, any word on that project?

Well he told me about it and then made it public, and I got really excited! We haven’t spoken in detail about it because he is transitioning from one network to another and he told me that he will be busy until June, but I’m not in a rush. (laughs) I would love to do something behind the scenes as well. But no, we haven’t talked about it yet.

You brought up the issue of homophobia and it made me think of your new music video. “Fiebre” and of course American Crime Story both show you openly embracing your sexuality. After being forced into the closet for so long, how does it feel for you to finally be able to express being gay through your music videos and now your acting roles?

Amazing! If I could go back and come out in the late ‘90s or early 2000’s then I would, because it felt amazing to come out. When I talk to people who are struggling with their identity, I tell them that it may be bumpy for awhile but in the long run the love that I received from my friends, family, from social media…it was spectacular. I know this is not the case for everyone but at the end of the day it is about dignity and self love.

You recently received a Trailblazer award from The LGBT Community Center in NYC, what did receiving that award mean to you?

Well like receiving any award, it is a big responsibility, but at the end of the day I am proud because it lets me talk about where I have been, who I am, and what I did to finally understand my real essence. In my case, I get to share my story. I meet so many people in the streets or on social media who tell me, “Ricky, thank you so much because I know what you went through and I can better understand my gay father, gay uncle, gay brother, lesbian aunt…” and I think it is a beautiful thing and it is important.

I wanted to talk about your husband, artist Jwan Yosef, a bit. You met on Instagram and I was reading you instant messaged for six months before meeting—

Yes! And nothing sexy! It was very romantic. We talked a lot just about our problems and lives. I never even heard his voice until six months later when I went to visit him in London, where he was based. I said to myself, “This is it. I just met the man who I am going to marry.” Two years later we were married. He is a great man, he loves my kids, and we have so many things in common.

He is a conceptual painter and I have mad respect and admiration for what he does. When I see him and his creative process… it is so sexy. I just love when he locks himself in his studio and starts creating. I become a fly on the wall, watching him paint and create works of art. I am in love, man, I am so in love.

jacket by DSquared2, ring by John Hardy


shirt, pants, and sneakers by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

 

shirt, pants, and shoes by Louis Vuitton, rings by John Hardy

You’ve mentioned in the past that you want more children, what do you love about being a father and what is the most challenging part of raising twins?

Yes, I want more; I’m just getting started! If it was my decision I would have six more, but Jwan says let’s take it one step at a time. (laughs) With kids, and I’m sure every parent out there will say this, but everything is new every day and being a single father with twins was extremely challenging, especially in the first year. No one is sleeping, and it’s two against one. Now that they’re older it’s still two against one, but they are amazing kids and the bonding time over the first year was so important. I took a sabbatical, and I did not accept any help. I wanted to do it all, change every diaper, bathe them everyday, and the relationship I have with my kids… there’s just so much love. They are almost 10 years old and this is when dads stop being cool and they start making fun of you! I’m really happy because I’m not there yet with them (laughs).

I’m sure your spirituality plays a big part in your parenting too, what helped you to discover your spirituality?

When we talk about spirituality we go back in time. Religion has nothing to do with spirituality, but I would say that growing up Catholic, even being an altar boy, was too much for me. I kept searching and looking for other philosophies and dogmas to ascribe to. There was a moment where I was obsessed with India and going about four times a year because they call it the “Cradle of Spirituality.”Then my kids became my religion. It doesn’t matter how late I go to bed, I religiously wake up at 7:00 a.m. everyday to have breakfast with them, and that bonding experience with the three of us is the only way I want to start my day. But once a Catholic, always a Catholic. To this day I sometimes look to God when the boys ask me questions because they ask some really hard questions, and I just want to give them the right answer.

I want to talk about Puerto Rico, from your experience can you give us an update on how the country is doing currently? I know that you were and still are very involved in fundraising after hurricane Maria.

Oh man, well 43% of the island still has no power, and if you go up to the more rural mountain areas, even now nine month later, people still have no power, no running water, and are bathing in the river and using candlelight. It is really frustrating and I wish the federal government would have done more. You have to wonder, if this were any other city in the continental US, would we ever hear that nine months later people have no power? No, I don’t think that would happen. But we have to do our part, and Puerto Ricans have experienced a great level of compassion, empathy, and care from volunteers, and the country has become creative and adapted. This too shall pass, but it will take a long time to go back to normal.

