AE: When T3 came out in 2003,
you said you were ready for it — ready for celebrity. Were you?
KL: Sure, sure, I really was. If, again, you come back to being honest with
yourself, and the people that surround you and your fans, and just try on a
day-to-day level to do the best work you can, then you’re doing your job. And
you know, I haven’t checked myself into rehab lately and I haven’t had any
major problems, so in that sense I think I’ve remained pretty level-headed.
AE: Opening your personal life to the public can be especially
difficult, and sometimes especially painful. But you’re saying it’s the
opposite, it’s a relief.
KL: I think it is, because look at all the guesswork people try to do about
other peoples’ lives, all the time that’s wasted. I’m not about the tabloids. I’m
not that type of person. I think people create that mystique because they want
to be talked about, but if they just said it how it is and put that out there,
people can’t second-guess that.
AE: And even as your work and life evolve, you’re not going to change
your approach — it works for you.
KL: Well, and from my perspective, how could it not? Because I really don’t
care what people say or think. You can’t please everybody. You can’t. You never
can. So whatever people want to think, that’s their opinion and their past
mixture of life and judgment and love, or hatred or greed or fear, or whatever
that they’re putting toward their ultimate judgment on whether they like me or
not — and I don’t care to spend enough time to delve into that.
You could look up any
public figure online, and you’ll have thousands of people who love them and
think they’re amazing, and thousands who think they’re terrible and
unattractive and not talented. That is also the great thing about art: It’s subjective.
It’s the most talked about and influential thing in the world, maybe aside from
AE: You’ve used your status as a public figure to help a variety of
nonprofits, including MyLifE, a South Africa-based organization. Can you talk
about that foundation?
KL: Yeah, to me part of being a public figure is doing things like the
MyLifE project. When you have the ability to travel like I do with work, you
get thrown into these other cultures and get forced to get your eyes open and
look at what’s going on in the rest of the world.
When I was in Cape Town,
I had the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman, Linzi [Thomas], who lived
on the streets at some point herself. And now she has created this wonderful
foundation for kids living on the street.
AE: What drew you to MyLifE in particular?
KL: Well, first of all, by the year 2012, there will be 12 million orphaned
street kids living on the streets in South Africa. That’s as many as there are
in the countries of Norway and Sweden combined — a staggering number of kids.
When I read Linzi’s
proposal for the foundation, it wasn’t just raising money for the kids and
giving it to them and hoping they get off the streets. It was a whole proposal
for an eco-village that will rehabilitate these children, teach them to care
for themselves, teach them skills and get them into the workforce.
And then the kids
themselves — a lot of them are smoking crack at age 9. I mean, it’s staggering
the amount of drug abuse and child prostitution and just horrible, horrible
things that go on in the streets. When I was in Cape Town, we actually went out
on the street with her one night; Linzi said you’ve just got to meet the
children. We had the opportunity to meet them and talk to them and tell them
what we’re doing and let them know they’re not alone and just to be a friend.
AE: Can you talk some more about where exactly you went and the kids
KL: Sure, we went to downtown Cape Town, in one of the quote-unquote bad
areas. It had an open concrete field and some little vendors selling cheap
food. Linzi said, "You’ll have a great time," and we did — we
actually had a great time.
They were so hopeful and
positive amidst all this pain and hardship and tragedy. All the young girls
have kids by the age of 14. A lot of these kids are HIV-positive. There’s lots
of drug abuse. Kids are smoking crack or something called "tik,"
which is a street form of speed.
There was one group of
three young girls who were friends and said they sleep under an overpass in
this cement area. They seemed really down, and they said it was because they
saw one of their friends get run over by a truck the day before.
AE: Oh my God.
KL: It was just — there used to be a group of four and now there’s three,
and this is just their Tuesday, you know? The casualties are high. There was another girl that was
getting herself ready. She was really sweet, and she said, "I got to go; I
need to go make money." She had an infant, she was all of 14 herself, and
she was going to go prostitute herself.
So it’s — your heart is
just overflowing with compassion and understanding for these kids. Some had
pictures of what their life used to be like, and they wanted to show you. They
were really hopeful that we might be able to help.