Sunday, May 12, 2024

Chloë Sevigny



Chloë Sevigny Is So Over NYC’s Women Walking Their Dogs in Athleisure

The Feud: Capote vs. the Swans star dishes to Rolling Stone about fashion trends, martinis, and the state of New York City
Illustration by Mark Summers

WHO BETTER TO play a New York high society socialite than Chloë Sevigny, the former club kid turned fashionista who was profiled by Jay McInerney for The New Yorker at 19?

In 1995, one year after that infamous piece hit newsstands, Sevigny would star as a Manhattan teen who discovers she’s HIV positive in Kids, written by her pal Harmony Korine. The film was almost immediately cemented as a cult classic, sending her down an arthouse-cinema path that’s included GummoBoys Don’t Cry (earning her an Oscar nomination), American PsychoDogvilleShattered Glass, and Zodiac, as well as TV roles on Big LovePortlandia, two seasons of American Horror Story, and Russian Doll. Along the way, she became one of the world’s most revered fashion and style icons, modeling in shows for Miu Miu and Louis Vuitton, and having her singular sartorial taste guide the masses. Sevigny’s fashion influence is so powerful that her used clothing sale last year turned into the social event of the season. She is the original Nineties It girl and, even though her clubbing days are far behind her, still cool as hell.

Sevigny, now 49 and mother to a three-year-old boy, reunited with TV creator Ryan Murphy for the latest edition in his Feud franchise, Feud: Capote vs. the Swans, premiering Jan. 31. She plays C.Z. Guest, a Boston Brahmin who married a British aristocrat and spent her days as a columnist, fashion designer/icon, and socialite. She was one of the Swans — a coterie of high society Manhattan socialites whose lives served as fodder for their supposed pal Truman Capote’s novel Answered Prayers. When Capote (splendidly played by Tom Hollander) began publishing chapters of the book in the pages of Esquire, the women — Babe Paley (Naomi Watts), Slim Keith (Diane Lane), Lee Radziwill (Calista Flockheart), Ann Woodward (Demi Moore), Joanne Carson (Molly Ringwald), and Guest (Sevigny) — band together and seek revenge.

Rolling Stone spoke with Sevigny about, well, everything.

What was it like for you to weather the recent actors’ strike?
I felt more empathy for the crews — after the pandemic having not worked for so long, and then having no work again. It was more wanting to stand in solidarity with all the below-the-line people whose entire livelihoods were upside down. As an actor, you’re used to periods of exploration and then these dry spells.

The tagline for Feud: Capote vs. The Swans is “The Original Housewives.” Do you watch any Real Housewives?
I have never watched a single episode of a single Housewife. I don’t know who any of them are or any of their things going on. Didn’t one of them do something for a college application?

I think you’re thinking of Lori Loughlin of Full House.
Oh, she wasn’t a Housewife? Shows how much I know. OK.

Are you not a reality TV person?
I’m not really much of a TV person, period. I used to be really into Project Runway, but this was pre-baby, pre-husband, single life. I’ve never watched a Kardashian episode. It’s been a while.

What’s it like to play in the Ryan Murphy pond as an actor?
It’s great. He’s so prolific. I remember when I was first offered American Horror Story, it was still Facebook-y days, and I looked it up and saw that all my old alternative weirdo friends were into the show, and I was like, “OK, this feels right.”

How did you channel C.Z. Guest, this high society Fifties socialite?
There’s not a lot of footage of her speaking, unfortunately. But there are a couple of interviews I watched numerous times, and a beautiful Rizzoli book of her friends and their accounts of her. And I read the book that our show’s based on, Capote’s Women, and looked at Slim Keith photos to feel that time and energy.

Chloë Sevigny as C.Z. Guest in ‘Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.’ PARI DUKOVIC/FX

The Swans meet for regular gossipy lunches. Do you have any regular routines with your girlfriends?
I used to have these girls’ nights where I’d only have girlfriends over and we’d drink martinis and talk shit, but that hasn’t happened as much now that the small person is always around my house and never leaves. [Laughs] One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start carving out more time for friends.

How do you take your martini?
Dry with a twist.

