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A Mississippi prosecutor went on a racist crusade to have a black man executed. Clarence Thomas thinks that was just fine.

That’s the message of an astonishing decision today from the Supreme Court. The facts of the case, known as Flowers v. Mississippi, are straightforward. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh put it, in his admirably blunt opinion for the Court, “In 1996, Curtis Flowers allegedly murdered four people in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers is black. He has been tried six separate times before a jury for murder. The same lead prosecutor represented the State in all six trials.” Flowers was convicted in the first three trials, and sentenced to death. On each occasion, his conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court, on the grounds of misconduct by the prosecutor, Doug Evans, mostly in the form of keeping African-Americans off the juries. Trials four and five ended in hung juries. In the sixth trial, the one that was before the Supreme Court, Flowers was convicted, but the Justices found that Evans had again discriminated against black people, and thus Flowers, in jury selection, and they overturned his conviction. (The breathtaking facts of the case and its accompanying legal saga are described at length on the American Public Media podcast “In the Dark.”)

As Kavanaugh recounted in his opinion, Evans’s actions were almost cartoonishly racist. To wit: in the six trials, the State employed its peremptory challenges (that is, challenges for which no reason need be given) to strike forty-one out of forty-two African-American prospective jurors. In the most recent trial, the State exercised peremptory strikes against five of six black prospective jurors. In addition, Evans questioned black prospective jurors a great deal more closely than he questioned whites. As Kavanaugh observed, with considerable understatement, “A court confronting that kind of pattern cannot ignore it.“

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But Thomas can, and he did. Indeed, he filed a dissenting opinion that was genuinely outraged—not by the prosecutor but by his fellow-Justices, who dared to grant relief to Flowers, who has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement at Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison. Thomas said that the prosecutor’s behavior was blameless, and he practically sneered at his colleagues, asserting that the majority had decided the Flowers case to “boost its self-esteem.” Thomas also found a way to blame the news media for the result. “Perhaps the Court granted certiorari because the case has received a fair amount of media attention,” he wrote, adding that “the media often seeks to titillate rather than to educate and inform.”

The decision in Flowers was 7–2, with Neil Gorsuch joining Thomas’s dissent. The two have become jurisprudentially inseparable, with Gorsuch serving as a kind of deputy to Thomas, as Thomas once served to Antonin Scalia. But Thomas usually has a majority of colleagues on his side, in a way that often eluded Scalia. The Flowers case notwithstanding, Thomas now wins most of the time, typically with the assistance of Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Kavanaugh.

Despite Thomas’s usual silence on the bench (he did ask a question during the Flowers argument), he is clearly feeling ideologically aggressive these days. In his Flowers dissent, Thomas all but called for the overturning of the Court’s landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, from 1986, which prohibits prosecutors from using their peremptory challenges in racially discriminatory ways. Earlier this year, he called for reconsideration of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, from 1964, which established modern libel law, with its protections for journalistic expression. And in a decision earlier this month, Thomas made the case that the Court should be more willing to overturn its precedents. It’s customary for the Justices to at least pretend to defer to past decisions, but Thomas apparently no longer feels obligated even to gesture to the Court’s past. As he put it last fall, in a concurring opinion in Gamble v. United States, “We should not invoke stare decisis to uphold precedents that are demonstrably erroneous.” Erroneous, of course, in the judicial worldview of Thomas. The Supreme Court’s war on its past has begun, and Clarence Thomas is leading the charge.

The first time I noticed that quite a lot of people on the Internet seemed to be begging celebrities to kill them was a couple of years ago. “Can lana del rey step on my throat already,” one person tweeted. “Snap my neck and hide my body,” another announced, when Lady Gaga posted a new profile photo. Taylor Swift could “run me over with a tractor and I’d say thank you and ask her if she wants to do it again,” another wrote. If you performed a cursory search, you’d find hundreds of such messages, mostly lobbed by young millennials and members of Generation Z. There was an emphatic queerness to much of this discourse, whether or not the person tweeting identified as anything but straight. Many of the messages were about women and sent by women; the subset of men who attracted these tweets tended to be girlish, in a boy-band way. There were lots of appeals to sweetly handsome Korean pop stars, lots of “harry styles punch me in the face” requests, lots of wishes for the still-babyish Justin Bieber to run people over with his car. Nowadays, on Twitter, every hour brings a new crop of similar entreaties.

One takeaway from all this is that young people really love celebrities. Another is that we’re craving unmediated connection so desperately that we would accept it in the form of murder. It’s also possible that we simply want to die. Earlier this year, at the Cut, in a piece about the upswing of “run me over” tweets, Gabriella Paiella observed that the popularity of these jokes can’t be separated from the ambient fatalism inculcated by attention to actual real-world problems—“the fact that we’re living during a time when we’re constantly being reminded that the Earth is going to be virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century, that capitalism is wholly unsustainable, and that we’re just one push of a button away from perishing in a nuclear war.” Paiella talked to the writer Brandy Jensen, who had recently tweeted that her primary reaction to seeing a hot person was to think “back over me with a truck.” Everyone, Jensen said, seemed to be constantly posting about how they were horny and how they wanted to die; it was natural that the two would converge.

Devotion, by its nature, tends to invite agony. “Love has brought me within the reach of lovely, cruel arms that / unjustly kill me,” Petrarch writes, in Robert M. Durling’s English translation of “Rime Sparse,” a set of poems written in the fourteenth century. Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis,” published in 1593, describes Venus as a maiden who “murders with a kiss.” In the early seventeenth century, John Donne famously begged, “Batter my heart, three person’d God.” (A degraded Internet-era version of the poem, “Holy Sonnet 14,” might involve the impassioned poet pleading with God to choke him.) But this language appears to be spilling over. It may originate in a sort of erotic consecration, but love and pain, joy and punishment, seem increasingly convergent, at least in the ways that people express themselves online. Love may be timeless, but the half-ironic millennial death wish has become an underground river rushing swiftly under the surface of the age.

