New Book ‘Red Lipstick’ Gorgeously Traces the History of Beauty’s Most Indispensable Item

Illustration for the French beauty brand Payot, 1951. © 2018 René Gruau: www.gruaucollection.com

 

Author and journalist Rachel Felder has long had a love affair with red lipstick. And her latest book is evidence of her devotion to, and fascination with that classic, perfect pout.

She reveals, “I’ve been wearing red lipstick every single day for decades, and writing about makeup for many years as well. I felt the subject would resonate deeply with many women, perhaps for different reasons, because of those intense associations.”

Luxuriously wrapped in a matte gold-toned cover, Red Lipstick (released April 9, via Harper Collins) is filled with show-stopping imagery. Packed with a museum’s worth of fine art, including both Man Ray’s photograph of Red Badge of Courage and Chagall’s Les Amoreux. Lush, rarely seen vintage magazine ads from beauty biggies Guerlain and Elizabeth Arden mingle with a gorgeous array of illustrations and paintings by renowned artists including Francesco Clemente, Alex Katz, Maira Kalman, Bill Donovan, Edgar Degas and Wayne Thiebaud.

A promotional photograph of Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s. She’s wearing a fur stole that was typical of the period and, of course, red lipstick. Everett Collection. 

With fascinating insights into the uses and cultural history of lipstick, Felder makes an astute case for the “one item most women can’t live without.”

“Every woman has a relationship with red lipstick,” she insists. “For some, it’s associated with a relative – like, say, the aunt who always wore it, perfectly applied. Others think about it for special occasions, whether they’re nights out in black tie or important meetings at the office. And then there are those who say ‘I can’t wear red lipstick,’ which I believe simply isn’t true: everyone can wear red lipstick, it’s just about finding the right one.”

Power and beauty factor heavily into Felder’s exploration, as she excavates the origins and history of red lipstick. Illuminating its association with movie stars, aristocracy, sex appeal, illicit sexuality, rebellion, glamour and fame, she never loses sight of the woman herself.

Bil Donovan, Dotty Girl (watercolor and ink), 2007 © Bil Donovan / Illustration Division.

 

She enthuses, “Women love red lipstick because it’s simultaneously polished and bold, and both classic and cutting-edge modern. I love it for those reasons and also because, after wearing only red lipstick for so many years, it makes me ‘myself.’  It’s the ultimate finishing touch to face the outside world, and makes you look made up even if it’s the only beauty item on your face.”

Granted unprecedented access to experts and the archives of revered brands like Chanel and Dior, there’s lots of juicy tidbits within the pages of Red Lipstick. Little known fun facts, quotes and anecdotes, and a striking 100 plus images. Felder’s expert curation – which we’ve come to expect from the Insider London and Insider Brooklyn writer – make her musings even richer. She also spotlights a fascinating array of women who’ve worn red lipstick through the ages: think, suffragettes (yes, even those early feminists wore it), monarchs, flappers, geishas, Hollywood sirens, rockstars, working women during World War II, politicians…we could go on.

It’s an irresistible little (in size not stature) book, a must-have for any fashionista or fan of beauty’s cultural history. As Ms. Felder puts it, “When I wear red lipstick I feel stronger, more confident, and ultimately, more beautiful. It makes me feel like I can conquer anything the day brings my way.”

Catwoman represents a different type of powerful woman: one that uses sensuality as one of her weapons. Here, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the part in Batman Returns (1992). © Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection. 

BlackBook Interview: ‘Russian Doll’ Star Charlie Barnett on Facing Down Demons, the Brilliance of Natasha Lyonne, and Having to Die Over and Over Again

 

Of all the binge-worthy shows coming out on Netflix these days, Russian Doll has risen quickly to the top of everyone’s list. Created by Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, the series takes us on a wild ride with Nadia (played by Lyonne), who finds herself stuck in some kind of tripped out universe glitch. She keeps dying and coming back to life in a (rather posh) bathroom at her 36th birthday party.

Though this premise has been explored a few times before, it’s evident very early on in Russian Dolls that this is an existential journey that’s entirely new. Nadia is a video game coder (for starters) with bombshell red hair, struggling with addiction, depression, and commitment. But it’s Alan – the inimitable Charlie Barnett (he will also be starring in Tales of the City with Ellen Page) – who throws a wrench into the entire story. He too is stuck in a death loop. Nadia first meets him during episode three in an elevator – in which of course they plummet to their death – but not before he tells her that he’s not worried: he dies all the time.

Amidst all the buzz, we managed to grab some time with Barnett – who is alive and well in Los Angeles – to chat about life after death, so to speak, as well as the bachelorette party that changed his life, judging his own work, procrastination, and how he brought a new dimension to an incredibly complex character.

 

 

You met Natasha Lyonne at a bachelorette party, right?

Yeah, it was actually for Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington on Orange Is the New Black and Moira on The Handmaid’s Tale. She’s one of my best friends; we went to Juilliard together. She was getting married to Lauren Morelli, who was also a creator and writer for OITNB, and now is off doing her own thing. She wanted me to have her bachelorette party; and I’m not sure why she decided that, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

Are you good at throwing parties?

Maybe I am! Because at this point I’ve now thrown a couple of baby showers, as well as bachelorette parties. Like, I guess I got word around town in my friend group that I can do it up.
There were some fails on that vacation. We had a really incredible time, and I can’t go into the details of the strip club, because I know the ladies would be a little upset with me about that. But, um…I took them to an island at one point. I feel like I kind of Fyre Island-ed all the women of OITNB. I rented this island in Miami that was supposed to be a private, beautiful island, super secluded. It turned out this island was covered with trash. It started pouring when we got there.