Gin or vodka?
Vodka. I like Chopin.

Your Jay McInerney New Yorker profile will turn 30 this year. How do you feel about it?
It was so odd to be written about before you were even famous for anything, you know? That was the hard part about it for me: I didn’t really understand why it was happening. In retrospect, I think it’s interesting to follow a girl who’s coming into her own, but at the time I didn’t feel it was justified. I was like, “Why do you even care?” I was like, “Why am I even doing this?” [Jay] promised to buy me this dress and my father read The New Yorker.

The Swans is about Capote writing scandalous, exaggerated things about his female friends. Has anyone ever written anything particularly egregious about you?
There was someone who used to write for the [New York Times] Style section, Bob Morris. It was very hurtful, and he wrote some really ugly things. I still think about it. He was like, “She’s not that attractive, she’s not that smart, and she’s not that good at acting.” When you’re 20 years old and you read that, you’re like, “Huh?!”

You had your baby at 45 in May 2020, at the height of the pandemic. That’s wild.  
It’s amazing just to have a baby. I didn’t think it was going to happen to me, and then to have this thing … I can’t imagine life without him. And like I said, he just never leaves. He’s always around here. I had a doctor that specializes in these “high-risk” pregnancies, and there was a pressure to induce for the sake of the hospital staff because if you induced you could get a Covid test, and then the nurses and the hospital staff would feel more comfortable if you were negative, which is so crazy that that was something that was being encouraged. It’s such a complicated thing to talk about in the press because it’s such a personal thing. I hope people will be happy that it happened for me, but I also don’t want them to think it’s the be-all and end-all. I even have friends that were like, “I have a great career. If I didn’t have a kid, then it would have been fine.” I was like, “What?!” Like, wow. [Laughs] But I had tried other avenues and not had luck with them, so to naturally conceive at that age is kind of a miracle.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t really have an answer for that. I think there are things you learn as you go along, like comparing and despairing and how unhealthy that is, and running your own race, and they’re all truisms but feel trite to say out loud, so I’m always kind of ugh.

What about style advice you’d give people?
Style is so personal. There are people that say, “Less is more,” but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I think whatever is true for you and makes you feel best.

Natasha Lyonne is one of your oldest friends. How did you two meet, and how have you managed to sustain such a lasting friendship?
We carve out the time to see one another. She came away with me for my 49th birthday recently. We have a similar attitude toward certain things about life and the business. We met when we were both roommates with Mike Rapaport. She was his roommate in L.A., and I was his roommate in New York, where we were both living with him for free even more than being roommates. He introduced us, and we were very like-minded.

What did you two do for your 49th birthday?
We went to this place called Palm Heights in Grand Cayman, which is easy to get to from New York and this all-inclusive resort where you don’t have to leave. She loves the water. She’s a weird water baby and will be in the water for four hours straight. She has a very hard time vacationing because she loves to work, so to get her to not work is a feat.

I’ve always admired how you’ve stuck to your guns and done almost entirely art films and no empty studio pictures. Was this a conscious decision on your part or Hollywood putting you in a box?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Early on, it was by choice. And later, I’d kind of dug my own niche that I was then boxed into. I do like to think that I’ve maintained that across TV as well. I like working with, dare I say, auteurs — Ryan Murphy, Portlandia, Louis C.K., Russian Doll, and even Big Love, to an extent. Doing these TV projects with strong showrunners and writer-directors. But as far as studio pictures, I don’t know where those are. Most of my work has been incoming calls, and a lot of that has to do with living in New York and not L.A. My father died when I was 20, and I never wanted to be far from my mother.

When I was younger, you could tell who was a punker, who was a hardcore kid, who was into hip hop. And now, everybody looks like they’re just into fashion … I imagine it’s harder for kids to feel like more of an individual, I would assume? I don’t know.

Do you have favorite films you’ve been in? There are so many good ones.
I like the impact that Gummo has had on young people. That makes people think differently about movies. It might not be my favorite performance, per se. Also, Boys Don’t Cry, in terms of the social impact that had. It’s so rare to do something that’s so moving, eye-opening, and hopefully changes people’s consciousness.

