alexa BlackBook: Alison Mosshart, Don Lemon, Matthew Modine, Nia Vardalos, Leslie Odom Jr. & More Tell Us Their Christmas Wish Lists

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WISH LIST: ALISON MOSSHART

The musician, artist and sometime-model serves as lead vocalist for indie-rock band the Kills, as well as for Jack White’s supergroup, the Dead Weather.

 

Maria Tash 18-k rose-gold diamond earring, $975 at Net-A-Porter.com

 

“Maria Tash earrings are 
all beautiful, tiny 
and shiny.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: DON LEMON
New York-based journalist Lemon — who’s won both an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award for his reporting — currently anchors the primetime cable news show CNN Tonight.

 

Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig, $30 at Amazon.com

 

“As a kid, I saw Ali as this iconic figure — this black man who would have people hanging on his every word. 
But I didn’t get just how huge a figure he was until 
I was an adult. Everyone thinks taking a knee is a 
big deal, but think about being Muslim and saying 
you’re not going to fight in a war — jeopardizing 
your career. That took real courage.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: MATTHEW MODINE
“Scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more tons of plastic in the ocean than fish,” says Modine, who appears on Stranger Things, streaming now on Netflix. “We have to be responsible consumers. Gifts like this will make your friends eco-warriors and demonstrate how you are hip, cool and a part of the solution.”

 

Bee’s Wrap (three pack), $20 at PatagoniaProvisions.com

 

“These food wraps are the perfect solution for eliminating plastic wrap. The anti-bacterial properties of the beeswax and jojoba oil help to keep food fresh and allow you to use the wrap again and again.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: NIA VARDALOS
Vardalos is now working on a play called Tiny Beautiful Things in New York. “As holiday shopping season approaches, I’ve eyeballed many corneapopping tiny beautiful things,” she says. “While many of us can’t exactly splurge on fanciful items, we can always drop loud and obvious hints!”

 

“Royal Strass” Swarovski-crystal adorned pumps, $3,995 at ChristianLouboutin.com

 

“If you’re like me and never want disco to die, then we can wear these redbottomed glittery shoes to every office meeting, to every rave and then to church the next day.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: LESLIE ODOM JR.

Odom Jr., who won the Best Actor Tony for his scene-stealing performance as Aaron Burr in Broadway’s Hamilton, now appears on the big screen in Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Get Out movie poster, $20 at 
Amazon.com

 

“I want a limited-edition Get Out poster framed — and signed by Jordan Peele, please — for my office. I haven’t gone to the theater to see a movie three times in 
… ever. I was entertained and inspired more than I can say. “

 

 

 

WISH LIST: AERIN LAUDER
Lauder is the image director for her family’s Estée Lauder brand, while also running her own popular beauty and home lifestyle company, AERIN.

 

Aspen Style, 
$85 at Assouline.com

 

“This book is high on my wish list. Not only because Aspen is such a special place to me, but also because the cover is so beautiful and will look amazing on any coffee table.”

 

 

 

WISH LIST: ELIZA COUPE
Actress Eliza Coupe, best known for her roles on Happy Endings, Scrubs and The Mindy Project, just returned to screens on the new Hulu series Future Man, directed by Seth Rogen.

 

Luxe gym bag, 
$165 at SweatyBetty.com

 

“I work out like a maniac and go through gym clothes and gym bags like crazy — Sweaty Betty makes the best workout gear!”

 

Illustrations by John Kenzie

Zac Efron: From Gangly Kid to Sex Icon

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A new irreverent rom-com, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, is out this week, and offers a perfect excuse to revisit one of our Most Important Topics: Zac Efron.

It’s been quite a journey for dear, sweet Zac. Seems like only yesterday he was lip-syncing through choreographed basketball routines about his love for the iconic teen sweetheart Gabriella Montez. Since his breakout in High School Musical, Efron’s really changed up his brand (see also: Daniel Radcliffe). He’s starred in rom-coms, Nick Sparks dramas, and even Lee Daniel’s crazy inexplicable, but very sexy,  The Paperboy, in which he gets urinated on by Nicole Kidman.

Below, a look back on some of the star’s brightest moments.

