“YANN Calls…” is a webseries where Brazilian artist Yann video-chats with different artists. Some of the guests have been Dita Von Teese, Kathy Griffin and Adore Delano, Bianca Del Rio & Courtney Act from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
On this week’s episode, Yann chats with the artist and photographer David LaChapelle. The interview was split into two parts. On the first, he talks about working with Andy Warhol, the reason why he decided to drop everything and move to Hawaii, and also how was working with artists such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Whitney Houston.
“You know, I gotta thank her because honestly I’ve never said no to a job before. We were in pre-production for the video ‘Hung Up’ when she was screaming at me. (…) I had just finished the documentary ‘Rise’ and I had really worked so hard. That film opened theatrically all over the world and I had just come from that junket. I was tired. I wanted all my life to do a Madonna video. When she was screaming at me on the phone, I couldn’t take it. (…) The song was good and everything was in place. We were doing the job and I remember that being so mean. The shoots were always so stressful with her, when we did photoshoots. I thought God I can’t go through this. I just hung up the phone. I got very quiet because she was yelling at me. I put the phone down. I hung it up. It was a cellphone actually. My agent was sitting beside me and you know, Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone’? She’s like ‘You hung up on Madonna?’ and the funny thing was the song was ‘Hung Up’. (…) I’m not here to judge her. Everything in life is a lesson to me. That’s how I look at it. Honestly, it was the first time I said no. She gave me a gift, in a sense, because from that moment on I realized I didn’t have to do everything. I was working all my life out of fear because I didn’t finish High School. I didn’t have a diploma. My mom said I was going to be homeless when I was a kid and I believed her. I thought so too. (…) I finally said no and nothing bad happened. So I started saying no more and more which led me to stopping all together working for magazines and celebrities. I still shoot celebrities, but it’s rare. When it happens is for a reason. Right now I’m focusing on the fine art work. In a way, Madonna, that experience with her was kind of a catalyst. So I should be grateful.”
On photographing Michael Jackson not long before he passed away:
“Michael was a hero and Michael was a prophet. Michael helped so many people. We only found out when he died that he gave 400 million dollars of money to children’s charities around the world. He touched everybody and that’s the power of art when an artist can touch people from all countries. But we tortured him. At one point he could not turn the TV set without hearing horrible stories about himself. The trials were absolutely false and a farce. His makeup artist for 30 years, Karen Faye, she did the makeup when he was dead, for the coffin. So she worked with him that whole time. (…) Karen said the bedroom door at Neverland was never locked. She would come in when Michael was sleeping, he was an insomniac he couldn’t sleep often and 99% percent of the time the bedroom was empty. So those pictures they are a testament to that Michael. He really was like an angel on Earth.”
“Britney never actually really wanted this career. Her parents pushed her to it. She was doing pageants for kids when she was a little girl. So when she falls everyone is watching on TV, like it’s gossip. When she was 17 years old and we shot Rolling Stone, I met her parents at her house and they were sweet. Everyone was really nice. There were pictures and trophies of her as a beauty pageant girl and then she exploded into worldwide fame. It wasn’t really a life that she asked. In my mind, I believe she didn’t exactly want and came to New York with that goal and worked at it and became a big popstar. (…) When we were doing the ‘Everytime’ video and shooting the second day, She didn’t want to finish it. We didn’t have a video. I remember thinking ‘wow, she doesn’t really wanna be here’. Working with people who are celebrities over the years taught me that there’s a lot of suffering in an artist. When people get rich like that everybody wants something. It’s like winning the lottery.(…) People are making a lot of money off of them (celebrities).”