This sounds a lot like Fyre Fest!

It is! These beautiful talented women were in linens, and beautiful boat hats. We had a couple other friends – one from Wyoming, who is a legitimate cowboy, and Brock Harris who’s from Oklahoma. They were mountain men kind of guys. They built a fort for the ladies, built a fire for them, and we had a campout until the rain passed; it was just beautiful and we had a great time.

And you bonded with Natasha…?

We had a really nice dinner the last day that we were there; and we got to talking about life and our journeys, and through it we really kind of connected. She’s such a fucking powerful and brilliant human being. A woman who’s endured addiction and battled all kinds of fucking shit from this industry and really has risen to find her own voice and put it out there. But to also find a different and new platform to do it in. That goes for Leslye [Headland] and Amy [Poehler] too.
I was so drawn into who Natasha is and the creative beast that she gifts us all with. I was committed from the day she called me. She didn’t talk about the project that much at the party. She called me a little bit later, and I was 100% on board from the get.

It’s an amazing show. When I first started watching it I thought this is a lot like Groundhog Day, but then it takes this magical turn that you’re not expecting. Like you were saying, Lyonne has this really distinct voice – as do the other writers on the show – and it’s not just a woman telling her story. She transcends genres and styles and builds this world, a sort of sci-fi mystical experience.

And even the technical side, to give credit to all the writers – all of them are women, and it’s great that they created this great thing that so many people are resonating with. But [maybe] it doesn’t make a difference that they’re women.
I think what I’m trying to say is technically, being a 28-minute [episode] and then it being a story that flips back and forth and starts in the middle, where a character doesn’t even get introduced until like four episodes in, and it’s still so impactful to the situation and the environment. All of that included is technically new, different, challenging, risky, and they achieved it a-hundred-fold.

 

 

You came in at episode three, and you filmed a lot of those repetitive scenes all at once; even though as viewers, we saw them throughout the entire show. How did you tackle that, or compartmentalize ‘what am I feeling at this point?’

It was really challenging of course, but for me, as much as I have to admit I’m a procrastinator, because anyone from my class will read this and be like, come on Charlie. But I really really, really love breaking down the work and just picking a piece apart and not just from a character’s standpoint, but from a world: the timing, the technical side, the emotional side and background side. I think the biggest thing was just about playing Alan. My world just started to relate and reflect in a certain way; it had some results that I can’t even understand yet. From watching it, there were things I was surprised by. We [as actors] didn’t even know what the surrounding scenes were going to be.
Also, having people like our script coordinator [Melissa Yap-Stewart], who also works on OITNB, she is like an unsung god of this project, because she’s the one who held those memories. This happens, and this beat goes there, and this has to be lost and the flowers are aged this much at this point. All that stuff was her brain, and she did an incredible job. It’s a lot of work and a lot of attention and a lot of people being passionate about the details.

Were they explaining it from a bigger picture, like here’s what’s going on with Alan right now; or were they like, Here’s the script for today and we’re just going to tackle it one bit at a time?

You know, it’s hard to say because my position as an actor and not as a creative is always going to be different. I only got the script when I went to film the first episode – meaning episode three. That elevator scene is like the first thing I filmed. So for me it was a lot more fly by the seat of your pants.
I think everyone’s fascinated by how they built this and I think the genius really comes from their ability to be malleable. That’s the takeaway. Here are these women who knew each other very well, and they’ve all worked together, which has definitely gotta be a point. They were willing to bring challenges and problems to the table, question them and adapt. And they adapted a lot.

What were some of Alan’s traits that you were drawn to when you read the script?

It’s almost like a double-edged sword. I related to so much about him, but I was also terrified of him. I was terrified of living in some of those things – and those are the things I probably related to most.
A lot of the emotional turmoil that he goes through, the interior emotional turmoil, is something I related to wholeheartedly; and that’s something that Natasha and I related off of in that first conversation at that bachelorette party. I’ve had struggles with depression and addiction and suicide and it’s not uncommon for artists – but I’ve also learned later in life that it’s not uncommon for anybody.
So when I started reading the piece, a lot of those things were what made me beam in excitement, in fear – it was a mix – in joy, in a sense of duty and respect. I really feel like, especially being African American too, and gay, I want people to be able to face their demons. I think we as a people can open that conversation more and maybe even save a couple people’s lives. That really drew me in from my own personal experience and the desire to change the conversation.

Doesn’t seem like Alan procrastinates that much.

No! That man is on his shit. I did take that away from him. I have a calendar now. This is how old school I am – I have a dry erase calendar that I put up once a month and write everything in and make it all color coordinated. 

So it’s really interesting what you were saying about facing your demons. Alan has to overcome so much to beat this loop he’s stuck in, he had to look at some of the parts of himself that he didn’t really want to see. I think any human being would relate: in order to progress you have to get introspective and really dig in. Do you feel like Alan overcame?

I think Alan had this belief in the end, it’s not necessarily about changing yourself, it’s about challenging yourself and through these challenges you can change. I hate to have to break it down like that, but I think words and the way you think about how you react or how you act can change the way you can do it.
I think he did, at the end of it, it’s so hard because the end leaves us all in this kind of ‘where are they?’ Do they go on? Are they still stuck? Does it really matter? I almost think the change comes more from a release, him realizing that he can’t control; and that even beyond not controlling, there’s enough people around him in this world that if he’s honest and open with, he can get the help to give him the ladders in life.

 

He doesn’t need to contain himself or hide himself.