Early Years: Lifetime Movies and Medical Dramas

Most people think beautiful Zac got his launch with High School Musical, but not so. Efron was acting long before he became a wildcat. His early career included spots on shows like Firefly, ER, and Summerland. And then there was this 2004 Lifetime movie, Miracle Run, in which he played one of Mary-Louise Parker’s autistic son.

Breakout: High School Musical and Disney Channel Fame

Efron’s starring role as Troy is HSM in 2006 propelled him to stardom, at least among tween girls. Look how skinny he is! And that hair! But not, sadly, that voice – he let Drew Seeley do a dub-over for his songs.

Musical Sensation: HSM 2 and Hairspray

This time around, Efron did get to sing in the hit sequel, and also dazzled as Link Larkin in the movie adaptation of Hairspray.  With the side swipe hair finally out of the picture, is this the moment we began to develop a teeny bit of a crush?

Box Office King: 17 Again and High School Musical 3

He can sing, he can dance, he can rake in millions at the box office. What can’t Zac do?

Drama Darling and Rom-Com Royalty

We’re at the “things get serious,” stage. Efron appears in Richard Linklater’s period piece Me and Orson Welles (2008), and takes smaller dramatic roles in movies like At Any Price (2012) and the historical drama Parkland (2013). And then there’s The Paperboy (2012), that trippy piece of movie magic that we’re still trying to decipher four years later. Which leads us to…

Sex Symbol: Neighbors, Dirty Grandpa, Baywatch

His turns in Neighbors (2014), Dirty Grandpa (2016), and, more than anything else, in Neighbors 2 (2016) have featured Efron stripping down to almost nothing, flaunting his body in a way we’re not complaining about. He’s also just completed filming for a movie adaptation of the hit show Baywatch, so expect more of the same.

8 Super Hot Movie Water Scenes to Start Your Summer Off Right

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Phoebe Cates in Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Emerging from the pool and ocean, here are Bond girls, Denise Richards, Marilyn Monroe and more in hot movie scenes you need to see to start summer right.

Summer: the time of year when the world is your oyster, especially as you inevitably make your way to the beach and into the water, tide breaking around you — in slow motion, of course. To celebrate the hot season, we pulled together eight hot movie water scenes that’ll teach you exactly how it’s done. Here, get some sun-soaking inspiration courtesy of these movies, replete with bikini babes emerging from water. They’ll have you soaking wet and whipping that hair all weekend long. See you at the beach.

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“Hi Brad. You know how cute I always thought you were…” Phoebe Cates, Fast Times At Ridgemont High

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“Nice Stroke…” Denise Richards, Wild Things

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Marilyn Monroe, Something’s Got To Give (at 22:30, 18:13)

Marilyn Monroe Movie – Something’s Got To Give (The Restoration) 1962 Widescreen & Musical Score from Marilyn Monroe on Vimeo.

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“When it’s big like that, I just love to ride it hard and rough.” Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore, Charlie’s Angels

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“Beowulf. It has been a long time since a man has come to visit me.” Angelina Jolie, Beowulf

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“I promise I won’t steal your shells.” “I promise you you won’t ether.” Ursula Andress, James Bond, Dr. No

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Brigitte Bardot and Jean Louis Trintignant, And God Created Women

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“Okay, yeah, I would create a fake family for that!” Brooklyn Decker, Just Go With It

_______

Premiere: Get Minimalist with POP ETC’s Stripped-Down Take On “Bad Break”

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The California-formed indie rock band POP ETC stakes a claim on New York City in this intimate new video.

We all catch a raw deal from time to time, which means POP ETC‘s “Bad Break” should be a universally-approved anthem. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn-via-Berkeley band isn’t quite there yet, but we can still try! Enjoy this new video for an acoustic rendition of “Bad Break,” which follows POP ETC’s wide-eyed front man Chris Chu through a day of traveling around New York City, shot in dreamy black and white. Pared down to just piano and vocals, the track’s moving quality really shines through–though we’re not knocking the classic rock-inspired original. While the trio has yet to announce a follow-up to their 2012 self-titled album (the band previously rose to prominence in indie rock circles under the name the Morning Benders), be sure to keep an eye out for what they’re doing next. Watch the acoustic take on “Bad Break” below and follow POP ETC on Facebook and Twitter for more.

