Black and white portrait of a man wearing glasses, a headscarf tied at the front, and a pearl neckla...


Jeremy Pope On His First EP & Day-Of Met Gala Invitation

“I didn't want to make something until I was ready to scream it. I needed to know why I was making it.”

by Kevin LeBlanc

Jeremy Pope is embracing his “season of affirmation and confidence,” and the proof is in the pudding. In 2024, the multi-hyphenate artist has starred in a sizzling Calvin Klein Pride campaign, attended the Met Gala (in whirlwind fashion), and accepted a Native Son award for excellence as a Black gay man in media. Now, his “first baby” and most personal work to date, Last Name: Pope, is entering the world, marking Pope’s first body of music as an independent recording artist. Pope teamed up with director C Prinz and choreographer Parris Goebel on a series of visuals including “God Is Good,” a searing 12-minute monologue starring Pope in “conversation” with himself, with God, with the world.

The first two songs from the EP, “U, Lost” and “What I Gotta Do” were released in tandem and shot as one visual, again with C Prinz and Goebel. The video sees Pope dressed in classic ‘90s hip-hop swag, embodying ultra-masculine energy to, as he puts it, “talk my sh*t.” It’s a fitting entry point into the work explored in Last Name: Pope, which sees him grappling with the nuances of being Black and queer, masculine and feminine, in love and out of love. It’s a hyper-specific, emotionally charged album that speaks universally, with something to be gleaned about humanity, love, and loss from anyone listening. Pope has learned a lot moving from strength to strength, whether on the stage, the screen, the red carpet, or “selling underwear” in his sexy Calvin Klein campaign. Pope’s feeling reflective in this pivotal moment, and right before the release, NYLON sat down with him to talk about his inspirations, his fashion choices, and what he hopes people get out of this project.

The album cover for “Last Name: Pope”Courtesy of Jeremy Pope

How are you feeling pre-release?

I feel good. Anytime I'm about to release something, whether it's music or film, I get really reflective and think about the process of beginning, middle, and end. I'm super grateful to all the people that have had a hand in helping me get to this finish line. One thing I've been thinking about this week is people that maybe didn't know they were inspiring me, whether they're like, “How are you? How's the music? What are you working on?” Things like that have been instrumental in me going home and finishing a record, or editing a visual. It's been a long time coming and I'm ready to release.

“For me, fashion isn't about overthinking. It's about showing up in the moment, showing up for where you are, and honoring that.”

I was really drawn by the “God Is Good” monologue, and one of the lines that stood out to me was, “why would I choose to make my life more complicated than it already is?” What you were thinking about when you wrote that specific line?

The “God Is Good” exploration was me having a conversation. I think a lot of times, things want to be presented to us as black or white, right or wrong. And if anyone's had a human experience, we know that things live in the gray. There's all types of complexities and nuances in what we're experiencing. I've definitely heard, existing as a Black queer man, people saying it's a choice. “Why are you choosing to be an abomination or why are you choosing to...?” Why would I choose to make my life more complicated than it already is? The following line after that is, “is that your line or mine?”

Our time on Earth has always felt like an audition. Whether you do good or bad, you end up in heaven or hell. You're judged by God, this thing that is bigger. But also we have people, family members, institutions, and systems that act as God and want to tell us who or what is right. This whole experience for me has been about shedding old behavior and old ways of thinking, and leaning into self-love. Existing in the mother and the father, existing in the feminine and the masculine, existing in my power and my weakness, and starting to have better relationships with those things. That line was very important to me because it's a call to action. It's something that I have thought about; I know that other people have thought the same. We've all been dealt different hands of cards. We don't really ask to be here. We just arrive, then someone says, “now survive, and find your purpose, and be great, and make money and love, and find love, and lose love.”

Courtesy of Jeremy Pope

What were some of your inspirations going into the record? How did you deal with masculinity throughout this record? Did this record help you come to any conclusions, or open up more questions?

Being that “U, Lost” is the first record on the album, it's like the beginning. The energy behind that record was me talking my sh*t, but more a conversation with my ego and allowing that to be the first thing that you hear. I think culturally, men are the ones that speak up, or are the loudest or biggest. It was me unpacking the layers of how we view masculine energy. Visually, for me, it was about going back to the first entry points of seeing hyper-masculinity. I grew up in the ‘90s, so a lot of old hip-hop artists like Busta Rhymes, and Missy Elliott, and the way they were able to embody energy, swag, and finesse. I wanted to break it and allow the audience to watch the layers peel back. You can see me in that full masculine energy and think exactly who and what my music is, what it sounds like and who I am, and then in the next record you see me doing full ballet and jazz. I’m trained in that and know that; I've actually spent more years in that than I have in the others.

