Luis Venegas is one of the most genius minds in the fashion and publishing industry. I wanted to interview him for such a long time, but I knew that he was not giving many interviews, so I had to wait until the right moment. This moment arrived and it proved that is was worth waiting. Luis is the biggest independent publisher in Spain. His editions include the magazines Fanzine137, EY! Megateen, EY! Boy Collection, The Printed Dog and Candy which is the first magazine about transversal style. Luis has also worked as creative director for many luxury brands such as Loewe, Acne, Carolina Herrera and American Apparel, and he has collaborated with the GQ Style UK, Acne Paper, V Magazine and Butt. He has managed to establish a new queer era in the publishing industry. Here is our glorious conversation.
Hello Spyros, thank you very much for the interview.
The pleasure is mine Luis. How are you?
I am fine. Working. As usual. I am always working. Thank you for being so patient with me. I appreciated the way you tried to convince me for this interview and that you mentioned that the Greek people would be excited to hear more about me, but I don’t think anybody in Greece knows about my work, at all. They don’t sell my magazines anywhere in Greece.
We may not sell your magazines, but I am sure there are numerous persons who know you and would love to hear more about you. So, I will start with the first question. How does Luis Venegas do it better? What is the secret of your success story?
I guess I do what I can. I don’t compare myself to anybody else. To be asked about yourself is quite an abstract question, but then I realise that the answer is what I have in my hands (i.e. his tattoos) and it’s the phrase “Hard Work” and, also, the tattoo that I have on my feet, which is “Good Luck”. The secret of success, not for me, but for everybody in general, is to work hard and to have good luck. And what I mean by that is to do things at the right time, on the right place. Another important ingredient of success is to have fun, even though I don’t have it as a tattoo on my body yet! I think having fun, doing what you like and enjoying what you do is really helpful. It makes all the planets to be aligned to bring you success.
You give me the impression that constantly work and that you are someone who really loves what you are doing.
I guess I repeat that all the time, but the reason is not to sound like I am working harder than anybody else. I really enjoy what I do. For me it’s not like “Oh, I have to wake up and go to work this morning”. No, it’s completely the opposite. It is like “Well, let’s see if they read my emails, if they answered what I asked them yesterday”. I find a lot of excitement on that and I work a lot and I love what I do. For me, working and having fun is part of the same thing.
That’s so nice to hear. It’s really nice to meet people who love what they are doing these days.
Yes. Otherwise, it would be too hard to do anything.
You are surrounded by beauty, fame and success. Do you feel happy being surrounded by all this glory?
(laughters). When you say that I am surrounded by beauty what do you mean? Concerning fame, I don’t feel like I am famous at all. For me being famous is something else. Some people appreciate what I do and that’s nice, but, at the same time, my life is very quiet and very simple and very calm. Concerning success, it’s not like I am rich or something, I live in the same apartment for the last 13 years. Coming back to beauty, yes, I have a handsome boyfriend, I have my dog and I have things that I have been collecting in my life, like my books, my magazines and some gifts from several people, but that’s it. I don’t know if that is the secret of happiness. I am very ambitious in terms of getting things done perfectly and not having a lot of material things. I am happy if I can go to a bookstore and buy a book that I like and not worry too much about it. But, it’s not like Ι want to buy a boat or something like that, you know, the usual things that rich people want. If they come in my life then they are welcome, but Ι am not desperate about having things in my life that Ι don’t have. I am quite happy with what I have, and that is the way of getting close to happiness.
When I had on my mind this question, I was thinking about you being surrounded by so many famous people and sexy models.
Not so many. My life is not based on those things. Those are professional relationships that are supposed to become content for the magazines. With some of those people I happen to have a very good relationship, but it doesn’t happen always. Even with some of the people that I have worked with for my magazines (photographers or artists), I haven’t even met them in person, and I have only interacted with them via email. I don’t know if all that looks glamorous, but, by far it is less glamorous than what it may look.
You keep a very low profile despite all your success.
It’s the way it is and I am telling the truth. I am not pretending to be humble.
How difficult was it to persuade Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus to get naked in front of you?
I am lucky that I have great photographers and great people working for my magazines. In this case, it was Steven Klein who shot Lady Gaga and Terry Richardson who shot Miley Cyrus. Both Lady Gaga and Miley agreed to do that because Terry and Steven asked them and they liked what they do, having a relationship of friendship and trust. Also, when they were shown the magazines, both lady Gaga and Miley liked them, so it just happened. I guess it would have been much more difficult if someone had asked them to get naked for Playboy. And, I love Playboy, it is one of the biggest icons in the publishing culture, but it means something different for a woman to be naked on Playboy than to be naked in Candy Magazine. So, I think also the format of the magazine helped to make it happen. But, I give all the credit to the photographers.
