“She Was J-Lo, I Was Gay-Lo”: Meet Cosmo Lombino, the Queen of Melrose

Cosmo Lombino

Photo courtesy of Cosmo Lombino.

Cosmo Lombino might still be awaiting her lap dance from the Queen of Pop, but she’s still the undisputed Queen of Melrose. After going viral for complaining about security stunting her style in the parking lot at Madonna’s Celebration tour, the internet was dying to know what Cosmo, née the Queen of Melrose, was doing in the ‘80s. As we found out when we called her L.A. boutique, the designer and stylist was running with the Harlem mafia and stomping through the bygone punk emporiums of her native New York. Now, she deals in extravagant designs at three stores on Melrose: Fashion Whore, Cosmo’s Glamsquad, and Cosmo & Donato, which she runs with business partner Donato Crowley. Nevertheless, Cosmo remained gracious and humble when she joined us to talk dressing celebs, becoming “mother,” and getting her life together in rehab.—MEKALA RAJAGOPAL


COSMO LOMBINO: I didn’t get no coffee this morning. No cigarettes. 

JULIAN RIBEIRO: I’m so excited to talk to you, Cosmo. 

LOMBINO: I’m floored. My phone just keeps on ringing. Before, it was just my cousin or my sister from the Bronx. Now it’s like, E! News, Interview Magazine. Now, a girl’s got choices.

RIBEIRO: Yesterday’s price is not today’s price for the Queen of Melrose.

LOMBINO: Exactly.

RIBEIRO: How’s that been for you?

LOMBINO: Basically, after I did the Soft White Underbelly interview, that’s when the phone started ringing. It just went crazy overnight. Usually, the cases are doom and gloom, doom and gloom. But I went on there with a solution. I went through it in Los Angeles and New York City with the drug addiction and all that, so everybody’s like, “Thank god he’s sober.” We have the gift of hope. It made me feel really good because I have to give back as an addict. I go to meetings and give back, but to give back in front of five million followers was pretty epic.

RIBEIRO: Yeah. A lot of comments were people being like, “I’m two months sober. I’m trying to get sober. It’s inspiring to see there’s a future,” which is great. And it’s such an interesting part of the lore of Melrose. You’re not some doom-and-gloom story. You’re like—

LOMBINO: No, I’m living my best life. I have been for years, and I’ve been on Melrose doing it even through the addiction. My work ethic was crazy. I didn’t come from a rich family, so I had to come to work on Melrose to sell a dress. I always showed up no matter what, until I couldn’t show up anymore. Then I had to go to rehab and get her together. It was a lot of relapses and lions and tigers and bears, but I finally got there and I’ve been able to sustain not only one, but three businesses on Melrose, which is a lot. They say that work is the best thing. You go to rehab, they stick a rake in your hand. You know what I mean? Keep that mind busy, busy, busy.

RIBEIRO: Yeah. Idle hands are a devil’s plaything…

LOMBINO: Exactly. I’ve been doing this for a while, and everybody’s like, “You need a reality show.” I even made Shaquille O’Neal something to wear before COVID. He’s a DJ.

RIBEIRO: Yes, he plays these incredible EDM sets at these monstrous festivals.

LOMBINO: It’s so cool. Long story short, I made the clothing for the boxer Deontay Wilder, the heavyweight champion of the world at that time. I made five outfits for Deontay and the fifth one was epic. It had laser beams coming out of it. He and Shaq were kicking it at a club and Shaq’s like, “Who makes your stuff?” And Deontay slipped him my number. Next day, on FaceTime, Shaq is like, “Are you Cosmo & Donato?” And I was like, “Oh my god, fucking Shaq’s on the line.” 


LOMBINO: So we had to go meet him at Jimmy Kimmel to do a fitting. It was great. He answered the door in his underwear. Anyway, he goes, “How would you guys like to fly out to Atlanta? And bring this apparatus.” It was this huge shoulder piece full of lights. So he flies us to Atlanta and we put it on him and he goes in the DJ booth. It was kind of raver. 

RIBEIRO: That’s the vibe. Keep it bright.

LOMBINO: Yeah, it was all very glow stick. It was fabulous. He was pumping the music and we had a great time. And then after the show, we’re hanging out in his VIP lounge and he’s like, “How come you don’t have your own show?” Now, I’ve been hearing this a lot for years and years, but Shaq had his cameraman fly to L.A. and actually do a sizzle reel on me. It was like, two weeks with the cameras on me. He also gave me a $3,000 tip, because he’s very generous.

RIBEIRO: Oh, that’s nice. Shaq’s your guy.

LOMBINO: He’s cool as fuck. The sizzle reel was amazing. They were in my house from six in the morning and came to my store, filming me all day. “It’s not if, it’s when, Cosmo. You’re going to have your own reality show.” And then what happened was COVID. Everything ended on the shelf. We thought everybody was dying, including myself, and that didn’t happen. So cut to now doing Soft White Underbelly with Mark—I have a girl working for me now. Her name is Eugenia. She went to school for production. She’s Gen Z, thank god I have her. She’s always like, “You’re a star. Let’s just do it ourselves.” You can’t really depend on people to do it for you. 

