By Debi Mazar
Photographed by Roe Ethridge
Styled by Mel Ottenberg
October 14, 2021
LOURDES LEON: Sorry, I’m just getting to my hotel room. Oh my god. Did they throw out my weed? I’m actually going to kill someone. Okay. It’s fine. I’ll worry about that later. Did I have fun at the Met Gala? I’m really grateful to have been able to go. Maybe because it was my first time, but it felt crazy. You’re just shoved into a room with all these famous people and you’re supposed to talk to them and be their friend, even though you don’t fucking know them. That’s not my vibe.
MAZAR: Do you just stand around and tell each other how great you all look? Do you eat dinner?
LEON: I’m sure it’s fun if you’re someone who is friends with a lot of famous people, but I’m not. I didn’t know who the fuck to talk to. I felt so awkward that I literally called my boyfriend in the middle of it, but the dinner was fine. I mean, I was sitting with Jeremy O. Harris, who I love, and Irina Shayk, who I love a lot. She’s so funny.
MAZAR: You were born in L.A., but you live in New York City. What’s the biggest difference between these two cities for you?
LEON: I don’t consider myself a Californian in any way. I never lived there. I was born there. I consider myself a New Yorker because that’s where I grew up. But the worst part about L.A. is the people. Otherwise, it would be great.
MAZAR: Do you drive?
LEON: Hell no.
MAZAR: Then you’re a New Yorker. Moving on. Do you steal your mother’s clothes?
LEON: I do, but now there’s a lock on her closets. When she’s not in the house, those things are locked tight, because I take everything I feel that I’m entitled to.
MAZAR: I beg my daughters to share my clothes. They’re like, “That’s not my style, Mom.” What mark will Lourdes Leon leave on this planet?
LEON: Oh god. Next question.
MAZAR: I’ve known you since you were born. You’ve grown up jet setting around the world, but now you’re doing it as your own woman. What are your goals?
LEON: I don’t have a specific goal. I probably should. Financially, modeling is a smart decision. I enjoy being very hands on with the campaigns I do, so that I’m not just modeling, per se. I dance, I have a very specific sense of style, and I’m interested in aesthetics, so I like to incorporate all those parts of myself into my projects. I don’t know how I feel about acting yet. I think it’s about finding a role that wouldn’t be too far off from who I am already. Honestly, actors really annoy me and I can’t be around them. As for music, I can sing. I just don’t care about it. Maybe it’s too close to home.
MAZAR: Ever since you were a child, you’ve been dancing your butt off. I love that you went to college for dance.
LEON: I want to create a world in which models have more agency over what they’re doing, and they’re not just silent clothing racks. That’s the age that we’re coming into in the fashion world: models as personalities and artists.
MAZAR: All sizes, all ethnicities, all genders. That’s such great energy. Growing up, you were probably able to swipe anything you wanted from your mom, but you’ve been fiercely original. I remember watching you parade around the pool with your friends, wearing your mom’s clothes, doing each other’s hair and makeup. Now you’re all grown up, and you’re such an earthy beauty. I love your armpit hair—you’re following in the footsteps of Sophia Loren and your mom with that. Americans are so afraid of it, but I think it’s beautiful. For years, you’ve kept away from the spotlight, because of your mother. Now that you’re out there doing your own thing, how does it feel?
LEON: It’s kind of a nightmare, but I think it would have been worse if I hadn’t kept my life as private as possible. I’ve been judged from a young age, but I think that privacy is the reason why I was able to keep my wits about me and not find myself in a mental asylum. I want to figure out who the fuck I am before I let anyone else try to tell me who I am, you know?
MAZAR: You’ve been offered countless acting roles and other opportunities and passed. It feels like you’re preserving yourself so that you can put the right thing out there. But at the same time, are you having fun?
LEON: It depends on what your definition of fun is. I enjoy being involved creatively. That’s the most fun for me because it’s rewarding when things come out or come to fruition. I feel less proud of things that I just, you know, show up, do, and then leave for a check.
MAZAR: What does your mom think about you stepping into the industry?