Another cause that is close to your heart is bringing awareness to human trafficking, can you explain where this compassion comes from and tell us more about the Ricky Martin Foundation?

With natural disasters like hurricanes for example, the community becomes more vulnerable and human traffickers take advantage. Traffickers come to the island and see all of these people who have lost everything and need money to buy things, and these kids end up selling their bodies or getting forced into pornography.

jacket by Valentino, shirt by COS

 

sweater by COS, pants by Dior Homme, rings by John Hardy

How did it first come to your attention?

More than a decade ago a friend of mine was building an orphanage in India, and this was when I was looking for any excuse to go to India. I flew to Calcutta, and he took me to the slums and said, “Come on, let’s rescue girls!” I had no idea what this meant, but when I got to the slums he started to point out girls like, “You see those three? They could be forced into prostitution.” and I’m standing there like, “What?! What do you mean? That girl must be five and her sister must be eight and her older sister must be eleven” and he says, “Yes, Rick. This is human trafficking. These girls live on the streets and they need money to help their family and they get paid for selling their bodies.” I was so astounded and went back home and started to educate myself on the subject. I went to Congress and told them we needed to bring more awareness to this global $150 billion industry. The victims are sex slaves.

Did you know there are more slaves today then back in the slave trade of the 18th century? Today, as soon as you open your computer you could easily fall victim to a criminal persuading you into the world of prostitution.

It’s encouraging to hear you are using your platform to educate others of these injustices.

It’s not easy. Ten years ago I wanted to stop. I said I couldn’t do it anymore because we couldn’t keep up. We were working so hard but I felt like I didn’t see any change. My mentor looked at me and said, “Ricky, you’ve got to stop being so arrogant. Who do you think you are? Do you think you will change the world? You’re not Superman! How about focusing on saving one life? And one life can become two.” We went back and built a holistic center in Puerto Rico in an area affected by trafficking, and right now we have 132 children coming to the center. We are educating them about human trafficking and opening their eyes to the predators. It’s a lifetime commitment. We are not going to save everyone, but we will save one person at a time.

What else can we expect from you this year?

I’m getting more prepared as an actor, meeting with great writers, producers, and directors and I think there are some great opportunities on the table. I am so lucky to be at a place where I can pick and choose the projects that speak to me. Aside from still making my music, I really want to jump into acting more and playing amazing roles that can have a positive impact on society. My acting career is very personal to me right now; I am obsessed and don’t want to stop!

coat and shirt by Prada, pants by COS, sneakers by Dior Homme, ring by John Hardy

Hair by Joey Nieves @ Grey Matter LA using Hanz de Fuko, Makeup by Maital Sabban @ MS Management, BTS Video by Lavoisier Clemente, Photo Assistant Amanda Yanez, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production by Benjamin Price

EXCLUSIVE: EVA LONGORIA


Dress by Helo Rocha, Earrings by Bulgari

Photography by Greg Swales  | Styling by Charlene Roxborough | Interview by Olivia Munn

Inspired by David Hockney’s series of pool polaroid collages, Eva Longoria becomes a modern day Venus in the waters of the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills as she celebrates the miracle of motherhood.

They say there’s no rest for the weary, but Eva Longoria is anything but weary. Co-starring alongside Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez in the remake of the Goldie Hawn fan-favorite Overboard, producing a new television show entitled The Grand Hotel, throwing her hat into the television directing ring with the ABC hit Blackish, designing an eponymous fashion line, being the face of L’Oreal, championing the Time’s Up Movement, and carrying her first child would even make Wonder Woman tired, but Longoria sees no reason to slow down. Amidst these ever unfolding projects, Eva spent an afternoon with Iris Covet Book for an exclusive photoshoot at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, channeling the glamour of the poolside scenes of Old Hollywood.