Joan Rivers Is Finally Getting the Hollywood Attention She Deserves in Grammy Museum’s New Exhibit

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Photo: Timothy White, Courtesy of E! Networks

When you hear the name Joan Rivers, chances are your first thoughts are of Fashion Police, the E! show originally hosted by her that turned red carpet commentary into TV entertainment. And though Rivers did revolutionize awards show fashion with her critical and controversial sense of humor, Fashion Police (and its precursor, Live from the Red Carpet) was one of the last stops on her 50-plus year career in the entertainment industry. In this vein, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is opening the exhibit Joan Rivers: Can We Talk today (it’s also her birthday) to pay homage to Rivers’ career, from her infamous 1965 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to her 2014 book, Diary of a Mad Diva.

Long before Joan Rivers brought her brash commentary to the red carpet, she established herself as a pioneer in female comedy. She got her start doing stand-up in 1960s Greenwich Village clubs, and she first introduced the world to her particular brand of sharp wit when her mentor Johnny Carson invited her to perform on his show in 1965. She spent much of the next decade doing stand-up and appearing on various television shows, including a regular spot as Carson’s guest host. In the latter half of the 1980s, she became her friend’s on-air competitor when she became the first female comedian with a late-night talk show, The Late Show With Joan Rivers. The show’s ill-fated run didn’t stop Rivers from making a name for herself; she moved to daytime with The Joan Rivers Show, for which she earned an Emmy in 1990.

joan-rivers-can-we-talkPhoto: Charles William Bush

Anyone in tune with pop culture can attest that after Rivers died in September 2014, the internet blew up with video clips of her comedic appearances from the 1960s through the 80s. Her tragic death and the media attention surrounding it made the younger, so-called millennial generation, aware of Rivers as a trailblazing late-night comic. She was no longer just that lady on the red carpet with a lot of snark. Brian Edwards, Rivers’ longtime family friend and producer of Joan Rivers: Can We Talk, took the Grammy Museum project on to continue her legacy while building awareness on her career. “The older generations have watched Joan transition from comic to writer to producer, but the younger generation identifies her with Fashion Police. I want to bridge the gap,” he explained.

The exhibit is part of the Grammy Museum’s continuing series that spotlights great comedic performers. It displays artifacts from every part of her career, including her recent 2014 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording. Rivers had signed on to do the exhibit last summer, and after she died, her daughter Melissa gave the blessing to continue the project.

Her legacy is important now more than ever in the male-dominated arena of comedy. As The Hollywood Reporter’s comedy actress roundtable shed light on a few weeks ago, sexism is rampant in the business of making people laugh. Women are fighting back, and every couple of months, a new female comedian rises to the top of our trending news feeds, whether it’s a Mindy Kaling tweet, Amy Schumer quote, or Broad City video clip. There’s a whole crop of female comics who came before them, like Ellen DeGeneres and Roseanne Barr, but before them, it was Joan Rivers. “Joan was an inspirational part of show business and pop culture,” said Edwards. “She was the queen of comedy… she led the way, and I hope people take away from this exhibit an appreciation for all that she accomplished.”

The exhibit will be on display on the Grammy Museum’s third floor through September 20, 2015. Learn more about it here, and check out a clip of early Rivers below.

Kim Kardashian Pregnant With Baby No. 2, South West

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Photo: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com

Not a day goes by in the world of reality entertainment when one of Kris Jenner’s puppets doesn’t have a piece of breaking news to share — so far over the weekend, we’ve seen stories about Kendall Jenner’s racy shorts on Instagram, photos of her and her younger, plumper-lipped sister Kylie’s collection for Topshop, and reports that Bruce Jenner will reveal his female identity on the cover of Vanity Fair. The biggest news of the weekend came last night on Keeping Up With the Kardashians though when selfie queen and former Paris Hilton assistant Kim Kardashian announced that finally, at long last, she’s pregnant with her second child.

Her struggle to conceive Kanye West’s second child has been all too real for viewers of the show. We’ve watched her go to fertility specialists, rehash her very active sex life (“I’ve been having sex 500 times a day”), and discuss her desire for a brood similar to the one she grew up in (four kids, at least).

