If you happen to run into Tom Ford, you’d better hope you aren’t in a room with overhead lighting.
The designer admitted to The New York Times that if he’s in a space with overhead lighting, he has no qualms about adjusting or removing any lightbulbs that hang from above. In fact, Ford’s aversion to overhead light is so well-known that a Los Angeles hot spot—at which he naturally has his own reserved table—has accommodated his request to light things perfectly by installing a switch that cuts off the overhead lights in advance of the designer’s arrival. “At Tower Bar, if you go to my table, the corner table at the back, there are these overhead spots and on mine it’s blacked out, because I told them, ‘You have to get rid of that spot or I’m not going to come here. No overhead lights,’” he said.
According to the interview, it seems Ford possesses plenty of the characteristics of a vampire—he wears all black (“I don’t like color on me because I don’t like to scream”), seemingly never ages, thinks about death “more than every hour,” and has no desire to be seen in the middle of the day.
In fact, Ford hates overhead lighting so much that he refuses to attend one of the most elite Hollywood gatherings of the year: Bary Diller and Diane von Furstenberg’s Oscar lunch. “I don’t like the middle of the day,” he said. “Take a picture at noon, anywhere in the world. You’re going to look like hell — hell. Everybody looks like hell. Unless you’re 18, maybe, or under. Even then you don’t look your best. I like daylight, but not to go out in public.”
Ford also told The New York Times that he is “a hyper-hyper Virgo,” and his behavior (especially his abhorrence of unflattering lighting) does align with the traits of the zodiac sign. According to astrologers, Virgos are one of the pickier signs. They’re fussy, hard-working perfectionists who also tend to be on the shy side or are, at the very least, exceptionally observant. The designer’s personal definition seems to be congruous with that of the experts: “Perfectionist, anal-retentive, supposedly. Seemingly uptight, seemingly aloof. We’re definitely homebodies also. We love the home.”
Ford is indeed a confirmed Virgo, with a birthday on August 27, but Virgos are not the only ones who have been known to make diva-like declarations about their contempt toward the harsh illumination caused by lightbulbs hanging overhead. Mariah Carey has gone on record calling overhead lighting “abusive” and only uses recessed lighting, chandeliers, or candles in her New York home. Her crusade against overhead lighting, and unflattering lighting in general (she revealed in her 2016 docuseries, Mariah’s World, that she will never be seen under fluorescent bulbs without sunglasses), sparked enough memes and GIFs to feed the Internet for a few years. Carey, however, is an Aries, with an anniversary (she doesn’t do “birthdays”) on March 27.
But Ford’s reasoning for his hatred of overhead light does make a lot of sense, regardless of whether or not you believe in the zodiac. “Why, oh my God, overhead light, where your brow is going to create shadow right there, your nose is going to create a shadow like this, you look like hell, you look like you have no hair, even if you have a lot of hair,” he said in his Times interview. “Nobody looks good in overhead lighting.”
Ford simply has no patience for the possibility that his visage might become unsightly as a consequence of appearing underneath some unflattering lighting. Now, if only all public spaces could just adopt the Tom Ford method, we’d all look 10 percent better.
A Brief History of Fashion’s Most NSFW, Controversial Ad Campaigns
For their first large-scale campaign, the designers behind Eckhaus Latta enlisted a diverse group of 30-something couples to not only wear their spring 2017 collection, but have real sex in front of the camera for the photographer Heji Shin, who had produced a similar series of images for a German sex education book for teenagers.
In 1971, a nude (and largely hairless) Yves Saint Laurent posed nude for Jeanloup Sieff to debut his first-ever perfume for his namesake label, Pour Homme.
Other than her controversially “heroin chic” ads for Calvin Klein, a topless, 17-year-old Kate Moss also starred in this 1992 campaign for the brand with Mark Wahlberg—one that made her so uncomfortable, she later said it prompted a nervous breakdown.
Rumor has it that Wonderbra’s billboards of Eva Herzigova caused traffic build-ups and car crashes when they went up in 1994.
It didn’t take long for controversy to erupt after Steven Meisel and Calvin Klein cast a crew of apparently underage models, including Kate Moss, for a 1995 Calvin Klein campaign; eventually, CK responded to the outcry over the ad with another ad, a full page in the New York Times announcing it was pulling the original advertisement.
This infamous 2000 campaign from Yves Saint Laurent, featuring a nude Sophie Dahl, drew 948 complaints to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority, making it the eighth most complained about advertisement in recorded history.
Yves Saint Laurent again pared things down for one of his perfume ads in 2002, this time swapping out the designer’s likeness for a chiseled model to go full frontal.
Tom Ford and Carine Roitfeld both solidified their reputations as provocateurs when the designer and stylist drove down the fact that they were working for Gucci by shaving a “G” into a model’s pubic hair for this 2003 campaign shot by Mario Testino.
American Apparel, whose founder Dov Charney has faced a litany of sexual harassment lawsuits, began its run of controversial ads depicting highly sexualized and barely clothed women—an approach that was highly successful in creating conversation, but hardly saved the brand from bankruptcy—with this 2006 campaign.
The concept of “sex sells” barely gets more explicit than in Terry Richardson’s 2007 campaign for Tom Ford’s men’s fragrance, an ad that was banned in Italy.
“Stupid is as stupid done” is how some critics responded to Diesel’s 2010 “Be Stupid” campaign, which featured images of models flashing security cameras, among other suggestive poses. Some felt the images were needlessly sensationalistic while others described them as youthful and rebellious.
Dakota Fanning’s 2011 campaign for Marc Jacobs’ Lola campaign was banned in England after the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority deemed it too “sexually provocative” for the then 17-year-old actress, who was photographed by Juergen Teller.
Thanks to a little Photoshop, Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez were just several of the world leaders found making out in a 2011 campaign by United Colors of Benneton, which has a long history of provoking with their ads.
The model Anna Ewers has long been one of Alexander Wang’s muses, but the pair ended up in hot water with this 2014 campaign, in which Ewers is only just barely wearing Wang’s clothes.
This 2007 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana’s came to be known as the “gang rape advert” not only then, when several magazines refused to run it, but when it resurfaced online in 2015.
The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Agency also banned this 2015 Miu Miu campaign, shot by Steven Meisel, for being “irresponsible” in sexualizing an apparently underage (but actually 22-year-old) Mia Goth.
Calvin Klein courted controversy again last year with a campaign that featured a model photographed from under her dress, but the acclaimed British female photographer Harley Weir, whose work has long been interested in youth culture and sexuality, defended the campaign.