Longoria began her career competing in the pageant circuit of her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, eventually moving to Los Angeles, playing small roles in daytime TV until landing her big break in the hit television series Desperate Housewives. After eight seasons of success on the ABC show, Eva put her political interest to work by touring across the U.S. with Barack Obama on his re-election campaign, finding a personal and ardent activist voice for immigration reform. Keeping up at marathon pace, Longoria continued her work in Hollywood, while balancing multiple businesses and projects in the world of fashion and restaurants. With her first child on the way, it seems like the perfect time for Longoria to celebrate her many achievements including her greatest one to date, becoming a mother.

Eva has granted Iris Covet Book the exclusive opportunity to document this miraculous moment in her life, her first pregnancy. Interviewed by friend and fellow actress Olivia Munn, Eva Longoria is glowing and glamorous as ever, lounging pool-side in Beverly Hills.

 

Dress by Nili Lotan, Earrings and Bracelet by Bulgari

Dress by Nili Lotan, Earrings and Necklace by Bulgari

Hi Eva! It’s so funny, I was just thinking about us in Miami because usually women are so tired at the beginning of their pregnancy, but I was the one sleeping all day, and you were staying up with me all night and still getting up early in the mornings! (laughs)

I know, I have it reversed… I am so tired now! I was doing so well and had so much energy, running around directing and producing. Then about a week ago I just hit a wall and now get knocked-out four times a day. This was what everyone was talking about! (laughs)

Have you had to pull back on a lot of your projects? It felt like you had a new show to direct every day.

Yeah, my Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony was the last official thing I had to do for work, and I have some press for Overboard left to do. I was on the Ellen show the other day and I felt like I was going to fall asleep, like uncontrollable sleep, and I was like, “Ellen, if I fall asleep can you edit around it?” (laughs)

You’re growing like literal body parts inside of you and that takes a lot of energy!

Yeah it takes so much energy making a human. (laughs)

So, I heard that the cover story you shot for Iris Covet Book is the only magazine cover you shot while pregnant?

Yes it is!

I cannot believe this is your only magazine shoot while pregnant! Did it feel weird?

It was so awesome and freeing because I didn’t have to suck in! You know how it is on a shoot or on the red carpet and you have to suck in and pay attention to your posture? But this time I was just letting it all hang out! (both laugh)

You were telling me that now the dialogue has changed with the paparazzi from when they would take pictures of you before—

Oh yeah! Before I was pregnant, I would just be eating a burger or something and they would write, “Baby Bump Watch!” (laughs) When we found out I was pregnant, my husband Pepe was worried about hiding it, and I said, “It doesn’t matter, they say I’m pregnant all the time. It’s fine.” And then the paparazzi would say “Oh, Eva’s getting fat! Eva’s overeating!” and I’m like, “No, no, no! Now I’m really pregnant!” (laughs)

One thing I don’t think people realize about you is that it’s not fun to be around this constant speculation, but you just let it roll off your back and it’s so admirable. I have learned a lot from you because of that.

I think I’ve always been like that. I grew up with three older sisters so I think I developed a thick skin. I read this amazing book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and one of the agreements is to not take things personally. It stuck out to me because I really never let things get to me. I try not to be affected by a bad audition, not getting the part in a movie, having a bad breakup. I was kind of born optimistic and it was how I grew up. We were a family of four daughters who were all very sharing and loving. My parents always taught me that failure was just another step to success.

I’ve thought about that a lot, and I was talking to a friend who did not get a role recently and told her what you told me when you had gone out for some big movie and did not get the part, but right after that denial you got Desperate Housewives. At that moment, getting a big movie could have really catapulted your career and it’s hard to see that in a positive light. Were you bummed at all or did you just move on?

Well you know I really just forgot about it! Like what part? Which movie? Maybe I’m not that invested! (laughs) But no, I remember when I got that call I said, “Oh, ok no problem!” If it’s your role, it’s your role. There’s no one who can play your role and nobody can take it from you.

Right, that’s true. You’re just able to roll through so much in life and still look so freaking young! It’s so interesting to think of you as a first time mother. You are just so nurturing and it is so weird to think of you as having your first child because I feel like there’s no big change. You’ll have the baby and keep rolling. Does it feel like a shock to you?

