Lenny Kravitz at the halfway mark
You grew up between the Upper East Side and Bed-Stuy. Which neighborhood did you feel more comfortable in?
Well, after I was in first grade, Monday through Friday was Upper East Side going to P.S. 6, and Friday night through Sunday night was Bed-Stuy. But I didn’t like one more than the other. I had two different lives, and in fact two different names. My name in Bed-Stuy was Eddie.
These people that lived next door to my grandmother’s were from down South, and they had very thick Southern accents — they were extremely country. I remember being about 6 years old, and they said, “What’s your name, boy?” I said, “Lenny.” They said, “Eddie?” I said, “No, Lenny.” They said, “Eddie?” I said, “Lenny,” and they said, “Oh, Eddie.” So that was it, I was Eddie.
You were named after an uncle who was a war hero, right?
Yeah, my father was a Green Beret, he was hard-core. I was named after his little brother, Leonard, who got killed in Korea. He won the Purple Heart but should have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor. He saved an entire platoon. The fact that he was a Jew was the reason he didn’t get it, to be frank.
How did growing up in New York influence you?
My mom and dad would take me all over. One night we’d be at the Apollo watching James Brown, and then I’d be at the Joffrey Ballet. It was that kind of scene.
Then you moved to Los Angeles and discovered rock.
We moved to Santa Monica, and it was a culture shock. Nobody on the streets, everybody’s in cars and there was a lot of marijuana around. The first time I got high was to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” It was quite a monumental experience, and that changed everything for me.
I read that when you started out in the ’80s, producers were telling you your music wasn’t black enough or white enough.
They would always say, “Look, we’ll sign you, we’d love to give you a deal, but you cannot do this, you have to make this kind of music.” I always told them back off — and believe me, I needed the money. I was living in a car. I still don’t know to this day what stopped me.
Do you think things have changed in terms of being biracial?
Kids now and young adults, they don’t even know about this. Say you were 10 years old when Obama first took office; your thing is: What are you talking about? All my friends are mixed, and the music I listen to is mixed.
Tell me about your new venture, Kravitz Design.
It was born out of me redecorating my place too many times because I love to design, I love to change my environment, and it just got to the point where it was ridiculous, so I started a company. I said I want to do this for other people. I want to do hotels and homes and make furniture and accessories.
Celebrities often have fashion lines or perfumes, and they’re kind of just putting their name on it.
It’s just the opposite of that, and I think that that’s why it has worked so well. With a project like Paramount Bay, which is a condominium building with 40-something floors, you’re dealing with a lot of money, you’re dealing with corporations. You’ll find me with a hard hat on-site. That’s what it’s all about, my involvement — otherwise, why do it?
Describe your aesthetic.
Hmm. Comfortable would be the first thing. Comfortable, sexy, ethnic, sophisticated.
And you designed the set of Queen Latifah’s new daytime show.
I think it’s the best set on daytime television right now.
Your daughter, Zoë, dated Michael Fassbender. What was it like when she brought him home to meet her dad?
Well, the door rang, and there he was, and he said, “Good to meet you, sir,” and I was like, “Sir ? — we ain’t that far apart.”
You’re turning 50 in May. What are you going to do?
I have no idea, I’m not there yet. I plan on going to 100, so I’m just at the halfway mark.