No name has been revealed for North West’s sibling/Kris Jenner’s grandchild/Mason Disick’s cousin yet, but we can only hope its etymology is related to the directions on a compass.

Tamaryn’s New Album Will Blow You Away

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Tamaryn, looking gorgeous in Coach’s new fluff oversized coat, talks working with new collaborators, her style icons, and her highly anticipated forthcoming album, Cranekiss.

Though there’s no formula to success in today’s music industry –wherein reality stars can buy the services of top-notch producers as classically trained artists perform in subway stations — open-mindedness remains a fundamental asset. Tamaryn, a New York-based singer who has been working the music scene since her teens, seems all too aware of this fact, choosing to unapologetically switch up her sense of style rather than creating an easily marketable image. Obviously, as a singer, this open-mindedness also applies to the music itself, which has changed quite a bit since her debut album, The Waves, in 2010.

Justin Bridges photographed the versatile singer for BlackBook in Coach’s new fluff oversized coat, the mint color in perfect contrast with her fiery hair. We also talked to her about new collaborators, her style icons, and her highly anticipated forthcoming album, Cranekiss.

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Tamaryn wears Coach fluff oversized coat

How did you find your way into being a professional musician?

I’ve been hanging out in music scenes since I was 15 or something. It started out as nothing more than a cool thing to do and has evolved very slowly. Still working on the professional part.

You recently provided the score for a short film. How was this experience and do you see yourself working with film more?

Working on music for films is really rewarding. You get to watch the scenes and build tension and provide the release based on your own instincts, as opposed to a classic pop structure or something. It’s amazing how much can be done with the most minimal sounds, and how less is very much more in that medium. I collaborated with a good friend of mine, Drew McDowall, on the Bret Easton Ellis film you’re referring to. Drew has a plethora of modular synths and fun percussive instruments made of propane tanks and such. It was so fun messing around in his mad scientist’s lab. I would love to do more soundtracks in the future, but I’m really interested in pushing myself with my albums right now.

Can you tell me about your collaboration with Rex John Shelverton?

Rex and I had been partners musically for years, and two and a half records. [On this new record], I changed things and ended up working with Shaun Durkan (Weekend) and Jorge Elbrecht (Violens, Lansing Dreiden). I’m beyond excited about this record we’re releasing this summer. It’s been years in the making. The first song from that album this spring, so be on the lookout.

Do you find any recurring themes in your music?

I think that I tend to write about classic romantic themes for the most part. Over the years, I’ve tried to seek out a balanced use of abstract lyrics and a more focused and honest approach. Ideally, I like to write songs that have personal meaning to me but remain universal enough to connect to anyone. It’s all about finding the middle ground.

How is your new album different than your previous work? Is there a musical evolution?

I think the evolution is pretty epic, yeah. It’s still me and seems like a natural evolution in some regard, but the songwriting approach and instrumentation is totally different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s at times more pop but also more challenging in places, too. It’s the album I’ve always wanted to make.

How do you feel about live performances and touring?

I can’t wait to tour this new record forever, honestly. The new songs are so fun to sing live because I’m really going off at times. There is a big stylistic range in the songs. [It’s] just really fun music to perform to and I have a great group of people playing with me this time around.

What have been some challenging aspects of the music industry for you, and how have you learned to deal with them?

At times it seems like a completely broken “industry” and everything is based on luck or something. I know so many talented people nobody cares about and hear so much crap being celebrated. It’s a mystery to me. I just am thankful I have a label who loves me and that anyone cares about what I do at all beyond that. I sometimes wish it was the ‘90s and I was rich enough to have a drug problem and a yacht to shoot my Pamela Anderson / Tommy Lee home video on but I’ll take what I can get. It’s a labor of love as they say, but it’s a huge privilege to even be able to make albums at all.

Do you have any style icons or influences?

