It’s 9 a.m. and I’ve rung the buzzer twice at Jeffree Star’s apartment in Valley Village. Did he forget I was coming, or is he fucking with me? I’m about to try his cell phone when the doorknob turns and the fuchsia-haired, rail-thin 21-year-old appears, rubbing the traces of last night’s mascara out of his eyes.
“Oh, I look like a troll doll,” he says, pulling at his hot-pink locks so they stand straight up on his head.
I try to be polite, but there is a slight tonsorial resemblance between Star’s morning hair and the electric-socket look of the ’60s doll, so I just smile awkwardly. On his couch is a nearly naked 20-something boy.
“Oh, don’t worry, there are always boys around,” he smiles. “You should see the guy in my bed.”
(Photo by Kevin Scanlon)We sit at his dining-room table, and Star tells me how he went from misfit Orange County teen to reigning Queen of the Internet.
“I knew I was gay, since like fifth grade,” he begins. Star’s father died when he was young, leaving his mom, a model, to raise him alone. When she’d go to work, he would dig through her makeup and experiment.
“I finally convinced my mom to let me wear makeup to school in junior high,” he says. Star’s face has a white cast of last night’s remnant makeup, and barely visible are his signature pink eyebrows arched above the place where his real eyebrows have been shaved off. (In case you’re wondering, his bare morning face is just as pretty.) His arms peek out from a Hello Kitty T-shirt; they are thoroughly tatted.
“I got this first one when I was 18,” he explains, pointing to his right arm. A sleeve of lipstick and razor blades, it reads: “Makeup massacre.” “But when you first get tattoos you don’t know about shitty artists and good ones.”
There’s a fresh tattoo on his left arm, an expertly rendered JonBenet Ramsey, complete with tiara. It cost $1,000 and was done by the famous Kat Von D, formerly of the reality TV show Miami Ink (she’s now started her own shop, LA Ink).
“I always knew I was different than everyone else,” he says, “and smarter. But in school the girls all wanted to be my friend, and the boys secretly wanted to mess around with me, so I didn’t get beat up for being weird.”
The first time Star dyed his hair pink, it was all anybody could talk about at school. It won him Best Hair in the yearbook. Back then, when other kids were playing sports, he was reading books he stole from Barnes & Noble and surfing a thing called the Internet.
“I was the first one to have high-speed Internet before all my friends,” he says. “My mom was always technologyhip. So I’d find these Web sites like Face the Jury, where you upload a picture and people rate you from one to 10. And then there are forums. I was always the No. 1 poster on the forums of Live Journal and Melodramatic.com, where people would be intrigued. I’d take crazy pictures. I was really good at having guys on the Internet buy me stuff. I would never send nude pictures or anything like that, but these guys would become obsessed with me.”
One guy sent him a thousand-dollar camera. He used it to take higher-quality images of himself. Star wants to show me a few he and photographer Heidi Calvert took back then, so we go to his pink bedroom where, as promised, there is indeed a tattooed-limbed boy wrapped in Hello Kitty sheets. The picture hanging above the vanity where Star’s makeup brushes live shows him as a blonde in fishnets and hooker heels, with slit wrists, blood smeared up his forearm, and a tissue spotted with blood in his other hand.
”Oh, and it was all real, girl,” he says, showing me the scars on his wrists. “[Heidi] wanted me to hold a gun in my mouth, and I was like, fuck that. I took a razor and slashed my wrists. So I got a weird cult following.”
Enter MySpace. Star got every one of his fans from a bunch of sites to join his MySpace page. “So instead of starting out with just one friend, I started out with 30,000,” he says. Star now has half a million friends and receives, on average, 50,000 comments every time he posts a new picture.
Star moved to L.A. after graduation and got a job working the MAC counter at the Beverly Center. Of course, he met tons of celebs, both through work and at clubs. “They just fell in love with me and wanted me to do their makeup,” he shrugs.
He also did side jobs, doing makeup for porn shoots and driving his prostitute roommate to her johns’ houses. He even had a brief gig as Kelly Osbourne’s personal makeup artist. But he always loved music, and went out as often as he could to see bands. One night, at a Peaches show, he met Peaches’ drummer, who suggested that Star make his own songs.
“I told her I didn’t know how, and a month later when she was finished recording an album, she brought me a few beats.”
That was enough to inspire him. He began writing “really crazy lyrics” to rap beats — he’s obsessed with hip-hop.
“I wrote a crazy rap song called ‘We Want Cunt,’” he says. ”Cunt was my nickname online — that was how I generated a lot of attention back in the day.”
He asked Tom on MySpace to convert his page to a music page, allowing him to keep all his friends. “[The song] really caught on, so I made another, and it became way bigger than I ever thought,” he says. “It’s not really great music like Madonna, but it kind of fits the whole package.”
He eventually got a manager who spotted him at the airport in full makeup and high heels. Now he has four songs on his MySpace page and, “as of yesterday,” he tells me, “I have over 22 million [song plays].”
We walk into Star’s command central, his roommate’s bedroom, where he manages all his traffic. On one computer screen, a little pop-up window is waiting for him, asking if he wants to add more friends to his My Space page. He clicks “accept,” and we watch as 20, 40, 90, 200 and counting, friends are added. All in one day?
“Oh, girl, I updated this at 5 a.m., so this is just from the last four or five hours.” On the other computer, we try to log on to MySpace, but the site is down.
“Oh, God! I’m gonna have a nervous breakdown,” says Star, frantically trying to reboot. “This is like my 9-to-5 job.” He finally lets it go with a sigh and shows me his Buzznet page, where you can watch his video blogs and see pictures from yesterday’s photo shoot, where he was made into a pink-haired Barbie Doll for jewelry designer Tarina Tarantino, who chose Star as her company spokesmodel (he was also chosen to represent fashion maven Jared Gold’s new line).
Star also has a deal through BandMerch.com, selling his T-shirts and panties to people all over the world, and he’s even scored a booking agent. His first gig was in Anchorage, Alaska, and now he plays all over the country.
“People in L.A. and New York, they’ve seen it all, and it’s not that fun. Places where they don’t have someone like me around, they go crazy.” Earlier this year, his song “Plastic Surgery Slumber Party” debuted at No. 1 on iTune’s dance charts,above Justin Timberlake, and this summer he’s touring with Cyndi Lauper.
With MySpace still down, we log on to his e-mail, and his inbox is flooded with fan mail.
“You know,” he says, “to be honest, the best part of this whole thing is getting e-mails from people who say I inspire them and help them in some way.”
Underneath all that makeup, Jeffree Star does have a heart — he just doesn’t want you to know it.