Yeah. I was talking to my partner the other day, and we were getting really deep about this, and the idea of what you want to be, what you want to be reflected as, and what you are. I’m still learning in this life, and I don’t know if I’m right in this idea; but it made me realize we all have what we think we identify as, what we want to be. But we ultimately have no control over that! You’re always a reflection of the people around you and your actions, and how you portray yourself. What you wear even, as fickle as that. You’re not in control… you kind of create it and it is received and then reflected back on to you.
You have to at some point let go of those requirements and then you have the freedom to just be you. That’s kind of where Alan got to, where he’s like I don’t have to be this thing for my mother or for Beatrice or even for Nadia. I’m allowed to live and not question myself, my actions, my past, and still push myself…but allow it to evolve without those kind of opinions.

Stop judging yourself in a sense.

Yeah.

Have you watched the whole season?

I haven’t!
Is it hard to watch your own work?
No not at all. Well, I say that so flippantly. I guess I have to admit, it’s not that I have a problem watching myself or judging myself. It’s really that it’s like you experience it as one thing. It’s one story in your mind and then you watch it and it becomes something completely different. And you lose a part of that aspect, you lose a part of that story.
I like to watch things in my house, on my couch, alone. That is my one rule, I don’t like watching it with other people. Other people telling me shit. The first time I’m going to be judging it hardcore. The second time I might actually enjoy it. The third time I’m might get lost in the story. It takes a build.

Would you say you’re a harsh critic of yourself?

Oh, of myself? 150 billion per cent. I’ve only watched up to episode six and I’ve been hard on myself. I’m like come on, why you doing that? What the fuck is that shit? You should’ve followed through on that emotion! But there are so many parts where I get to sit back and I’m like really surprised by myself and really proud and happy. It was an emotional beast, and anyone in my family and any one of my friends will tell you: they’ve seen me that broken, they’ve seen me that crushed. They’ve seen me that sad, and it’s such a weird thing to be like I’m an actor, but I’m really utilizing my own life and my own experience and my own emotions to tap into those. So how much of that do I get to give myself credit for?

You have had the ultimate experience to be this person even if you’re not exactly like him. Do you feel like you were able to evolve the character and contribute ideas as far as where things should go?

I think, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think I brought a lot to it, even in their eyes, that they didn’t see. It was just because of the work I put into it. After procrastinating for so long, when I do finally get to work, I work my fucking ass off.

What was some of the preparation that you did for it?

I’ve been to a lot of psych wards and I’ve done a lot of charity work too – but I’ve been in one myself, and taking a lot of the experience from that and taking a lot of the things I’ve written down over the years and going back into it was really really helpful. And a lot of stigmatizing that goes into it – not trying to fall into those cheap plays and also recognizing what is true and what does resonate.
But on top of that I went into hardcore research about OCD and how it can manifest, and I really wanted to respect that too, because I feel like it’s utilized as a character trait sometimes rather than just, ‘It’s fucking who I am.’

Now that this is all wrapped, what’s next for you?

There’s a lot that I’m really really excited about. I finished shooting Tales of the City with Lauren Morelli. It’s got a great cast: Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Ellen Page. It’s an Armistead Maupin novel; we filmed it in New York with a good week or two in San Francisco.
I also did a movie with Jamie Babbit – director on Russian Doll – and Drew Barrymore who’s producing and also starring, called The Stand-In. It’s going to be really funny.

 

 

Dune Bashing, Persian Carpets and a Spectacular Outpost of The Louvre: A Weekend in Abu Dhabi, Part II

 

(Continuing on from Part I of our Abu Dhabi story…)

 

Peckish from sightseeing, we headed back to The Grand Hyatt where we lunched at Verso, a stylish Italian trattoria, that serves outstanding pizzas, pastas like pappardelle ai gamberi, and squid ink risotto – and as New Yorkers, we’re not easily impressed with Italian food. The property will actually boast a total of six international dining options (just two were open when we were there), so you’ll never go hungry. Sahha, an “adventurous market,” is the spot for made-to-order and buffet breakfast and dinner options – don’t miss the big-as-your-head pastel-colored meringues at the dessert station. Pearl Lounge in the lobby provided a sophisticated little stop off when we were feeling parched, as our minibar seemed to be a work in progress (um, empty).

And for those feeling a little more motivated than were we, there was a Dynamic TechnoGym fitness center open 24-hours, with a steam room and sauna to sweat out the night-before’s partying on the hip and happening Yas Island. (N.B., you can drink openly at hotels and nightclubs in Abu Dhabi, but public drunkenness is of course very much frowned upon.)

Never hearing of dune bashing before we visited Abu Dhabi, the daytime sport courtesy of Land Cruisers and their agile drivers, provided some raucous fun. We were told to buckle up, because off-roading amongst the sand dunes gets hair-raisingly bumpy. If you book a tour with Abu Dhabi Desert Safari you’ll also get up close and personal with a herd of very cuddly camels, available for short rides and lots of petting. As part of our excursion, we got to partake in sand skiing, a Bedouin-style BBQ dinner, belly dancing and Tanoura (traditional folkloric dance) performances, henna painting, and even the chance to hold a falcon for the ultimate photo op.

For anyone who might be wondering where Whistler’s Mother is currently on view, it was right there at the spectacular, Saadayit Island located Louvre Abu Dhabi. The name is on loan from its Paris counterpart, which was incidentally paid $525 million to license the name for 30 years. Here, the Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel has again outdone himself – the sprawling design is actually comprised of 55 detached buildings.

With a giant overhead canopy ‘woven’ out of 7850 metal ‘stars,’ the structure ingeniously anchors sand and sea. Waterfront views from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s many terraces are breathtaking, while visiting day or night promises dazzling light shows under the dome. And the art? We especially loved the cosmography room and the well-curated collection of artifacts from early civilizations. Currently showing is Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, through the end of February.

