Steven Meisel, Francesco Scavullo, Dietmar Busse, Bill Cunningham, Roxanne Lowit, Mariano Vivanco and Mario Testino are just “some” of the very recognizable names of illustrious and respected photographers who, throughout the years, have captured the beauty of Kenny Kenny.
So you can only imagine how intimidating the thoughts in my mind were when I was walking to his West Village apartment with the mission of photographing him for TheBlot Magazine. Let me inform you that Kenny himself has mastered the art of taking self-portraits.
Kenny, who grew up in Ireland and attended art college in Dublin, spent an important amount of time in London in the 1970s where his friendship with artist Leigh Bowery and designer Rachel Auburn began to sharpen his artistic sensibility that led him to become one of the most iconic faces of New York City nightlife. Kenny arrived in Manhattan in July of 1986 and was the first androgynous gay “door person” to bring a profound sense of hardcore style and glamour to the scene. In my book, the first impression is always at the door, and it doesn’t matter if it was The World, Palladium, Club USA, The Limelight or Spa, when you saw Kenny, you knew that his visual approval was a matter of life and death to a promising night.
Unless it is a major event, you will no longer see Kenny at a club door. The nightlife impresario now spends more time developing his artistry, where he turns his body into a channel of exquisite visual poetry where photography is the tool. Every look is a perfect styling lesson in progress, like a crescendo of visual ideas and concepts that only he can create. Fashion weeks have been going on in New York, London, Milan and now, Paris, and because Kenny Kenny doesn’t conform to rules or follow a norm, he is our March Style Master.
Gazelle Paulo: Kenny, please describe your style with your own words.
Kenny Kenny: My style is really just at play; it’s a conscious feeling of how I want to look, with some subconscious thrown in. To be more exact, it’s about balance, aesthetically and psychically, a game between opposites, male and female, structured and destructed and an experiment.
Do you have any peculiar fashion habits?
My looks change so often that when something becomes a habit, I become bored and move on.
How important has fashion and style been to you?
Well, fashion less and less, in fact, very little now, though dressing and creating looks and backdrops for my looks is all-consuming, but at a great love.
What was the defining fashion moment in your life/career?
I would say working with Rachel Auburn in London around 1984-85 and being around Leigh Bowery, Trojan, Dean Bright, Pearl and the whole Taboo thing was very influential to me.
Who are the most elegant woman and man of all time?
This is impossible to answer — I only know the people I’ve been around and influenced by, like Sabrina Querci or Mr. Pearl, although I do love Little Edie, Josephine Baker and Bob Marley, who would be a great partner for me. We would look great together, and so many more … It’s usually people I like and who are interesting and smart as well as how they look.
Fashionably speaking, if you could have a second chance to give another first impression, when and why?
Oh, no, I am an evolution. I wouldn’t change a thing, all those mistakes have made me who I am. I dress, and I am interested in, the process to evolve as a creative person.
What is your favorite store in the world and your favorite one in New York City?
The World’s End Shop/Vivienne Westwood in London. In New York, the [Maison Martin Margiela] store on Greenwich Street, though I can’t afford it, so I go to Goodwill. I am usually creating with the help of designers Garo Sparo and Eugene Welsh. Stores comes second.
What was the most spectacular party you attended?
I think one of the best parties I ever went to was an illegal “fiesta” outside Havana. At a certain time, the street were the gays hang out, a lot of old 1950 cars put up, and all the gay people jumped in the cars. We raced with all the other cars (stock-car style) to get to a field which was down a lane way and behind an enclosed fence. There was an exuberant and fun-filled event with Spanish house and disco music where everyone was letting loose, excited and free. This was many years ago, before gay people in Cuba were allowed to gather freely.
If you could style one person, who would be the lucky one?
I like people who style themselves; I think the idea of styling someone is strange. Maybe Antony Hegarty — I think I could push him a little more to bring out a better look.
What is the perfect attire for the eternal sleep?
A Victorian lace wedding dress with a train, though it should be taken off before I am cremated and passed on. I hate waste, so maybe nude with body paint, very pale and naked in the end.
February Style Master:Barbara Berger