RIBEIRO: Social media is the new reality TV. 

LOMBINO: I’ve done a few reality shows myself. I was on Shahs of Sunset and I was on Big Freedia. I always made a guest appearance, but I don’t like the dynamic. Everybody’s fighting, they’re throwing tables up in the air. Even though I would love to throw one table up in the air.

RIBEIRO: Just one.

LOMBINO: I can throw this wine. Should we do it? Let’s do it.

RIBEIRO: Wait, we’ll make a video after. 

LOMBINO: So finally, what happened was that Melrose got really slow. A few Burning Mans did not happen. This is the stuff that keeps my doors open, these stressful seasons. Ever since COVID, it’s been really bad. I’m just trying to catch my tail. So I was like, “I got to do something.” And I’m 80 pounds overweight. When I got sober, I gained weight. But I’m like, “I don’t give a fuck. I have to go on camera.” Eugenia’s got producer in her blood, but she’s my biggest fan and she tells me how beautiful I am. She reminded me that I am the Queen of Melrose and I’ve always been the Queen of Melrose.

RIBEIRO: Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

LOMBINO: I was letting the disease come for me, and my head was telling me all these fucking lies. So I went on camera.

RIBEIRO: There’s this one tweet that I keep seeing about you that’s, “A cigarette with her outside of a club would save my life.” I think people see you as this sage-like mentor figure.

LOMBINO: Yeah. I’m like, “You know what? You could be that queen, honey. It’s okay that you throw a wig on your head.” Because there’s so many people in the closet. There’s so many big celebrities still in the closet. It makes America’s parents not accept their kids, and most of the people that are homeless, their parents threw them out because they just couldn’t deal with it. Hopefully, I make a change in that. When I was younger, my father didn’t like the fact that I was gay, only because he knew it was going to be a rough life. And I wasn’t just gay. I was like how I am now…


LOMBINO: I’m in Harlem with the mafia. I grew up that way. He’s like, “What am I going to do with this kid?” But when I got older, he’s like, “Oh my god, my son’s got hands of gold. He’s a hairdresser. He’s a dancer.” He was so proud of me, but a lot of kids in the world don’t have that chance, and it’s really sad to be themselves.

RIBEIRO: 100 percent.

LOMBINO: Listen, I’m getting how many comments a day? And my fear was, “She’s overweight.” But I didn’t get one. 

RIBEIRO: Everyone’s in the comments is like, “Mother.”

LOMBINO: “Mother, we love you. You’re gorgeous. You’re an icon.” Things I dreamed about. I knew that I had the gift, but I could cry because I read the comments and my whole life I wanted this. My dreams are coming true. I’m clean and sober and I’m living my best life. It’s just such a gift. 

RIBEIRO: I get that impression that there’s so much gratitude for this really positive place that you’re in right now.

LOMBINO: They’re calling me the ghost of Big Ang. I was such a fan of Big Ang and I was so proud of her. She smoked Newports all her life. I think she passed away from cancer. But I love to be the ghost of Big Ang. I’ll take it any day. 

RIBEIRO: I love it. I need to talk to you about fashion. Fashion is in a crazy place right now. The vibe is shifting. When people come to your store and when you dress people, what are you excited about?

LOMBINO: I’m just excited about doing these makeovers. It never gets old. I get from soup to nuts in here. I could have your grandmother come in and make her feel like she’s… For instance, a few weeks ago, this beautiful lady came in and said, “My husband’s cheating on me. I have to go to this event. He’s got a younger girl. How do I look classy?” And I’m like, “First of all, you got to get rid of the ass-out shorts, girl. We’re not 15 anymore.” Brutally honest, but we just laugh. So I put her in a dress, low cleavage. She was from Miami, and she had the Miami boobs in that dress. She was J-Lo, I was Gay-Lo. It was fabulous. When I wrapped this belt around her waist, which she probably surgically got done, she started crying.


LOMBINO: And that’s when I knew I’m still meant to be doing these little makeovers. No matter how big I get, I can’t forget about my store and the girl that’s going to the club or the girl that’s going to prom. It’s time I share these makeovers with the world.

RIBEIRO: That’s super cool. I think a lot of people’s introduction to you was the video of you at the Celebration tour in the parking lot, an iconic video. My mom’s a real ride or die fag hag and she took me to the Celebration tour. She was like, “What the fuck do you know about this?” I’m 24.  She’s like, “I lived this,” and I was like, “This Madonna stuff’s pretty cool.” What’s your favorite Madonna moment? 

COSMO: You’re beyond your years, darling. Honestly, she just ended up getting more and more style. She was always on the cusp of fashion. In the ‘80s, everybody was wearing those little pointy shoes with their rolled down skirts, off-the-shoulder lace bras, and little fucking bows in their hair. And I was the biggest queen doing it, actually. She started it out, she was such a trendsetter. She still looks great. The swelling went down. She had me worried there. There was some video of her last year, I think she was having a little midlife crisis like we all do. I was like, “That’s Madonna? What happened?” But she bounced back, and then she almost died, which she shared on stage, so there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

RIBEIRO: She looks great.