My friends always say the same thing, that I have been a mother to so many in my life. But I’m not freaked out at all, even with all of the other mother’s advice and everyone telling me how exhausted I’m going to be and blah blah blah, I’m like… yeah, that sounds about right. There’s nothing new that is being said to me or that I haven’t already read which…I mean, unless a monkey comes out of me, nothing is really going to shock me! (both laugh)

And even if a little maltese came out of you, you would just say, “Ok, so I had a dog!” and keep on rolling. (both laugh)

Yeah, I’d roll with it! And i’m not saying it is going to be easy because motherhood is never easy, but Im just saying that I’m prepared for the challenges in the greatest way possible.

Is there anything that worries you?

Health always worries me. You just don’t know what can happen with their health at any stage of life. From the time of their birth, to walking, to teething, to their first heartbreak. I want to protect my child from everything in the world, but there are certain things you won’t be able to.

Honestly, I think one of the best ways to protect your child from heartbreak is picking the right partner and Pepe, your husband, is literally one of the best human beings I have ever met. I love him so much and he is just one of those people who instantly becomes family. I think picking a great father for your child is so important, and your son will have it made with the two of you as his parents.

He really is the greatest human being in the world and he’s an amazing dad and husband. We can talk about anything from our day-to-day, politics, world events, or artificial intelligence, but at the same time we can just watch TV and he’ll laugh at me when I turn on my crime shows. There couldn’t be a better person made for me in the world. He is such a good father, so I already know that he will be a good father to our son. It feels like we’ve been together forever, but it also feels new and fresh every day.

Speaking of spirituality and being connected to people, how does the experience of being pregnant affect you spiritually, if at all?

It’s funny because the minute I got pregnant I wanted to know everything that was happening in my body. Not only physically, like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, but also spiritually. It is the greatest change you can experience, creating another human. My friend, Deepak Chopra, wrote a book about spirituality and pregnancy and it was just what I needed because it takes you through the whole pregnancy journey and what is happening metaphysically, physically, spiritually, what your baby can hear, when he can smell. He spoke about being careful of the images you take in because the baby can absorb fear from even a scary movie, for example.

It’s true, the baby is absorbing the energy around you. I read this interesting story about these horses which were the top competitors in all of the horse races and they were clones. The interesting thing is that the horse which was cloned had an incident with a water hose that hit him in the face and from then on he was always afraid of water hoses, and then his clone was born and since birth that clone horse would freak out in the same way whenever he saw a water hose. It raises the question of where our memories lie. People think it is our brain, but it is really in every cell of our body. So it makes sense that your baby is not only absorbing the food and drink but also the energy that is around you and produced by you.

Yes— energy, thoughts, meditation. I was really obsessed from the beginning wondering what is he feeling? What is he hearing? What is he thinking?

Bodysuit with mesh by Naked Wardrobe, Choker and Rings by David Webb, Robe by Ralph Lauren, Sunglasses by Celine

Bodysuit by Wolford, Wrap Dress by Murmur and Ring by David Webb

Bodysuit by Wolford, Ring and Necklace by David Webb

I learned a lot about sound therapy and it is really interesting because you can use this sound tool with the baby and it relaxes them, and then whenever they hear it again they instantly go into a state of relaxation.

No way! Well I’ve been playing meditation music with him and I do aromatherapy. I sleep with an essential oil diffuser with lavender oil at night, but that sound therapy sounds amazing!

To switch gears a bit, you are in the remake of Overboard which is such a beloved and highly anticipated release, is it a lot of pressure on you to work on a new rendition of such a classic movie?

Yeah…well it’s funny because I don’t have as much pressure as Anna Faris! She ran into Goldie and Kurt and they were like, “We heard you were doing Overboard”, and I would have freaked out! But it’s different because it’s a change in gender and it’s a much more contemporary version of the idea. It’s current for the time. I don’t think you could do the original today due to where we are socially. It’s funny, and I am such a big Anna Faris fan. I just think she’s a comedy genius. Eugenio Derbez, who is just the biggest Latin star ever, plays a wealthy playboy with a ton of money. It was so much fun shooting with them and playing with them, and seeing the movie was so exciting. People are going to love it!

