By Max Berlinger
“She radiates charisma and savviness without being pretentious or self-conscious,” says longtime Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto. “When I interviewed her after the Oscars, I was amazed by her honesty. She doesn’t care about going against the grain of what a celebrity is supposed to be.”
Asked if she sees herself as a gay icon, Sevigny rolls her eyes. “What does being a gay icon even mean?” she challenges, exemplifying the unique combination of guts and guilelessness that have made her so captivating. At the same time, her rebellious spirit has not always been seen as a virtue, like during the furor she incited nearly a decade ago.
“People expect me to say I regret Brown Bunny, but I won’t,” she says, referring to the 2003 film that climaxed with her giving a blowjob to Vincent Gallo, the film’s star and director. It left many industry insiders predicting the end of her acting career -- certainly not a move from the nice-girl handbook.
“Right after the movie came out, I asked her about it at some event, and she literally ran away from me -- literally,” Musto recalls. “I thought it was so cute, that she was so vulnerable.”
Her career didn’t end. In fact, Sevigny rallied, landing her most recognizable role, as the scheming second wife of a Mormon polygamist in HBO’s hit series Big Love, which earned her a Golden Globe Award in 2010.
Some cynics interpret her infallible mystique as artifice -- no one could be that effortlessly cool for this long, could they? -- as evidenced by Drew Droege’s popular YouTube videos, where he lampoons Sevigny by spouting off a series of esoteric references.
“At first I thought, Oh, they’re funny. They’re not even really me, they’re these weird art pieces,” she says. “But I’ve turned a little. I’m slightly offended because he’s calling me pretentious, and I’m not.” She asked a friend what it meant that a search of her name on YouTube yields pages of Droege’s impersonations. To Sevigny’s relief, she assured her, “It means you’ve done everything right.”
These days, Sevigny seems ambivalent with being on the scene, despite her perennial front-row seat during Fashion Week and appearances at events ranging from Vogue’s swank Met Ball to crowded art openings in Chinatown. She says she prefers to stay at home and invite friends over, avoiding the bar scene. “I’m 37. What am I going to do there? Meet a husband? Not gonna happen -- they’re all 25.”
However, Sevigny’s connections to the fashion industry run deep, serving as muse to friends Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, designers behind the sought-after label Proenza Schouler, and an ongoing collaboration with downtown retailer Opening Ceremony.
“She’s true to herself and approaches everything she does with passion and energy,” says Humberto Leon, co-owner of the store. “To say she’s hands-on would be an understatement. She sketches; she’s there for fittings. I don’t think many people know that she can actually sew,” he says, assuring she’s not just lending her name and collecting a check.
Sevigny denies that she’s the clotheshorse she’s made out to be, but does, in fact, know her place in the fashion food chain. For the British premiere of Hit & Miss she requested about 20 dresses for consideration, but only received two. “Aren’t I one of the top searches on Style.com, for crying out loud?” she says with mock disgust. “How hard is it to get a fucking dress from Valentino?” When it’s noted that that quote will definitely make it to print, she clasps her hands together and lets out a raspy laugh.
Despite certain lofty expectations and challenges that her “road-less-traveled” approach has forged, the actress has kept her sense of humor intact—even Chloë Sevigny can appreciate the ridiculousness of being Chloë Sevigny at times. Mention that fans have come to expect the unexpected from her and she groans.
“I know. So boring,” she says, finishing her mint tea. “But, it’s been a long time, and I’m still here, dammit,” she continues, before adding a theatrical afterthought: “Thank God.”