I am very happy about those covers. Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus are not transgender people or transvestites, but they are very supportive and helpful to these communities. So, having them on the cover of Candy helps the magazine to sell in a bigger audience and get more attraction, and that’s how the people who buy the magazine because of Gaga suddenly discover the other stories that are inside. That is somehow a “hook” for the people who buy the magazine to realise and discover other stories. That is why I like from time to time to have a “big-impact” cover to get people discover all the other things inside.
What are the challenges of being an independent publisher? Is it difficult?
No. I have always been independent so I do not really know the difference. There was a time when I was working as an art director for the Spanish edition of Marie Claire and I really hated every day I spent working there. I was not happy about it. I had to be there from 9-5, and, I can do that only if I enjoy the job. For me, there is nothing that can be compared to the idea of being free to work with something that you have created and you like. I do not have a boss and all the decisions, for good or for bad, are made by me and that feels pretty good. That rhythm is something that I deeply appreciate and I am lucky, somehow, that I manage to make that happen. Of course, it would be great to work with a great team of people, managing all the things that I manage.
(Ηis dog, Perri, interrupts the conversation because he feels ignored, so starts “molesting” Luis’ leg to catch his attention.)
Back to the interview, I was saying that I am happy as long as Ι am doing what Ι like with the freedom that I have. I would not change it for anything.
Do you feel that you give a part of your soul in your publications and your magazines?
Yes, obviously, every day. My soul, my time, I put everything that Ι like in my publications. My magazines are reflections of things that I am interested in, or have enjoyed in the past. Ι put all my soul in them. But, I think most independent editors do that. It is part of the joy. Every time I am doing my magazines I speak about things that I like, and it is surprising for me to see that the things that really interest me are liked by people in New York, and Greece, etc. It is a cool thing.
What is the next big thing you are working on?
I just published this book, the EY! Boy Collection about Ryan McGinley and I am very happy because it sold out really fast and now it is on sale at some bookstores. At the moment, I am working on the next issue of Candy that will be a bit before Christmas.
Is there a publication that has made you feel envious and wished it was yours?
Hmm. Not really, no. Because what was there in the past and inspired me to do my things, was already there and at that time I didn’t feel like “Oh, I should have done this”. It’s not that I don’t like magazines, on the contrary, I like many magazines and other publications, but the feeling of doing my magazines is fulfilling enough.
Do you think you have contributed to the queer culture through Candy and your work?
I don’t think it should be me saying so and admitting that, but denying it would not be true. It would not be true if I said that Candy has contributed to people realising that lots of manifestations to the transversal world are worth seeing and celebrating. I receive very often emails or messages on Instagram of people telling me that my magazine has helped them. So, I do not think that my magazines have contributed in a large scale, but to a certain amount of people it has touched their hearts, and that is enough. One of the things that I really like to do in my magazines is to bring back to life people, photographers and artists that might have been kind of forgotten and I like to bring them back and show what they have done for new generations to discover. Somehow, it is like keeping alive the richness of the queer culture and showing how diverse it is. And I am sure you are doing the same through your magazine and you give voice to many people in your country, since there not so many gay publications as you tell me. But, at least you have a lot of gay sexy tourists! (laughters).
What have you learned from all the people you have featured in your magazines?
I guess that I have learnt many things. Every time that I start working on an issue, it is a way to learn many things. It is the same thing when for example in Candy older people are talking about their experiences, or when I am preparing the Electric Youth (EY!) and there are young people saying how they see the world, or the same when I started the magazine about the dogs. I learn from anything and I have learnt a lot from every single issue from the people who are featured in my publications and are so kind to share their experiences with me and the audience of the magazines. That is how culture is made and how knowledge grows and stays alive.
What has been the most flattering and rewarding comment you have received?
I was in this little town in Netherlands and a transgender told me that they discovered my magazines and that opened a whole new world to them. The most flattering thing is that people that I admire very much trust me to a level of contributing to what I do. The fact that they are excited about what I do and want to be a part of my work is the most flattering thing, either because they like what I do or because they think that would be beneficial for their career.
What collaboration are you dreaming for yourself in the future?
I would love to have an EY! Collection just with Justin Bieber, or maybe having Justin Bieber in drag for the cover of Candy. I am a very big fan of Barbra Streisand and, somehow, I would love to have the opportunity sometime to have a collaboration with her for one of my magazines. It’s not impossible. There are many things that have happened in the past to me that I did not expect. Now, I have just done a book about Ryan McGinley, and if you had told me in the past that I would do a book with Ryan I would be like “WOW”. I would be surprised and amazed, and that would be a dream come true, but now it is a reality. So, there is a chance that someday Justin or Barbra will agree to do something for my magazines. I feel that nothing is impossible, it is just that some things you have to work harder to make them happen.
How you choose Kostis Fokas for the Rosé Exhibition in Colette?
