Jean Paul Gaultier Talks Madonna, Miley, and Coming Out

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Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images

In his latest publicity appearance for the exhibition "From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk," Jean Paul Gaultier sat down with Suzy Menkes at London’s Barbican last night for an on-stage interview. He was greeted by the wild applause from an audience of fans, many of whom were wearing his trademark Breton stripes. Menkes barely needed to ask questions — Gaultier talked at top speed for over an hour with infectious enthusiasm, lapsing regularly into French. From discussing Galliano to Gaga, read the highlights of his talk below.

On coming out to his family: “[My parents] were not typically French. They were very open-minded. I remember that one day I saw a movie with Sidney Poitier, which was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. And it was a love story between one black guy and one white woman. After seeing that, I asked my parents, ‘If I arrive with a girlfriend and she’s black, what would you say?’ ‘If you love each other,’ said my mother, ‘it will be perfect.’ And years after, when I told them that I was gay and had a boyfriend, they said to me, ‘You love each other?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘So that’s perfect.’”

On why he didn’t wear a skirt for the interview: “The first skirt I did was very long, and now in my old age, when there are stairs … [He mimes struggling to walk up the stairs] So I have to make it mini. But maybe I am a little more puritan now, so to show all my legs is a bit too much.”

On John Galliano: “John Galliano did fabulous things [at Dior]. I should say, he is very talented, truly fabulous, and not at all the racist of the image that they’ve shown. On the contrary. He is not a racist.”

On Madonna: “I was in some ways in love with Madonna. I saw her dancing to Holiday [on TV] and she was dressed very well … It was exactly in my spirit and I said, ‘Oh, she must be English!’ because the look was not at all American. I loved her music — I love that first period of Madonna more than anything else.”

On his early career: “It has not been easy since the beginning. I had no money, but I had the enthusiasm. You know, my parents had no money. But I think for me it has been better, because I know that with nothing I can do something … If you have passion, nothing is impossible. If you are obsessed by something and you want to do it, you will find a solution to do it … Maybe I was lucky, because [my first job was as an apprentice of] Pierre Cardin. I didn’t go to fashion school. My obsession with fashion became my school — I was reading [every magazine], and for me it was a Bible.”

On Lady Gaga: “Lady Gaga has more eccentricity, rather than style. What I loved about Madonna is that she had style and girls wanted to dress like her. With Gaga it’s more difficult, because it’s all eccentricity.”

On Miley Cyrus: “She’s very young. I should remark only that there is something with the Disney girls, no? That they all become so sexual. I don’t know if it’s Mickey, or … ?”

On Suzy Menkes: “Suzy is truly somebody incredible as a journalist. So professional, so talented — with a sense of humor of course, because she is British. Even a bad critique from her is always a compliment, because you know that she knows very well of what she is speaking. It’s not so pleasant to have a bad critique, but I must say that if she does it, you have to see afterwards what you have done [because she’s probably right].”