Earlier this month, I got on the phone with Mistress Velvet, a dominatrix in Chicago with a day job in social work, to ask her what she made of all this. She’d started noticing the prevalence of punch-me-in-the-face talk in 2011, she told me, when she was first coming into her queerness, in her early twenties. “Saying that I’d ‘literally let her stab me’ was a way of linguistically valuing my queer relationships over my heterosexual ones,” she said. “But I’ve also become interested in it in the context of B.D.S.M.” Mistress Velvet told me that, when clients came to her with this sort of intense sacrificial devotion, they often were seeking replacements for powerful people who were absent from their lives. “It reminds me of when I transitioned from Christianity to atheism,” she said. “I was suddenly afraid of death—I was nihilistic—and I had to find something else that could fill that gap.”

That parallel had never occurred to me, I told her.

“I mean, if we’re thinking of it,” Mistress Velvet said, “Jesus died for our sins, and believers are supposed to give our lives back to him. My clients sometimes talk to me like this. They’d let me run them over with a truck. I’m like, ‘That’s not even what I want! Your life is sacred!’ ”

“Right,” I said, suddenly dazed. “Maybe it’s a dream of mutuality—of sacrificing yourself for someone in such a way that they would then be permanently tied to you.”

I messaged a seventeen-year-old Harry Styles fan whose social-media bio included the sentence “harry can run me over, use my crumpled corpse to wipe his car off and then use me to avoid puddles on the street.” She’d been on “stan twitter” since 2012, she explained, and “us stans have always been pretty harsh with expressing our love.” (A stan, as the Oxford English Dictionary now recognizes, is an obsessive fan of a celebrity; the term comes from the 2000 Eminem song “Stan,” and it can be used both as a noun and a verb.) “I say these kinds of things because . . . it would honestly be an honor for Harry to run me over,” she wrote. An eighteen-year-old whose Twitter bio was “tom holland could run me over with a truck and I would say thank you” told me, “Even just being near him or in his presence would make me sooo happy, even if it meant he was running me over with a truck.”

After perusing the ample and growing archive of tweets in which people ask Cate Blanchett to step on their throats, I messaged a twenty-four-year-old woman who’d posted a photo of Blanchett with the caption “she’s so tall pls step on my throat ma’am.” Step-on-my-throat language, she wrote back, was all about “the LGBTQ people who just love to love and support women, and get more creative every passing day. its our safe place.” Plus, she added, “It’s Cate freaking Blanchett, you’d do anything she wants you to do.”

But not all run-me-over tweets direct their sentiment at an object. Plenty of people on Twitter are begging to simply be run over, stepped on, punched in the face. The Twitter user @alwayssaddaily, whose name is stated as simply “Anxiety,” recently posted a series of emoji snowflakes that formed a giant “F,” followed by “UCKING RUN ME OVER.” It received twelve hundred likes. “I honestly feel that this new trend of expression is because people in society as a whole these days are becoming more and more numb to life and are losing perspective on the physical part of reality, which in turn causes the brain to react and express things a certain way in order to satisfy the need for feeling in our bodies,” the twenty-year-old woman behind the account told me. “Life is becoming increasingly redundant, which makes me iterate these thoughts out loud to myself—hit me with a car, fucking kill me—for psychological satisfaction.”

In “Civilization and Its Discontents,” published in 1930, Freud wrote about the unconscious sense of guilt he attributed to his patients, who tended not to believe what he was suggesting; it was hard to become conscious of being unconsciously guilty. “In order to make ourselves at all intelligible to them,” he wrote, referring to the approach that analysts took with such patients, “we tell them of an unconscious need for punishment, in which the sense of guilt finds expression.” In this framework, masochism is the ego’s desire to atone.

In my life—which is mostly, I would say, a vibrant and happy one—this masochistic tendency surfaces constantly, in a sidelong way. About a month ago, while spending a rowdy weekend at a music festival on the beach with nine other people, I started counting the jokes we made about walking into the ocean and dying together. A friend and I kept talking about drowning each other “as a bit.” For me, the capacity to experience such unfettered pleasure—the fact of having the time and capital and freedom required for it, at a time when we know that so many people’s lives are worsening—is often what instigates the murmur of guilt. I do deserve to be run over with a dump truck, I think, at home, opening my delivery packages, thinking about how much plastic I have put on this planet, how much labor I have exploited for the sake of my own convenience. Longing and guilt intertwine every time I think about having children, who, if they exist, will exist in a world defined by man-made crisis and natural disaster. On the beach, flooded with joy, I felt the tug of that familiar undertow. “Fucking kill me,” I thought, suddenly desiring a sensation strong enough to silence itself—which is, I suppose, one way of defining love.

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After Barack Obama abruptly called off a missile strike on Syria, in August, 2013, he appeared in the Rose Garden on a Saturday afternoon, alongside his Vice-President, Joe Biden, to explain that his decision was driven by a desire to obtain congressional authorization. (The authorization never came; neither did the strike.) Donald Trump’s Rose Garden is Twitter. So, on Friday morning, the world was anxiously monitoring the @realDonaldTrump feed to see what he had to say about the decision he made on Thursday evening, to call off a missile strike on Iran. According to a blockbuster report in the Times, Trump authorized the strike in response to Iran’s downing of an unmanned American spy plane, only to change his mind, even as U.S. warplanes tasked with carrying out the mission were already in the air. (In an interview with Chuck Todd, Trump said that he had not yet approved the strike when it was cancelled, and that the planes had not taken off.) Sure enough, shortly after 9 A.M., Eastern Time, Trump posted four long tweets in which he sought to explain what happened. First, he recounted his decision to end the nuclear agreement that Iran reached with the United States and five other countries in 2015. As he has in the past, he called the agreement a “terrible deal” and falsely claimed that it gave Iran “a free path” to nuclear weapons. Then he moved on to the Iranian downing of the RQ-4A Global Hawk spy plane, which took place on Wednesday evening, Washington time, and claimed that the drone had been flying in international waters. (Iran claims that it was in Iranian airspace.)