Oh so many. The more obvious ones I’ve drawn from over the years heavily might be Bobby Gillespie, Ian Brown, Bowie, Madonna, Siouxsie, Robert Smith, Martin Gore & Dave Gahan, as well as tons of characters in movies. It’s a really long list to be honest. I see elements I respond to in pretty much everything and everyone, but I try to avoid too many trends if I can. It’s a constant conversation and an ever-changing one, although some might argue I pretty much just wear black and have messy hair. Right now I think I’m in a heavy Juliette Lewis in Strange Days meets Boy George moment. I know a uniform is the most powerful statement, but I get high off of metamorphosis. I like to think the energy I’ve projected over the years remains consistently me and that I can do whatever the hell I want. Confidence is the best accessory, or whatever. I probably would have benefited from having one hair color and one iconic dress like Courtney Love, but in the end I think my records eclipse however I look.

What is your approach to fashion, as well as your general view on what fashion means today?

I think it’s all in how you wear things, not what you are wearing. It’s all an extension of an overall energy. I will graciously wear a high end piece but can feel just as magical in something I found in the lobby of my apartment complex. I do love the fashion industry itself for its respect and constant production of visionary imagery and the fact that it still has some money floating around to support us starving musicians. Working with brands on videos and visual collaborations is a thing I love to do. It’s a magical world that I love to take part in.

Tamaryn photographed by Justin Bridges for BlackBook. Styled by Alyssa Shapiro. Hair and makeup by Ashley Rebecca.
Tamaryn wears Coach fluff oversized coat.

Check out Tamaryn’s new music video for “Hands All Over Me” here


Alex Winston Turns Her Opera Background into a Killer Pop Career

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Alex wears Coach X Gary Baseman Buster Le Fauve Handknit Crew.

Decked out in Stuart Vevers’s spring collection for Coach, singer Alex Winston opens up about pop, New York, and an unexpected background in opera.

The world of pop music seems to be inhabited by teenyboppers making international stardom more a matter of nepotism or highly funded image than honest work. Singers like Alex Winston are a rare discovery, not only in the sophistication and cognitively engaging nature of her work, but also her honesty regarding the difficulties of trying to make it in perhaps the most finely beautified of music genres. Her first album, 2012’s King Con, seems to be belatedly garnering the attention it deserved, with journalists repeatedly mentioning how improperly unrecognized the work went upon release.

The talk of King Con comes mostly from excitement over Winston’s still-untitled sophomore album, which is due out in July. We talked to the excited pop darling as she finished a series of noteworthy shows at Austin’s SXSW, touching on how she started singing, opening up on the second album, and what she learned throughout the years. BlackBook shot the up-and-comer wearing pieces from designer Stuart Vevers’ spring collection for Coach, cheeky Gary Baseman collaboration items among them.

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Alex wears Coach X Gary Baseman Buster Le Fauve Leather Jacket

When you’re not out on the road, where are you based?

I don’t currently have an apartment but I’m based in New York. I’m subletting. I’ve been there for five years. I grew up in Detroit and did music there as well but I had an opportunity in New York and I sort of said “screw it,” and moved and kind of didn’t look back, and things started picking up right when I moved and it’s been great.

What’s your experience of New York been like? A lot of artists seem to have a love/hate relationship with the city.

Yeah, it is an artist-friendly city but it also isn’t at the same time. People don’t sit and talk about how much their rent is like it’s the weather for no reason. It’s difficult, it’s not an easy city to live in, but it’s a great city if you can pull it off. Like I’m sitting with one of my bandmates right now and they have to hustle all the time just to make music in the city and play in different bands and different shows to make a living. I’m really fortunate that I started doing this professionally right when I moved there and I’ve been able to keep busy with it.

When you were younger, you were involved in opera. How did that come about?

Well, I think I started doing it because my mom didn’t know what to do with me. I was singing around the house, driving her fucking insane, and she had a friend that taught opera that she grew up with and she just put me in singing lessons with her. I did that from the time I was ten until I was 20. And I liked it fine, you know, but I was out of place there. It wasn’t my choice. I wasn’t like, “Mom, I love opera music so much, I want to do this as a profession.”

But it was good for me vocally to stay healthy and to learn how to actually sing, but then I feel like when I started doing my own thing I kind of had to unlearn a lot of that, because it was all very…you’re pretty much reading what’s on paper and trying to sound like something else, and that wasn’t me…The things that I find interesting are flaws and being able to have your own voice and not be pristine and perfect, and just show a bit of realness.

How does your new music differ from previous work? 

