Perfect Strangers: When Vanessa Beecroft Met Maya Rudolph

Rudolph: It’s such a luxury to talk to another mother with four kids — it’s really rare. The first thing I think of, when I have to travel, is going on a plane with them. You have to get at least six tickets, and it’s expensive, and then you become this area of the plane, and it’s like, “We’re so loud.”

Beecroft: I always buy them medicine. It’s called Tranquil Sleep and it knocks them right out. My pregnancies were quite easy, but it’s still a lot to handle. Your body duplicates. And then you can’t drink, which is my favorite thing. Actually, I drank anyway.

Rudolph: For me, what was hardest was the vanity of it. I don’t think there’s a woman alive who doesn’t have body-image issues, and everyone’s are different.

Beecroft: Kanye West is actually a great supporter of larger women. He’s a real feminist in that sense.

Rudolph: I remember working with Jennifer Lopez years ago on “Saturday Night Live.” Her body is unbelievable and she was sort of the first woman famous for having a beautiful posterior. Everyone was saying, “Oh my God, her butt is gorgeous.” You look at her now and she seems normal compared to the exaggerated version that is more man-made.

Slide Show

The Very Best of Maya Rudolph

CreditMary Ellen Mathews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Beecroft: I wish larger women would be appreciated here like they are in Brazil, where it’s like, “Hey, I’m bigger and that’s cool.” But here it’s all about emphasizing the sexual parts: the butt, the breasts, the lips. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right! My ex-husband left me, and on the same day one year later I met Kanye. That same day I also met my new husband, Federico.

Rudolph: That’s wild.

Beecroft: It was my friend Miltos’s birthday, an ex-boyfriend from Greece who’s kind of a mentor to me. I kept whining to Miltos about Greg, Greg, Greg — that’s my ex-husband’s name — and Miltos said, “Look, he is just a Greg. You are the Vanessa. You keep going.” And I did. And then I met Kanye and Federico.

Rudolph: So Kanye found you, obviously.


Alex Aristei

Beecroft: He contacted my studio. I didn’t know who he was — I’ve never had a TV — so I didn’t pay attention to the request until my assistant said, “You have to go. If you don’t, I’m going to go for you.” So I went, and right away he felt like a brother. I’ll never say anything bad about him because he’s always been incredibly respectful — maybe not to the crew when he’s working, but to me.

Rudolph: I’m sure that you also are an extension of him. He is an artist, of course, and he’s so visual, but you can express the things that he needs to get out of him that he can’t carry out.

Beecroft: He’s always saying that what he does is bad, imperfect. Of course publicly he says it’s great, but I see that he is never satisfied. He wants to do the next. He’s already in the future.

Rudolph: I don’t think there’s a figure like that for me. Maybe Lorne Michaels is comedy’s Kanye. [Laughs.] When did you move to the United States?

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The Very Best of Vanessa Beecroft

Credit©2016 Vanessa Beecroft

Beecroft: When I was 23 I was invited to do a show at MoMA PS1, and when I flew back I was crying. I thought, Why am I leaving this country that feels so progressive, so socially and racially mixed? Why am I going to Italy where it’s so stiff and bourgeois and old? I’d been raised on the idea that America meant imperialism and capitalism. Americans were killing their own presidents. They were killing Martin Luther King. They were drinking Coca-Cola. But then I got here and I saw that it wasn’t true, that it was in fact a modern country with the Helvetica font everywhere. In Italy, if you want to eat a few pieces of watermelon, you have to sit down for hours.

Rudolph: A meal is a meal.

Beecroft: But here you could do anything you wanted. You could eat a watermelon in the subway. Over there, it’s a museum.

Rudolph: We rebel against our own, I guess, because when I hear that I’m like, “Culture!”

Beecroft: As much as I love America, I find New York quite hard. A lot of people in the art world are moving to L.A. — many of the major galleries have migrated here. The lifestyle is so much gentler, more comfortable. And when it comes to fashion now, I have given up. At one point I went to Europe and left the house unlocked. People stole my entire closet, and I thought, “This must mean drop it. Just drop this.” As hard as that was, I actually admired them because they took the Saint Laurent, Alaïa and Balenciaga, and left behind the American Apparel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of American Apparel — I wear it to the Y.M.C.A. And in L.A., that’s fine. You don’t even have to wear shoes here.

Rudolph: I have a backyard and my kids run around naked every day.

Beecroft: I used to devote part of the day to massage or yoga, but now there’s just so much to do. As it is, I don’t really spend time with my kids.

Rudolph: That’s all I ever talk about with other women who work. When I had my fourth child, someone said, “How do you do it all?” And I said, “I’m not doing anything fully. Not one thing.”

Beecroft: I feel perpetually guilty. I try to create the best environment for them at home. I mean, I buy organic vegetables. In a way, I feel like the more children the better, because then they become this little clan who team up and protect each other.

Rudolph: We’re both clearly addicted to children.

Beecroft: We should have a baby!

Rudolph: Together?

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