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump wrote. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not . . . proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”

As with virtually everything that Trump does, the immediate responses to his turnabout were mixed. In this instance, though, the criticism largely came from the Republican side, and some of the praise came from the unlikeliest of quarters, including John Brennan, the former C.I.A. director who has repeatedly blasted the President as a corrupt authoritarian. “I do applaud Trump’s decision not to carry out what would have been a disproportionate strike . . . that could have led to a dangerous escalatory spiral,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I give him credit for being almost the adult up in the room, because of the war hawks like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo who are pushing towards this confrontation, which is not in anyone’s interest, especially the United States.”

According to the Times, Bolton, Pompeo, and Gina Haspel, the current head of the C.I.A., all favored a military response, whereas top Pentagon officials took Brennan’s line, cautioning that “such an action could result in a spiralling escalation with risks for American forces in the region.” (In an interview with Reuters, an anonymous Administration official disputed such a split, saying, “There was complete unanimity amongst the president’s advisers and DOD leadership on an appropriate response to Iran’s activities.”) In any event, earlier this week, the Pentagon dispatched another thousand troops to the Middle East, with the specific goal of securing U.S. bases and installations against possible attacks from Iranian forces and their proxy groups.

Nonetheless, on Friday, a number of Republicans criticized Trump’s decision not to go ahead with the strike, and some of them compared it to Obama’s reversal in 2013. The Republican representative Adam Kinzinger, who is a pilot in the National Guard, wrote on Twitter, “America is facing a crisis in confidence. Obama’s decision to cancel a strike in Syria in 2013 has had ramifications that are still being felt today. We cannot let the provocations and attacks by Iran go unanswered.” In a television interview, Kinzinger followed up this tweet by saying that the cancellation of the strike “sends a message that you don’t really know what the red line is . . . the red line may not be so red.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a faithful Trump stooge, sought to defend his decision, saying, “He has a long-term game plan here.” But, of course, such a game plan is exactly what Trump lacks. For more than two years now, his Administration has been building up the pressure on Iran by withdrawing from the nuclear deal, employing aggressive rhetoric, and imposing ever-tighter economic sanctions. To many observers in the Middle East and elsewhere, it appears that the Administration’s real goal is a regime change in Tehran, even though Trump has recently denied that. But what is undeniable is that Trump’s policy has been inexorably leading us to a moment like this one.

“Now what we see is we are trapped between the belligerent rhetoric of Trump towards Iran . . . and the Donald Trump who said he didn’t want to get us into another war in the Middle East,” Ben Rhodes, a former Obama Administration official, said on MSNBC. “They are at a point of complete strategic incoherence. They are saying they don’t want a war but everything they are doing is making a war more likely.” On Thursday night, Trump stepped back from the brink. But the policy that got him into this mess is still firmly in place.

Critics are formed by their early experiences, which congeal into the ideas, tastes, habits, and prejudices that inform a lifetime of work. If they’re both conscientious and lucky, critics also find ways of overcoming their prejudices. The joyful shock of watching new movies is one way of doing so; confronting the work of other critics is another. I’ve written about my longtime disagreements with the writings of Pauline Kael, who was a film critic at The New Yorker from 1967 to 1991, but—especially since I started working as a critic—I’ve often found those disagreements immensely fruitful in reconsidering my own preconceptions. Kael, who would have turned a hundred this week (she died in 2001), was the most vigorously, immediately responsive critic of her time; she was bracingly alert to the experience of watching movies, and her nuanced and engaged attention to them provides a vast amount of substance for a reader to wrangle with.

Despite our many differences of opinion, Kael and I have plenty of beloved movies in common, and rereading her reviews of some of those films makes me appreciate them afresh. Take, for instance, Kael’s enthusiastic review of Paul Mazursky’s first feature, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” in the October 4, 1969, issue of the magazine. Significantly, the film hadn’t yet been released in theatres (it would come out on October 8th of that year); rather, it had already played as the opening-night offering at the New York Film Festival and, as Kael notes, had already proved controversial. Amos Vogel, a founder of the festival, was outraged by its selection, as he wrote to Susan Sontag at the time, and three (three!) negative pieces were published in the Times. The very prominence of the festival in the city’s, and the country’s, cinematic landscape was news in itself; in discussing and endorsing Mazursky’s film, Kael was also responding favorably to the changing times in the world of movies.

Mazursky’s comedy addresses what the Coen brothers would dub, forty years later, “the new freedoms.” It’s a story of two married couples, four best friends, in a posh Los Angeles suburb—Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood), and Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon)—who ultimately confront the possibility of partner-swapping. Where Vincent Canby, in the Times, was bewildered that the festival would show “a film that is already assured of wide commercial release,” Kael praised “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” for its overtly commercial intentions and for how it shared the tone and style of popular movies (for her, this was a career-long ideal)—yet she also recognized that “though it looks conventional, it isn’t.” More importantly, she recognized the specifics of Mazursky’s individuality as a filmmaker: “ . . . Mazursky, directing his first picture, has done something very ingenious. He has developed a style from satiric improvisational revue . . . and from TV situation comedy, and, with skill and wit, has made this mixture work.”

