Q&A With John Demsey

Check out the latest in Issue 5 for an exclusive feature on John Demsey, a cultural icon who seamlessly blended cosmetics, pop culture, and hip-hop into the mainstream. For over 30 years, he’s been a champion of all things cool, transcending race, creed, and culture. As he embarks on a new chapter in his journey, he took time to sit with the editors at No Chaser and share his past, present and the vision for the future.

An excerpt from the full Q&A with John Demsey exclusively for No Chaser.

Born and raised in Northeastern Ohio, a son of an industrialist father, a mother who was a painter and they were the children of first-generation emigres from Eastern Europe, and Russia. I mean, I guess the thing that was extraordinary about my upbringing is how not extraordinary it was. I had amazing parents. And it their influence has always been part of my life and kept me grounded in the success that I had. I realize that I didn’t grow up in the projects. But I did grow up with one foot in the real world. And so, growing up and having gone through public school, and then private school and also growing up in the 60s and the 70s in an industrial town, that reflects more of a blue collar, sort of aspirational side of what it means to be descendants of immigrants. I had a unique perspective. And I was a bit of a loner. I was artistic. I painted like my mother. And I used to lose myself voraciously in books and looking at art and watching TV. And that there are only three channels back in the day. And I liked listening to the radio. And the thing that was unique about growing up in Cleveland was that was the home of WMMS, which was the station that invented the expression Rock and Roll. So, I grew up in this rocker town. It was like a Def Leppard, Jethro Tull sort of town. And I had a ham radio in my room growing up. Detroit was 20 minutes over the lake on the other side of Lake Erie, I could pick up CKLW, and CKLW was the Motown sound. So, I would listen to all those Motown artists and all those alternative rock artists. When David Bowie debuted in the United States in Cleveland, I went to the first Ziggy Stardust concert. So, I had this life growing up in this preppy place where people wore Duck pants and then there were these music influences. And I would read Interview magazine and I would just be fascinated by all these people, and all their successes and all their stories.
…And somehow this mashup of living in this normality and at the same time, being so influenced by pop culture, and TV and having a bit of an extravagant extrovert sort of mother and sort of a serious business minded father left an imprint on me.
Full Q&A by Kendall Kendrick, Deputy Editor at No ChaserPhotography by Nicola Muro

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