There are a lot of reasons why Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin is one of the more interesting people that one may encounter. One reason would be that she has excelled in several fields that are entirely unrelated; those fields would be music, fashion, and philanthropy. Another reason would be that the projects she works on are usually ahead of the curve, striving to be unique and quality-oriented. Another reason would be that she is from an iconic New York family, although that is not something that Consuelo ever rests on; she is a seventh generation descendent of shipping and railroad tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and great-great-great niece of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough.
On the fashion end, Consuelo debuted the Homage line on HSN last year, a line inspired by family heirlooms. She is also a brand ambassador for the German-Italian shoe brand, Michela Rigucci, who is opening a showroom in New York this summer. In terms of her music career, Consuelo has performed live alongside Joe Cocker, Vanessa Carlton and Mya, and she has released a handful of Billboard-charting singles (e.g. “Body Needs,” “Feel So Alive,” “Naked,” “Here We Go”). Pairing up her business skills and her passion for the creative arts, she is in the midst of launching SohoMuse, a professional networking website for the global creative community. As if that were not enough, Consuelo also runs her own production company (C&R Productions), serves on the board of the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California, and recently co-chaired the American Heart Association’s Hamptons Heart Ball.
Downtown had the pleasure of conducting Q&A with Consuelo, who has plans to release I’m Just Me in the U.S. later this year. She can be followed on Twitter via @ConsueloCostin, while she keeps a website at www.costinmusic.com.
You have experienced success in music, fashion, and as an entrepreneur. When someone asks what you do for a living, what do you usually say?
Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin: I usually say “artist and entrepreneur.” In truth, my entrepreneurial endeavors are always of a creative nature, while my artistic pursuits contain a substantial element of business. Starting a music career is just like starting a company, you need to learn how to wrap your creative endeavor with a keen business sense. The same goes for when I started Homage and it also applies to SohoMuse. The creative ideas are always there but I needed the business plans as well. Thanks to your great question, I’ll consider a new response: “creative entrepreneur!”
Some of the work you do is rooted in being creative, while some of the work is rooted in numbers, marketing and promotion. Do you find it challenging to go between those different sides of your brain?
CVC: Always! The creative side of me reaches for the stars and doesn’t consider boundaries, while the business side of me keeps me rooted and fixed to the ground. I think that’s so important as an artist. You need the freedom to reach beyond what’s normal or comfortable so you can make real discoveries. Then you need the discipline to take those visions and set realistic goals and plans for achieving those goals. I am lucky enough to have both qualities, so they balance each other out. Although I will say, it has always been more difficult for me to compromise when it comes to my creative side; I’m a dreamer.
When people call you a “rebel heiress,” do you like that term?
CVC: The words individually, I’m not fond of -– to be a rebel is not something I aim for, and I think “heiress” sounds pretentious. What I “rebel” against is conformity, cow-towing to other people’s ideas of who I should be, and the shallowness of what is so often associated with the word “heiress.” But together they work, and in a way, are the perfect combination, so I am proud to be known as a “rebel heiress.”
Do you feel that there are any misconceptions about the Vanderbilt legacy? Or is there something you wish more people knew about the Vanderbilts?
CVC: Most people think of Cornelius, shipping and railroads — after all, the man helped build this country! While there were certainly a handful of playboys and socialites, many Vanderbilts continued to make important contributions throughout history.
Is there a professional accomplishment of yours that you’re most proud of?
CVC: My video for “Feel So Alive” was banned in 10 countries. Does that count? In all seriousness, I am very proud of my album I’m Just Me, and the “Lose My Mind” music video. In all of my career these two things represent the most honest version of myself as an artist and human being.
You’re a brand ambassador for Michela Rigucci, which just opened a New York City showroom. How did you first get involved with the brand?
CVC: Two of the Michela Rigucci founders approached me after seeing me on a German talk show. I instantly fell in love with the vision and quality of the shoes and being that I am so passionate about fashion the relationship just made sense. Since working with Michela Rigucci, I introduced them to Malan Breton and they partnered together during fashion week. It was an incredible success and Malan’s was the third most tweeted-about show at New York Fashion Week!
You founded your own record label in 2010, C&R Productions. Are there any upcoming plans to release other artists besides your own music?
CVC: That is certainly a longer-term goal, but for now I have no immediate plans to release other artists on the label. That said, I am always looking out for new talent to collaborate with, and if it’s a good fit and someone I believe in, then I would definitely consider it. C&R is not only a label, but also a media and production company. So when the stars align, we will be well-positioned to help other artists with everything from music development to video production and promotion.
Do you have a new single or album in the works?
CVC: I released I’m Just Me in Germany, Austria and Switzerland this past summer, and plan on releasing the album here in the U.S. at the end of the year. I am constantly writing but have had to put touring on hold to focus on a couple of big projects…
So you are still involved with SohoMuse?
CVC: Absolutely! SohoMuse has been my greatest passion project and I am planning on launching the site and app towards the beginning of 2017, once beta testing is complete this year. I can say with pride and confidence that SoHoMuse will be THE trusted source for the global creative community.
Beyond the music, what else is coming up for you professionally?
CVC: Working with Michela Rigucci shoes, we’ve had some exciting developments in the U.S. and U.K. and we are getting ready to open a revolutionary 3-D virtual kiosk at the New York City showroom. I am proud and thrilled to be rolling out the SohoMuse Beta this year!
When not busy with all of your work-related projects, how do you like to spend your free time?
CVC: I love going out in the city and listening to live music, seeing a Broadway show or strolling through the galleries and museums. I enjoy spending time with my husband and dog, taking morning walks in Central Park, weekends in the Hamptons, and intimate dinners with friends.
As someone that has traveled all over and worked on projects everywhere, what is it that keeps you based in New York all these years later?
CVC: The energy of New York is like no other place on earth. It feeds not only my creativity, but my own energy and lust for life. I was born here and I’m proud to call myself a New Yorker…I feel blessed for every day I get to spend in this incredible city.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood within Manhattan?
CVC: That’s a tough one. I’m torn between the West Village, SoHo and Chelsea. Each one has its own charm and character, with tons of art and culture as well as amazing shopping, dining and a true New York vibe.
As we’re now in summer mode, are there any events or concerts that you’re especially looking forward to this season?
CVC: I co-chaired the American Heart Association’s Hamptons Heart Ball at the end of June, which was absolutely amazing. On the music scene, I’m praying to be in town for the Panorama Festival in late July. With bands like Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes and LCD Soundsystem, it’s sure to be the greatest concert event on the East Coast! Then, to cap off the summer, I will visit my family property in the Adirondacks. I look forward to that all year.
Finally, Consuelo, any last words for the kids?
CVC: Dare to dream and find the courage to follow those dreams, no matter what anyone tells you!