LEON: She’s very much like, “Proceed with caution and think about what you want to be known for.” I’ve thought a lot about that recently, because as a “model,” you’re basically relying on your looks. It can feel very overwhelming, and can potentially cause a lot of insecurity. Obviously, you’re not going to look the same your whole life. My mom is very insistent on making me think about what I want to be known for beyond my looks. That’s not what I want people to remember me by. It’s not real.
MAZAR: You’ve always been extremely independent. You always had something to say, even as a little kid. You didn’t agree with things. You wanted to do things your way. And you gave your mother a run for her money. I remember once when I babysat you, I brought you to my house and gave you some cookies and snuck you in front of a TV, because you weren’t allowed to watch TV when you were little.
LEON: It was probably the happiest day of my life. The list of things I wasn’t allowed to do is never-ending.
MAZAR: Your mother focuses a lot on religion. How do you feel about spirituality?
LEON: I wish I had more of a spiritual life. I need to carve out more time to nourish my soul, because I am a woman of god for sure. I think that atheism is literally, like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I love being in churches. I love being in synagogues. I love being in places of worship. God belongs to everybody, and is within all of us.
MAZAR: And you have a huge heart. To see you with your siblings is a beautiful sight. It must be hard to be the oldest in your family, but you seem to take it with ease.
LEON: It’s funny, the only siblings that I ever really argue with are the boys. They’re just little assholes sometimes. A 15- or 20-year-old brother? Come on. Obviously we’re going to fight. But Mercy and I have never, ever fought about anything. She’s always had my back and I’ve always tried to be the best big sister I can be for her. It’s harder with the twins, because I don’t live at the house anymore.
MAZAR: And how about you? When you break down and cry, are they there for you?
LEON: It’s hard for 8-year-old girls to give that kind of emotional support. But Mercy is. I try not to cry in front of the twins, but I’m a crybaby so it definitely happens. Rocco is very caring and concerned about my well-being, and that’s such a nice feeling.
MAZAR: How do you feel about love? Do you see a traditional path to marriage and family in your future?
LEON: I don’t feel the need to get married, but I would take a ring. [Laughs] Kidding. I don’t think of myself as traditional, but I’ve pretty much only had traditional relationships. I enjoy being a caregiver. I like cooking dinner for my boyfriend. I don’t want to miss out on having children, but the idea of birth scares me literally to my core. I can’t push a baby out of my vagina. It will not happen. So, I’m down for kids, but that’s kind of a problem. Of course, there are other ways.
MAZAR: You’re fiercely protective of yourself, but also of your mom. When we were in Puglia, some woman dove out of her chair and was like, “Oh my god, are you the daughter of Madonna?” And you were like, “What’s your mother’s name?”
LEON: It’s really funny to me. People are always really taken aback when I say that, because it’s like, “Bitch, don’t talk about my mom if you don’t want me to talk about your mom. You want to call my mom a whore? Okay, your mom is a whore.” If you feel like you have the right to comment on my mother, then I’m going to do the same to you.
MAZAR: I read somewhere that you actually paid for your college tuition and your apartment.
LEON: We don’t get any handouts in my family. Obviously, I grew up with extreme privilege. There’s no denying that. But I think my mom saw all these other kids of famous people, and she was like, “My kids are not going to be like this.” Also, I feel like if your parents pay for things, then it gives them leverage over you. My mom is such a control freak, and she has controlled me my whole life. I needed to be completely independent from her as soon as I graduated high school.
MAZAR: Are you glad that you had such a rigid upbringing? Is there one piece of advice that she gave you that has really stuck with you?
LEON: She said something to me recently that has really stuck with me. I’ve been so concerned with making a decent living, and wanting to live more luxuriously than I was when I first graduated and wasn’t earning a lot of money. She was like, “Remember, this shit is not real. It’s not about the money or your face or how hot you look. It’s about what you’re bringing into the world and what you’re going to leave behind.” That always shakes me awake when I get too caught up in everything.
MAZAR: These are important things to remember, especially in the times we live in.
LEON: Instagram is not real. It’s the biggest lie of all time. People create personas on Instagram that are nothing like who they are in person, and it’s the scariest thing to me, because I’m the same everywhere.