Of course, when they go big in the U.A.E., they always go really big. And the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was no exception. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdekly, the glistening white-marble stunner is one of the world’s largest. A massive undertaking at over 20 years to build (2007 saw the completion), a collective of highly skilled artisans using only the finest materials were enlisted from around the globe, coming from India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia…the list goes on.

It should be noted that visitors are required to respect the dress code, traditional Abaya dress for women, or Kandura for men. For us ladies, this meant loose pants (so please do leave your athleisure at the hotel), loose tops covering arms and chest, and head scarf with no hair showing. Our Isabel Marant tunic was deemed too sheer by staff, so we were loaned a hooded, pinkish-colored Abaya, which are available before entering the mosque. And after all, who doesn’t look good in mauve?

Resplendent with the world’s largest Persian carpet (woven by women, we were told by our lively guide, with 2,268,000,000 knots) and the third largest, brilliantly colored crystal-encrusted chandelier in existence, the humbling, grandiose main hall can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Its benefactor, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wanted to establish a structure uniting the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, and its historical and modern values of architecture and art. His Highness’ final resting place is actually located on the grounds beside the mosque.

Before we departed from Abu Dhabi, we were determined to visit one of its beaches (and not one of the many man-made ones). Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, on the shores of Saadiyat, boasted an invitingly pristine, natural beachfront, where gentle waves beckoned us in. A quick dip provided perfect refreshment before winding down and washing up before dinner. The sleek, minimalist rooms here offer our favorite Le Labo products, which will soon become standard across all of the Hyatt properties, we were told.

Reserving a table under the stars at the award-winning Park Bar & Grill, we were thankful for the simplicity of a menu of charcoal-grilled seafood and fine steaks. Dining al fresco on a clear, we took in one last magnificent view, before normal life would take us back to Gotham.

(N.B. ideal travel times to the UAE are December through March, before it gets too hot and humid.)

BlackBook Interview: Brit Pop-Soulstress Jess Glynne Opens Up

 

Raw. Soulful. Organic. They’re words that the British pop sensation Jess Glynne used to describe a fellow star – but they are also easily applied to her. With her mop of fantastic, ginger hair, her sparkling blue eyes, an earthen purity of emotion to her voice and a purpose that transcends the ordinary, much less expected, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the 29-year-old North Londoner has managed to clinch more number-one hits than any female artist in the UK…ever. (That would be seven.) She’s also, remarkably, the only female to achieve a number-one album in her home country.

As far as rises to fame go, there are ones that are meteoric…and then there is Glynne’s – which could be said to be from another universe entirely. Her debut album, 2015’s I Cry When I Laugh, not only topped the charts and went triple platinum, but “Rather Be” also won her a Grammy for Best Dance Recording of the Year. Her collaborators have spanned from Rudimental and Ed Sheeran to Tinie Tempah and Macklemore, but Glynne in the middle always rings true.

She’s a girl, like any other, trying to find her way through life, romance, friendship and confusion. Never a victim and always a step ahead of herself, she strives to come out empowered. Her lyrics are both supportive and moving, and she never shies from sharing her vulnerabilities with what has become nearly the entire world. She certainly thrives where the average angel often fears to tread.

 

 

To her, it’s never been easy being a woman, much less in music; but it’s through the difficulties and often wild emotions that this shimmering diamond was cut.

In her own words: “I think I speak very openly and honestly and I’m not afraid to try anything.”

Glynne has just released her sophomore album, Always in Between, and is not only slaying the charts once more, but is also revving up to embark on a pair of very high-profile 2019 tours. The first will bring her stateside, sharing a stage with Leon Bridges; the second will see her on the bill with the one and only Spice Girls. It’s hard to say how to top the British pops more than she has, but give her time – there is certainly much more story still to tell.

We caught up with her as she prepped for her tour of America, to chat about insecurities, riding on horses with girls, and what we all have to learn about life through music.

 

You shell out number-one hits the way one may pistachios. Are you sometimes surprised by how it’s turning out?  

I don’t think surprised is the word. I feel like I’ve worked hard for a long time and that’s why people succeed. If you put the work in, at some point you’ll find success. I’m very grateful for it and I’m very blessed that it’s worked out the way it has.

Would the nine-year-old Jess have ever guessed she’d one day go on tour with the Spice Girls?

If you had told her that she would be standing onstage with the Spice Girls, she would have laughed in your face and said, “good one!” But if you told me it was true, I would have been running around the house screaming and telling all my friends!

How does the Jess Glynne of today feel on stage, compared to the one from 2015?

I know myself a lot better and trust myself more. I’ve grown. I’m a stronger performer. I’ve learned how to be onstage and really love it.

 


 

As a woman in music, how has the process been for you as you rose to success?

It’s not been easy at all. There are so many turns and so many put downs along the way. It’s genuinely harder as a female to connect and get people to believe in you. But you know what? I’ve enjoyed every minute of it because it’s been so amazing. It’s just given me determination and made me work harder. Every inch of success I’ve gotten along the way seems even better just knowing that nobody can stop me from doing what [I’ve done].

Many of your songs are a breath of honest, fresh air, with messages of self-empowerment. And everything from your body image to sexuality gets bravely explored in your music. Is it a genuine reflection of who you really are?

You’re absolutely right. The writing and creating process are about self-reflection for me. I reflect upon what I’ve been through – the highs and lows and what is in the current moment. It’s also to teach myself a lesson and remind myself of the things I forget constantly.

Do you hope that your listeners will perhaps take a cue and be more open in their self-discovery too? 

