Kanye Rises from the Flames


Last night’s New York premiere of Kanye West’s new 35-minute short film, Runaway, brought out a few models (Sara Ziff, Nicole Trunflo), a fashion maven or two (West’s stylist Cassius Clay, as well as Charlotte Ronson, who told us her favorite Kanye song was the one he wrote for his mother, “Hey Mama”), plus at least one of Kanye’s Def Jam labelmates (Chrisette Michelle, in an extremely memorable ankle-length red rosette coat). But the guest who most got the photographers all riled up—besides West himself, of course—was Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks, who stars in West’s film as a phoenix fallen to earth.

Ebanks didn’t find it too hard to get into character: “I’ve worn wings before,” she said with a laugh. “But never phoenix wings. It was just a lot of conversations with Kanye, and I just tried really hard to express his vision and stay committed to the character the whole way. There was a lot of cuts and falling down, but I stayed in character.”

When we asked West which filmmakers he drew inspiration from, he was quick to answer, “Kubrick and Fellini”—and judging by the saturated coloration and just-this-side-of-surrealist touches throughout, we’d have named the same two. Runaway, which features nine songs from West’s new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (and which provides some context for its controversial cover art), was—to say the least—warmly received by the audience of West’s friends and well-wishers.

Before and after the screening, West spoke a bit about the toll the last year of his life has taken on him mentally and emotionally. (He also said one or two less-than-generous things about bloggers and the media in general, which we did our best not to take personally.) But it seems the film’s phoenix imagery is a rather obvious metaphor for West’s career as he sees it—as well as for his self-esteem. West talked about his commitment to the visual arts and fashion, then went on to say that at the film’s Los Angeles screening, “I compared myself to Karl Lagerfeld. Is that too much of a compliment for him?”