Well, this record’s a lot different from the first record in terms of lyrical content and concepts. The first one was totally about other people, completely, and sort of like fantastical stories about things I had memories about, like weird niche subcultures and things that I found interesting. It was stuff that I liked so I was writing about it, but this record was solely a personal record, and it was about the past two years of my life. So it was very different, and very weird for me to write about myself.

Also, the second record is such a weird headfuck too because you understand the process and what’s going to happen. But I think at a certain point you have to detach from that and not worry about it and not worry about being vulnerable and putting yourself out there, because at the end of the day, it’s the most important that you make something really honest as opposed to [worrying about] what other people are going to think of it. But at first it was hard for me to wrap my head around. It was like, “Do I really want to say this? Do I want people to know that this is how I felt?” But now I don’t care. I’m too lazy now.

You sound like you’re a lot more confident now than maybe on the first album.

I was reading something that was like, “Experience comes from failure.” And it’s true! It’s like, it’s the hard shit that you that makes you a pro. The way you understand how a business works is by going through the ringer and through all the crappy stuff.

What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned or advice you could share?

I think it’s like, learning to know what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do, and also when it’s appropriate to compromise. Like those are some of the biggest things that I’ve learned throughout this; sticking to your guns creatively but also being willing to embrace things that aren’t as comfortable at first, because ultimately it hurts your career. When I was younger, I was so stubborn with everything. And now I’m learning that sometimes compromising is okay, as long as it’s not compromising yourself artistically. But there are so many aspects of being a musician these days. It’s not just about the music; it’s about things like social media, and it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Musicians are now expected to do a lot more than just make music.

It’s stupid and it’s unfortunate too for people that are just musicians. I mean that’s the thing too…people have tried to pigeonhole me into bullshit that I don’t want to do. Like, “What’s your thing? What’s your thing?” Well my thing is making songs that hopefully people will like. But it’s easier said than done. It makes other people’s jobs easier when I guess you have something that’s really marketable.

How did you become certain that you wanted to be a professional performer?

I mean, it’s the only thing I do. I’ve always known I was going to be a musician. I didn’t have anything else. I barely graduated high school. I was working on music back then. I don’t have another thing. This is just what I do so I do it because I have to do it. I love making music. And to have a career where I can just continue to tour and play shows for the next 15, 20 years — that would be my dream. I don’t have to be a megastar. But to be able to have a career, I want to be a career artist, so that’s what I’m working towards.

What type of people do you think is connecting with your music?

I honestly don’t know! It’s kind of diverse. When I go overseas it’s like 40-year-old men. Sometimes young teenage girls or like fun gay guys…I don’t know! It’s just all over the place. And I like that. It’s not like a specific niche, I don’t think. Like I haven’t been able to figure out my demographic yet, which I like.

What are your thoughts on live performance?

I love playing. It’s my favorite part. I love performing and my band is amazing. They’ve been with me, some of them, since I moved to New York. And so we know each other really well. To be a solo artist in New York without a consistent band is really hard, and I’m so lucky to have them, because like I said earlier, everyone’s trying to hustle and make money to make a living, and they have to do what they have to do, but my band is super dedicated. They’re talented and it’s just fun. We have the best time on the road.

Do you ever get tired of life on the road?

Honestly, I like it. I don’t like being in one place for very long. Like, that’s why right now I don’t have an apartment. I’m between New York, L.A., and Detroit…and London. I like living out of a suitcase. I don’t like sitting still. So for now, I still really like it. Ask me in a couple years.

What would you like to say to fans before they press play on the new album?

I guess just know that it’s really personal, and the most honest I will ever be is on this record. And I guess I just want them to know the process and that it took a lot of work, a lot of work to get me into a place where I felt comfortable sharing myself, and I hope that people can relate to some of the things that I’ve been through. I hope maybe it will help someone else out if they’re going through a tough time.

Alex Winston photographed by Rodolfo Martinez for BlackBook.  Styled by Alyssa Shapiro. Hair and makeup by Ashley Rebecca.
Alex wears Coach X Gary Baseman Buster Le Fauve Leather Jacket and B
uster Le Fauve Handknit Crew.