How do you feel about Kids today?
I mean, I see the moments that are real. They were all my friends, so I’m like, “Oh, that person is not acting in that moment. That’s a real moment.” I feel like Harold [Hunter] and Justin [Pierce] are the only real ones in that movie and everybody else is kind of … performing. I also like to see the city. I’m nostalgic for the time because it was my youth, and people still come up to me every day about that movie. It’s crazy. I just can’t believe it’s had the life that it’s had.

It’s surprising to see skater brands like Stüssy becoming popular again in recent years.
I think it’s just because there’s been this streetwear explosion in the last ten years or so, and Supreme lead the charge for that in being this “uber-cool” skate brand that became more than a skate brand. To me, it’s always had such a presence because I live in New York and am on the subway and walking around, so I’m more confronted with it being actual streetwear. Now, everything is intermeshed. When I was younger, you could tell who was a punker, who was a hardcore kid, who was into hip-hop. And now, everybody looks like they’re just into fashion. It’s hard to dress in a way that identifies you in a certain rebellious milieu. I imagine it’s harder for kids to feel like more of an individual, I would assume? I don’t know.  

How do you feel about the state of New York City? It’s increasingly a city for the rich.
Yeah. The athleisure and the dogs are taking over, and that’s really unfortunate. Everybody’s in Lululemon and has a fucking dog and it’s driving me crazy. I’m sorry, dog lovers. There are too many of you. I’m not going out to clubs in Ridgewood, so I’m sure it’s there somewhere, but I’m not experiencing it. I hope there are places for people to go when they want to. I miss the megaclubs and the accessibility. I would like to know that they were there [in Manhattan] and not in Ridgewood, which seems very far. At the same time, the city seems closer as far as going out to other boroughs with Uber. We would do car services, and it was harder to access areas because of subways and buses not going to certain areas.

Chloë Sevigny poses for a photo at a party for the film ‘Trees Lounge’ in October 1996 in New York City. CATHERINE MCGANN/GETTY IMAGES

You recently held this sale of your old clothes that became quite the social event. Why did you decide to do that?
I mean, I’m constantly cleaning out my closet and giving it to friends, selling it, or donating it. It’s a constant source of upheaval in my life. I decided to really unload and used this woman, Liana [Satenstein], who used to work at Vogue and started this business of helping women clean out their closets. She’d done them before with Sally Singer, who was an editor at Vogue, and Mickey Boardman, who was an editor at Paper magazine, and Lynn Yaeger, who used to write for the Village Voice. They were like, “Let’s do a megasale!” And I was like, “If you’re gonna organize it, fine!” I had anxiety over it the night before, like, “Is anybody going to come?” And then it just became something to do for kids. Some kids were like, “I don’t even want to buy anything. I just want to come, hang out, and meet other kids.” The line became an event. It was the best thing ever.

Are there any items of yours that you’d never part with?
There are some things that I’ve worn to events, like the T-shirt I wore in the movie Kids, the dress that I wore when I was nominated for an Oscar, this jean jacket that Linda Manz wore in Out of the Blue with “Elvis” on the back, the ears that I made for Bunny Boy in Gummo. There are things like that that have cultural relevance, and relevance to me and my life personally. My first Communion dress. My wedding dress!

You’ve directed a number of short films. Is directing a feature in the cards?
That is in the cards. That’s been in the cards since pre-baby. I’m trying to figure out what that story is, or who’s gonna write that story, or if I’m gonna write it, and getting the right producers on board, and I keep getting other jobs. That would be the way to segue into doing more director work and being in front of the camera less. That would be a nice thing to age into.

Have you ever been offered to be an editor at a fashion publication and is that something that might interest you?
I think I’ve been asked to guest-edit certain publications, but that seems like too much work! The fashion calendar is no joke. I’d have to go to so many shows, and events, and dealing with advertisers, and managing staff, I mean … no thank you! The only “I’m gonna” would be, “I’m gonna move to Provincetown and open a vintage store and just not do anything in the public eye.” That would be a dream. But now I have a child, so I’m not going to bring him all the way out there and isolate him. I’ll have to wait till he’s 18.