On paper, Jordan Roth is a seven-time Tony-winning theatre producer, an established New Yorker with degrees from Princeton and Columbia, a business owner, a husband, and a father. Resumes and headlines will tell about his presidency of boundary-pushing Jujamcyn Theatres, how he helped to resuscitate Broadway after the pandemic, and his makings of the Best Dressed Lists on Vogue, WWD, and GQ. But in the real world, the one we talk and walk and love and breathe in, he is so much more. Roth is a remarkable character because he is an example of what it looks like to fill yourself out to the fullest. He reaches his complete potential, resulting in an unreplicable style and personality that is destined specifically for him.
Roth is regarded as a tastemaker and cultural influencer in both the theatre and fashion worlds. With full authenticity he is the embodiment of glamour, seemingly taking the enchantments more typically reserved for Broadway and applying them to his everyday life, and vice versa. His Jujamcyn Theatres runs five Broadway theatres: St. James, Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O’Neil, and Walter Kerr, and he’s responsible for the critically-acclaimed productions of Miloun Rouge! The Musical, The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, Hadestown, and several others. As for his reputation of taste and high-fashion sense, he is no stranger to the runway; Roth has walked for designers like Thom Browne, Ronald van der Kemp, Yuima Nakazato, and Lúchen. Regarding this couture shoot, Roth says the process was “really a fantasy experience.” Elaborating, never short of gratitude, he says, “I mean, it was the fantasy Parisian couture shoot of my dreams, and a very unique experience to watch these pieces walk the runway and then wear them the next day in a photo shoot with these extraordinary artists creating images together, and is really what I mean when I imagine painting with fashion.”
Below, Roth speaks with Flaunt about the inspiring aspects of life that contribute to his personhood, the power of expression through fashion, and the future of creativity.
Are there any productions or musicals that struck you as a child? I'm curious to know what that moment looked like when you knew you wanted to work in theater for the rest of your life.
Oh, that's a long time. La Cage. The original La Cage aux Folles which I saw as–I must have been, 5, 6, 7– was seminal for me on so many levels, really. Of course, it was a spectacle of glamour and costumes and performance, a sort of thrill, the thrill of performance and color and expression. It also, of course, was a celebration of a gay family. And while I think at that early, early age, those may not have been words that I connected to, I know they were feelings that I connected to. So I think that was certainly from the perspective…fitting, in the audience and being wowed by the world that existed behind this curtain. I also had an opportunity to go backstage. I remember, somewhat shyly, poking my head into the empty dressing room of the cagelles, and seeing so many of the costumes and props and hats that I had just seen them worn on stage that now hung around the room and on racks and on shelves and hung on hooks on the wall. It was the first time that I really drew a line between the life of something on stage that I had just seen, and its offstage existence. That connection, I think, was an early spark, an early curiosity and fascination with the act of theater and the way in which theater can take people and things that exist offstage and kind of sprinkle this life-glitter on them and bring them to life under the lights of the theater.
You say that fashion is your art. Can you speak a little bit about your evolution, not only of your evolution of your personal style but of your mentality towards fashion in general?
You know, I think fashion has always been a vocabulary for me, a tool of expression, a mode of expression, that has been louder and softer at various stages of my life. What I have been expressing and what I have felt free to express has evolved. I think freedom and permission are…are cousins, right? What we feel free to express to be, what we feel we have permission to express to be, the need for permission–the perceived need for permission is, I think, an indication of not living wholly in our freedom.
The evolution of which fashion has been a vocabulary for me, I would say when I was younger–well, it's interesting. Fashion can be how we present ourselves in our clothes and can be a way of expressing ourselves, but it can also be a way of hiding ourselves, which is a kind of expression in itself. I think in my early days, my childhood days, it was both. When I was sort of in my teen and college years, it became very much an expression, an active way of not blending, which I think was very important for me as a young, newly out, person. Then, as I started my career, I was a very young producer with everybody working with me and for me, much older than I was. And I kind of created this uniform of authority that I thought was necessary. It served me quite well in those years. Until it started to tighten around me and until I didn't quite realize that I had outgrown its need.
There were several years, many years in fact, in which it was restriction, not expression. It was stasis, not growth. Until I gave myself permission or felt myself given permission to move beyond that, that's when it really accelerated. That’s when I really stepped into myself. The notion of permission, is I think very present in fashion because there are very clear ideas of who certain clothes are for. “This suit is for what we call a man. This dress is for what we call a woman. This very revealing shirt is for a certain body type.” Whether these are explicit or implicit beliefs they have a deep hold on us. I have always wanted to–I don't know that I want to say cross those lines, but be free of those lines, and have all the words in my fashion vocabulary, not just half the words. I remember not too long ago–a couple of years ago, when I was starting to wear clothes that were not intended for my body, I was aware of that. “Oh, now I'm wearing a woman's clothes.” And then I also became aware of when that fell away, and it was very clear to me that “now I'm wearing my clothes.” And less and less would I see the quote-unquote “intended user.” More and more would I allow myself to just see how it felt for me. And that's where I am today. Which is a deeply, deeply freeing, and canvas-expanding place from which to create.
Which theater production do you think has the best costume design?
You have a lifetime's worth of accomplishments under your belt. Are there any goals that you're still working towards?
Oh, yes. I am very energized by exploring my own creative work, in addition to work as a producer, which is very much about facilitating other people's creative expression. That combination is more and more fulfilling. So the ways in which I am creating my own art directly is really fulfilling.
When doing that, how do you keep yourself inspired?
It's really about the way in which you keep yourself connected–you keep connected to yourself. It is in the quietness that you can hear your own voice, hear the things that you are curious about, hear the things that you are saying, that we are all saying, but are we being quiet enough to hear it, to hear ourselves? That's the practice.
Do you have any insight or advice for the next generation of creatives? Whether they be designers or producers or writers or artists, what do you think the future needs from Gen Z?
I think we need you, the authentic, fully realized, you. Not who you think we want, not who you think can become famous, not who you think you're supposed to be. What do you see that only you can see? What do you hear that only you can hear? Bring us. You bring us the full, whole allness of you.
Photographed by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello
Styled by Michael Philouze
Written by Franchesca Baratta
Hair: Cyril Laloue
Makeup: Marion Robine
Nails: Sylvie Vacca