Yes, once I create those songs, it’s a really nice feeling to know that I can release [them] into the world and potentially help people. I always hope that when people do listen to my music that they listen to it from their own point of view. I want people to relate to the lyrics and let that make sense of their own lives. That’s what I do, I listen to artists who inspire me, and I listen to what they have to say and relate that back to myself. And that’s what’s so amazing about music – you can’t buy those feelings and you can’t buy those moments.

Your lyrics point back to insecurities…not wanting to have them, not wanting to admit that you do. Where are you today in relation to some of the feelings that were exposed on your last album?

Everyone has insecurities, it’s a part of life and growth. At the moment I feel like I’m in an okay place. I’ve had a lot of lows, but my insecurities have to be my friends at times. You have to learn to live with them, look at them as positively as you can, and learn to deal with them rather than push them under the carpet. That’s what the song “Thursday” represents.

 

 

What inspirations and experiences have gone into Always in Between? And what does that phrase mean to you?

It’s a story of emotions and a journey of everything I’ve been through over the past few years. My life has been in between for that long, through relationships, through work, through traveling, my friends, my family. Everything has been so in between in my life that I began to look at it in a negative way. I felt like I could never really find a balance. But I eventually came to realize that it’s not always about being one way, or being balanced. This is just where I am. I have my personal life and my friends and family and the people who really know me from that little girl growing up; and I have the people who know me through my music and my fame. And that essentially is my life, I had to come to a point where I accepted that.

Who are the girls you are riding horses with in the “I’ll Be There” video? Why are you riding with them?

The [Excaramuza] Charras girls. It’s a sport in Mexico. They all ride and do crazy things on horses. The reason I chose them for the video is that riding is a really empowering sport. I horse rode from a really young age, it was my lifetime hobby. It can come across as something quite masculine, but it can be truly empowering to see females on horses in control.

You’re touring with Leon Bridges, who BlackBook interviewed recently. How do you feel that your music intersects with his? What do you admire most about him? 

I love that he’s a raw, organic artist and that he has such soulful roots. He’s a really cool guy and a great performer, very inspired by culture and fashion – he does what he knows best works for him. He doesn’t follow trends, and I find that really inspiring. I’m very excited to go on tour with him!

 

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: As a New Season of ‘Riverdale’ is Prepping, a Chat w/ Series Fave Mädchen Amick

Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper in ‘Riverdale’

 

Unlike most teen soaps, the parents of Riverdale go through just about as much drama as their teenage counterparts. Consisting mostly of young heartthrobs of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the grownup portion of the cast (including Luke Perry, Skeet Ulrich, and Molly Ringwald) has portrayed the likes of brothel madams, drug kingpins, gang members, and serial killers.

But perhaps the most complex of these is Alice Cooper, brought to life by the indomitable talent that is Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks, American Horror Story, Witches of East End). The type-A mother to Betty (Lili Reinhart), Alice has been the subject of a once-hot affair with FP Jones (Ulrich), an impostor claiming to be her abandoned son, a tumultuous marriage to a masked serial killer, and now the protégé of a charming cult leader. Why should teenagers get to have all the fun?

“Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa, creator of Riverdale] and I talked about the concept that Alice was a lot like Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty, where she’s trying so hard to be perfect, and she’s super uptight,” she tells BlackBook. “But she’s a complete mess underneath it all. The higher we build her up and the more you hate her, the farther she can fall, and hopefully the more you can feel for her about what her life circumstances are.”

 

Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper in ‘Riverdale’

 

As Season 3 was in full swing, and Season 4 has just been announced, we caught up with Amick at the Chateau Marmont, the historic Hollywood hotel/hangout, and a particular fave of hers.

“This used to be my home away from home when I wasn’t living in LA,” she recalls. “But this was before the big renovation when it became fancy again. It was super cheap and kind of rundown, but really cool.”

Admittedly, she’s still possibly most known for playing Shelly Johnson in the original Twin Peaks. One of her first roles, she admits she perhaps didn’t fully comprehend the opportunity to work with David Lynch so early in her career – but now understands how lucky she was to have the chance.

“I can look back on it now it’s more than rare – it’s one of a kind,” she said of working with iconoclastic director. “Then, I had another layer, going back to it 25 years later, after all the experiences I’d had since then, being able to appreciate how special of a set David creates, how collaborative he is with everyone.”

Amick indeed reunited with Lynch in 2017 for the show’s long-awaited return. It featured the original cast, including Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee, as well as new faces to the series, such as Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, and Amanda Seyfried – who played Shelly’s troubled daughter.

Although originally reluctant about the idea of a Twin Peaks reboot, Amick did not hesitate to work with Lynch once again. The chance to return to the set proved to be an emotional trip as well.

“It definitely felt familiar for me because I was back in the diner in my waitress uniform,” she explains. “I was an emotional wreck the entire time. When I went to wardrobe for my fitting, I looked down and saw the initials they put into my uniform originally were still there. I was just bawling.”

 

Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson in ‘Twin Peaks’

 

Amick has discovered an intersection of her following that loved Twin Peaks and has also become fans of Riverdale, as well as vice versa for younger fans just discovering Lynch’s opus. Given the similarly dark stylized aesthetic of the CW series, the overlap isn’t all that surprising. Even the creators of Riverdale acknowledge the homage.

“It’s funny, I didn’t see or know the comparison at all until we filmed it and the critics started talking about it. And that’s when Roberto and [Executive Producer] Sarah Schechter admitted they were huge Twin Peaks fans, and they were paying homage. They didn’t tell me the entire time we were shooting the pilot.”

Three seasons in, Alice has evolved more than most characters on the show. Since finding out the truth about a son she once abandoned and the shocking discovery that her husband is a serial killer, her character has coped by joining what seems to be a cult. As the season continues to unfold and the cult’s charming leader (portrayed by Chad Michael Murray) is introduced, we’re still hooked on Amick’s masterful performance of such a complex character.