In “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” Mazursky, born in 1930, seems to be channelling the complex experience of the late nineteen-sixties, the tangle and the clash of past and present, settled habits and sudden changes, into the actions of his characters and the over-all tone (and often striking visual identity) of his movie. The four protagonists’ lurches toward openness and frankness (Bob and Carol, blithely; Ted and Alice, grudgingly) as ideals is matched by the lurches and leaps in their behavior, their dialogue, and their performances, which are infused with a quasi-improvisational spontaneity and a janglingly disjunctive clash of tones. With its conflict-riddled and boldly symbolic expressions of emotional impulses and sexual drives—and its sense of collapsing boundaries, both social and aesthetic—“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” is as much a vision of Mazursky’s artistry as it is of the times; that’s the glowing point where Kael’s critical acumen and ardor fuse.

Kael was writing at a moment when political crises and historical shifts coincided with vast changes in the art and the business of movies. The studios were on the verge of collapse, and a new generation of filmmakers was pulling Hollywood into a new era. Kael’s writings were crucial to the recognition of many of these artists (including Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, and Francis Ford Coppola), and Mazursky was among the first of them to make his mark. (Kael also rejected many of the best of the time, such as Elaine May, John Cassavetes, and Terrence Malick, but that’s another story.) She had the good fortune to be writing in exhilarating cinematic times and to have the insight—and the passion—to know it and to make those epochal innovations her very subject. Recent cinematic times have seen similarly drastic shifts in the aesthetics and the business of movies. Critical resistance to those changes is as strong now as it was then, and—disagree as one might with the specific targets of Kael’s praise and disdain—her excited enthusiasm for change remains exemplary.

Stream “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” at Amazon Prime, Google Play, and other services.

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20th Jun 2019

In a first for an American designer, US fashion luminary, Ralph Lauren, has been named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for his services to fashion.

WWD reports that the legendary designer — whose brand has been seen on royals Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle —  was presented with this honorary knighthood by Prince Charles in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, June 19.

According to the publication, because Lauren is a US citizen the title is honorary and he won’t be entitled to have “sir” before his name, but he can have “KBE” after his name. If, however, Lauren became a British citizen he would be entitled to add the “sir” to his name.

Lauren, 79, celebrated the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren last year and is an icon in the fashion industry with his beloved all-American preppy label Polo Ralph Lauren as well as his chic ready-to-wear label Ralph Lauren. He is also a game-changing philanthropist supporting a number of causes, particularly breast cancer through the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation.

WWD reports that the knighthood was announced in November last year and at the time, the British Consul General to New York, Antony Phillipson, said it was for these reasons that the designer was to be honoured with a knighthood. “Mr Lauren has been a vanguard for the global fashion industry and American style for nearly half a century. In addition, [his] monumental philanthropic efforts, especially in the realm of public health, cancer research and treatment in both the US and the UK, have led to benefits felt by citizens around the world.”

People reports following the ceremony yesterday when Lauren was presented with the knighthood, the designer shared in a statement how honoured he was. “To have the honorary KBE conferred on me by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and presented to me personally by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is an honour I have humbly accepted. I have always been inspired by the history, traditions and culture of Great Britain and the historic relationship our two countries have shared. This is one of the most meaningful honours bestowed at this very special moment in my 50th anniversary.”

Lauren is the first American fashion designer to receive a KBE, however, he joins a list of leading US names in other industries who have also been bestowed with an honorary KBE, MBE  or DBE (honorary damehood) including, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, Bill and Melinda Gates and actress Angelina Jolie.

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Image Credits: François Goizé

Just last week, Cartier threw an event fit for royalty to celebrate the launch of its new high jewellery collection, Magnitude. Actresses Claire Foy, Letitia Wright, Ella Balinska and Lily Collins were in attendance for this ultra-exclusive affair. 

Guests dazzled in jaw-dropping gowns for the cocktail attire dress code at London’s 180 The Strand, an exciting location to present the collection. The event continued at Shoreditch Town Hall for the after party, where guests were treated to a performance by American singer-songwriter, Beth Ditto, before dancing the night away to spins by DJs Paul Sevigny and Mimi Xu. 

The latest high jewelry collection, Magnitude, represents Cartier’s timelessness while offering a new collision of materials and another example of the brand’s ability to reinvent itself, yet stay true to its history. For more, take a sneak peek inside the launch, below. 

Above: Ella Balinska, Letitia Wright, Lily Collins 

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Claire Foy

Kimberley Anne Woltemas

Letitia Wright

Peter Dundas, Bianca Brandolini, Evangello Bousis, Alexia Niedzielski

Elizabeth von Guttman

Iris Law

Amelia Windsor

Doina Ciobanu

Karen Wazen

Caroline Issa

Diana Silver

Claire Foy, Cyrille Vigneron, Lily Collins

Beth Ditto

Image credits: Getty Images

Fifty years ago this year, the police waged a violent raid on the Greenwich Village gay bar the Stonewall Inn. Such attacks happened all too frequently, but this time the LGBTQ+ community fought back harder than ever before – marking what is widely considered the birth of the gay rights movement. A young Englishman by the name of Ernest Hole was in New York at the time and remembers a “strange” but optimistic atmosphere. “If gays and transsexuals, tired of harassment, could confront the police, then anything was possible,” he says. During his six-month stint in the city, he frequented the now defunct Oscar Wilde Bookshop – the first bookstore devoted to gay and lesbian authors in America – and befriended the owner Craig Rodwell.

