Quick Q&A With Isaac Mizrahi
The fashion designer and longtime Project Runway: All Stars judge talked scooters (chic!), the impact of the #MeToo movement on the fashion industry (just beginning), and why he’s nervous about performing in Indianapolis. Catch him at The Cabaret October 12 and 13.
Q: The title of your show is Does This Song Make Me Look Fat? Do you see yourself as a fat person?
A: Oh, gosh, yes! I was a really fat kid, and then lost about 75 pounds when I got to high school. Depending on the night you see me, I might be really fat. I’ve been watching my Weight Watchers points for the past three to four months, though, and I recede significantly in preparation for a gig.
But no matter what, I will always think of myself as a fat person. My doctor tells me that I’m morbidly obese, not to mention the pages of every fashion magazine. A large part of the act is about that—thinking about fatness as a parallel to other things people think they are, and perhaps are, or aren’t.
Q: What was the tipping point that made you say, “I have to do a stage show”?
A: I’ve always been working on one. Even before my one-person, off-Broadway show in 2000—which was called Les MIZrahi—and the different clubs I was playing in New York before that. I honestly can’t think of a time when I wasn’t planning this.
Q: Do you have any vocal training?
A: I started training my voice in high school, and I’ve been taking private lessons ever since. But a cabaret show is not a Broadway show; it’s not even a one-man show. And so although I warm up for hours, what’s really important is showing up and being present in the room.
Q: Are politics a part of your show, and if so, does your act change based on where you’re performing?
A: I can’t change my politics, so I’m a little nervous about what’s to come in Indianapolis because I’m not sure what the political leanings are there. But I have a feeling that people who come to my cabaret show are prepared to hear me talk about politics. And whether people agree with me or not, I hope they find the show funny.
Q: What comes to mind when you think of Indiana?
A: I have a feeling that in Indiana, I have like-minded people. I don’t think I’m going to get people in the audience who are anti-gay or against gay marriage, but if I do, I’ll deal with it. I don’t expect my audience to penalize me for merely expressing my political opinion. Being gay, being Jewish, has never made any kind of difference before, so I don’t think it’s going to make a difference now.
Q: How do you think the #MeToo movement has changed, is changing, or will change the fashion industry?
A: I believe the #MeToo movement has just begun. And so it has not affected our recent politics, sadly—but I think it will, more and more. People are going to be held to task. There are photographers and stylists in the industry who won’t work any more, and I feel bad for them. I wonder how they will recover from that, but sometimes you have to dig through eggs to make an omelet.
Q: I can predict what you’ll be wearing on stage in Indy a week in advance — black shirt, black pants, black shoes. Why and how did you start wearing this monochromatic uniform?
A: I will indeed be in all black. It’s hilarious because it still takes hours to style. It starts from vanity, which I don’t think is such a bad thing—I want to look thin and when you wear black, you feel thinner. And I do try to do other things besides black, but then I show up and think, What have I done? I’m trapped in this yellow sweater. I love it for about a minute, and then I kind of want to kill myself.
Q: Do you feel added pressure concerning your appearance because you’re a famous designer?
A: I’m not Liberace, sadly, although as I lose weight, I feel more and more desirous of fancy dress. It’s crazy—the thinner I get, the more I want to wear sparkles. At least, black sparkles. And recently I’ve adopted this funny little daisy that I wear in my lapel. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel like I’m in the right place.
Q: Do you ever wear the same thing twice?
A: Oh, so much. I believe that if you love something, you want to collect it and buy it and own it and wear it for the rest of your life. Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was really chic to wear something into the ground — the more you wore it, the more threadbare it was, the more gorgeous it was.
Q: I’m not sure how familiar you are with electric scooters, but they’re the next big thing in Indianapolis right now—
A: I saw middle-aged men on scooters in Long Island and was like, What?!, and then someone told me it’s a big thing.
Q: Would you ride one?
A: Maybe—I have this trick knee I’m trying to get over, which is almost completely better, and if it is by this weekend, I’ll ride a scooter in Indianapolis. I love the idea—so fun. It looks chic. Everybody’s standing up, standing tall.
WHERE: The Cabaret, 924 N. Pennsylvania St., 317-275-1169
WHEN: 8 p.m. October 12 and 13
TICKETS: $60–$100; $25 for students with valid ID.