With a new album on deck and tour dates ahead, the musician reflects on the beauty-blogger phenomenon, her Gucci perfume campaign, and why disposable culture has her chasing that “forever feel.”
VANITY FAIR – When has Los Angeles lore not been in fashion? As the Chateau Marmont earns its nonagenarian stripes this month, that “high-thread-count clubhouse” lives on as the nexus of Hollywood’s foibles and fascinations. In 2011, when the ingenue Lana Del Rey released the single “Video Games,” the music video shimmered with vintage footage of the property. Years later, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele took his own deep dive into Marmont memorabilia, turning out logo-embossed satchels and reimagined laundry bags for his Cruise 2019 collection. “It’s possible that no hotel in America inspires so much nostalgia, speculation, and sheer devotion,” writes Mark Rozzo in the 2019 Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair. It’s not a surprise that Del Rey and Michele are fans.
This time, the musician and the designer are coming together for a different kind of rewind—back to an era of body-hugging jumpsuits and sparkling laundromats, hairspray and patchouli-tinged perfume—to launch the campaign for Gucci Guilty. Del Rey, the face of the his-and-hers fragrance alongside Jared Leto, recalls meeting Michele early into his Gucci tenure. “He told me that he had been putting together a lot of his collections while listening to my music,” she says in a call from rainy Los Angeles. “Needless to say, I was definitely flattered!”
The campaign has a big-screen flair, with locations ranging from a classic diner to a nondescript supermarket (a roaming ostrich notwithstanding). The glamour—like the hair, styled by Paul Hanlon—is dialed way, way up. “We hadn’t really been thinking about nostalgia but just something that had a forever feel,” she says, likening the shoot to her recent Super 8-style music videos. “If you can mix that sensibility with a modern one”—Gucci’s mission in a nutshell—“you know you’re doing it right.”
Here, Del Rey, whose sixth album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, is out later this year, unpacks that loaded title, laughs about the slow-dance lesson with a teenage crush, and talks up her version of self-care.
Vanity Fair: The title of your new album brings to mind a certain classic vision of America. What was your headspace like for this record?
Lana Del Rey: It was weird how that actual title came to me. I was riffing over a couple of chords that Jack [Antonoff] was playing for the title track, which ended up being called “Norman Fucking Rockwell.” It was kind of an exclamation mark: so this is the American dream, right now. This is where we’re at—Norman fucking Rockwell. We’re going to go to Mars, and Trump is president, all right. Me and Jack, we just joke around constantly about all the random headlines we might see that week, so it’s a slight cultural reference. But it’s not a cynical thing, really. To me, it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier. The chaos of the culture is interesting, and I’m hopeful that there’s room for there to be some movement and excitement within it.
There’s a line in “Video Games” about “[putting] his favorite perfume on”—a reminder that scent is as much a public performance as a private gesture. Do you have a relationship to it?
I love fragrance. I was always hesitant about being a crossover person, like a singer-slash-whatever. But if I had had less reservations, I [might have created] my own fragrance before I became the face of one. I didn’t want to do it in a big way—just for my own fans to enjoy. But I really do like fragrance. Being in L.A., you can tell the change of seasons depending on what flowers you can smell in the air. And I like the pink pepper and the peach [in Gucci Guilty]—very light, but a little spicy, which I think makes it easier to wear every day. In that way, it kind of reminds me of something I would have liked when I was a little bit younger. When I was in middle school, me and [my] cousins would go down to Bath & Body Works and get an apple perfume, with one note, or a vanilla roller. It was thrilling. I still like a one-note perfume. Even if I’m putting on a Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion, I like the smell of a little coconut. Or a rosewater spray.
Was there chemistry between you and Jared Leto, as subjects in this strange fantasy world in the Gucci campaign?
We work pretty differently. He’s been acting for so long that it’s very easy for him to just come in and off the set, but I like to hang out with the crew and Alessandro and see if they were shooting an ostrich [laughs]. So no, I didn’t get to pretend that I was with my old crush from My So-Called Life—although I did have one moment where we were supposed to be slow-dancing in the laundromat. I freaked out because I forgot how to do that for some reason. He was really nice and taught me how to dance again, so that was our most couple-ish moment.
The old-school hair salon appears in so many classic movie scenes. Did it bring up certain associations for you?
I spent years putting my hair into wet sets, so I’ve sat under those giant hoods myself. I’m sure I loved them at one point, but I just hate them now! I’d put my hair into rollers, dry them into curls, and then brush them out, so it was like a big Texas triangle. I would do that like every four days, if I was playing shows or for little appearances. Now I put it into braids and hope for the best!
Those curl sets were all about glamour. What do you make of the beauty upkeep of the Instagram age? Is there a kinship with midcentury perfectionism?
Totally. I find myself on random beauty-blogger pages, and I have no idea how I got there, watching a cat eye. All of the girls with those perfect pictures—you know, I don’t hate it. I totally see the connection between that old 50s Hollywood glamour and whatever you want to call what’s going on now. There’s definitely a modern, heightened take
Did you imagine yourself playing a character while you were shooting the campaign?
I was stressing a little bit because I was hopping out of my Lululemon leggings and Ugg boots and getting into my jumpsuit—and getting into a lot of hair, a lot of makeup, which I love doing. But I feel like my at-home weirdness is very normal-looking, so it was almost uncomfortable to be outwardly in diamonds at the grocery store! But that was the point: wouldn’t it be funny if these two people just lived every day like this? I told [Alessandro] that’s how everyone in L.A. is. They’re at Erewhon with their diamonds on.
Just the title of the song “Venice Bitch” calls to mind a juice-drinking Erewhon habitué. Do you eye-roll at L.A.’s wellness scene, or are you into it?
Oh, yeah—I’m that girl. I’m at Erewhon; I’m in yoga classes. I love L.A. for that reason. I’m so lucky that when Jack or Rick [Nowels] are in town, I get to work, but it’s such a blessing for me to be able to run down the street somewhere on La Brea and go to the DEN Meditation or do a spin class. You could literally go on every corner and find some type of deep-breathwork class. I do all that stuff, so yeah: Venice bitch [laughs].
What do you consider your main form of self-care?
I could sum it up in one word: girlfriends. I see my friends every day; I’m in coffee shops for hours talking to them. It’s just pretty simple—not isolating and planning little things. For me, because I’m a really sensitive person, surrounding myself with a gentle personality type—which is the rarer type—that’s my biggest form of self-care. And the rest kind of falls into place.