I discovered his work through Instagram and felt that his work is really amazing. He also deserves a big fan base. I was putting together a selection of artists that I like and I had worked with in the past, but, also, I wanted to include some artists that I had liked but had never worked with them before. I wanted people from as many countries as possible. Kostis was very enthusiastic and very collaborative and super nice and kind and fast, as well, and made it happen. It was a pure joy.
What does a sexy boy need to have to become a cover of the EY! Magazine?
I haven’t done an EY! magazine for a while, because I was really busy with Candy the Dog book and also a book for LOEWE, but doing a EY! magazine takes time as it requires a huge selection of models. In the past, I was more into good looks and athletic bodies, but my idea of what good-looking is changing both for me and for the rest of the world. Now, we have the opportunity to appreciate different kinds of beauties, body types, colours of skin.
You mean diversity?
Diversity is a word that everybody is using a lot lately, but I have been working on diversity long before in a different way. So, to answer to your question, it should be a boy who is good-looking, but not obviously good-looking, or maybe obviously good-looking and at the same time somehow interesting. I am more into interesting people and I want to understand their backgrounds as well and have something to tell. Being good-looking is important but it is not only that. So, it could be a boy who has studies arts, or a sportsman that took a medal when he was 17 and has a story to tell, or someone who was not a very good student but was really fun to hang out with.
Do you read a lot?
I used to read a lot when I was a child and a teenager, as there was no Internet. At that time, I used to watch many more movies than now and read many more books than I do now. As a teenager, I had this crazy idea to real all the classics and then move to more modern books. I read the Odysseyand Iliada from Homer, the Greek classics and then Dostoyevsky, the Karamazov brothers, Charles Dickens and all the Julius Vern books, etc. Thank God, I read those books when I was young, because I would not find all that time today. I buy a lot of books and magazines, but most of the books that I buy are photography art-books and, usually, the best things in these books are the images and not the text. I don’t have the time very often to dive in those texts. I try though. Of course, I think that I read more than most people do. I am interested in interviews and biographies, but, unfortunately, I do not read as much as I did in the past. And I say unfortunately, because I really loved it, to have my mind so focused in a story. I also like a lot this American writer called John Irving very much.
For which of your publications you feel most proud of?
For all of them. And I always feel proud of the next one coming. All of them represent different things and different moments of my life and different ideas.
What is the best party you have ever been?
For a while I used to be a dj with a friend of mine here in Spain and every month we used to have a guest and that lasted for a couple of years and was really fun to do. I haven’t djed for the last couple of years, but every time I do that it is great. As a dj, you don’t spend money, they pay you, they give you free drinks for you and your friends, and the music you hear is the music you like because you are playing. It is really great to be a dj and make your own party, and set up things together for people to enjoy. Those were the best parties I have ever had, the parties that i did myself with my friends. I am not a big party-goer though. I remember a nice party that I went in Paris for Kenzo that was in a bateau-mouche and Scarlet Johansson was invited along with other famous people. It was great, but more like a usual fashion party. It is better to be with friends and have fun with them.
Who reflects the new generation of queer culture in Spain?
There are many things happening, but the greatest thing that is happening lately is Palomo Spain, the fashion designer who is doing great. The clothes, the sense of taste that he puts in his shows, his aesthetics, everything. I am very happy, because, in general, there are great new photographers in Madrid, great new artists, many things are happening right now. I am part of the idea that Spain is growing and people are doing great things, especially the newer generations who feel alive and have fun and create things.
What is your favourite topic of discussion?
People and art, what people do and what artists do, favourite movies and TV series.
And which topic of discussion makes you feel completely bored?
I don’t have the time to get bored, really. What makes me annoyed is when bad news become the only news around, it’s like spreading negativity and showing bad things as the only things happening all around the world. I understand that somebody needs to do that, but for me it sounds like a contagious disease, it’s the worst think to have people thinking that everything is bad, that nothing is working, I really don’t like that. I get a bit annoyed every time that happens. I can handle it but it’s not my favourite thing to be around when the topic of discussion is that. I prefer to focus on the positive things.
Any nice movie you have seen recently?
I saw the latest movie of Sofia Coppola and it was great. But, the greatest thing I have seen recently was the third season of Twin Peaks. Many people hated it, but I was a big fan of the first and second season back in the 90’s and I believe that David Lynch has created a masterpiece. This season was filled with so many unforgettable images and I found it completely fabulous. When they announced that they were going to make the third season of Twin Peaks I was praying that I would not die before the show. Certainly, it did not disappoint me.
What is your zodiac sign Luis?
I am a Pisces.
I am Aries, so our birthdays are close to each other.
When were born?
I was born a few years earlier. Not many, but a few.
Of course a few Luis, you look very young.
(laughters). Thank you very much. It’s the moisturising creams
I use a lot of them as well and they work. Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you again so much for your interview… and… Goodbye!
The interview has been published in Antivirus Magazine: http://avmag.gr/81663/synentefxi-luis-venegas/