Chloë Sevigny

Portrait of a Muse

photography by Guy Aroch
interview by Maurizio Cattelan


MC Hello Chloë, I’ve always felt kind of shy the times I’ve met you…
CS You’re lying! You cannot feel shy around me!

MC Finally we have the chance to chat and I’m quite curious about one thing: I think everyone has fantasies about success but it seems your response to that is eluding being marketed, like that time you blew off the chance of being photographed by Steven Meisel… what made you refuse the shooting?
CS Did you read that on Wikipedia? (laughs). People always bring that up, but actually I did not refuse a shooting with Steven Meisel, what happened was that they were doing a casting – it might have been for Calvin Klein – and I was invited. I was quite young, I think 18. I was out the night before, at Limelight or somewhere, having a really long night so I just decided to sleep in instead of getting up and going to the casting. I assumed there would be another opportunity for a Meisel casting. People were using street kids all the time so it just seemed like if I don’t get this chance, then I’ll get another chance, which has been my philosophy throughout my life with my career. Like if I didn’t get that movie, then it wasn’t meant to happen. It may be a lazy way of thinking or an excuse for not working harder than I should. Anyway, as I turned out I never had a second chance with Meisel.

MC Do you like his work?
CS He’s one of my favorite fashion photographers of all time. I think he’s still so current and I’m always inspired by what he does. He’s such a trailblazer who creates beautiful images that are still fresh after all these years. He’s still one of the masters.
Now I feel like there was some weird premonition with me missing that opportunity and then never having the chance to shoot with him. Maybe I really screwed up worse than I thought I did with my 18-year-old mind!

MC It might be cool at some point just to deny oneself, but the story you told me was happening at the very beginning. Anyway, it seems it has never been too difficult for you to say no, isn’t it? Is it more the ‘no’ you say or the ‘yes’ you say that define who you are?
CS I don’t like to think my work defines who I am. But you know, when I was younger, “no” was a very important word for me. I felt a lot more importance to building this body of work and feeling like something would taint it. I didn’t say refuse a lot of things, actually, just a few little things with shoots – No, I won’t wear that. No, I won’t let you do my hair like that – probably just because I was young and pickier. I wish I maintained that more, but I got to a point where it’s so hard to say no. It’s exhausting. Especially in a fashion shoot, they always want to use an actress and dress you up like a model, when you’re not. Then they have to use the advertisers, so you end up wearing a horrible brand you would never wear. And then they want to make you look this way and that way, and it just takes so much energy to say no in those situations that I just gave up for a while but I’m trying to regain that again. On the other hand instead, in retrospect, I wish I would have said “yes” to more roles in films. I don’t think it would have hurt my overall career, body of work and how people would have perceived me if I had taken some of the things I passed on back in the days. But still, I can’t put that into practice. I still get these weird offers and I’m like: “Meh…!”


Download MUSE 40 – Digital Issue to read the full interview.