Oh, I can’t wait to watch it! So you’ve directed the season finale of Blackish which is such a big show. It’s such a big deal to direct a season finale, and I know you want to direct more, but do you have a movie that you want to do?

Well I’ve been offered a couple of movies that I didn’t really connect to. I didn’t feel like I had a perspective to offer, and as a director I think that’s everything. I just love the medium of television, the pace of television, and working with actors who really know their characters. Not too much actor directing or motivation because they really know their role better than you do. So you’re really there to create camera choreography and make it better. I’d love to do a feature film, and I’ve been looking for one, but it’s just such a time commitment. You prep for six months, shoot for four months, and edit for a year…so it’s really just two years of your life dedicated to one project, one idea. It has to speak to me and I have to have a point of view and something to contribute. There’s a relevance and a purpose for a movie to be out there, even if it is just to make people laugh. I haven’t found that perfect script for me yet.

You have a project called Grand Hotel which you produced, did you direct as well?

No, I just produced it, but I will be directing if we go to series.

Was it hard to produce it then step back and let someone else take the director’s chair?

Well that’s why we usually pick a collaborative person, and Ken Olin (This Is Us) is an amazing director and was really perfect for this project. He brought so much to this project and I was excited to work with him, observe him, and have him mentor and teach me. He was so amazing and collaborative, and I asked him all of these questions like, “Why would you put the camera here instead of here? Why would you put the lens here instead of here?” I’m super nosy and curious and not scared to ask questions. So just using that opportunity to learn from someone who has been in the industry for a very long time was invaluable.

I think that is why you can do so many things and do them so well because you are so collaborative. I think the most successful people are some of the nicest and most collaborative, and you really show that with everything you do. You launched your eponymous clothing line in 2016. What have you learned from that process as a designer?

Well I’ve been sewing since I was seven, so for me it was a natural extension of what I wanted to do in my life. I love clothing, seams, textiles, and garment construction. It was really exciting, but also a completely different language for me. It’s a totally different industry and I’m not one of those celebrities who’s just like, “Put my name on a label! Look at my shirt!” I really wanted to get into the process, not just design, but everything from sourcing to design to marketing. It’s different press, different events, and the fashion world is its own animal. To jump in and navigate that was definitely challenging but so exciting because it challenged me in a different way then acting, producing or directing.

And I had no idea that you had a Master’s degree in Chicano studies. How did you have the time to get a Master’s degree!?

When I started it I was on Desperate Housewives and we were the #1 show in the world, and I was going to night school… it was crazy. It stressed me out, overwhelmed me, and I didn’t want the news to get to the press in case I didn’t finish. I was just taking classes, but the press found out and I was like, “Great, now I have to finish!” (laughs)

So were you in a private class or being taught with other students?

Yeah I was with other students, but they were graduate courses so they were smaller classes. I was with all these 22 year-olds who were way smarter than me! I’m sure people thought I would be the intimidating one, like a big star coming in, but it was the other way around. I walked in and they were like, “So, the Oedipus theory is applicable to…” and I was like, “Wait? I’m sorry…what is that…?” (laughs)

You know, it is so interesting what your intuition can pull you towards, like when I saw you give your speech at the DNC which was so eloquent and so articulate and smart and thought-provoking and it makes sense because all of those things that you spoke about were so powerful not just to the Latino community but to minorities in general. As an Asian-American, I felt that it connected us all whether going through those experiences or not.

I loved that time of my life because Desperate Housewives had ended and I was focusing all of my time on getting Obama re-elected, and so I spent eight months on the road with him and the campaign. People don’t realize how hard it is to be President because the states are all so different. We are so lucky to live in such a diverse country, but to unite all of those states is such a challenge because of our different needs and values. Just to travel the country and listen to all of these people was such a lesson in and of itself. I encourage it on a global level to reach across our state and country borders to learn about each other. I wish everyone could do what I did and listen to the people and hear their differences, but yet realize that we are all Americans and have that commonality.

We are all human beings and we are all trying to do our best, but we live in a time where people are being specifically targeted. Specifically, the Latin community. When you spoke at the DNC you did not mince words on your stance on immigration, and now we are forced to deal with the attack on DACA, The Dreamers and deportation. It makes me wonder if you have any advice you would give to young people who may be facing this reality?

