TRUE LIFE: I visited Kevin G's home to talk about his book, and I somehow left with a belly stuffed with hot quiche and a brain stuffed with fun ways to incorporate that extra bobbin lace you have lying around from your last European vacation into a handmade Halloween costume.
You know what? Let's back it up. We're gonna back it up.
Rajiv stole our Lebanese, goth girl hearts in Tina Fey's iconic teen comedy as math enthusiast/badass emcee Kevin Gnapoor and was eager to begin his next project.
A cameraman on the set of “Mean Girls,” who we have no confirmation was not an omniscient ghost or a guardian angel, recommended Rajiv read “Life of Pi.” What began as a casual book recommendation launched the actor on a six-year journey to earn a role he never actually played.
As we sat in his impeccably decorated Upper West Side apartment — no joke, it made me want to burn my own home to the ground and start fresh — Rajiv explained,
I read the book. I was shocked by how similar I was with the character… I found out 'Life of Pi' was going to be made into a movie and I kind of lost my shit, because it was the perfect role for me.
He dropped out of college, packed up and flew to Pondicherry, India, where the book is set, to prepare himself to assume the identity of Pi.
Unfortunately, production on the film didn't begin for another six years, and when the time came for casting, Rajiv's efforts to “become Pi” went seemingly unrewarded.
Now, 12 years after “Mean Girls” had us all asking, “Damn, Africa, what happened?” Rajiv's journey has influenced an impressive career shift and the completion of a book titled "The Elephants In My Backyard," which he says is “about failure.”
Rajiv's perceived failure led him to a career in calligraphy and chalk art, putting to use an attention to detail he can't help but apply to every endeavor, be it professional or otherwise.
During my visit, Rajiv prepared his crew for an evening at the Waldorf Astoria for Bette Midler's 21st annual Hulaween, a costume party benefitting the New York Restoration Project.
In the words of my roommate, Charlotte, “UGH! He's going to Hulaween?! I WOULD DIE TO GO TO HULAWEEN!!!”
Hulaween's only drawback, it seems, is the immense pressure to arrive in a costume worthy of sharing a dance floor with Winifred Sanderson herself.
Luckily for Rajiv, his trio piled into a Waldorf-bound Uber that evening in straight-up breathtaking costumes a decade in the making.
When I first arrived at his apartment, he slapped a stack of books detailing centuries-old fashion trends on the floor below us.
He told me,
While I was waiting for 'Life of Pi' to happen… I spent my summers at a historical site, dressing up as a pioneer and spinning wool or blacksmithing… I made my own clothes, I made my own costumes and I discovered a whole set of resources.
One of his latest creations, a 16th century collar making its debut at Bette's Halloween banger, was crafted by the artist from vintage, hand-made bobbin lace, recycled hardware wire and the techniques he taught himself poring over these books.
At the risk of comparing apples and oranges garbage, most of us took to the bars this weekend in a saggy, polyester cat suit we bought at a Spirit Halloween for $80 the day before and can't wear again until the heat rash it gave us calms down.
Rajiv slid the collar around his neck, claiming,
There's a spectacle to historical clothing. It's not just a flat image, like that painting in the book… When I actually move around, it's bewitching.
Bewitching as it was, Rajiv wouldn't even be the one wearing the collar, though his costume, a picture-perfect Mad Hatter, was hardly the most ambitious ensemble to walk out of his apartment that night.
He enlisted Carinne Arbib and Seth Baird to climb into his creations. For Seth, this meant clipping on the bobbin lace collar. For Carinne, this meant being tightly laced into a corset, also made by Rajiv himself.
Over the corset, he laid a crinoline, which basically looks like the a ballgown's ribcage, and a gown made by -- you guessed it -- Rajiv himself.
Once Rajiv began sewing fresh flowers around the shoulders of Carinne's gown (and I stood idly by, shoveling quiche from Breads Bakery into my bread hole), I realized the t-shirt I'd pinned a torn-up shower curtain to and decorated with Sharpie for this year's Brooklyn bar festivities would get me laughed out of Hulaween so fast my inner child would die of embarrassment.
I keep my eyes peeled... and if you start early enough... you can potentially have something that's wonderful... Some of these costumes were made years ago and I recycled them and changed them.
The stunning result of Rajiv's years of gradual collecting and immersive self-education were three impressive costumes that, in Carinne's case at least, smelled like a dream garden of Burnett-ian proportions.
Regardless of the stakes, be they on par with landing a feature film, writing a book or dressing for Halloween with H to T historical accuracy, Rajiv commits.
I left his apartment Friday with not only a shopping bag packed to the brim with quiche and tarts, but a signed copy of a book I began reading on the train home later that night, a new appreciation for follow-through and the business card of one Kevin G.
I may have spent the past weekend in a costume patched together with safety pins and men's XL tees from Duane Reade, but next year maybe I'll follow Rajiv's lead and focus on the details.
To hear the full interview, check out the video below.