“Being a feminine man, in this world, you’re somewhat powerless until you create and harness your power,” says Armen Ra, our new Closet profile. Looking like a Cabaret Liza (in the ultimate Theirry Mugler tux jacket) and a Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey (in a simple black dress), the polished, bejeweled Hollywood-throwback thereminist states, “I act like I live in movie, because that’s the only kind of life I’m able to survive in.”
Walking into the Iranian musician’s house is like visiting the set of an exotic Marlene Dietrich movie. There’s an opulence of lush drapes, Aladdin lamps, candlesticks, and shiny baubles and gems. Basically, it’s the kind of interior world that sends our heart beats up a bunch of notches. The curator behind this Wilde-esque opium den is a tough, delicate man. Craving to be Norma Desmond at eight years old while simultaneously worshiping his mom’s shawls, scarves, and gowns, Armen had to overcome being tormented to the nines growing up in a conservative, homophobic Boston town. “You’re not like everyone else” is how his peers justified the physical abuse that they heaped upon him. However, Armen was hip enough to know that his singularity made him a mirror (an exquisite, sexually ambiguous one) that reflected his bullies’ crudeness. He stood up to their ignorance by fighting back physically, and he has remained an outspoken voice for the genuine nuances of gender to this day.
Post high school, Armen located his drag fantasy in New York, where a clip-on ponytail, mascara, and heels was all he needed to transform the gay-bashers into his “lovers, benefactors, and slaves.” He got that gender wasn't black and white, but is as pliant and wispy as the smoke that protrudes from his ultra classic cigarette holder. Having reached the epitome of drag (Armen adorned magazine covers and was featured in Vogue), he could “pass” as a woman and flirted with becoming one. But in tune with his true self, down to his “chic lesbian witch” daytime uniform of a classic Elsa Peretti cuff and his staple Trash & Vaudville jeans, Armen concluded, “I’m not transexual. I’m just me — I’m comfortable being androgynous and I think it’s more interesting that I’m not a genetic female.”
Ethereal and haunting is how Armen describes his instrument, the theremin, that has become his passion, and he is as dedicated to mastering its ghostlike sound as he is to the otherworldly power of his chosen sacred mother, Marilyn Monroe: “She represents all the facets of the arts,” explains the Hindu who lives outside of his body as much as he does in it. “She’s almost everything in one — the artist, the work, and the pain of being used and taken advantage of. Marilyn’s the icon objectified and then crucified in the end."
Take 4, Act 3… Armen, a sleeping beauty, who, when’s he not slumbering in his diamonds or traveling the world performing with the theremin, is ensconced in the daybed of his dreamy LA home, wearing elegant 90s Manolo’s, a masterpiece silk kimono, and hair so perfect it could’ve been painted on. When we asked our latest muse for his ultimate message, he declared: “Celebrate individuality; don’t try to emulate other people or try to become what society or fashion magazines dictate to you — be who you really are.”
Elisa + Lily
Check out Armen's website
Follow him on Instagram: @armenra
Follow him on Twitter: @ARMENRA
Watch our Closet on Trash & Vaudville's buyer and manger, Jimmy Webb
Watch our Closet on Justin Tranter
Armen's video was edited by Andrew Seger
He was interviewed, shot, and photographed by Elisa, Lily, & Andrea