There are so many things we can do to help The Dreamers who are great citizens, have a lot to contribute, and have been contributing with no criminal history. There are many great organizations, and a lot of progress is done locally on a state level. I know this is a national topic that has been on the administration’s agenda for many many decades, but a lot of these rules, regulations, and policies are on a state level—so figuring out what you can do locally is very important.

What’s interesting to me is that you are so busy and are doing so many things but you are also a huge philanthropist and activist. We are in such an amazing time in our world right now with the Time’s Up Movement and women’s rights being up front and center. What do you think is next for gender equality, and how do we keep pushing forward so justice continues on for future generations?

I think that’s it. We have to keep putting on pressure. There’s the private sector and the public sector, and in the private sector you can hold people accountable and create change in your industry. We started the Time’s Up movement in our industry, but it is not for actors, it is for all women in every industry to make sure men and women have a safe work environment. And something like that should be guaranteed and should be a no-brainer. Everyone should have a safe work environment. That’s when you should approach the problem through many aspects whether it is through legislation like equal pay, a pipeline for leadership from more women, and then there are just so many things we have to work for in the interest of gender equality. There are so many systematic barriers which have been ingrained, subconscious biases that people never see, and just getting our stories out and hearing women’s side is game-changing.

Allowing other people to tell their story and listen and be outraged, and whether you love this person or this actor, it doesn’t matter. People that you love can have dark and disappointing sides, and the line needs to be drawn.

Out of all of the hats you wear—from acting, directing, producing, designing, philanthropy—which do you connect to the most and which gives you the most excitement?

Definitely my family and friends give me the most excitement. You would think it would be my job, but there are so many adventures, so many great things in our life that happen to us, and if you can’t share that with your family and friends then none of it matters!

 

Vest by Maison Martin Margiela, Bottoms by Wolford

Hair by Ken Paves, Makeup by Elan Bongiorno @ Rouge Artists using Tatcha, BTS Video by Lavoisier Clemente, Photo Assistant Amanda Yanez, Art Direction by Louis Liu, Editor-in-Chief Marc Sifuentes, Production Assistant Benjamin Price, Special Thanks to Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Christina Vu, Kendal Hurley of Ballantines PR, Liza Anderson and Whitney Peterson of Anderson Group PR, Marcel Pariseau of True PR

PARKER KIT HILL

Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

Photographer Emmanuel Sanchez-Monsalve, Fashion Stylist Brit Cato, Hair by Julia Kim, Makeup by Cyler

Dancer and actor Parker Kit Hill has found himself a home in the worlds of entertainment and social media stardom. Whether dancing in a bobbed wig in his apartment or starring across from RuPaul in the hit TV show Broad City, Parker makes an impact whenever a camera is near. Parker’s unique looks, style, and personality have made him a perfect candidate for fame in the age of viral videos and influence. Spend a surreal day dancing with Parker, equipped with a rainbow of eyebrow pencils, a towers of hats, and all of the platforms you could need!

Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi


Top Image: Coat by Sharon Wang
Bottom Image: Red kimono and Pants by: Gustav Von Aschenbach, Black Hat by Essenshel, White Hat by Essenshel, Black Platforms by iRi Coat by Sharon Wang

Yellow denim jacket by Johna Stone, Black windbreaker pants by XB OFCL, Black Platforms by iRi, White Sheer Knee socks by we love colors

Right Bottom Image: Beige coat by Sharon Wang, Caramel Jacket by FGJ, Black Platforms by iRi
Black Patent leather collar blouse Johna Stone

MATTHEW STONE

Beginning his career with an involvement in numerous counter-cultural movements, and rising to notoriety as a founding member of the South London art collective, !WOWOW!, Artist and Art Shaman Matthew Stone is bringing bodies together through his life-sized digital paintings.


