Léa Seydoux, the French star who’s conquered Hollywood and is the new face of Prada Candy, speaks to Caroline Davies about childhood, perfume and Nietzsche

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Serious yet joyful, sleek yet dishevelled, Léa Seydoux is an elegant enigma. The actor is one of only three women to have won a Palme d’Or, has just been announced as the next Bond girl and is also the face of Prada Candy perfumes. Following the recent launch of the third fragrance in the series, Prada Candy Florale, and ahead of her role in 2015’s dystopian love story The Lobster, alongside Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, Seydoux spoke to us about her journey to the silver screen.

LUX: Were you a quiet child? Was acting an obvious path?
Léa Seydoux: Absolutely! I was a quiet child, but that is precisely why I decided to be an actress. I wanted to counter my shyness. As a child, I dreamed that I would become an opera singer; I don’t think I was predestined to have a quiet life.

LUX: Do you put your past experiences into your performances?
LS: I’m convinced there are no rules to follow when becoming an actress. Every path is personal. Learning from our own story is quite logical, as we have to put a bit of our life into the character played. However, it’s not always enough. Role- playing also involves being able to imitate reality.

LUX: How has your character in the Candy adverts evolved?
LS: Candy’s evolution is linked to the evolution of the fragrance. She has always been a very colourful and original character; she’s a very impulsive young woman who does what she wants, when she wants. I think that in the first film, directed by Jean-Paul Goude, Candy was more spoilt and rebellious, but now she’s grown up a bit and is more rounded as a character. With Prada Candy Florale, there’s a greater sense of freedom, lightness and sensuality that comes across in a sophisticated manner.

LUX: You’ve said that you find it difficult to be light on screen. How do you find the lightness to play less tightly wound characters like Candy?
LS: Candy is bold and light at the same time. It’s the contradiction that I find deeply interesting. That is what I drew upon when embodying that character.

LUX: Why did you want to work with Prada on this campaign?
LS: Prada is a brand that I’m particularly fond of; I feel very close to the spirit of the House. It’s a very singular brand, and very audacious.

LUX: What is your current fragrance?
LS: Prada Candy, of course! I love wearing fragrances. I use many of them. In general, I look for perfumes with a strong personality and lots of originality.

LUX: Does the perfume remind you of anything?
LS: The first time I experienced Prada Candy Florale I was pleasantly surprised. You feel like you’re being taken on a voyage into a world of flowers, a world that is in full bloom in spring.

LUX: How do you prepare for a role? Do you prefer directors who take control or leave you to find your own path?
LS: I really appreciate stage directors who are always attentive to characters but, more broadly, I can’t say that there is one better way to guide actors. Generally, I prepare myself in different ways; it depends on the role I am playing.

LUX: How do you view Hollywood in comparison to French cinema?
LS: There is a real and deep cultural difference between Hollywood and French cinema. Hollywood cinema makes me think of great epic stories and entertainment, while French cinema is based much more on realistic and intimate stories. French people are at the origin of the auteur film industry. “ose very peculiar specificities make both Hollywood and French films unique and complementary.

LUX: How do you choose a script?
LS: For me, the director choice is crucial as he is going to lead everything.

LUX: What is the best piece of advice you have ever heard about life and about acting?
LS: “Become what you are” – Nietzsche. It is the best piece of advice for both life and acting. It means that you have to look for your talent and then continually improve it. We are constantly evolving and changes in our life have a real impact on how we are going to play a role and vice versa. Today, I’m not the same actress or woman that I was yesterday.


Reading time: 3 min

A ski-in, ski-out residence complete with Martini bar and pool sounds very Rocky Mountains, yet L’Amara is a spectacular addition to one of the most traditional skiing regions of France, as Darius Sanai discovers

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Powder White: Avoriaz’s high elevation ensures a fine supply of deep snow

How do you like to take your Alpine winter holiday? I suspect that cosmopolitan readers of LUX like to ski in the Alps, as well as put carbon fibre on snow in Colorado, Idaho and Hokkaido. There is something about the home of skiing, the crescent of mountains that rises out of the Mediterranean above Nice and sweeps through France, Switzerland, northern Italy and Austria before petering out, like the Turks, at the gates of Vienna, that is more concentrated, more alive with possibility and atmosphere, than anywhere else. The powder may be deeper in Niseko, the back country bigger in British Columbia, the whole experience more effortless in Aspen: but the Alps are where the story started, and where it evolved and continues to evolve. (Snowboarders have a different tale to tell, but not that many of you are boarders.)

