Parallels between Henry and Del Rey are easily drawn: A prominent subject of Del Rey’s music has always been tragedy, and what is modern-day fame if not a twisted circus? But luckily for Del Rey, her story has a happier ending. After a successful, albeit somewhat controversial, debut with Born to Die in 2012, she didn’t succumb to the media merry-go-round. Instead, she slowly built her success over the course of the next six years with one highly praised album after another. If there was any doubt as to her talent as an artist, it was eradicated by 2014’s Ultraviolence, which garnered nearly unanimous critical acclaim and was her first album to reach Number One on the Billboard 200.
Whether jaded by journalists or simply desiring to let her music speak for itself, somewhere along the way, Del Rey became a bit of a recluse in regards to the press. (Her 2015 music video for Honeymoon’s “High by the Beach” saw the singer blast a paparazzi helicopter from her balcony.) But this only increased Del Rey’s allure, likely due to the fact that an air of mystery feels refreshing in this overexposed, media-driven era. She became the ringleader of her own act and her silence only contributed to her cult-like following among a generation that had had enough of perky pop.
If Mary Henry capitulated to life’s carnival, Del Rey seems to have conquered it. She’s kicking off 2018 with her largest U.S. tour yet, playing sold out shows in arenas across the country. At 32, she’s become a legend, with a devoted following that includes a variety of celebrities. (Courtney Love proudly listens to her music on repeat and who could forget when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West asked her to perform at their wedding?) As she tells a select group of said fans for this cover story, she’s having the time of her life.
Kim Kardashian West
Why have you stolen my unconscious and made me your musical slave?
[Laughs] If you had told me that one day Courtney Love would listen to me on repeat, I would just not have believed you.
Do you agree that yours is probably the smartest hair dye in show business history, other than Marilyn [Monroe]’s?
Make me a favorite song playlist right now.
Okay. Hole, “Celebrity Skin.” The Flamingos, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Migos, “Bad and Boujee.” A$AP Rocky, “L$D.” Simon & Garfunkel, “Scarborough Fair.” Janis Joplin, “Mercedes Benz.” The Eagles, “Hotel California." Lou Reed, “Perfect Day.”
How are you liking the big huge venues?
I can’t believe that I’m doing an American arena tour. I still have this amazing photo framed of me and you on the marquee of the Hollywood Bowl. I actually think of that every time I’m in these arenas because that was our biggest venue: 24,000 people. You said the funniest thing when the kids wouldn’t be quiet. You were like, “Listen you fucking fetuses! I was fucking famous before you were even born!” That was my favorite moment. I’m loving it.
Have you enjoyed your new record Lust For Life and why, since it's so different?
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed touring this new record and a lot of my happy feelings about it kicked off when I was talking to you and we were so on the same wavelength about how nice it is to turn a corner for the better. Obviously you have to really be changing to write a record that’s different from the rest of your discography, but it feels good to be slowly catching up in my personal life to some of the more cheerful sentiments I was writing about over the last two years.
What do you think about artificial intelligence? Do you think it will be good or bad for humanity?
I think it’s just a natural progression of where technology has been leading to up until now. I think the advancements of AI will be benefits. I don’t think it will get to the point where we are boycotting the robot community because they’ve taken all of our jobs. That said, I did hear that Amazon’s just become the first company to deliver via drone, which I’m very excited but also nervous about, because I’ve had such bad experiences with drones. So, don’t take my word for it.
Who is your favorite country music singer? Are there country music influences in your work?
Yes, lots of country. I am from upstate New York. They used to call it “the Deep South of the North.” I like Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, a little bit of Dolly Parton.
Would you go to Mars, even if it meant dying there?
Hell to the no! [laughs] Are you kidding? Loco. Who could ever leave the Earth behind?
If you could live behind the eyes of any writer in history and silently view their life from their perspective, who would you choose?
[William] Shakespeare. Was it one man? A community of people who wrote all of those game-changing plays?
SEAN ONO LENNON
Do you remember what it was like to listen to a song and just hear an overall sound? Do you ever wish you could go back and hear music that way?
That reminds me of when I heard the Beach Boys for the first time and all I got was that sunshiney feeling of good vibrations. [Now] I hear every instrument, everything. My mixing and mastering process of my records is a half year long and painstaking, but it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though it’s so hard to be neurotic, it’s for a reason.
Do you feel like the decline of pop music culture is on the horizon? What about the decline of civilization in general? Is there a connection between the two?