Lenka on Her New Album, the Selfie Stick, and the Key to Happiness

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Lenka wears Coach fluff jacket and Coach leather mod skirt designed by Stuart Vevers

Decked out in Stuart Vevers-designed Coach for this exclusive interview and photo shoot, singer/songwriter Lenka talks about her cheerful new album.

Whether you know it or not, singer/songwriter Lenka’s music has likely graced your ears numerous times. The Australian sensation’s whimsical, cup-half-full attitude fueled the international hit “The Show” from her eponymous debut album, with her music continuing to gain traction with tracks like “Everything at Once.” The irresistibly catchy optimism of her sound is an advertiser’s dream, helping her land music in giant commercials for the likes of Coca Cola, Windows, and Old Navy—not to mention TV features on prevalent shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty.”

After taking time to focus on her growing family, Lenka is back to spread the jubilant vibes with her fourth studio album, The Bright Side. We talked to the multifaceted artist about her musical evolution, working with husband James Gulliver Hancock, and the wonders of exploring fashion via social media while she happily tried on pieces from Stuart Vevers’s sunny spring collection for Coach, including a t-shirt designed in collaboration with artist Gary Baseman, to whom Lenka just happens to have a personal connection.

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Lenka wears Coach x Gary Baseman Emmanuel Hare Ray t-shirt, Coach fluff jacket and Coach leather mod skirt designed by Stuart Vevers

You’ve been both an actress and a singer. Which passion came first?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a dancer, and then that changed when I was a teenager. I decided I wanted to be an actor and my mom helped me out getting an agent, and I started acting quite early at about twelve, thirteen. So I was like a professional teen actress, which was really fun, being in high school and getting to leave school and go for acting and stuff.

And how did the shift to singing come about? 

I think maybe I was a little bit burnt out from that career choice already by about the age of nineteen (laughs). I don’t know, I just knew that I wasn’t going to be 100% committed to the life of an actor, as my mentors were. Like my teacher at acting school was Cate Blanchett. She’s like, 150% an actor–she just lives and breathes it, and I knew I wasn’t like that. I went to art school and studied sculpture, performance art and video, and that didn’t feel like the quite right fit.

And this whole time, you know, I liked music and I could do a little bit of music, and my dad’s a musician, but I never was thinking that it would be a career, probably because of my dad. I just wanted to rebel against the whole notion of doing the same thing. But I was singing in a play when I was about 22, 23, you know, like an Off-Broadway, fringe theater thing, and my director sang a song, and that was the moment where I totally flopped over and I realized that I was enjoying singing more and I was getting more out of it, and it felt like the audience was getting more out of it. People kept saying to me, “You should do more music.” So that was when I sort of shifted focus and spent my time brushing up my music theory and writing songs. And then I joined a band so it kind of quickly became my life.

It’s funny how you end up falling into the things that wind up being your strongest passions.

I know, and sometimes I regret a little bit that I didn’t know earlier because I was actually 30 by the time that my first album came out, because I was in the band for a few years and then I started doing solo stuff, and then it takes a few years to sort of get people to believe in you and give you the money to make an album. So I’m like, “Shit, if I started at 15, I would have had so much more time to do all that experimenting and everything. I’d be touring and be 23, which would be more fun I think because now I’m like married and I have a kid and my life doesn’t feel that “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

You and your husband, visual artist James Gulliver Hancock, have worked quite a bit together. Can you talk about being a creative team?

He’s an illustrator and a visual artist…if you’re a New Yorker, you’ve probably seen his work on the subway. And from the very beginning, when I started to do solo music, he was really there for the visual side of building up my identity as a singer/songwriter. This sort of whimsical, childlike thing I have going on is partly developed by his style as well. We’d actually just started dating as well, so really the joining of us together romantically was the joining of us together creatively as well, and that was quite exciting. We were like, “Yeah! We have lots of stuff that we can do together.” And we wanted to help each other’s careers move along in a parallel path.

We don’t work together as much now. I tend to hire more people. But he’s always there as a kind of production designer or at least another pair of eyes to help out, and he still does all the layout and everything for all my albums and merch. He’s gotten a little busier; he’s fulltime now, doing books and things, but yeah, we’re lucky because I think you want to have a partner that has a similar career to you, but I don’t know though if I would want my guitarist or someone to be my partner or something like that.