If you are of one generation of wealth, you may stay in a hotel in St Moritz, Lech or Gstaad. Another, and you will be pounding the new hotels of Courchevel (see our helpful tongue- in-cheek guide at the end of this article). Or you may instead take over a whole chalet in Zermatt or Verbier. One rung down from the gourmet-catered chalets are the traditional French ski holiday chalets, cheerfully run by a chalet girl fresh out of British boarding school, happily burning the scrambled eggs and fighting off the advances of a soon-to-be-retired chartered surveyor from Surrey while his family occupies the Jacuzzi.

While there is no shortage of grand hotels, old and new, and chalets of every style, what the Alps have largely lacked is sophisticated, concierge-led residences in the American style, where you have a kitchen and living room, an in-residence pool, and a proper reception/bar/ restaurant downstairs, hotel-style. Until recently. L’Amara, one such development, opened last year to a considerable buzz in the French resort of Avoriaz. Avoriaz itself, located at a very high 1,800m on a mountainside above a deep valley, in which lies its mother resort of Morzine, has undergone something of a rebranding in recent years, shedding its 1960s middle-middle-class French bourgeoisie image and turning more contemporary and upmarket. L’Amara is in an extension of the main village, on a ledge overlooking Morzine (rather satisfying, if, as during our stay, there is deep snow all around but the grey of rain far down below).

When booking we did wonder whether being a) high on a ledge, and b) 500m from the main part of Avoriaz would be an issue, and this is a good demonstration of how even an enormous amount of online research can draw you to the wrong conclusion. L’Amara’s location, bordering the thick forest that plunged down the valley, was spectacular and felt exclusive. The walk to the village centre was panoramic, flat, and thrilling; even more so when my younger daughter decided that the wheelbarrows-on-skis that you can pick up and deposit back anywhere in the village would be an ideal mode of transportation: one daughter thus transported the other throughout the trip. (This would not work in a resort thick with teenage British partygoers, who would inevitably shove each other down the run leading down the ledge in an alcohol-fuelled daze, with predictably alarming consequences. Fortunately, Avoriaz is very upper-middle-class family, or was when we were there.)

L’Amara itself is genuinely ski-in, ski- out (unlike some places that dub themselves so): unless you execute a perfect stop, you will find yourself skiing into the ski room, and conversely you can launch yourself out in the morning like a racer from a downhill starting gate. The ski school assembly area, where I left the family every morning, is above the main village. On day one we walked, and felt rather laden down with skis, poles and rucksacks (the altitude doesn’t help). Day two saw us ski down out of the hotel to the bottom of the (easy) blue run, with the aim of taking the chairlift that would deposit us just above the ski school area; we were just patting ourselves on the back for working out this ruse when we were confronted by a 20-minute queue of several hundred other people who had the same idea. (In the resort’s defence, we were travelling on the busiest week of the year and this was the only lift with any kind of significant queue.) On day three we found the solution that we used for the rest of the week with joy: a horse-drawn sleigh taxi, which whooshed us up to the ski school in a cloud of hooves, powder and sleigh bells (to the children’s delight) in three short minutes, for a mere €10. Worth the money for the ride alone.

The skiing in Avoriaz is extensive but not very tall: there are no ultra-high lifts of the type you get in Zermatt or Chamonix. Double- diamond and power-hound experts would run out of thrills quite soon, I think, but for a skier like me (and I am possibly the most common type of lifelong skier) the selection of interesting reds and proper but not kamikaze blacks was varied enough to hold the attention for a week without getting too much déjà vu.

Avoriaz is in the middle of an interlinked region called the Portes du Soleil. It is not as logically and broadly linked as the Trois Vallées of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens: you can choose to ski to Champéry in Switzerland or, in the other direction, to Châtel in France. The Châtel trip was a ski journey of the type I enjoy, but it took a bit of navigation with the map. A lift up, then down to a collation of restaurants in the next valley called Ardent; up another lift and down a pleasant red to another, bigger collation of restaurants called Les Lindarets in a confusingly similar-looking valley; then up two lifts to a high-ish station called Chesery, from which it would be easy to take the wrong piste and end up back in Les Lindarets.