LOMBINO: She lost all that weight again from dancing. The face healed. She looks absolutely beautiful. When they put that Marilyn Monroe wig on her, my god. You got to bring your mother in. I want to meet her.

RIBEIRO: I want to come. Oh my god. 

LOMBINO: Where are you?

RIBEIRO: I’m in New York. Which do you think has the superior vibe: New York or L.A.?

LOMBINO: When I was in New York, it was the ‘80s and ‘90s. So Greenwich Village, 8th Street, it was always giving you fashion. That’s where I learned. In New York there was a store called Jumping Jack Flash. They would do bell bottoms and glam rock and platform shoes, which Gucci does today. It all just comes back around. Now it’s about the ‘80s, and if you’re politically correct, it’s the ‘90s. But I go back there and I’m like, “Where’s the fashion? Where’s the boutiques?” Pat Field, who did wardrobe for Sex in the City, she had a boutique and she influenced me because she had wigs and trannies and rock-and-roll. She had everything. Now they’re all gone. When you see the street, it’s like nobody’s doing fashion. But L.A. became a fashion show. There’s a lot of events here, a lot of Instagram models here. All the new blood is coming up. When you go out, everybody looks good. And that’s why my store does really well here. But if I went back to New York and opened a store there, I really think we’d kill it. I think they’re hungry for the fashion that the kids can relate to and afford.

RIBEIRO: Yeah, I’ve lived around here my entire life, and I remember when Jimmy [Webb] from Trash and Vaudeville died during COVID, and I was like, “I don’t even know a store that does what Trash and Vaudeville does.”

LOMBINO: You know Jimmy? Oh my god, I love Jimmy. I grew up with that store. I was a hairdresser right next door in Astor Place when it was three floors, and it was packed in the ‘80s. I was cutting hair there. They called Jimmy the “East Coast Cosmo,” and they called me the “West Coast Jimmy.”

RIBEIRO: He was a nice guy. That’s what I always remember about him. 

LOMBINO: You know, before he died, he literally came out here just to see me and come into my stores.  I hugged him and we took pictures together. A few months later he passed, which is really sad. I heard they tried to keep the store open, but—

RIBEIRO: His presence is not gone. He was part of a class of real rockers and cool cats who were around. There’s not really many people with that spirit doing clothes right now. What’s inspirational to you for your own fashion? Is it the people on the street? Is it the kooky people online? 

LOMBINO: I really get it from everywhere, and I’m very intuitive. That’s the gift I have. I’ll have it in the window before it becomes trendy. But I get inspired everywhere. Sometimes I just drive through the hood and see what the kids are putting together. You know what I mean?


LOMBINO: Then I also look at fashion shows. Rick Owens is a big inspiration. I love Galliano. Cavalli in the ‘70s. That’s all back now.

RIBEIRO: It’s super back.

LOMBINO: And the kids think it’s brand new. I love it. And then ‘80s Gaultier, all those plaid skirts and everything. Honestly, you could go to Hot Topic and they’ll sock it to you. We just put a little edge on it and make it more fabulous. We don’t make it totally ‘80s, but with a little twist and a little turn. I love a good ’70s bell bottom. I love a good Gucci turban, darling. Fabulous. I just love it all. And you know what? I’m sprung on TikTok. I sit there in the morning, have a coffee and a cigarette, and just watch TikTok all morning. I get stuck.

RIBEIRO: What does your algorithm look like?

LOMBINO: I’m going to be honest, there’s a lot of naughty videos in there, and that’s so entertaining. I’m like, “Wait a minute, when I’m on TikTok, I can’t curse, but why are these guys doing that?” That’s a mystery to me.

RIBEIRO: TikTok censorship is crazy. 

LOMBINO: When I go live, these things pop up like, “Censored, cennsored.” Because I curse, and I have my “Barbie’s a Crack Whore” T-shirt, and all these cool things.

RIBEIRO: I want to know about the shirt. 

LOMBINO: So in the ‘90s when I opened my first store, I had this girl come in and make a whole Barbie series. “My Barbie Takes It in the Ass,” “My Barbie Swallows,” “My Barbie’s a Crack Whore,” “My Barbie Has a Yeast Infection.” I put these shirts in my store and they just sold crazy. So I brought them back when the Barbie movie came out.

RIBEIRO: You were ahead of the game.

LOMBINO: Yeah, I actually did them in crystals. I’m going to show you some.

RIBEIRO: I’m obsessed.

LOMBINO: People come in the store for the element of surprise. We have stuff that nobody has. Our necklines are a little lower. The guy’s pants are a little tighter so you can see their bulges. You see somebody I dress, it definitely doesn’t look like she went to the mall in New Jersey.

RIBEIRO: She did not go to Urban Outfitters for this.

LOMBINO: We’re working on a sick line of tracksuits. It’s like, “Where’d you get that?” Go to Cosmo & Donato.