Photography by Wikkie Hermkens | Styling by Sonny Groo | Interview by Ashleigh Kane

In the early 00s, Matthew Stone took the teachings of Andy Warhol’s Factory era and the concept behind Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture and transplanted them to London, where he and a group of friends had just graduated from Camberwell College of Arts. Consciously eschewing the rental market, they founded !WOWOW! and housed it, and themselves, in an abandoned store in South London with a revolving roster of exhibitions, residencies, studios and parties. “When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life”, Stone recalls over the phone from his studio in Hackney, “and I was specifically interested in squatting.” Having grown up with his family in a cottage on a canal in Bath, England with no permanent source of electricity – just a generator which Stone says was often not in use – it’s not hard to understand his draw towards other people. Now 35, content with living alone and much less the party animal he once was, Stone’s work is still crowded with bodies. He contributes to his own series titled “Interconnected Echoes” whereby he interviews the people he admires, has participated in several group as well as solo exhibitions, photographed the cover of FKA Twigs’ M3LL155X album cover, and most recently exhibited his life-sized digital paintings at Somerset House under the title Healing With Wounds.

Here he talks to IRIS Covet Book about connection, spirituality, and shares some invaluable advice for young artists.

Upper World Portrait, 2017

Can you talk about the process in which you make your paintings?

I physically paint and then photograph the strokes individually and create really high-resolution images of each brush stroke. Then I cut them out in Photoshop and use them to texture 3D models that I make of people. I’m working in 3D CGI software and using virtual cameras and lighting setups. Then with a printer, they’re finally printed onto linen with a technique that I developed. I only ever print each once so they live like actual paintings in the sense that there is only one of them.

Why did you want to work in a digital realm?

I didn’t want to make something that was backwards facing. I wanted people to look at them in a way that they look at contemporary imagery, in that they have not seen something else exactly like it before. To look at it with that freshness, with those eyes, and then start thinking about their bodies and each other. For a long time, I wondered whether that was through photography, or pushing photography into sculpture. With this technique, I feel like I’ve nailed the method (laughs) and now I can get on with just making paintings. The majority of the work was developing the technique and there were years when I worked on it without showing anyone any development. I went through waves of development without over-excitedly sharing it with everybody, and that was a big education for me.

One of the reasons that I’ve stopped doing lots of other different things and focused on the paintings is because I’ve realized that I can do everything I need to do within other realms, within this world of painting. Because of the way that I work in 3D virtual space, I can’t help but think of them, when I hang them on the wall, as a window into that space. Increasingly, I’m doing things in life-size so as you look at them, you’re looking into a virtual reality or mixed reality.

The people who appear in the paintings are not based on real people, they are completely invented like avatars that I’ve posed and painted. But those figures have started reappearing through different images, so it’s almost as if I’m investing in these metaphysical beings that live in the world that is my painting.

You came to London from Bath at age 18 and began to study at Camberwell College of Arts. What artists did you admire back then?

I wrote my dissertation on the spiritual content in Andy Warhol’s work and argued that you could read a religious trajectory in his work. Then I came across Joseph Beuys and was really interested in his work from a performative perspective. Through him, I developed these ideas around the artist as Shaman.

Were you always intrigued by spirituality?

My mum was a Catholic and as a result – and as a reaction to that – she was very much like, ‘You are not going to be indoctrinated in any way.’ We were left to work that stuff out on our own. Looking back, I had an interest from a very young age in mysticism; The X Files and UFOs, which I feel were very much of the times.

Can you talk about the out of body experiences that you have had?

They’re not something that I had a ton of but there are some significant ones – and I wish I could go into them at will, but I can also go into altered trance-like states. I used to do a series of performances where I would perform under the stage name “The Art Shaman” and the structure of the performance was that I would get a cover band to play Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones, and I would use the song to enter altered states.

What was the significance of Paint It Black?

Maybe something about the drumming. It has this rhythmic pull. In a sense, me talking about myself as a Shaman stemmed from that period. At that time it was very playful, essentially. But people, other artists, have found it intensely problematic. Someone wanted me to publicly apologize – which is almost as pretentious as me calling myself a Shaman (Laughs).

Why did it bother people?