From Chesery there was a long view down a new valley all the way to Lake Geneva. The most interesting run of all, a steep, straight and mogulled red through the trees (really a black), led down to the pretty, traditional village of Châtel. It felt strangely satisfying to know that to drive back to Avoriaz from here would take up to two hours, around the mountains, and I was planning to have a hot chocolate (laced with a little something) and admire my last run, when I realised that I would need to turn straight round and return if I weren’t to miss the last in the fiddly series of lifts to get back home. I had to positively will the chairlifts to go faster and ski like an impatient Italian instructor eager to get down to his first date with a blonde Swedish student. I still had my heart in my mouth as I did my last racing turn (or what I hoped was a racing turn) to meet the final lift: it closed at 4.15pm, my watch said 4.17pm and… it was still moving. I shot through the gate without slowing down and was whisked back up to safety.

The rest of the family had just as enjoyable, if rather less eventful, times and after years of staying at luxury hotels it was a curious relief to be back into our extensive den at L’Amara. I enjoyed cooking (shopping in French supermarkets is always a pleasure) and opening wine purchased from a wine shop, not a marked-up hotel restaurant (it’s the principle, not the price). And after a day of ski school/private lessons, nobody felt much like talking to more strangers in the form of waiters and the like.

L’Amara has been designed with great attention to detail: we liked the porthole window by the floor-to-ceiling balcony door, the wraparound balcony itself, and the extremely well-equipped kitchen (complete with oyster shuckers and other signs of entitled bourgeoisie). On two nights we ventured across the snowy courtyard to Le Grand Café, part of the same complex, a new-but-trad restaurant serving steak on hot stones, various fondues, and high-class thin, misshapen pizzas of the best kind. Neither hotel nor chalet, and rather better than both, residences like L’Amara have a bright future in the Alps – the best type of American import.

Crystal Holidays offer comprehensive luxury packages to L’Amara in Avoriaz. crystalski.co.uk

Reading time: 7 min

Controversy and chaos collide in the photography of Tierney Gearon, discovers Millie Walton. No wonder Charles Saatchi is a fan.

Tierney Gearon is hard to pin down. It takes a couple of weeks for me to catch her on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, and even then it’s only for a few minutes, as she’s “arrived at a friend’s house and doesn’t want to look rude”. I shouldn’t be surprised; she is one of the world’s most sought-after photographers. Yet despite the fact that she’s balancing two jobs as an artist and mother, she’s more than willing to talk and welcome me into her world. There’s a familiarity to her, even though we’ve never spoken before, and her answers feel genuine and unrehearsed.

The way she puts it, she sort of stumbled into photography. Born in Georgia, initially she was a ballet dancer “and then I cut my hair and became a model. While I was modelling and travelling around the world, I kept a Polaroid diary of everything I did. One of my agents saw the Polaroids I’d taken of the other models and said, ‘Oh my god, you’re an incredible photographer!’ That’s basically how I broke into fashion photography.” There’s a pause as she’s seen something she needs to take a photo of – a little girl playing with her mum. “Give me two seconds.” Despite this little interlude, Tierney doesn’t usually carry her camera around with her. She finds it “far too intense”, preferring instead to allocate dedicated work trips.

Pushing the Boundaries Gearon's 'Colorshape' series explores the idea of putting someone in a box, literally and metaphorically

Pushing the Boundaries
Gearon’s ‘Colorshape’ series explores the idea of putting someone in a box, literally and metaphorically

She’s back, slightly out of breath and laughing. “Sorry about that! Where was I? When I got married I put my photography aside for a while to concentrate on having children and being a mum,” she continues. “When I started having marital problems aged 38 I needed to find myself again, so I started photographing my family in a new, artistic way. I’m one of those people who believe that you should just follow things in your path. You never know what’s going to happen.”