“The first season was fun to play as just an overbearing mother,” she smirks, “screaming at people, hitting people. And in the second season, we see all of her baggage behind the perfect red door and the skeletons in her closet from her past – and what emotional wreck she was, how heartfelt and passionate she was about her family and her children. It’s a nice journey to play.”

Amick’s personal experience with motherhood has been a completely separate journey. She and her husband chose to raise their now adult children away from the glare of Hollywood. Since then, their family has returned to LA, and she’s begun to include them in her career.

 

 

Still challenging herself, she made her directorial debut in 2016 with her daughter Mina Tobias’ music video for “Kings & Queens.” Most recently, they collaborated for the Destiny’s Child inspired video for “Another One (featuring Gabi DeMartino and Kai Lucas).”

She’s also producing a docuseries about mental health in America. An extremely personal project, it was inspired by her son Sylvester’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder, and the family’s struggle to find resources.

“I’ve been a reluctant celebrity my entire career,” she admits. “I never really wanted to be famous, and I always felt a little weird – though I knew it came with the job. But when we went through what we went through as a family, and knowing how hard it was to get our son help, I just immediately wanted to reach out to everyone else going through this to help them navigate. There’s no path, there’s no communication, it doesn’t even feel like there are resources. It just gave me a meaning behind my celebrity.”

 

Mädchen Amick at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood (Photo by Glenn Garner)

BlackBook Interview: Emily King On Leaving NYC, Sounding Like Queen, and Getting Tweeted by Prince

 

A girl from a humble bohemian upbringing on New York’s Lower East Side, Emily King had a major record deal at 19, and that same year (2004), guested on Nas’ album Street Disciple. By 2007 she had released her debut album East Side Story, nabbed a Grammy nomination for that same album, toured with John Legend, and opened for Alicia Keys.

She went sort of “underground” for awhile, not releasing her follow up full-length (The Switch) until 2015. But grabbed up by ATO in 2017, she escaped from Gotham to a quiet corner of the Catskills in Upstate New York, to summon new inspiration for her latest, which was released earlier this month. And indeed Scenery is a decidedly more personal, introspective affair – though it’s also her most adventurous effort to date.

The album opens majestically, with the lush gospel funk of “Remind Me,” betraying a remarkable musical maturity. No surprise, it deals with new beginnings: “Been asleep inside this dream / I’m trying to wake up / Waiting for something to come and rescue me / Give me a reason, yes.” Elsewhere, she sets an ’80s sounding R&B track to a calypso rhythm on “Can’t Hold Me”; and lays Brian May style guitars (!) over retro soul on “Look at Me Now.” But the most striking track is the stunningly confessional “Running,” for which she gives a chill inducing vocal performance, courageously professing, “I can stop running from all the things that I have done / And I can stop running from whatever I’ve become.”

Her voice has never sounded so confident, so attuned to emotional honesty.

We caught up with her as she prepped for a string of 18 tour dates throughout Europe and North America, kicking off at London’s Bush Hall on February 26, and ultimately ending up on a stage at Coachella.

 

‘Paste’ Magazine Session, February 5, 2019

 

You recently left New York City for Upstate – were there specific things about NYC that had ultimately disillusioned you?

I grew up in New York and stayed most of my life. When you live in the city, you almost feel like you never have to leave – or should [have to], because the whole world travels to you. So it can kind of keep you there if you let it. Plus there’s major FOMO whenever you try to leave. Especially if you have cheap rent.

Have you found a renewed creative inspiration in your new home?

Windows with big, bright light coming through them! It’s been such a peaceful experience to stare out at nature and instantly leave my own thoughts and join whatever outside is up to.

Your music is a little hard to pin down – what have been and are currently some of your top musical influences?

I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and R&B; when I was ten my uncle gave me a cassette of Nirvana’s Nevermind, and that kind of blew me away. I’ve always been drawn to catchy, melodic songwriting from all genres. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Slow Dancer, Michael Kiwanuka, Rick James, Shania Twain, Cochemea, Fleet Foxes.

“Look at Me Now” sounds like Marvin Gaye and Queen at once. How did you actually get that guitar sound?

Whoa cool, thank you. That’s J Most, my producer. He started playing that guitar line and it just lent itself to the Brian May type guitar harmonies. It was so fun hearing him record it, he’s such a great player. I believe we tracked that at Like!Minds Studio.

 

 

The lyrics are seemingly about running into an ex lover – did that really happen?

Ha, well…not necessarily. I think the lyrics were heavily influenced by social media. Instagram mainly. We all post that cute photo of us that we want somebody else to see, probably just one person in particular. It’s the highlight reel! Look how great I’m doing! Even if the truth may be slightly different.

“Remind Me” has the feel of ’80s R&B – but is also kind of gospel-ish. Is that indicating a forward direction for you?

I love gospel music and gospel singing, I think it’s the essence of true joy, love, sorrow, feeling. Straight from the heart, no filter. I guess I aspire to write music like that. I hope to write more songs with big, belting vocals that just soar freely.

Prince was a fan of yours – did you get to meet him?

I never got to meet Prince. He tweeted my songs a few years back. The first time he did, he deleted the tweet shortly after posting it…just as I was about to show all of my friends! Haha. The second time I took a screen shot so that I’d have proof. He invited us to play at Paisley Park, but passed away a few months before we were scheduled to go. He remains a mystical figure to me. Rest In Peace.