Hole was so inspired by the shop that on his return to London, he decided to open a similar establishment in Bloomsbury. Gay’s The Word, which takes its name from the Ivor Novello musical, turned 40 this year making it one of the oldest gay book stores in Europe; it remains the only gay bookstore in England. Such spaces are becoming increasingly rare (London has lost more than 50 per cent of its LGBTQ+ venues in the past decade), but are more important than ever. Why? As Hole puts it: “Gay bookstores aren’t places that just sell gay books, they are a gay place open to all and part of the community, a place to be proud of.” They are also often places of great cultural significance – Rodwell was a one-time lover of Harvey Milk, who would later become the first openly gay politician elected to public office in California, and he is said to have radically influenced Milk’s politics. And it was within the walls of Oscar Wilde Bookshop that the Gay Liberation Front mapped out the inaugural NYC Pride march in 1970.

As for what’s on the shelves, LGBTQ+ literature is a space in itself. The words on the page provide a sense of discovery, inspiration, togetherness and hope. On that note, asked nine figureheads of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss the queer literature that has played a pivotal role in their lives.

Image credits: Getty Images

Laverne Cox

In 2014 the star became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award and appear on the cover of magazine. Since then the Alabama-born actress has continued to break down barriers on all fronts, citing writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s writing on intersectionality as a major influence in her campaign for better representation.

“Feminism, for me personally, has always been intersectional because I discovered it through black women authors like bell hooks and black lesbian and queer authors like Audre Lorde. That’s what I love about Lorde’s collection of essays, – it talks about queerness in relationship to feminist identity and race. It taught me to think about my position in the LGBTQ+ community as not being divorced from my blackness, my womanhood and all other aspects of who I am.

“There’s one particular essay in that I keep returning to, in which Lorde writes: ‘Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.’

“Although she doesn’t mention trans women, this pride month, after Zoe Spears became the 10th trans woman reported murdered in the US this year, Lorde’s essay serves as a reminder that trans women still stand outside of what is considered to be an ‘acceptable woman’ and that we need protection.

“When, in 1979, Lorde delivered this essay as a speech at a feminist conference held in honour of the 30th anniversary of Simone de Beauvoir’s book , she was urging the women in the audience to interrogate their own racism and homophobia. Without addressing our internal biases (conscious or unconscious) in doing liberation work, we are attempting to use the master’s tools. That’s not liberation. Lorde is calling for the use of new tools to build paradigm shifting houses, which can become homes where we are all welcome.”

Image credits: Getty Images

Jeremy O. Harris

Before the 30 year old had even graduated from his final year at the Yale School of Drama this year, he had two critically acclaimed plays ( and ) showing in quick succession off Broadway and a film – , starring Riley Keough – in production. Oh, and there was a lead role in a video campaign for Gucci too. Here the precocious American playwright and actor describes a chance encounter with fellow writer Robert O’Hara in an elevator.

“ is an episodic play about the world (both internal and external) of a black gay writer and his bootycandy (his mother’s childhood euphemism for his penis). It is vaguely autobiographical. It was one of the first uproarious and audacious pieces of theatre about the life and times of a queer black man I’d encountered. From its title to its subject and its energy, it represented where black gay theatre could go.

“I encountered it in 2014 during its first run at the Playwright’s Horizons theatre after running into the author and director Robert O’Hara in an elevator. After expressing my sadness that the show was sold out, he reached into his pocket and handed me a ticket and told me not to be late. I ended up seeing the play three more times. The fact of its existence makes me inspired because for so long I didn’t see myself – not just my identity but my sensibility – represented in the theatre. So I didn’t think I belonged. Post I knew I had a chance to do this and it became a formative moment for me.

“In a time when our lives are desperately on the line across the world, I think that radical expression can feel difficult or out of our reach. Then we get tepid and polite queer work. This work dares to choke an audience and then dares them to like that sensation. We need more of that.”

Image credits: Getty Images

Mj Rodriguez

Known for her role as Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in the agenda-setting FX series , the New Jersey native is among the largest cast of transgender actors in TV history. The work of American playwright Larry Kramer has been central to her development personally, as well as on screen and stage, she says.

“When I was 17 I went to see Larry Kramer’s play and after that I thought, ‘Man I’ve got to get inside this man’s brain.’ I researched his work and came across this article he wrote In the 59th issue of (March 1983) titled . It spilled the whole truth about individuals dying from AIDS and caused a lot of controversy at the time.

“I love the way he wrote it so eloquently and intelligently. He also gave a lot of hard facts and statistics to support his argument on what needed to be done. The opening line reads: ‘If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble.’ It’s the ultimate call to action.

“‘There are now 1,112 cases of serious Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,’ he went on. ‘When we first became worried, there were only 41.’ For him to have the numbers like he did shows how much work he was doing in the community. I was in when I first read it was so important to that role but more than that it’s informed the activism I do now on reducing the stigma and raising awareness around HIV and AIDS. I never imagined I would run into an essay like that and I never thought my whole life would be influenced by one man.

Image credit: Getty Images

Beth Ditto

The former Gossip frontwoman – muse to Jean Paul Gaultier and designer of her own eponymous clothing line – is a prominent supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and has spoken candidly about her tough upbringing in Arkansas, including abuse at the hands of her uncle, which long went unpunished. Ditto says Dorothy Allison’s autobiographical novel helped her reconcile these early traumas and restore her relationship with her own mother.

“Queer author Dorothy Allison’s is a story that I feel is parallel in many ways to my own. It’s set in South Carolina and told from the perspective of a 12 year old girl called ‘Bone’ Boatwright, whose mother gave birth to her when she was very young and so she doesn’t have the life experience to bring up a child yet – she doesn’t know how to relate to her own daughter. Bone’s biological father dies and her mother remarries, to a man that turns out to be abusive towards Bone. Even though the mother is made aware of the abuse, and repeatedly leaves her husband, she keeps going back to him. Throughout the book, the daughter tries to shed light on why her mother continues to make these mistakes, and work out how she won’t make these mistakes herself. It’s a really hard but beautiful story of forgiveness and putting into perspective the struggles of women, specifically Southern and rural women.