In 2001 Gearon’s photographs were showcased in the Saatchi Gallery in London – a huge achievement for a virtually unknown artist. However, the exhibition (‘I Am A Camera’), which included two photographs of her nude children (then aged four and six) caused public outrage, resulting in the near-seizure of her work under indecency laws. The abuse propelled at her by the media was particularly vicious – a News of the World review labelled the show “perversion under the guise of art”. She was, she says, “an innocent person who was simply trying to document” her life, but looking back on the controversy now Tierney appreciates how naïve she was to the art world. “When Charles Saatchi saw my work he knew that something would happen because of it,” she says. “Those were intended as light, funny images. To me, the darkness is in the eye of the beholder. If you see something dark that’s your issue, not mine.”

Did the incident cause her to reconsider her artwork? “It made me lose interest in the business of the art world itself,” she says. “I feel like a lot of galleries and people are just looking for sensation. Charles Saatchi is a master at advertising, creating sensation. Being a successful art director is an incredible gift and he is very talented. It’s great to have people like that appreciate your work, but at the same time one needs to be careful not to get caught up in the art world game.”

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Site Specific The Plexiglas structures are built on site wherever Gearon is shooting

Perhaps that’s why Gearon’s images are so rooted within the domestic world. She works through an organic creative process, which naturally encourages people to use their imaginations. “Usually I direct organised chaos and interesting things happen within it,” she explains. “A lot of the time people don’t even know I’m taking their photograph.”

It’s that combination of reality paired with fantasy that makes her photographs so mesmerising. The worlds she depicts often have a way of inviting the viewer in while also evoking an atmosphere that’s punctuated by sadness or uncertainty. This is most obvious in ‘The Mother Project’, a series of photographs that explores Gearon’s relationship with her mentally ill mother. Despite the hardship that must have entailed, the artist looks back on her childhood fondly. “Both my parents gave me an enormous amount of love and allowed me to be an individual,” she recalls. “They gave me the space to be creative and to appreciate creativity.” It’s something she aims to allow her own children by encouraging them to collaborate with her on projects. Her most recent release, ‘Alphabet Book’ – “an art book for children and a children’s book for adults” – is the result of that collaboration and an enchanting example of what combined imaginations can produce.

Aside from being an outlet for creativity, I wonder why Gearon feels so compelled to photograph and what it is that she’s hoping to capture in her images. “My photography is like a diary of my soul,” she says. “Every single project I’ve done is a way of working through different issues in my life. My images tell a story, they provoke emotion and feelings.”

What’s the story behind her current series, ‘Colorshape’, I ask. “It’s about putting someone in a box. I wasn’t raised with a lot of boundaries, so by putting someone in a box I was also learning to contain myself.” One can’t help feeling that the project, like all of Gearon’s work, will keep going until she discovers exactly what it is she’s looking for. She admits to be being “a perfectionist” and says that “I may appear disorganised from the outside, but anyone that really knows me understands that even the chaos that sometimes surrounds me is an organised chaos.”

Organisation, it would seem, is the key to Gearon’s sense of stability. It’s a way of grounding herself and her children. “I have a very distracted personality and I create structure by creating a strong family home that feels safe for us,” she explains. “I don’t drink, smoke or do any drugs. We go on a lot of family trips and I have a huge support team, which includes my close friends and family.”

I wonder how her work has developed since becoming a mother. “All of my projects are from my heart and soul. I feel I have become more focused and more confident over the years. I live in the present, which keeps my work very current, but I don’t work every day so my work doesn’t consume me. My children consume me.”

We move on to talking about her relationship with her audience. With 54,000 followers on Instagram, it’s safe to say Gearon has a significant following who enjoy viewing her professional work as much as the “visually inspiring images” of her everyday life. “I’m not even sure who my audience is because I’ve never met them,” she muses. “But I feel that people who appreciate my work are people looking for something raw and individual, something very authentic. Because I share myself with people in my work, people reach out to me, they feel understood by me. Instagram has been very interesting because I am able to communicate directly with my audience and people can share with me, too.”

It’s a refreshing take on the social media craze that’s consuming our lives and expresses Gearon’s genuine lust for life. “As long as I love what I do I will continue to do what I do,” she says. “As soon as I lose interest or inspiration then I will move on to a different medium so my goal is to never stop finding inspirations and discovering new things.”

It seems a simple philosophy, but one that most of us could do with adopting ourselves. Our conversation ends, leaving me feeling uplifted and impassioned. In the world of Tierney Gearon, nothing is impossible.


Reading time: 7 min