 

Santorini Chic: Vora Villas Is Greece’s Poshest New Island Hideaway

 

Surely among the most beautiful places on Earth, Santorini’s soaring cliffs, sweeping ocean views, and charming whitewashed villages are the antithesis of those gritty Athens streets. But while her breathtaking beauty is unquestionable, she’s become increasingly thronged with international tourists in search of those perfect Instagram opportunities. But we still believe the Aegean gem to be one of Greece’s “must” destinations – especially if you can find an out-of-the way spot from which to indulge her charms.

And just such a place is the newly built Vora (the newest member of Design Hotels), which offers three private luxury villas that have been artfully hand-carved into the caves and cliffs, and suspended dramatically above the sea. Secreted away in the quiet residential community of Imerovigli, the location is a hideaway for those who crave tranquility, but also want quick access to the buzzing cafés, tavernas, and shopping opportunities in Santorini’s capital, Fira – only five sunny minutes away.

 

 

Designed by one of the hottest Greek design firms of the moment, Athens-based K-studio, the villas were inspired by classic Cycladic architecture: think gentle arches, whitewashed cement exteriors, elegant lines, and strategically placed staircases. In a nod to Santorini’s history, volcanic rock dapples the exterior and is extensively used in the interior of the villas. A mix of custom-made furniture by local craftspeople and K-studio designers, give each space its unique aesthetic and character. All three boast a private terrace and infinity plunge pool, set against breath-stopping views of the Aegean Sea.

They’re also more reasonably priced than one might expect: rates start at approximately $700 per night and include breakfast, Wi-Fi, and other amenities. As per the norm with European villa rentals in these times, Vora will also coordinate private chefs, drivers, winery tours and exclusive local experiences.

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Peter, Bjorn & John on Melancholy, Climate Change and What They Love Most About Stockholm

Photo by Johan Bergmark

 

Despite their significant international success and recognition, Peter, Bjorn & John have always been dedicated supporters of the music scene back in Sweden, where they run the artist collective and label INGRID (even David Lynch and Lykke Li have been collaborators). And since their 2016 album Breakin’ Point, they’ve also been signed to that very same label.

The second such release under that arrangement is Darker Days, which is out this month. It’s a bit of a departure for them, especially in terms of the overarching mood. To wit, “Gut Feeling,” feels like somber, mid-’80s Cure; while “Velvet Sky” is chilling, melancholy noir, with lyrics to match (“There’s a sign saying ‘Don’t fear the reaper'”). But while the solemn “Heaven and Hell” sends a decided chill up the already tingling spine, “Wrapped Around the Axle” – with its more upbeat Sergeant Pepper psychedelia – at least attempts something a bit more sanguine, less bleak…to striking effect.

Proving their unending cleverness, they also released a special 3-in-1 video, which sort of pits each member against one another for attention. Spoiler alert: no one really wins. As well, they’ll launch a short, 9-date North American tour on November 19, taking them from Allston, MA to San Francisco on December 9.

We caught up for a quick chat with PB&J, and also asked them to tell us what they love most about their home city of Stockholm.

 

 

 

What was the reasoning behind releasing the 3-in-1 video for all three singles?

John: The total “band-consensus” method we used on our previous album nearly killed us. So, this time we split up the band in three parts. In every part of the process. We wrote, sang and produced our own songs separately. We even choose to wear our own clothes in the press-photos this time. And, the 3-in-1 video was a natural extension of this process.

So it ties in conceptually with the album itself?

John: With PB&J you always get three for the price of one; but this time it’s personal…

What were you influenced by when recording the new album?

John: Swedish winter darkness, American political darkness and private mid-life darkness. I’m selling this album pretty badly, aren’t I?
Peter: There is no shortage of darkness to inspire in the present day. The idea behind the title was indeed mainly the Swedish winters, originally. But Trump, Brexit, old Swedish Nazis forming the third biggest party here at home, and above all climate change and the possibility that we are actually getting near the end of the world thanks to our western capitalist lifestyle isn’t exactly cheerful stuff. And it’s stuff you constantly think about; so it’s hard to keep out of songs.

It does seem the title is telling in regards to the content.

John: Yes, you can expect Swedish melancholy, Stockholm break-up mysteries and some Ingmar Bergman indie rock. There are hints of light in between all the gloom. I think it might be one of our strongest albums so far.
Peter: The lyrical content takes in ten shades of different darkness, from politics to personal. And actually one very positive hopeful song as a counterbalance. Composed, laid back, desperate and anxious indie-pop. It’s all a mess, but a good one.

What inspires you most about Stockholm?

Peter: It’s so varied. You can take a one day holiday to a part of it you haven’t been to in a while and get a completely different vibe just by looking around you. We’ve got water, nature, archipelagos, green lush suburbs and parks. And it’s got everything that a common big city offers, too: great food, exhibitions, theater, arts, lovely architecture and historical places…and lots of concerts to see.

And the music scene?

Peter: It’s wide and varied; and if we’re talking music, I get inspired by seeing musicians in different fields perform live. But also love to just talk to them and discuss and learn and jump between genres and personalities.

 

 

Peter, Bjorn & John’s Stockholm Favorites

Peter

One of the best things and maybe the most unique thing about Stockholm is the nature.That its so green and that water is everywhere. That you don’t have to go far out of the city centre to experience wildlife. To me that’s the biggest sell. As a country boy, I get the best of both worlds.
In the suburb where I live, there’s even a huge nature reservation area, perfect for strolls and running; and I’m fifteen minutes from the centre.
If you have time, take a boat out to an island in the archipelago. Or at least take a walk round one of the half-islands, like the lush Djurgården. Lots to see and do there, too.
One area where I spend lots of time is the phonily called SOFO. (South of Folkungatan, sort of like a business idea from the boutiques in the area I think –  but it is a convenient name to throw around). Some of my favorite bars, restaurants and cafes are here – like the pub Harvest Home and the Waffleplace Älskade traditioner; and there’s also the lovely Nytorget square and Vita Bergen (“the white mountains”), as well as some great record shops in An Ideal for Living and Pet Sounds. So I would definitely spend an hour or two strolling round this area.

