Luis Venegas makes me smile. He’s a rare thing in the worlds of fashion, publishing and transvestites: He is genuinely happy. He publishes several magazines from his native Spain with the intention of spreading joy and smiles and good cheer. It’s the reason why whenever he asks me to contribute to anything he’s working on, I say yes without hesitation. (Last time we worked together, I interviewed Chloe Sevigny for the Candy cover story, which you can read here.) Not that our most recent collaboration took much convincing: Interviewing Jared Leto for the cover of Candy magazine to accompany Terry Richardson’s photographs. After all, who hasn’t been a fan of the part time actor, most time singer and full time hearth throb? Feel free to reminisce on your own Jordan Catalano fantasy here. And when you’re back, check out my chat with Leto.
Derek Blasberg. So, Jared, do you think you make a beautiful woman?
Jared Leto. I don’t think so! Ha! But I do think Rayon [the character Leto played in the film Dallas Buyers Club] was beautiful on the inside. And I think she wanted to be beautiful, and that’s how I felt when I was in character. But I never felt like I made the best woman – which was funny because I always thought I would.
DB. I would have thought so too because, well, you’re very pretty.
JL. It doesn’t matter how much weight or muscle you lose; the hardness of your jaw, your shoulders, it’s more than obvious masculinity. I so wanted to be beautiful because, and this is something that I think the character thought, if you’re beautiful, you’re loved. So I don’t think I made the most attractive woman, but I certainly tried my hardest.
DB. Tell me more about Rayon.
JL. She is a male to female transsexual, and she was a wonderful, strong woman. The film takes place in 1985, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, and she lives in Dallas just as it is hit by this plague. This part and this film seduced me. This is the first film I’ve made in half a decade, Derek. I was waiting for a character that really spoke to me, and a story that was really powerful. This was it.
DB. What was it like to dress in drag?
JL. High heels are tough. I lost 30 pounds dressing in drag.
DB. How did being in your costume make you feel?
JL. I felt good! It was different for me because it wasn’t just putting on a dress. I had to work out the part in my mind too. I wanted to bring to life a character who was a real life, living person – not just a caricature of a cross dresser. I think sometimes people confuse that sort of character as a joke, or they confuse a transgendered individual as “just a drag queen.” But I will say that I took to the high heels pretty quickly!
DB. Apart from the heels, what other physical parts of the character are the most memorable?
JL. Well, I waxed my entire body, my eyebrows included. That was certainly transformative.
DB. But this isn’t the first time you’ve changed your appearance for a part. You lost 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream and I remember when you gained almost 70 pounds for Chapter 27.
JL. The tricky thing about extreme weight loss or weight gain is how much it affects you on the inside, not the outside. Altering your shape that much changes your behavior, the way you think. It changes how you laugh and how you move and how people look at you. It’s a double-edged sword, the internal and the external, and it’s not always a lot of fun.
DB. What was it like to go out as Rayon?
JL. As soon as you wax your brows and lose that much weight and you’re walking through a hotel lobby with your high heels cling clanging, you can’t help but draw attention. When people change their gender, they make a real statement. You surprise and confuse people, and I had to deal with that. I went out in drag and lived in that character to do research, and in the process I fell in love with Rayon. She had a heart of gold.
DB. Were you ever surprised when researching the role?
JL. In New Orleans, where we filmed the movie, I met a wonderful 13-year-old girl who was more than six-feet tall and was so gentle, and so sweet. She had been living as a woman since she was 7, going out in Bourbon Street dressed in her sister’s clothes. She opened a side of life I had never seen before. And there was a woman called Kalie, who was a tremendous help to me in LA. I spent the initial formative first days of prepping for this part with her, talking about the difference between transgendered people and transvestites, and the concept that these are real people and not a lifestyle. She taught me a lot. That’s what I liked about this film: I learned.
DB. What first drew you to this part?
JL. The challenge. The script. The role. The director. All of those things. It was impossible to say no. To reach that far inside myself – or outside myself, depending on how you see it – it was something I hadn’t explored. I found that exciting.
DB. It’s been a change of pace to the other stuff you’ve been doing these past few years: Being a rock star.