I took over a year putting all of this together. I didn't want to make something until I was ready to scream it. I needed to know why I was making it. I needed there to be a level of intensity and an intention with each part. It was important for me to release “U, Lost” and “What I Gotta Do” as the first two records so that people could understand there is a contrast happening, and that there is a story. There's going to be levels and layers of all types of music and vibrations.

Is there anything else that you hope people get from this body of work?

I think the universal language of music is so powerful, and obviously I step into a space and I identify as a Black man. I look like a Black man, and I'm queer. I come from a queer experience, but there's so many layers and pieces to us showing up. I made this in love. I made this losing love, and in the pursuit of finding love again. I've evolved many different times throughout the process. From an artist standpoint, I love what I do. I love being able to take the time and use music to heal and understand myself better, and get finer in my purpose and in my “why.”

I hope that people enjoy the music. I feel so confident in this moment because I know as an independent artist how hard I've worked for it. That's something that no one can take from me. This moment feels like a marker in my journey. I've got so many creative things happening, and it's not because I'm in a hit show or a movie that's about to roll out. It's because I've created these honest pieces. That's affirmative to me as an artist.

It really speaks to this space you've carved out for yourself. What’s the intention behind your fashion choices this year, and especially your Met Gala look?

I am in a season of exploring the masculine and the feminine side. I always have tried to take that approach when it comes to styling. The crazy thing that no one knows is that the Met Gala call came in the day of the Met Gala. I had maybe four and a half hours to put it together and to connect with my stylist. I was actually heading to the airport to go back to LA. The past years, I've been able to spend months designing with the designer to set a bold intention and understand the story that I wanted to tell. This year, it was about the energy. I didn't want to stress. I wanted to make sure that I protected my energy that day. I ended up wearing Tanner Fletcher because it was this beautiful, structured masculine presentation, but there were feminine elements on the piece already. It came so seamlessly; we didn't have to work for it. I think the rack pulled up at 5 p.m. for a 6 p.m. car pickup. There wasn't time to second-guess. It was time to trust instincts. It was very different, because I hadn't overthought the process.

For me, fashion isn't about overthinking. It's about showing up in the moment, showing up for where you are, and honoring that. This year, for me, it's about finding that ebb and flow of tailoring. I love tailoring. A big inspiration of mine is Prince from a fashion standpoint, and how he was able to embody all of the energies, and it still felt elevated and intentional.

Matt Baron/Shutterstock

What was the energy on set for your Calvin Klein pride campaign? How did that day feel?

I was very grateful when that moment came in last year. It gave me an opportunity to have a better relationship with my body in the gym, because immediately you think, “I need to get in the best shape of my life.” My dad is a professional bodybuilder, so I'm looking at the genetics going, “Damn. So I can do that.” But for me, it was about a feeling. I wanted to not look at myself and obsess with myself in the mirror, and try to pinpoint what was right or wrong, but just go, “If I feel strong, if I feel confident, that’s what's going to read through in these images.”

The energy was good, the music was there. Gordon [Von Steiner], the photographer, was incredible. Dara the stylist, Stuart [Winecoff] on video, these are all people within the community that have really been breaking ceilings and walls, as far as the way that we can exist in commercial content. I think sometimes brands and institutions have a very specific way that they want to run, but Calvin has done a great job of allowing the talent to shine. I felt very supported, even though I was selling underwear. It’s a very vulnerable thing, to be in your skin in that way — not as a character, but as me, Jeremy Pope.

Looking at the billboard with my family who came to New York to see it, I got really reflective. I thought of all the “yeses,” but more importantly, all of the “nos,” all the moments that I felt self-doubt or someone was intentionally trying to diminish my value. It's so important for people to remember where you are is not who you are. I couldn't have arrived here without all of the steps that led to this moment. It feels like a season of confidence. It feels like a season of affirmation. All the things I felt, they're now affirmed, but it's only affirmed because I kept that pursuit. I kept going, I kept pushing, I kept showing up.

My story is bigger than me. Someone can see me in these spaces and be like, “Oh sh*t, there's room there.” There's ways to be unconventional and still get seen by that right person, starting with yourself. It starts with that self-investment. You’ve got to believe in it first. It's contagious and people start to feel that. I know there's going to be someone out there that reads this and hopefully feels inspired to keep doing what they need to do.