Q&A: Lenny Kravitz
You were born in 1964 in New York. Tell me about your childhood growing up in the ’60s and ’70s.
It was really incredible. I was fortunate enough to grow up at a time when art, music and theater were incredibly vibrant. New York City was just on fire then. Both my parents were in the arts. My mom was an actress; my father was a journalist and NBC producer. I grew up around lots of different artists, going to the opera, the ballet, the symphony, going to see James Brown at the Apollo, the Jackson Five at Madison Square Garden, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and different writers that my mother was friendly with like Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni. I was watching these artistic people do their thing, while sitting in rehearsals with my mother. It was extraordinary, so that of course set the tone for me and began educating me very early.
You’re a musician, designer, photographer and actor. Why is it important to you to be involved in different creative fields?
I just love to exercise my creativity and use different mediums, so in the last years, I’ve been able to make my music, in which I produce, write and play all the instruments, I get to act in films, I get to do photography and hold exhibitions and make a book. I get to design, where my company designs everything from hotels and condominiums to products, making carpets, chairs, tables, couches and chandeliers. It’s just wonderful to be able to be creative and use different mediums, so you go from one to the next. You get to move around and keep doing it.
You have a real eye for beautiful objects and creativity comes naturally to you. How did you learn design?
I’m self-taught. I didn’t go to school for it. I learned just from observing, reading and sourcing, just my own intuition. I’ve always been very visual. I just started doing it.
What are some of your latest design projects?
There’s a hotel that we just finished in Toronto called Bisha, and we have a beautiful, luxury condominium that’s going up as we speak on Kenmare [75 Kenmare] in New York City downtown. And I’m just completing a design on my second Leica camera, which will come out sometime later this year.
Is travel a major source of inspiration for you?
Absolutely. When I started touring back in ’89 and seeing the world, I learned so much about architecture and design. Some of my favorite architects are John Lautner, Oscar Niemeyer and Antoni Gaudi. But there are so many.
Describe your long-term friendship with Dom Pérignon’s Cellar Master, Richard Geoffroy.
Early on, we were attracted to each other based upon our art form, our discipline and our dedication. Richard is a master at what he does. It has nothing to do with anything that I come from or have been educated in, so I found that intriguing. Besides coming to my house, he started coming to my shows, and after the shows, we would talk. It was interesting to me how he could relate what I was doing on stage to what he does, talking in esoteric terms about intensity, discipline, love, elongating and connecting the dots. I like that champagne is the earth, it’s nature, it’s time encapsulated in a bottle. Somebody can just drink it and say it tastes good, it makes me feel nice – that’s the extent of it. But for me, when I’m drinking a vintage, what year was it, what was going on historically, with the weather, with production? Talking to Richard about the 2008 vintage, I found out that it was a difficult process. It was an exercise in not giving up and keeping focused because we don’t dictate what nature does – it does its own thing. I find that to be quite magical.
Tell me about the set of black-and-white photos you took for Dom Pérignon.
The theme for me was inspiration and human contact. That’s why I wanted to put together this group of people of different ages, fields and backgrounds, who find that common element that joins them all together, which is celebrating life, celebrating each other, celebrating the differences. I thought that was beautiful, to just be very human with it. Also Dom Pérignon is an icon, it’s the top of what it is, but we don’t have to wait for a wedding, anniversary or birthday to pull out the champagne. It’s normally to celebrate something that’s happened, but life is happening, life is precious every day and we’re not promised tomorrow, so it’s also about seizing the moment and celebrating just because it’s Thursday.
You’ve now been in the music industry for almost three decades. What are the keys to your success, and how have you been able to stay relevant?
In a year, it’ll be 30 years. I’ve just been blessed. Sometimes I wonder, “How did you do that?” I don’t know if this helps but the one thing I know I did is that I’ve always been myself. I’ve always stayed true to who I am. I’ve been authentic and always expressed myself very honestly in my unique way. I never followed trends; I just do what I do. Maybe that’s got something to do with it.