JL. That’s why I haven’t made a film in so long. We’ve been touring the world. [My band] 30 Seconds to Mars has been on a phenomenal adventure, with more success that we could have ever imagined. We sold out the O2 Arena and the Wembley in London, played the biggest shows of our lives. We got in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest tour ever. I have the plaque in my bathroom.
DB. How was balancing those two worlds?
JL. The hardest challenge was time. Time to do it all and do it well. I loved what Andy Warhol said: “Labels are for cans, not for people.” So now I try and do whatever I’m attracted to. If you have a desire, just go for it and fucking do it. A long time ago I gave myself permission to live like that – to act or design, or do music, or technology. It keeps life interesting.
DB. What do you hope will be the reaction to this film?
JL. I hope that people in that community see on the screen something that is true and honest. Something that is authentic, that comes from a really pure place. It also shares this tragic but inspiring story about how difficult it was when this plague started depleting these communities.
DB. What will you take from this part to your daily life?
JL. I haven’t worn much makeup since 2006. I used to wear a lot of eyeliner.
DB. You mean guyliner, don’t you?
JL. Yes! Maybe I grew up loving The Cure too much. Although, can you love The Cure too much? But, what I learned from this experience was less about the look and more about tolerance and understanding. I can be very intense and very work-oriented, and not too socially graceful. But there was a gentleness to that part. There was something open about Rayon that I’ve tried to carry on. There was something really fragile and approachable about her, and I hope those sides of her continue to exist in me.
The king of stripes: Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy
The king of florals: Dries van Noten
When I was on my way to Paris for the haute couture shows in Paris, I managed to get to the City of Lights early enough to catch the tail end of mens fashion week. Truth be told, the mens shows are where the action is: The shows are on time, they’re more fashion focused and, let’s be honest here, full of the world’s most handsome men. So, I’m not complaining about having to see some boys before the girls took over Paris. While I was inspired by the mandals that were on the runway in Milan, in Paris I found a few other interesting trends. My hands down favorite was the red lipstick on Hedi Slimane’s runway for Saint Laurent and Thom Browne’s outrageous colorful military men. I bumped into Thom in our hotel and asked him if he had any tips about red lips, and he did: matte. Nothing glossy over here. Of course, I will never try a red lip in public (or will I?), but the other trends I loved in Paris were much more approachable: strips and florals. I’ve always been a fan of some lines in my wardrobe, from sailor strips to pin stripes to everything in between. But Riccardo Tisci hit stripes over the head with his bright and graphic Givenchy collection, one of my favorite in Paris. Another stand out was Dries van Noten’s show, which was full of easy, breezy and beautiful florals. The other tricky part about the mens shows is that, because the way the schedule works out, they happen nearly a full year before the clothes will hit stores. But I reckon it’s worth it to wait to come in full bloom.
The red lipstick at Thom Browne
More stripes, top, at Phillip Lim and Paul & Joe, and florals, bottom, at Annne Demeulemeester and Sacai
With additional reporting from Caroline Mason
I’m buddies with Francesco Vezzoli for a few reasons. We find ourselves often in the same cities, the same events, in the same crowds, and we have an ability to endlessly entertain each other with societal observations, which are typically ridiculous and occasionally profane. We have many of the same interests too. What are those, you may ask? In the above trailer that he put together for a retrospective tour of his decade and a half as a working artist (which already opened in Rome, and will travel to MOMA PS1 in Brooklyn and then the MOCA Gallery in California later this year), he sums them up most eloquently in a list: Art, fame, religion, obsession, vanity, sex, divas, celebrity and, lastly, Vezzoli himself.
Thick, strappy sandals at Calvin Klein, left, and at Prada, right
I can remember when I was in sixth grade, Nike debuted some footwear that was part trainer and part strappy sandal. Sort of like a Teva that you could play basketball in. They had mesh netting and a zig zag stripe. Looking back, they were absolutely hideous. I was the only person in the world I ever saw who wore them and it was a very odd misstep in the aesthetic artistic career of the fine folks at Nike. While I regret that one purchase, my attraction to strappy mens footwear has not subsided. I still love a mandal. So it is with excitement and glee that I can report that my favorite shoe trend from the recently wrapped Milan mens shows were butch looking strappy sandals. They were worn with swimsuits, of course, but in shows like Prada and Versace, also pairs with trousers and even brightly colored suits. Be still my heart. And my pedicurist. Because, boys, if you want to step out in a strappy sandal, make sure you attend to those toenails first.
