Gentry’s Emily Heitmann Sits
Down for a Candid—and Unapologetic—Conversation with the Iconic Isaac Mizrahi
Man of many talents.
Portrait byJason Fran
Whether he is talking about his namesake designs on QVC, reporting on the red carpet, or sitting on the fashion panel of Project Runway: All Stars, Isaac Mizrahi is always bursting at the seams with passion, glamour, and style. One may not know that he is also a professionally trained singer, who this month shares his effervescent stage presence and vocal talents with the Bay Area.
After a successful three-week run at the Café Carlye in New York City, Mizrahi presents the West Coast premiere of his newest cabaret show, Movie Stars and Supermodels. From model fittings and intimate dinners to exclusive parties with Hollywood’s elite, this icon dishes on all things Mizrahi—and doesn’t hold back. Accompanied by a band of talented jazz musicians led by acclaimed pianist Ben Waltzer, Mizrahi also croons to songs from the likes of John Denver, Stephen Sondheim, and more.
EMILY HEITMANN: What led you to create your own cabaret show?
Isaac Mizrahi: It just kind of happened. I went to a performing arts high school and always found myself on stage—at clubs or some crazy venue somewhere. I had also done a one-man, off-Broadway show for about a year and other shows after that. And I have now been at the Carlyle for about four years.
I have lived vicariously through your life of adventure and glamour. How do you edit your experiences into one show?
Every one of my shows has a different kind of thought or theme. For example, my show last year was titled I & Me, which was based on my memoir. This year, it is still autobiographical, but I thought it would be fun to also talk about all the famous people I know.
There must be so many stories to share!
As a clothing designer, I am always collecting things or ideas and sketching them in my book. And I got very well trained at that. Now, when I think about anything funny, or a good idea for a song or music, I jot it down immediately. Then my shows take shape and I find my theme. In that way, it’s a lot like a fashion show!
Do you ever go off topic or ad-lib while performing?
Sometimes, in the middle of a show, a story will occur to me and I will share it. I’m not exactly sure how that manifests, or how I have the nerve to do that. But I am on stage and I think to myself, “Darling, it is 2020, you are 58 years old, you are not going to get this chance again. Tell them that story.”
And so much of art is like that—off the cuff.
Yes, absolutely. And that’s where the best jokes can come from.
And you sing!
I don’t like to think of myself as a designer singing or a raconteur singing. I am a singer and I don’t want to be apologetic for it. Listen, I am not Ariana Grande. I wish! But I believe there is a real compelling quality to my musicianship and to the way I sing.
How do your musical influences navigate the show?
Because I love songs so much, my musical influences have always been very song-centered. And this show features a broad swath of music. One highlight is a Stephen Sondheim song I perform. I worship him and he is my friend—to sing one of his classics is so special. I really want to record it.
What personal style do you bring?
Recently, I’ve been wearing a lot of beautiful antique pearls—some of them are Chanel and Marianne Hostel. What I pair them with always changes!
Relating to performing, what is the best piece of advice you ever received?
One of the great musicians who has ever lived, Liza Minnelli, once told me, “Oh, darling, it’s all going to be over in two hours anyway. You may as well walk on happy.” So I have learned to always make an entrance.
This exciting show takes place on March 28 at the Oshman Family JCC – Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto. For tickets and more information, visit paloaltojcc.org/mizrahi or call 650.223.8717.