“I was angry at my own mum for so long, now I realise she just made poor choices and it brought us to where we are today. It made me realise how important choices are in life. Happy people make happier children. Happier children make better decisions. I’ve read twice now and I think it’s such a queer narrative because we love to talk about what we can do to not be our parents or make the same mistakes again. We look at the world think ‘what can we can do to make it better?’”

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Troye Sivan

Through his songs, the Australian teen vlogger turned pop star has brought the everyday experiences of young gay men into the mainstream, amassing some 10.5 million Instagram followers along the way. The 24 year old describes reading Hanya Yanagihara’s novel as a life-affirming experience.

“ by Hanya Yanagihara is one of my favourite books ever. It tore my heart out with its pain, but also showed me how powerful love can be. The story is about four men moving to New York to live their lives – delving into their pasts, futures and their relationships with each other. I read it for the first time only a few weeks ago after my manager gave it to me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. My boyfriend [the model Jacob Bixenman] is about three quarters of the way through it now. Reading the stories of maturing LGBTQ+ relationships is important to me. I feel that’s one area of representation we could work on a little. The whole world should read because – warning – although it’s sad and troubling, it will leave you feeling changed.”

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Isaac Julien

The Turner Prize-nominated British artist and filmmaker is currently the subject of two solo exhibitions at the Victoria Miro Gallery (until 27 July) and Tate Britain (until 17 November) in London. Essex Hemphill’s book of poetry formed the basis of his film (and subject of his Tate Britain show) – an exploration of black queer desire.

“ is my favourite book because it contains within its compendium structure ‘Conditions’, which existed as a self-published, monograph-edition book by Essex Hemphill. It is about black gay subjectivity and hopes of finding love during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

“I first heard ‘Conditions’ read by Hemphill himself in Los Angeles in 1986. I must have read it over a thousand times since… there is always something new and fresh that emerges. It influenced the making of (1989) and became a primary text for the film, in which authors performed poems live, allowing me to create images, which became a vital source of inspiration throughout my career.

“It embodies a voice that has become less heard in our culture nowadays and it is provocative, like our fight for equality must be. The whole world should read this work to ensure the next generation knows its history.”

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Although Holland’s career seems to have skyrocketed overnight, literally – his debut single received over a million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours – as K-pop’s first openly gay idol, the odds have been stacked against him. The 23 year old describes LGBTQ+ issues in South Korea as “very taboo”, making it hard to get his music in the public domain. He credits André Aciman’s with having helped him come to terms with his sexuality.

“Reading André Aciman’s helped me look inside myself and overcome feelings of shame. I acted on desires I had previously hidden and was finally honest with myself. In my own words the story is about the protagonist and narrator, Elio Perlman, finding his identity, recognising he is attracted to another man and his family embracing him for who is. Like many Koreans, I first came across the work as a movie. I liked the actors, music and visuals, and so felt compelled to read the book. There are many passages that have stayed with me, but the part where Elio says: ‘We had the stars, you and I. And this is given once only,’ is especially powerful. The words made me fall in love and feel jealousy and grief. As a whole the book expresses relationships without a moment for stereotypes or cliché.”

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Matthew Michael Lopez

by E.M. Forster is a pillar of the American playwright’s bookshelf – it laid the foundations for his four-time Olivier Award-winning play , an exploration of gay men’s lives in recent history opening on Broadway in the autumn. But when it comes to literature, his greatest love is by James Baldwin, which he says “served as the touchstone to my earlier play, ”.

“The obvious choice from James Baldwin’s work might be , which is a much more explicitly gay novel, but to me there is no greater queer novel than . It’s one of the first truly intersectional novels, published decades before the term was even coined.  

“The book follows a group of friends, lovers and strangers in the aftermath of the death of a character we’re initially led to believe is the novel’s protagonist. His death sets these people (his sister, his friends, his former lovers – both male and female) on a collision course with each other in a New York that is far less integrated that it pretends to be.

“Throughout the novel, Baldwin pairs his disparate characters off – whether it’s romantically, sexually, creatively or through tenuous friendships. Men and women, black and white, they all begin to populate each other’s narratives (and each other’s beds) as they hold more and more sway over each other’s destinies. Baldwin uses the crucible of the bedroom to tie these people together as if to say, ‘We are all cooking in the same stew, baby. Might as well try and make it taste like something.’ It’s truly sexy as fuck.

“As a work of literature, it teems with thrilling, almost electric language and complex, vibrant characters. It is an alternative view of a fabled time in a vanished city. It is an angry book, at times even a ferocious one. But above all, it is a deeply compassionate book. You finish it feeling renewed, transformed, washed clean. The last paragraph leading to the final image is one that will stay with me forever. It’s rare that a book has the ability to send you out into the world with the perfectly turned final phrase. Also, the fact that it was published in 1962 is mind-blowing. He writes the American future by simply writing the world as he experienced it. It explodes the myth that Stonewall was the beginning of our visibility.”

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Cynthia Nixon

The star may not have won her bid to become Governer of her hometown of New York last year, but it was perhaps the loudest demonstration of her mettle as a true leader to date. For more than two decades, she has been a consistent advocate for public education and campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights. Her fire was “fuelled”, she says, by the work of playwright Tony Kushner.

“I was in the original production of in 1993 and performed it for over a year, so it’s a work of art that has really lived in me. There were a series of performances I remember particularly vividly that June during Pride 1993 when the audience was almost exclusively LGBTQ+. It was like performing overseas in the United Service Organizations during wartime – the audience knew you were performing specifically for them.