Mandals at Ferragamo, left, and Dolce & Gabbana, right
Looks from Vivienne Westwood, left, and Christopher Kane, right
With additional reporting from Caroline Mason
I’m in an illustrator’s state of mind. And I’m not alone: The editors at V magazine, where I’m the editor at large, decided on an illustration theme for our May issue. (On stands now: Look for Miley Cyrus wearing mens underpants on the cover.) In the magazine we reminisce on the career of influential artist Antonio Lopez, and I did a fabulous story on the illustrator known by only one name: Risko. So when I stumbled across the blog Fashion Cartoonist, which imagines fashion celebrities as ultra glamorous and slightly ridiculous youngsters, I had to meet the person behind it. The one hook: He (or she?) wants to remain anonymous. But I contacted him (or her?) and managed to cull some inspiring information anyway.
Anna Dello Russo as imagined by the Fashion Cartoonist
I think we’re having an illustration renaissance in fashion. Antonio Lopez’s Book definitely had an impact earlier this year, and magazines like Vanity Fair Are turning to illustrators more often, even for their year best dressed lists. So, why do you think we’re seeing this?
I love those graceful and elegant illustrations! I guess in these days of ever present videos and photographs, instantly shared by anybody, a drawing brings a very personal perspective and a certain old school flair. Since mine are focused on achieving a comic effect, I’d call myself a cartoonist more than an illustrator.
When did you start your drawings? How long does it take to do one?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember, but I started the fashion cartoons only last April. I carry around a small sketchbook to jot down ideas when they struck me. I could think of ten all at once. But I could obsess for days over one detail when I’m actually creating the cartoon.
Why did you start doing fashion people? Do you think they are ripe for parody?
My ‘day job’ is in the fashion industry, so inspiration is simply around me every day. Who knows? Maybe if I worked in the food industry I’d be drawing caricatures of famous chefs when they were kids.
You once said Tom Ford was too perfect to draw. Who’s fun to draw? Who else is impossible to draw?
I enjoy drawing Anna Wintour as a kid who would not take off her sunglasses even at bedtime. The difficult ones are those that are hard to imagine when they were kids. For example, how would I do a toddler Waris, when his most recognizable feature is a long beard?! Luckily he also wears a turban, so I might still find a way!
Why are you staying anonymous? In this day of omnipresent bloggers and social media, I didn’t think anyone wanted to anonymous anymore.
I simply thought it would be more fun this way! I want the focus to be on my drawings, not on me. Now I will need to stay anonymous until I find a good enough excuse to come out. Maybe a book signing one day?
Can you at least give me some basic bio information: Male or female? 20’s or 30’s? Are you a vegan?
Fine: I eat everything. The natural curiosity that helps me find ideas for my cartoons extends also to my relationship with food.
I guess that’s all I’m going to get. I know your blog plays into the humorous side of the early development stages of these major personalities, but it got me thinking: Do you think that a inherent trait like personal style starts to form at that stage? Like, do you think Andre Leon Talley really did wrap himself in carpets as a predecessor to the cape?
The cartoons purposefully distort and exaggerate the behaviors I imagine, but in some cases I have a feeling I may not be too far from the truth! When people have such creativity, genius and of course attitude – I really believe it must have appeared in some way when they were kids too.
Let’s talk about the blog. Is it a hobby, or one day a commercial venture? Do you plan on selling prints?
It definitely started as a hobby. But it is getting more attention than I ever thought, so who knows? Would you buy a print?
Absolutely! OK, last question: Which is your favorite illustration?
That’s difficult to answer. Most of the time my favorite is my latest one. So right now I would have to say the one with baby Anna Dello Russo. But the one I day after that one will probably be my favorite.
Who will that be?
I’m not telling.