We Chainsmoked With Fashion Icon Michèle Lamy at the Queendom Screening

Michèle Lamy


One recent Friday near Washington Square, anyone who was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the sold-out first screening of director Agniia Galdanova’s new documentary, Queendom, executive produced by the fashion legend Michèle Lamy, packed into a shoebox-sized cinema and glued their eyes to the screen. In the film, drag performance artist Jenna Marvin, who sat in the crowd decked in her trademark makeup and sky high pleasers, acts out her own story of finding the right to self-expression as a queer person involved in anti-war protest in her native Magadan, Russia, from family rifts to consecutive arrests to her ultimate escape from detention to Paris. Afterwards, the crew pumped south to a swanky piano bar to slurp oysters and chainsmoke in celebration, where I grabbed Lamy for a quick on-the-record Smoke Break.


MICHÈLE LAMY: Oh wow, look at you. You smoke too. You are just perfect.

MEKALA RAJAGOPAL: [Laughs] What do you smoke?

LAMY: Dunhill International. Blue.


LAMY: No, blue. Blue are a little lighter than the red, but I don’t think they have menthol. So you did not go to Milan for fashion week?

RAJAGOPAL: I got stuck here.

LAMY: Great, so we have you. 

RAJAGOPAL: But you’re going back to Paris tomorrow for the show.

LAMY: Yes. Mel is there?

RAJAGOPAL: No, he’s not going for mens.

LAMY: I like him. I think it’s fantastic he has put back Interview as something interesting. 

RAJAGOPAL: Well, we just came over from Cinema Village to the Nines. Have you been here before?

LAMY: Last night after dinner, we came here and danced until 3:00 in the morning.

RAJAGOPAL: Oh, really? Tonight there’s live music. It’s very dignified.

LAMY: Yeah, we were there for the DJ. It was not techno. It was sort of a mix of—I won’t say old-fashioned. But it was disco turned house. You could recognize it, but then it was twisted.

RAJAGOPAL: How are you feeling after the screening?

LAMY: I thought there would be a huge theater and thousands of people, because the movie has been showing in a lot of festivals. And it has to be a commercial release because the goal is to win the Academy Award and the Oscar for documentary. It was shown at the Forum des Halles and it was completely filled up with people. There were like 600 or 700 people in the room. 

RAJAGOPAL: Wow. This was a lot more intimate. 

LAMY: You knew about the movie?

RAJAGOPAL: Yeah. It was an incredible story. It feels so relevant.

LAMY: Yeah, it’s very specific, but what is general is resistance and courage.

RAJAGOPAL: What’s it been like promoting the film?

LAMY: I’m the best PR ever. [Laughs] I mean, we sort of are a family. Jenna’s been doing the [Rick Owens] show, mens and womens. But from there, I’ve been expressing myself in whatever resistance I want to do. When I did my 80th party, I was with Fecal Matter and I read this poem. She [Galdanova] saw it.

AGNIIA GALDANOVA: Yes, now we are developing a new project with Michèle, and it started when I saw videos from Michèle’s birthday party in Venice. She was on the stage reading this beautiful poem in support of Palestinian people to raise awareness.

LAMY: “I give you a man and you give me a bomb.”

GALDANOVA: But I told her that it was in the middle of the rave so nobody really got it.


LAMY: The rave was about that too. It was about Palestine. So we are going to have a performance in Venice again, but at the Cinema Galleggiante. We have been participating a lot with that cinema. It’s a big screen on a lagoon outside where you go with a boat or you’re on a platform. I did something there with Tommy Cash. We are scouting pretty soon in Jordan. If you’re nice we’ll send you the storyboard.

GALDANOVA: Yeah. We’re going to go to Jordan and film in the desert and Michèle is going to read this poem. It’s traversing between dream and reality, but the main point is to use Michèle’s voice to bring attention to the situation.

LAMY: That’s what we can do right now. I mean, now, it’s so bad. It’s so horrible. To know how everybody wants to turn around history, believing what they want to believe and not looking at facts. I didn’t think I would live to see something so bad. Now we are understanding that whoever we elect is selling arms. Do you have a lighter?


LAMY: You know, two years ago, going a lot to the Middle East, I thought that civilization was coming to an interesting point. I knew about the settlers, but not this much. Everybody wants to make history into what’s good for them. It’s very depressing.

RAJAGOPAL: When are you traveling?

GALDANOVA: We’re filming some time in the fall. Our weapon is art. We like to craft strong imagery. That’s how we fight. That’s how we can contribute, because we are not military. I don’t know how to use the gun, but I know how to use the camera.

LAMY: Poetry is a big voice outside of who is a Democrat or whatever.

RAJAGOPAL: Who came out tonight to support? 

LAMY: Kembra [Pfahler] was a beautiful surprise. Marina Abramovic supported it, but today she was doing something in Greece. She’s part of that league of performers.

RAJAGOPAL: I think performance art is big now because people are finding it easier to use their body to express themselves.

LAMY: Yeah, that’s my best thing.

GALDANOVA: Jenna is always saying that that’s her tool. That’s her way to express herself. And we’re going to continue, because art should be political. We had to leave Russia and we cannot go back. I’m facing 30 years of jail back there. We’ve been displaced. And children, women, everyone is forced to be displaced from their homeland. If we can use our forces to somehow bring more attention to the situation through art, that’s our goal.

LAMY: Voila. 

GALDANOVA: How are those people going to get in there?

RAJAGOPAL: Oh, they said it’s capacity.

LAMY: It’s funny that the world is like this, but then it’s life as usual in New York.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s like a weird duality in your brain.

LAMY: Yeah, it’s difficult. Paris is getting to be the same thing as everywhere with the far right movement. Now it’s the last straw of everybody trying to keep their freedom to live their life.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s true. Are you going to stay here?

LAMY: I don’t know. Joanna wanted to drag us to Supreme. I’m sure we are going to pass by. Come, we’ll take you back in.