 

SoFo

Bjorn

If anyone is into sports, I recommend going to a game with Djurgården’s ice hockey team. Their home crowd is nothing but unbelievable. The best and coolest team of course is Skellefteå AIK…but they’re located in Skellefteå.
If anyone wants to come say hi to us in the band, your best bet is probably a café called Kaffebar – it’s connected to the INGRID Studios where we hang out a lot. It also has artwork from our Gimme Some album hanging on the walls.

 

Kaffebar

 

John

We are proud of our Swedish public libraries. Some are bigger than others, though, and the Stadsbiblioteket at Odenplan in Stockholm is big and worth a visit. Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund drew this simple but fantastic cylinder-formed library in the 1920s. The outside doesn’t look that impressive, but the inside is kind of magic. When you walk in there you feel like this: “So many books, so little time…”
Siv och Åke is a superb vintage store, conveniently located between the INGRID Studios and the INGRID label office near Mariatorget. Over half my wardrobe is filled with items from here. Not sure if that could be considered to be the best selling point….but…..anyway….nice place and a fantastic staff.

 

Stadsbiblioteket

BlackBook Interview: Leon Bridges on Style, Red Rocks + Playing Gil Scott-Heron Beside Ryan Gosling

 

Leon Bridges has a way of making it all feel so easy – as the soft-spoken Texas singer has managed to go from unknown dishwasher to twice Grammy-nominated fashion plate in less than a few years.

Fresh from LA to launch the limited-edition AHLEM sunglasses inspired by his sophomore album, Good Thing, he quietly glides between interviews, photo shoots, stage set-up and soundcheck as if he’s just sitting down to dinner. Today, the place is Missoula, Montana, and Bridges has managed to sell a packed stop on his tour, even here. He warmly smiles and stands against a wood-paneled trailer wall, casually talking about his role as Gil Scott-Heron in the new Ryan Gosling film, First Man. Directed by Damien Chazelle, it tells the story of the years leading up to and through man’s first walk on the moon.

 

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The year is 1969. America is a country torn apart by extravagantly priced, questionable government agendas and deep social strife (sound familiar?). The Vietnam War rages on, set against deepening poverty, social inequality and of all things, the space race. From the perspective of the late, legendary musical poet Gil Scott-Heron, it was a blur of inspiration for his politically charged spoken-word performances, from drug addiction to a nuclear meltdown to the Detroit Riots.

Today, Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, a man largely hailed as the hero who made history aboard the Apollo 11. And Bridges performs Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon,” during a protest, underscoring the unthinkable price that was paid for…a white man to walk on a planet far away from the issues that burned so deeply at home.

Bridges’ demeanor suggests that it is perfectly no big deal that his young career has culminated in an appearance in a film that is going to be, actually, a very big deal. And considering today’s political climate, Scott-Heron’s words ring truer than ever.

 

 

Wearing a vintage jacket he bought in London and black pants with a maroon side-stripe, Bridges leans back on the sofa and adds up how it all came together.

“I met Ryan while we were both on Saturday Night Live together,” he recalls, “but Damien had caught wind of me and felt I would be great for the part. I perform the piece during a protest scene; it was cool – they really let me just be myself. I didn’t even have to change my hair, which is in a freaking perm. I don’t even look like [Gil Scott Heron] – his hair was always in a fro.’”

And while he connects the dots in his nonchalant style, it’s even easier to forget how green Bridges is. He reflects back to the difficulties he had when his tour stopped at Colorado’s Red Rocks amphitheater. 

“I just have never performed in a venue that size,” he says. “I had to get a sense of what my show really was and how to fill it into a space that size.”

 

Photo by Scott Hoeksema

 

The 29-year-old is, of course, known as much for his trademark style as his music. Dapper, fresh, yet somehow effortless, his interest in fashion was born when he was still just a young child.

“Even as a kid, I was so into it. I just couldn’t afford to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I studied dance in college. When we performed a Bob Fosse repertoire, African or even a jazz piece, we had to pick out outfits for dance. The costume shops were filled with vintage clothing, and that is where my love for vintage started. I would steal pieces from the costume shop and wear them.”

 

With Ahlem Manai-Platt at the AHLEM for Leon Bridges launch party, image courtesy of AHLEM Eyewear

 

Today, Bridges has broken into completely new ground in just one album’s time. Blazing past the sepia confines of hi ’60s, soul-inspired debut album Coming Home, his latest Good Thing is indeed a colorful, hi-fi affair and draws inspiration from influences as varied as ’70s southern country soul, to R&B, à la Jodeci. Each track is completely different from the next, yet each is still steadfastly rooted in Bridges’ personal style. The result of studio sessions he took to LA with producer Ricky Reed, he calls Good Thing a collaborative affair and shyly nods in agreement that it’s a glimpse into his true musical wingspan.

“I just knew that if I was to make another project similar to the first one that I’d be stuck forever,” he says. “I’ve been able to grab more of the attention of the black community with this album, which I really wasn’t able to do before.”

Looking a bit like David Byrne crossed with James Brown gyrating through his setlist, whatever box Leon Bridges may have been in, he’s popped right out of it. Comparisons to anybody, much less Sam Cooke, be damned. And he makes it all look and sound like the easiest breath of fresh air.

“I just like to live within the rhythm,” he adds. Just like that.