MAZAR: Did your dad teach you any Spanish?
LEON: No, because he was lazy and didn’t feel like it. That’s not to say he’s not amazing, I love him so much, but he didn’t feel like it. He thought I was juggling a lot with French, which I speak fluently. I’m really trying to learn Spanish, and I try to speak it with my boyfriend and my other friends who are fluent. A lot of my friends are mixed Latins, and a lot of Latin parents want their kids to speak English really well, and almost seem white. It was about fitting in and not having any problems. But now, I feel like my generation is craving that knowledge of the diaspora. We want to know.
MAZAR: Is there a trend you’re loving right now? Or one that you absolutely hate?
LEON: I hate TikTok people. It’s something I can’t explain. Maybe there’s something I’m not fully understanding about it.
MAZAR: Hold on. I’m just texting my husband that I want a cigarette. Do you have a favorite music genre?
LEON: I’ve always been a big house and techno person, ever since I was young.
MAZAR: That’s because your mother was dancing to it while you were in the womb.
LEON: Probably. Wasn’t she making that kind of music at that time?
MAZAR: Oh, yeah. And disco.
LEON: I’ve been listening to this album by Only Fire. Every song is in this robot voice, and the beats are unparalleled. And every song is extremely explicit. It’s all about dick and pussy and buttholes. I listen to a lot of Eartheater, who I just did a video with.
MAZAR: Can you hustle? Can you salsa?
LEON: I can hustle better than I can salsa. Yeah, I can do a little something, something. I’m comfortable on the dance floor.
MAZAR: What happens when you’re out and a Madonna song comes on? Do you cringe and walk away?
LEON: I don’t cringe. My experience with my mom’s music has changed so much as I’ve gotten older, because I’m increasingly able to recognize how influential and amazing this woman is, and how empowering to other women and ahead of her time she has always been. I didn’t fully comprehend that until I realized the importance of empowerment and what it means to be a woman. She’s probably the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. I didn’t inherit that, unfortunately. I inherited her control issues, but not her work ethic.
MAZAR: I don’t know how she does it.
LEON: It’s actually sickening.
MAZAR: She’s also nocturnal, so I’ll come over for a sleepover and crawl into bed with her. It’ll be 2 a.m. and she’s like, “Let’s watch a movie!”
LEON: Whenever I stay over, she’s walking around the house until like three in the morning. I’m like, “What are you doing? Go to bed.”
MAZAR: What’s an average day for you? How do you chill out?
LEON: I smoke a lot of weed. In general, I don’t really have an average day, because of my work. I’m constantly traveling. When I’m not doing that, I try to go to a dance class or do some yoga.
MAZAR: Do you have a beauty regimen?
LEON: I have a really intense hair-care routine. It’s the only thing I actually care about, because it’s my best feature, in my opinion. I feel like I wouldn’t be pretty if I didn’t have this hair, so I’m really psycho about it. Oils, all the time. Other than that, I try to work out, because it makes me feel good. I don’t watch what I eat, ever. I’m not there yet.
MAZAR: We always have fun when we see each other. Do you remember that one time your mother made me dress up as Snow White for your birthday party? I was pulling it off, and all of a sudden—you were like, five—you came up to me and were like, “Hmm, you sound a lot like Debi.”
LEON: I remember that because you looked exactly like her.
MAZAR: I even dropped my accent. I did a nice, sweet Snow White voice. I must have slipped at some point, and you raised an eyebrow and went, “Yo, wait, wait.”
LEON: You probably had a glass of wine and were smoking a cigarette.
MAZAR: I was like, “Oh, this girl’s fierce.”
LEON: I’m more about Sleeping Beauty now. I’m about to take the longest nap.
MAZAR: Good. Go get that beauty sleep, girl.
Casting: Calvin Wilson at Establishment Casting
Hair: Evanie Frausto at Streeters
Makeup: Rommy Najor
Lighting Design: William Takahashi
Production: Jemma Hinkly at Artist Commissions
Photography Assistants: Dylan Garcia
Fashion Assistants: Shaoul Avital and Sara Zaidane