“One of the great things about the play is it puts that terrible moment in LGBTQ+ history – the 1980s AIDS crisis – into context in American history and chronicles our ongoing fight from the left for a more progressive world. There are Mormon characters and Jewish characters, and, as much as it is about a gay identity, the play is also about the struggle and the effects – positive but mostly negative – religion can have on us: the fear of God, the fear of being damned and the power that holds, especially when you’re trying to come out to the world. It essentially dares to ask whether we are going to evolve or regress as a culture.”

“In the final scenes, the central character, Prior Walter, says: ‘We won’t die secret deaths anymore, we will be citizens.’ showed people living with and dying from AIDS as prophets. The crisis added fuel to the fire that is our ongoing fight for equality and gave us a sense of tremendous urgency. The gay community was dying, it felt like AIDS was trying to quietly eradicate us and society saw us as expendable, so in an act of survival we came screaming out of the closet in droves.

“In the last few years, the play has gained even more personal significance for me since my transgender son Sam, who is an actor, playwright and director, became a huge fan of it. Now he knows the work inside out, too – all seven hours of it. I think his dream is to stage it himself one day.”

Fashion designer Carla Zampatti’s signature aesthetic — an elegant balance between refined beauty and streamlined function — is most apparent in her home in Sydney’s Woollahra, an exquisitely secluded four-bedroom Italianate-style building surrounded by a lush garden scattered with sculptures.

In the back of the house, Amalfi chaise lounge from Janus Et Cie.

Zampatti’s intuitive play on Italian romance and Australian pragmatism feels intrinsic to the award-winning designer’s world, from how she chooses to live to who she is as a person. She’s svelte, sophisticated and characteristically chic in her tinted black glasses and trademark blonde bob, but with an endearing warmth and underlying strength of character that may perhaps stem from her country upbringing and a backstory that can only be described as pioneering.

Carla Zampatti at the entrance hallway of her Sydney harbourside home. Zampatti wears black crepe jumpsuit from Carla Zampatti.

The woman sometimes referred to as ‘the Coco Chanel of Australia’ grew up on a farm in postwar Italy, and was nine when she moved with her family to a small town in Western Australia. But it was in Sydney in the 1970s where she rose to become one of the country’s most respected names in the Australian fashion industry. Here, she chats to Vogue Living about her heritage and her beloved home.

In the entrance, sculpture by Elisabeth Frink.

My love of design comes from Italy. Architecture in Italy is just magnificent — very minimalist but beautiful and solid. I love stone. I love things that are big and bold. It’s my fashion taste as well — simple, understated and strong. You can’t go wrong.

The central double-height stairwell with original windows.

If you grow up in Italy you’re surrounded by beauty. It’s part of your DNA. In Italy we lived in a beautiful old house: four storeys with stables in the basement, a first floor, bedrooms on the second floor and an attic. I always loved the space and the atmosphere of it.

The front of the house.

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My family moved to Australia for the same reasons as any other migrants at that time. My father didn’t want his children growing up in postwar Italy. He thought we wouldn’t have any opportunity there, as Italy was very poor [then]. We lived in the countryside, so we were never hungry or wanting, but my brothers were teenagers and they would not have been able to find work. I loved it [here] from day one. It was so different and unique and special.

Zampatti with her daughters, Allegra Spender (left) and Bianca Spender; Zampatti wears black crepe jumpsuit and Allegra Spender wears blush jumpsuit, both from Carla Zampatti; Bianca Spender wears silk floral, stripe and check dress from Bianca Spender; artwork by artist unknown.

I bought this house in 1975. It was after the Whitlam government came in and everything, particularly real estate, became very affordable. I heard about it through a friend who knew the lady who owned it, whose father had built it. He’d gone to a lot of trouble and did a lot of detailing, which I’m very grateful for. He was widely travelled and, interestingly enough, was in the textile industry. When he died, his daughter had a house already, so she didn’t really want to move.

In the living room, Poliform Airport sofa by Paola Navone; ash ceramic Chinese pot and Turkish Dagar pot from Water Tiger; Michael Verheyden Y vase (on table) and Tabou suede pouf from Ondene; vessels (on piano) by Dino Raccanello; plants from LuMu Interiors; Great Dane Manér Studio Arc floor light from David Jones; sculpture by Igor Mitoraj.

When I walked into the entrance hallway, I knew right away I wanted to have it. There was something about it — it was magic. The house was built around 1928 and I’ve hardly changed it. It’s in its original format except we’ve painted the floors white and we’ve changed the kitchen. But I’ve left all the bathrooms intact, [just] as they were in the late ’20s.

The whole house has a fluidity about it. It’s well thought through and has a natural flow. If you look at the floor plans, everything has a circular kind of element to it, even the garden and the drive.

In the living room, tapestry is one of a pair Zampatti found in a flea market in Italy.

I lived here with my family for over 10 years until 1987. Then we moved into my husband John [Spender]’s house. When John and I split, I moved back and it was in 2009 that I made the changes to the house. My children [son Alexander and daughters Bianca and Allegra] spent their early years here, and when I moved back they said they felt like this was their real home.

In the library/study, Pierre Jeanneret easy chair from Hacienda Ltd; Menu Troll vases from David Jones; plant from LuMu Interiors; Naga rattan basket (used as planter) from Water Tiger; artworks by Dorothy Thornhill.

To me the exterior feels Italian and the interiors are [16th-century Italian] Palladio in style. The round room in particular — what I call my winter room — with these wonderful windows and open fireplace is Palladio influenced. It’s my favourite room because it’s so intimate and cosy.

There’s nothing ultra-modern in my home. I like old furniture because it’s beautifully made. It’s heavy and it has a presence. I like traditional French or Italian designs.

