Numéro: Wasn’t growing up in Georgia, the birthplace of America’s Christian right the worst nightmare ever?
André Benjamin: I had a strict Christian upbringing, my parents and I were members of a southern Baptist church. But with age I got closer to God all while moving away from the church. Today, I have my faith without having to listen to those purveyors of nonsense.
Are you a good Christian who rejects the bling adopted by so many of your colleagues?
When I signed my first contract with a record company at the age of 17, I raided the jewellery stores of Atlanta and covered myself with rings, chains and rhinestoned belt buckles. I was a travelling hardware store, what people call a “boogy”: a redneck pretending to be a nabob. I even went as far as having my teeth redone in 18-carat gold. The girls in the neighbourhood started teasing me, saying things like: “Hey dude, where’d you find such a small bumper?” So I ended up getting rid of everything that was shiny and threw it into the nearest gutter.
“The height of bad taste in menswear? Wearing a dress”
Aren’t girls suspicious of men who draw too much attention to themselves with what they wear?
Some do find overdressed men disconcerting, others see it as an outward sign of wealth and find it very attractive. What worries me, is that today it’s impossible to take care of your personal hygiene without being pointed at and ridiculed. Worse than that is being treated as a metrosexual. As if filing your nails and ironing your shirt calls a man’s virility into question. God knows if I was a woman, I’d like the man who’s all over me to have clean hands at the very least.
OutKast – “Hey Ya!”
Do you wear fur?
It does happen.
Why on earth are you a vegetarian then?
For personal well-being reasons. I feel much better since I stopped eating animal flesh.
By calling you the “sexiest vegetarian on the planet”, did PETA's anti-fur activists suspect for a second that you were gnawing at carrots dressed in a chinchilla stole?
To tell you the truth, I am as surprised as you that they gave me this award.
What is the height of bad taste in menswear?
Wearing a dress.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s a crime to celebrate a nice plump ass, or pretty boobs. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that at home.”
Why is your new menswear line called Benjamin Bixby ?
It’s a way for me to not put myself out there too much.
Why did you chose the name Bixby ?
It’s a long story, but the short version is that Aston Kutcher got me on his TV show Punk’d, by asking the Mercedes group to lend me a Maybach car for the weekend. Of course I went out to a nightclub in it, until my manager hauled me of the dancefloor saying there was a problem with the car. A few minutes later, I found the wrecked Maybach upside down and smashed through the window of a store. Then a Mercedes representative appeared, report in hand, asking me to reimburse the cost. I had absolutely no idea that it was a set-up. And I had absolutely no intention of paying the bill, so I spontaneously gave them a fake ID. I told him my name was Bixby and the name stuck
Outkast - “M.s Jackson”
Cupid Valentino, Chamelio Salamander, Ice Cold, Johnny Vulture, Love Pusher, 3 Stacks... why have you accumulated so many stage names?
Different characters, different adventures, different states of mind. It’s a fun way for me to slip into another skin, and cover my tracks.
If you had to be reincarnated as a woman, would you prefer to be in the skin of Sarah Palin or Donatella Versace?
Neither of them. I’d rather stay dead than come back in the skin of a woman. They have a really hard life and so many more obstacles to overcome than men. For women, it’s all about reputation: they are always obliged to take care of how they look and keep quiet in order to stay respectable.
Why did you recommend your son Steven carry a gun when he was only 11-years old?
Bullshit! A journalist once asked me if I ever went out in Los Angeles accompanied by a bodyguard. I told them no, but that I always kept a gun in my glove compartment. I stupidly added that I would like my son to do the same thing in the near future, to protect him from the risks run by the children of celebrities. Following the interview, my words – grossly distorted – made all the newspaper headlines. Right up to you now.
In your hit Hey Ya!, you ask your listeners to “shake it like a Polaroid picture”... It that a post-feminist manifesto ?
The ambient misogyny of the world of R’n’B is no more and no less a reflection of the world in which we live. Personally, I don’t think it’s a crime to celebrate a nice plump ass, or pretty boobs. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that at home.
[Archives Numéro 99, 2008]