The Bright Side is going to be your fourth studio album. Can you talk to me about the musical evolution you’ve experienced since the beginning of your career?

Well this album, it’s a little bit of a return to what I feel like is my strength as a songwriter, with sort of optimistic, kind of happy songs that I had departed from for a little while. But my mood in my life right now warranted me to revisit, so I’ve just made those happy tunes again. And also, I have a toddler who wants to dance, so he was really responding to me making things with a more up-tempo, upbeat kind of feel to them. I mean I’ve been striving to try and be very happy in my life and I feel like I’m at that point [now], and I just wanted to bottle it. This album is basically a capsule of my happiness. I want to be able to look back on it and say, “That was a good time in my life.”

Where did your inspiration for the songs come from this time around?

A fair few of the songs were born from briefs for film and TV writing. I’ve been sort of taking a bit of time off, having a baby and stuff, but still doing a little bit of writing. So, you know, sometimes they’ll be like, “This is the character, these are the themes in the show. Can you write a song along those lines?” And I’m allowed to use those songs whether or not they’ve been used in that project, so I’m still able to put them on a record or something if I want to. So I’ve sort of had this collection of songs that I loved and they made up about half of the record and then I sort of rounded it out with the last few tracks.

So some of the songs are about your own life, and some are about characters that were described to you?

Yeah, but the thing is that the characters that I’m given to write about are usually young, joyful girls, so it’s kind of the same vibe anyway because that’s what I’m known for. So the two are intertwined. It’s like, “Oh, perfect! This is exactly how I feel right now. I can easily write a song like that.”

Where does the album stand at this moment?

It’s totally finished. The vinyl is getting printed as we speak and it’s slated to release on June 16th, so I think that’s probably enough time to get it all ready. I’m sure we’ll release a new song before then, too. I’m not sure which one; it sort of depends on which one I want to make a video for.

So the visual component plays a factor in which singles get released. Do you have any ideas yet?

There’s one video that I want to do that [my husband] wouldn’t be involved in, because it isn’t going to be that pretty, but there’s this one song called “Unique” and I want to do it with fans, get them to send in videos of themselves, and I bought a selfie stick. I was so embarrassed by it–I was like, “This is for a video. I’m allowed to do this.” But I’ve used it so many times, it’s so much fun. I mean, it’s amazing! I’ve got a new iPhone and the camera is amazing and I just sort of want to take it with my life a little bit and do one of those sort of behind the scenes, just walking along the streets kind of videos. It won’t be all that artistic, but I think it will suit the song.

When it comes to fashion, do you think about what you wear on stage heavily?

I do think about it heavily. I spend a lot of timing trolling vintage markets and things like that because I do love ‘50s Mod and kind of vintage looks. At the moment, I’ve been doing a lot of blue, like “Blue Skies,” almost like a bit Normcore and suburban, just black and white and blue. And then I’m obsessed with polka dots at the moment…I love graphic prints and unusual color combinations so my eye is usually caught by things like that.

Is there anyone you look toward as a fashion icon?

As far as icons, I don’t know who it would be. I feel like it would be vintage-y people too. I should look at my Pinterest right now. It’s been a really big tool for me when I have to communicate with stylists. It’s great. I can just be like, “If you want to see what kind of stuff I like, have a look at this.” Or you can make an album specifically for a particular shoot, like that’s what we did with my album cover shoot.

I like Mary Quant, 1960s stuff. There’s a lot of Mary Quant in here. I often really like what Taylor Swift is wearing. I’ll see her walking down the street and be like “Hmm, I think we have the same Pinterest board.”

How do you find a lot of your inspiration?

That’s a lot of Pinterest too. You do find that if you start to follow people or you get on a thread, it sort of learns what you like. Like it knows that I like bold patterns, so it will just show me people’s latest runway looks that have lots of crazy patters.

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Lenka photographed by Justin Bridges for BlackBook. Styled by Alyssa Shapiro. Hair and makeup by Ashley Rebecca.

Lenka wears Coach x Gary Baseman Emmanuel Hare Ray t-shirt, Coach fluff jacket and Coach leather mod skirt designed by Stuart Vevers