Newswhistle Q&A with Caron Bernstein
Caron Bernstein is currently producing a film, TV series, and a period miniseries, in addition to—and perhaps most importantly—being an activist against rape and sexual assault through her spokeswoman role for the Humans of Fashion Foundation.
Bernstein was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She majored in painting while studying at the School of the Arts in Johannesburg. As a young girl, music and painting were her greatest passions. At the age of fourteen, Caron’s creative passions were put on hold when she was awarded a modeling contract with Ford Models. For the next decade, Caron’s modeling contacts allowed her to move in the high-profile worlds of fashion, film, and music.
At 23, Caron changed her focus from modeling to music, signing three record deals with major labels by the time she was 26. The characters she met in the punk-rock/pop-culture scene that she frequented would eventually serve as a backdrop for many of her paintings.
Caron’s humorously sardonic take on life is related to her past experiences. To gain perspective, Caron began to express herself through painting, focusing on portraits that attempt to capture the darker aspects of the subject’s character, while putting on display her own sense of the comical nature of tragedy. Her muses have included, among others, victims of suicide, anorexia, and alopecia. It is a style that she has described as “surrealistic anime.” It is in the sense of the comical within the heart of tragedy that she continues to seek out and distill her unique form of expression.
Currently Caron lives and works in New York City, with her husband Andrew Schupak and son Jett.
1. How and when did you first realize you wanted to work in your current industry?
My industry has always been revolving around the arts, with music, painting, film, and writing at the forefront. When I won Ford Models Supermodel of the World Contest, it was my passport into New York, which is an international arena as opposed to South Africa. I left home at 14 but knew I would be involved in the arts as early as 10 or 11-years-old.
2. What is your biggest career highlight to date?
Oh wow, there have been quite a few highlights to date… Maybe singing lead vocals at Hammerstein Ballroom with Moby, Billy Duffy and Dave Navarro on rhythm guitars, McKagan on bass with John Taylor, Matt Sorem on drums, Slash on lead guitar, Gavin Rossdale and Kid Rock on backup vocals. And when I looked at the VIP section of the audience, I saw Peter Gabriel waving his hands in the air.
3. Any celebrity clients or memorable stories related to your business that you want to share?
As far as celebrities I’ve worked with, as an actor I think Bruce Willis was the most generous person to work with. He literally made me a better actor. As far as music, I’ve somehow managed to work with most of my heroes and they all were remarkable. Painting, I’d say the day I met Tracey Payne, (artist hero of mine) who shared some priceless knowledge with me.
4. How would you describe your personal style?
I’d describe my personal style as classic equestrian, fitted tuxedos mixed with punk rock.
5. What is a typical day in your life like?
There is no typical day in my life except waking up at 7 am and getting my little boy fed and ready for school. The rest of the day is a mystery.
6. What are three never-miss events on your calendar?
Three never miss events besides family birthdays are my “adopted” sister, Topaz Page Green’s, benefits for her charity, the Lunchbox Fund. My dear friend Julian Lennon’s White Feather events, and any Humans of Fashion events or galas, now that I’m a spokesperson for them and on their advisory board.
7. What are your three favorite locations in the city you reside in?
The New York Metropolitan Museum, Central Park, and my home.
8. What are your three favorite restaurants?
Del Posto, Le Cirque (where I had 21 people for my 21st birthday), and Blue Ribbon Sushi.
9. What about your three favorite bars?
I’m going to go old school on this because they don’t make ’em like they used to, so: Squeeze Box, and Wax, and Spy, although more recently I’ve loved House of Yes and the Blonde.
10. What has been your best New York moment? What about the worst?
Best New York moment is tough as there are so many. Maybe the first time I ever landed at Kennedy Airport and a police officer was yelling about not taking gypsy cabs, watch out for people trying to steal your bags, followed by ” Welcome to New York, everybody!” I knew I’d arrived. I was home.
The worst was being raped by Terry Richardson in his Bowery studio.
[Editor’s Note: According to the Daily News, Richardson has “vehemently denied any wrongdoing.” To learn more about this story, click here.]
11. Name your go-to:
a. Outfit– YSL fitted tuxedo jacket, a cream tutu, black leather leggings, and Burberry work boots.
b. Fragrance– Chanel Mademoiselle or Bulgari Green Tea
c. Movie– The original Blade Runner
d. Book– Behold a Pale Horse
e. TV show– The Handmaid’s Tale right now
12. Name your favorite vacation spot, and the hotel you stay at while there. What makes these spots special?
I adore Bali and my favorite hotel there is Amankila. It feels so spiritual, like it’s God’s canvas of color, light, and life.
13. What are your three most played songs?
My three most played songs is also a tough one, but let’s say Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song “Warrior,” the Pixies song “Hey,” and Silversun Pickup’s “Three Seed,” because they resonate so strongly with me right now, but David Bowie will always be my favorite artist as will Nina Simone, and Bauhaus was the first band to make me want to make music.
14. What are three items you couldn’t live without?
Hot water, my bed, a great book.
15. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Crazy to say but I have met most of my heroes, so non-living maybe Christ, so I could ask him about the meaning of life or Hatshepsut, the 1st female pharaoh, who was referred to as He or Him.
16. What is something people might not know about you?
People don’t know I have a soft exterior, I can cry and empathize easier than most, but I have a very hard core, that can withstand virtually any kind of attack.
17. When did you feel like you had “made it” professionally?
I still don’t feel like I’ve made it and probably won’t until my time is up. Life is hopefully about ever evolving into the best version of whatever I’m doing. I’m in a constant state of change.
18. Do you have any advice for those aspiring to work in your industry?
If I were to give advice, I’d say be coachable and never lose humility. There is always something you can learn from someone, even a subordinate.
19. What changes do you think your industry will undergo in the next 5-10 years?
Changes in my industry probably and hopefully will allow for equality to keep broadening. I used to think that the word feminist was the opposite to the word chauvinist, but in fact it simply means equality. How beautiful is that? So, while change is hard and painful to us humans, I still believe more and more that equality will be happening more and more in the near future. Not just men versus women but every single thing that makes us all different and unique.
20. Is there anything else you’d like to share, discuss or promote?
If you are interested, check out some of my art at www.caronbernstein.com. If you have experienced any kind of sexual harassment and need help, please download the Humans of Fashion app, which we have just launched. Help is out there, and you may remain anonymous if you choose. Also, I am producing three film projects at the moment as well as some more music. More to be revealed…
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Caron Bernstein