ALEXA CHUNG: In Her Own Words
Exclusively for Lifestyle Mirror, Alexa Chung opens up about her personal style, favorite New York hot spots and her new TV show. Photographed by David Armstrong. Styled by Christopher Niquet. Makeup by Tamah K. Hair by Kevin Ryan. Video by Giorgio Arcelli Fontana.
It’s a drizzly fall day when we meet Alexa Chung at a loft in New York’s Meatpacking District. And while the weather feels a bit like London, her photo shoot definitely has a New York vibe. Chung musses her hair as she stares out the window at a photographer across the glass. She lounges on the fire escape. In between shots, she goofs around with her makeup artist. Then she plops down with us on the couch, all gangly limbs and self-deprecating jokes. If there weren’t so many cameras around, it would almost feel like a hanging out on a Saturday afternoon with a cool girlfriend.
Her accessible style is exactly why the model-turned-television host has such a rabid following across the pond—and a growing one Stateside. She made a bid for American-size stardom in 2009 with her high-profile MTV show It’s On With Alexa Chung. It lasted only two seasons, but exposed her tomboy fashion sense to a new audience. Chung went on to collaborate with Madewell on two sold-out clothing lines and she recently announced that next year, she will be publishing a style book containing personal drawings and photographs.
This month, she returns to television screens as the co-host of Fuse News, a daily live music news show on cable channel Fuse, co-anchored by Ashanti, Jack Osbourne, and Elaine Moran. Just before the show’s launch, Lifestyle Mirror sat down with Chung to talk about British vs. American style, what it’s like to play yourself on Gossip Girl, and her favorite places to shop, eat, and party in New York. —Maridel Reyes (@maridelreyes)
LM: Tell us about your new show.
AC: I’m just about to start a new TV show for Fuse called Fuse News. It’s basically a daily roundup of all the music news you need. So it’s every genre, it could be hip-hop to folk music and everything in between. There are four anchors on the show: myself, Ashanti, Elaine Moran, and Jack Osbourne.
LM: What attracted you to that show?
AC: I was really excited to make a music show. There’s no music left on TV really in America. In England, it still kind of happens on BBC and MTV there is still music based. But here, there was a real lack of music shows, and that’s what I am used to presenting in Britain, so it’s an area I feel comfortable in. And I just was happy that someone was making something I might want to watch.
LM: Are you taking any lessons from your show, It’s On With Alexa Chung to the new show?
AC: My lesson I learned from It’s On with Alexa Chung is that you can’t control everything. That was a particularly arduous job because it was live for an hour every day and I was the sole host. It was just a lot to take on and I wanted it done in a specific way and I realized that’s not really how it works. So this is definitely a move forward in that it’s a more collaborative process. It’s been more fun in the sense that I’ve got cohosts to interact with.
LM: It’s On didn’t really click with American audiences. Why do you think it didn’t work out?
AC: I think It’s On was a lot for everyone to take in. I wasn’t known here…But we did the best we could. I liked it! Sort of no one else did though. I think it was just too much of me, I don’t know… If you don’t like me, then, having a show of just me is difficult to watch so it was like a leap of faith for MTV and I’m really happy that they gave me that opportunity.
LM: Would you have done it differently if you could go back?
AC: No, I was really so happy with what we did, and I met some amazing friends that were on the writing staff and my producer I loved. I thought everyone was great. I think it was quite a grown-up, fast-paced show aimed at a different type of audience and maybe me talking about Courtney Love or Jurassic Park was quite an odd reference for the younger demographic. Some things don’t click and some things just don’t work out.
LM: You shot a small part on Gossip Girl this season, playing yourself. How is that different than your usual television hosting duties?
AC: I didn’t think it would be really scary at all because I did so much TV presenting. Obviously, that’s an entire different discipline to acting. But, my role was to be myself. I still found it impossible. I got asked to do Gossip Girl and I used to really like that show, and I thought it would be quite fun. But I kept looking in the camera, which is rule one of acting! Don’t stare down the barrel. But it was a fun day.
LM: You were born in the U.K. and now live in New York. What’s your take on British versus American style?
AC: There’s definitely a fundamental difference in British style and American. I appreciate both of them and I love the proper Americana kind of denim. And I love walking around the East Village and seeing all the girls and how they dress. Definitely Brooklyn style is amazing as well, that kind of classic hipster vibe. In Britain, there’s so much to draw from in terms of history and you’ve got Savile Row and tailoring. You’ve got these bright lights of fashion like Alexander McQueen and Christopher Kane. There’s such a rich heritage there that has always celebrated eccentricity and being individual. But I do think inherently British people are really good at expressing themselves, not worrying what other people think and being a bit quirkier. Whereas, maybe, in America it’s different. Everyone looks a bit more polished and put together and that’s really beautiful too.
LM: And would you say your personal style has changed since living in the States?
AC: No, I don’t think my style changed when I moved here. If anything, it became more British. Because I realized what I loved about where I was from, and unless you’re taken out of that environment you don’t really get a perspective on it.
LM: How do you describe your personal style?
AC: I’ve been like, I look like a grandma or a five year old. But, now I’m growing up a bit… [points at her outfit] she says wearing a schoolgirl uniform. Lots of different things inspire me. It’s just clothes, isn’t it, at the end of the day? That’s what occurred to me recently. It all got a bit serious for a minute, and then I was like, it’s just fucking clothes you know? Stressing out about what to wear and then I’m like, I don’t really give a shit! So I just wear black jeans, a navy blue jumper, and Chelsea boots.
LM: What are your favorite places in New York?
AC: I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a walk around, that’s really good. And the planetarium at the Museum of Natural History. I’m obsessed with dinosaurs so I go there quite a lot. And all the crazy sea beasts that they have on display there. I also love Lovely Day, delicious food. And Elsa is an amazing bar on 3rd between Avenues B and C. Great for cocktails. Sugar Sweet Sunshine is the best for cupcakes—and BabyCakes.
LM: Where do you shop in New York?
AC: I love Opening Ceremony so much. And Steven Alan’s really good. I think Madewell does really great stuff, but I also like the brands they buy—like Barbour. The Lower East Side is really good if you stroll around there for vintage shops and smaller brands.
LM: Do you have any Brooklyn favorites?
AC: I like the Bedford Cheese Shop, for buying cheese in Brooklyn. And I love Diner, and Marlow & Sons, and Five Leaves, and drinking in Zablozki’s, And, there you go, if you want to stalk me. Those are the places I’ll be.