Probably, but I don’t really know what it is. I think really, there’s a rise of sociopathy and narcissism, and a mental health crisis. Everyone’s kind of becoming aware of the fact that that needs to be fully addressed. Maybe there is a link. It’s probably related to consciousness.
If most people don’t care about Mozart operas now, will anyone care about Ziggy Stardust in 100 years? Will we even still be living on the planet Earth by then?
[Laughs] Well, I’m a realist as much as I am a mystic. I believe we will still be on the planet until extremely different conditions. I bet we’ll still have holographic Ziggy concerts. I want to send my own [holographic] concert on tour in a few years—this one, L.A. to the Moon— because I love it. Empires and genres, they all have their rises and falls.
MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS
To what extent do you think our personalities are shaped by the way we look?
Up until this point in our culture, I think half. Hopefully, from this point onward, it can be less. It’s kind of like that nature-versus-nurture question. I think it’s similar in the way that you’re just living with yourself all the time. But obviously, when you have a strong personality, you can surpass any first judgment people may have on you.
Did you read poetry as a teenager?
Yes. One of my biggest influences was my 10th grade teacher, Gene Campbell. He introduced me to the Beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, as well as writers like [Vladimir] Nabokov, [Walt] Whitman...Even 15 years later, they’re still my biggest literary influences. When we read all the classics like [John Keats’s] “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and I learned what it meant for poetry to have different beats that gave it a rhythm—and I started thinking about whether I could write poems.
If you could visit any historical era—and hang out with a key player of that era—what would it be?
I would totally go see Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Summer of Love, that’s my jam.
What were the first songs that really affected you as a young girl?
I remember hearing the Beach Boys in the car— that was the one CD we had. Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel. I was in Catholic school and I went to church through school my whole life, so I was the cantor for most of my life. So, a lot of traditional hymns. I don’t know if I’d say that was an inspiration, but that’s definitely what I knew. And then, when I was 15, I got into hip-hop. That same teacher, Gene Campbell, kind of opened up my world with the Roots and Biggie and Tupac.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? —Ian
Yes. I believe you are your own doorway to an understanding of something greater. I never think of how I can get bigger or better, I just think, How can I go deeper? How can I know myself more so that I’m a clearer conduit for whatever else is in the ether? Meditation’s a big part of my life. I was already doing that when I was young, thinking about what I wanted to do, things I wanted to manifest. And most of it was about the written word. I really like to channel through writing in my own small way. I don’t consider myself a truth seeker in that way. I’m just my own dialogue.
What makes you feel hopeful? —Gabriel
Really good music. Or meeting someone who I’m sure has zero ulterior motives. Being in the middle of a tour, too.
So much of your music is about love. What has it taught you? —Emily
That it’s not what I thought. And that the best is yet to come.
Have you ever considered writing and directing your own feature-length or short film? —Toni
I thought about writing a biopic about someone that wasn’t real. Actually, I was asked to write a musical, which I’ve started. It was for Broadway. I may finish in two or three years. Me and Rick have written something, so we’ll see.
Which actress or director would you choose for a biopic based on your life? —Dixie
I’m thinking a big picture here, because I love Baz Luhrmann. Not sure who would play me though.
How much do you believe in supernatural things, like astrology and witchcraft? —Vera
I believe that you can enhance your intuition through living your best life. I’ve really found that by doing the next right thing, you are led to this path of synchronicity that gives your life a supernatural edge. I’m all about doing unto others as you would have done unto you.
Is there a quote you consider your life motto? —Maciej
One thing I wish I knew when I was younger is that the answers are within you. Everything you need to know you can access through your own practices and knowledge and the things that you’ve learned. I used to think that other people could show the way. So, I usually say, “To thine own self be true.”
Photography Mick Rock
Styling Anna Trevelyan
Makeup Pamela Cochrane (Bridge Artists) Hair Sheridan Ward (Cloutier Remix) Production Liz Vap (FeralCat Productions) and Jennifer Rosenblum Manicure Gina Edwards (Kate Ryan Inc.) Set Design Desi Santiago Digital technician Nick Bean (MLK Digital) Photo assistants Cody Smyth, Jesse Untracht-Oakner, Sean O’Neil, Dean Holtermann Stylist assistant Kristtian Chévere Tailor Leah Huntsinger (Christy Rilling Studio) Production assistants David Lipford and Amado Location and equipment Milk Studios Catering Better Being Special thanks Velem, Bianca Bianconi, Lanadelreyfan.com