I think they thought that it shouldn’t be a self-bestowed title. There’s definitely a question about using something like that – like spiritual appropriation – but, for me, the word itself, in its contemporary usage, describes behavioural patterns that are different on every continent and so it doesn’t feel super specific as a term, it feels quite general. I’m not trying to cut into any tradition that I’m not a part of. It’s more in an abstract sense that I’m trying to push the boundaries, or trigger thoughts, about the role of the artists and whether that extends beyond an individual creating expensive objects.

I use it to trigger intellectual debate because increasingly I’m interested in intuitive moments of thinking. There are certain points when I’ve thought – because of explaining it, over and over again – ‘why am I doing this?’ and that maybe I should just say that it was a phase, but I realized that me having said it had its own resonance and power anyway and that I have to live with the consequences of that – whether or not they are uncomfortable. More recently, I feel like I’ve gotten a bit more of a practical and personal practice that relates to it – there’s more humility. But I’m not going to take it off my Instagram account.

After university, !WOWOW! was founded. Did that come about because of situational circumstances or was it planned?

When I was young, I had a really strong vision of how I wanted to live my life and I was specifically interested in squatting. In college, I was obsessed with reading about Warhol’s Factory and had this idea of collaborative and collective living. I was thinking about Joseph Beuys’ Social Sculpture, which was the idea of an evolving artwork that was multi-author – it was all of society.

Once we graduated, we were like ‘let’s not pay rent, let’s go and squat!’ and so we started it and invited people in and it spiraled from there. My hope at that time was that people would perceive some of my activities within it as being a kind of living artwork and certainly not one that I’m the only author of. I was really interested in the idea of presenting a network of people as an artwork and I always had a great reticence to concretely transfer that to a gallery – in terms of installing people into a gallery. So yes, it felt like something that was situational in a sense because if you took it out of the environment that it had sprung from, it would become an illustration of it.

Feminine Teachers, 2017

Other People’s Energy, 2017

You mentioned earlier that you want to see if the artist can be more than someone who is just making expensive objects. What do you think the role of the artist is today?

Everyone as an individual has a political responsibility, so obviously, that includes artists. I don’t think my work has ever really been about art or the art world. Obviously, it emerges from the history of art and in lots of ways my work is very much about the history of religious art in terms of the use of the body and flesh, but I feel like my work has always been about interactions between people. Looking at the idea of collaboration over competition. Coexistence and compromise in conflict and how complex networks of power and connection occur. When I was younger I felt like I had the answers for things, but as I go on my thinking changes. Now I know that my thinking will probably change again in the future. I feel, with my work, I’m trying to frame the development of that thinking more than my thinking specifically.

Healing With Wounds featured the Somerset House show titled Utopia. Is utopia something you explore in your work?

I’ve always been interested in the idea of being engaged in developing ideas or using creativity to envision a more just world, but I’ve never claimed to be an activist. Essentially my thinking about optimism and utopias has always been about questioning if these dialogues are useful? Is it better to acknowledge the violence that already exists by making violent work? Or should I, as an artist, focus on promoting visions of a post-violent world? I’ve looked at art and culture that has explicitly been violent and understood it as potentially being part of a critique of violence, but instinctively, I’ve never said, “well I’m going to make violent imagery because that is a way to show people that it’s a bad thing.” I feel uncomfortable thinking in that way and I don’t know if that’s because I’m naive and I can’t deal with reality, or it’s because that type of imagery can be traumatic and does little to destabilise violence.

I go back and forth between thinking about how the power structures unfold in the images I make and how they deal with violence and what they suggest. More recently, I’m realizing that there is a lot of ambiguity in the ways in which you can read the body language of the people in my paintings. That’s quite important because I don’t think the world needs simple illustrations like “violence is bad” because the world is more complex and intelligent than that. If I can create anything where when people look at it and think about what’s happening, then that feels like the more useful contribution. Ultimately, when people look at my work, I want them to feel something and I want them to think about what they feel.

What advice do you have for young people coming up?

I always say, “listen very carefully to the advice that you give others because we verbalize our own insecurities when we criticize other people, when we give them advice.” The other thing is, “pay attention to your own mistakes, they might be the only original ideas you have.”

    Matthew Stone with his dog Beau. Follow Beau @ beauthehound on Instagram 

All art work © Matthew Stone images courtesy of Choi&Lager
For more information visit matthewstone.co.uk