“Yes, [I’ve tried on James Brown’s leather boots], and yeah, James’s foot was smaller than mine,” proudly proclaims the rock ’n roll legend Lenny Kravitz in one of many, many house tour videos. In this particular instance, he is dripping in scarves and jewelry, and wears only a blazer over his chiseled chest. Wandering the palatial halls of his stately and satin-saturated Paris apartment, Lenny nonchalantly brags about his shoe size. The interviewer chuckles and doesn’t even ask a follow-up question—the connotations are obvious. Not sure whether to laugh out loud or scream in horror, I knew I had to learn more. Before I had heard a single song, I was already hooked.
During the past year, I sought to live vicariously through books, movies, and ultimately, a Youtube algorithm that knew exactly what I craved to escape my home. Last spring, I became obsessed with Architectural Digest’s house tours, watching them before bed every night to soothe my nerves. But whenever one of the more overwrought abodes left a bad taste in my mouth, I repeatedly returned to one video to make me smile—Lenny Kravitz’s Brazilian Farm Compound. Riding a stallion through the rolling hills and plains of rural Brazil, Lenny shows off his 1,000-acre fazenda, or farm. He wears a white t-shirt with more tears in it than a teething puppy’s favorite sock draped delicately across his torso as if it’s about to fall off—yet it never does. Somehow, even on the edge of collapse, Lenny always keeps his cool.
As I grew more cynical over the course of the year, I became increasingly drawn to fantasy. While watching Guillermo Del Toro or listening to Dua Lipa drew me to different planets, Lenny’s endlessly rich existence on Earth felt more absurd and fantastical than that of any superhero. When I struggled to weather the ups and downs of our unpredictable reality, Lenny helped me cope via his infinite calm. Craving to learn everything about his life, I searched the depths of the Internet to get my hands on anything I could find. The bounty grew rich, quickly. Additional house tours in Paris, NPR TinyDesks from the Bahamas, and even narrations of the origins of his prized belongings took over my computer and infiltrated my desires. Friends and family questioned my obsession, citing his arrogance and questionable taste. I couldn’t tell if I had been brainwashed. Had I forgotten the old me? Had I taken an ironic joke too far? But soon I learned to open my heart even wider and Let Love Rule.
In the fall, I discovered a new episode of music producer Rick Rubin’s podcast featuring Lenny Kravitz. Although I thought I knew everything I could about Lenny’s adult life, I knew nothing about his unique childhood! Once I heard about his adolescent double life, split between listening to hip-hop or visiting the Met in New York and playing in punk bands or skating in Los Angeles, I finally understood the “yin and yang” (to quote Lenny himself). The podcast also revealed the unfathomable backstory behind the song Johnny Cash: Lenny was couchsurfing at Rubin’s house with folk legends Johnny Cash and June Carter when he heard the news of the death of his mother. Upon hanging up the phone, he was greeted by the embrace of the older couple, who were strangers to him at the time. Even though most of his life bears absolutely no relation to the lives of normal people, I somehow love him more for it. While most pop stars try to write relatable stories, I love that Lenny makes his art even more self-centered. I’ve never met the man and can only dream of his cologne, but his online personality is more consistent than his collection of leather Chelsea boots.
More importantly, this podcast was the beginning of a snowballing series of interviews to promote his new memoir, Let Love Rule, co-authored by David Ritz. I couldn’t believe it. After a devastating year, good news emerged like a phoenix rising from the ashes. For Christmas, Santa pulled through and delivered me a hardcover copy. I can’t remember the last time that every single page of a book brought me as much joy. As if written by a fifth-grader who didn’t fully understand the concept of a “book,” Lenny jumps from tales of stealing cars to rescuing a teenage girl from a pimp, relying on a mysteriously wealthy Chinese girlfriend who attended Bard to finance his early music, and getting married to Lisa Bonet in Vegas. One of my favorite passages explains his view of romance, written in his classically steamy, seductive tones:
“If I didn’t have to pursue a lover, I wasn’t turned on. I loved the ritual of seduction. I loved the chase: the conversation, the mental stimulation, the buildup, the candlelight, the music. I didn’t want it just laid at my feet.”
Although this man exudes endless positivity, all humans have their shortcomings. In a 1999 Behind the Music documentary, he speaks of his affair during his marriage with ex-wife Lisa Bonet. He claims, “None of us are perfect. We all fall short of the glory.” Although faded and hiding behind majestic rockstar sunglasses, he still possesses the unmistakable confidence and bravado of an unapologetic poet. However, after months of digging, I’ve witnessed one video of negativity in a 2010 behind-the-scenes vlog on his personal Youtube channel. He visits the set of Entourage and viciously criticizes the lack of professionalism of actor Jeremy Piven, known for spawning a generation of frat-boy entertainment agents. Having regretfully binged the entire extremely outdated show during the beginning of quarantine, Lenny’s anger feels justly in character.
While my friends and family still question my love for this strange man once marketed as “John Lennon meets Prince,” I feel as if his endless absurdities have helped me accept the reality of adulthood. While I doubt I’ll ever paddleboard shirtless before tending to hundreds of organic cows or own a Y2K Miami house with a futuristic sex dungeon*, I can’t help but love Lenny.
*More importantly, I’ll continue to deeply question the morality and politics of his extravagance.