Q&A

How Celebs Are Dealing With Post-Lockdown Social Anxiety

Tilda Swinton photographed by Juergen Teller for W magazine, September 2008

Last week in Brooklyn, the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne attended Pioneer Works’ Brand New Heavies Benefit—one of his first IRL events in over a year, and part of a slow re-introduction to socializing on Byrne’s part. “Tonight, everybody’s either vaccinated or tested, so it’s kind of extraordinary,” he said, looking around the cultural center’s garden before a seated dinner took place. “Here we are, everybody’s unmasked. It is nuts.”

Byrne’s disbelief feels entirely relatable. After over a year of holing up indoors, much of the public has begun scheduling plans and social events with friends, family, and coworkers—and with this shift comes a healthy dose of anxiety, whether about getting sick or simply chit-chatting and being seen face-to-face. Celebrities, who are essentially paid to be social, are feeling the strain as well. So we asked notable attendees at Brand New Heavies and the New York Botanical Gardens’s Spring Gala—two of New York City’s most major social events in more than a year and a half, both of which required negative Covid-19 tests or proof of vaccination—how they’re coping, and how it’s all been worth it in the end. At this moment, we welcome any advice we can get.

What’s your best advice for someone who is getting back into social activities and feeling some amount of anxiety?

“You’ve got to trust your own instincts.” —David Byrne, musician

“It’s a reset. I’d say look in your studio, or wherever you were working, find that inkling or notion of creativity that you were exploring which allowed you to relax, and that’s where you should start. That’s the place where everything magical is going to happen for you.” —Mickalene Thomas, artist

“My best piece of advice: bring sunglasses.” —Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor

“How I deal with anxiety is focusing on how it’s collective: You’re not going through this alone. If you’re fortunate to have a close group of friends, it’s very important for everyone to be honest about where they’ve gone and haven’t gone.

“Overall, though, get vaccinated and advocate for vaccines. That’s the only way we can be safe. It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s a responsibility. I come from Nepal, where there are people willing to take the vaccine who are dying right, left, and center. In America, if you’re not vaccinated, it is highly irresponsible—it’s a privilege to have a choice. [And as for anxiety about what to wear], that’s the least important thing. I always say that you need to find whatever version is the glory of you, and that’s how you show up. If that’s a ballgown, if that’s jeans and a t-shirt, let it be. Fuck the rules.” —Prabal Gurung, designer of Prabal Gurung

“Myself, Tina [Leung], Laura [Garcia], and Nicky [Hilton], this is our first actual gala, the first we’ve actually put in the effort to dress up. It’s fun for everyone to be in a big group chat asking each other what to wear, getting excited. Now that everybody is getting vaccinated and still respecting social distancing laws, it’s important to stimulate—to be ready to have fun again.” — Fernando Garcia, co-creative director of Oscar de la Renta and Monse

“It’s all about being careful, educating yourself, and still social distancing, even if you’re a social person like myself. Everything in moderation.” —Olivia Palermo, socialite and entrepreneur

Coming out of Covid, what’s been your most treasured reunion?

“The best reunion coming out of Covid was having our best and dearest friends over for my birthday last year, in June 2020. We had four friends come up and celebrate and we were all still in the midst of everything, but we knew we had all quarantined and we were all safe, and we were just happy to see each other.” —Racquel Chevremont, collector and curator

“In quarantine, I really missed my girlfriends. I had my wonderful husband, I had my kids, I had my work. But I really missed my women; so seeing my girls for the first time was the most meaningful. We went out to dinner at Altro Paradiso, which is the restaurant I dreamt about the whole time Covid was happening. We had oysters and champagne and a proper dinner outdoors. Seeing them continues to be the most meaningful, as they all come out of the woodwork.” — Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor

“The winter was hard. I was indoors a lot, alone. But with warmer weather coming, I got to go for a bike ride with a friend to the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx. I thought, Oh, this is good. We’re out, we’re doing stuff again.” —David Byrne, musician and performer

“Probably when my brother- and sister-in-law [Barron Hilton II and Tessa Gräfin von Walderdorff] visited with their baby, and just being able to hug them. My kids missed their cousins so much, so it was a very sweet, multi-generational reunion.” —Nicky Hilton, socialite and designer