Dino Raccanello is my architect. He’s a very old friend and lives between Lucca, Italy, and here in Sydney. He’s done quite a few of our retail stores and he has a lovely, clean, minimalist style. We understand each other and I trust his taste. I knew that the kitchen was too dark and dreary and we both agreed that it needed to extend outside, and now I use that outside area a lot. Whenever I go to buy something he says don’t, because you will overcrowd the space. When a space is overcrowded you don’t see the beautiful things in it.

In the kitchen, Great Dane Buch Elmotique stool and Serax Terres De Reves bowl from David Jones; artwork of Bianca Spender by Allegra Spender.

All nine of my grandchildren come over and use the pool. My oldest grandchild is 18 and the youngest is 2. On Sunday afternoons we have regular family gatherings and the main living room is their room. They tear it apart, bounce on the lounge, take off the cushions and play the piano. The adults escape to the round room or the kitchen and just let them go wild. They can’t really wreck anything because everything is so solid.

I adore my family. They are the centre of life. I’ve done some wonderful things [in my life] but having children, there’s just something magical about that. And my kids have been so good to me. In difficult times they’ve been there.

In the master bedroom with walk-in robe beyond, Society Limonta Rem quilt from Ondene.

In the original powder room, artworks by Catherine Fox.

In the original ensuite off the master bedroom; jacket from Carla Zampatti.

In the stairwell, artwork of Barry Humphries by Allegra Spender.



18th Jun 2019

The Duchess of Sussex may be on maternity leave from royal duties after giving birth to son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, on May 6, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to hear from or see the actress-turned-duchess until she returns to royal duties reportedly in the UK autumn (Australia’s spring) this year.

Since Archie’s birth in May we’ve already seen the duchess, 37, a handful of times including, an official photocall days after Archie was born to introduce the newest member of the British royal family to the world, during The Queen’s birthday celebrations at the Trooping the Colour earlier this month, and on Instagram, where she shared a very sweet snap of Archie’s feet cradled in her hand on Mother’s Day.

During her maternity leave, the duchess appears to still be quietly working on her patronages, the causes she has been named responsible for on behalf of The Queen.

Late last week, animal welfare charity Mayhew released their annual review for 2018 and while it’s not a document that would usually garner wide readership, it’s become a must-read, after it was revealed that the duchess penned the review’s foreword. Raising awareness of this cause, even while she’s on maternity leave, is exactly why Markle is the ideal royal patron for Mayhew.

As for the foreword itself, it is basically an essay in which Markle shares her “joy” of being a rescue dog owner. “As a proud rescue dog owner, I know from personal experience the joy that adopting an animal into your home can bring,” Markle writes in the Mayhew review foreword.

“The choice to adopt a pet is a big decision that comes with much responsibility. It will undoubtedly change your life.” Markle pens, finishing with a call to action to get involved with Mayhew and pet adoption in any possible way.

Markle does indeed speak from experience and the heart. According to Vanity Fair, before Markle married a prince and moved to a castle in the UK, Markle had two rescue dogs — Guy and Bogart. Guy and Bogart lived with her in Toronto, where she was based while she filmed Suits. However, when the duchess moved to London to wed Prince Harry only Guy, a beagle, was able to make the trip (the dog is such a special part of the family, he even travelled in the car with The Queen to Windsor for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s May 2018 royal wedding). Bogart stayed behind in Toronto with a friend, as he was reportedly too old to make the transatlantic trip. 

Markle was rumoured to have been heartbroken over having to leave Bogart behind (she clearly loves being a rescue dog owner). However, she and Prince Harry have reportedly adopted a new dog to keep Guy company and round out their rescue dog-loving family.

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Irresponsible Ghost

You come into the kitchen to find dirty dishes piled everywhere. You thought you turned off the lights when you went to bed, but, when you wake up, they’re all still on. You try to dispute your alarmingly high electric bill by claiming that it’s your ghost’s fault, but you had this problem at your last place, and there’s no way it was haunted, too—right?

Self-Involved Hollywood Ghost

Whenever you leave your laptop out, your browser somehow ends up back on that same Rotten Tomatoes page. Communicate that you care by respecting your ghost’s extensive body of work and, just to be safe, play your ghost’s greatest films on repeat.

The Ghost of Your Ex

You went through a breakup in your kitchen months ago, and now, whenever you make breakfast, the stove mysteriously turns on. This definitely doesn’t mean that you left it on the night before, when you were drunk and tried to cook eggs. No, the ghost of Brian is haunting you for eternity.

Down-to-(Haunt)-Earth Stoner Ghost

If Tame Impala songs spontaneously start playing through your speakers, don’t panic. Put away the sage you bought to banish the ghost and try getting high with it instead. Transcend the ghost’s plane of existence, or just have some deep conversations about why fingers, like, even exist.

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Motherly Ghost

Every time you walk into the bathroom, there is writing on the mirror telling you to floss more. Braces are wildly expensive, and this ghost wants you to remember that, every single day.

The Ghost of Amelia Earhart

The channels on your transistor radio are always going haywire, and you didn’t even know that you had a transistor radio. It is unclear if you can still get NPR.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Before you head out to your work Christmas party, the Ghost of Christmas Past will swing by and remind you not to get as drunk as you did last time, by showing you, in excruciating detail, how drunk you got last time. You will stay away from the punch bowl at all costs.

The Ghost of Your Math Teacher, Mrs. Shapiro

Each morning, you wake up in a cold sweat, having dreamed of a pop algebra quiz that you knew you’d fail. Luckily, Mrs. S. visits only once a year, when she knows you’ve been avoiding filing your taxes.

Party Ghost!!!

He is the best beer-pong partner you will ever have, and the worst wingman.

The Ghost of Your Former Self

You can never escape yourself.