Jenna Lyons on Being Outed by a Newspaper and the 'Scary' State of LGBTQ+ Rights
The former creative director of J.Crew recalls what happened when her relationship with Courtney Crangi was outed in 2011
Following the premiere of her HBO Max show Stylish with Jenna Lyons, the "woman who dressed America" by reinventing J.Crew opened up to ELLE UK about everything from stepping down as president and creative director of the classic American brand, being outed by a newspaper in 2011 and the state of LGBTQ+ rights under the Trump administration.
Lyons' feature appears in the February 2021 issue of the fashion magazine (on newsstands now) starring Gemma Chan on the cover. During the interview, Lyons told ELLE UK she hopes to see more acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community as President Donald Trump's term comes to an end.
"In this current regime [the Trump administration], we're seeing more prejudice than ever and we've just sworn someone into the Supreme Court [Amy Coney Barrett] who could help overturn same-sex marriage," Lyons said. "I hope that things shift. Where we are now is very scary."
The star also reflected on her own experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. When ELLE UK asked Lyons about being outed by a newspaper in 2011, she recalled her mom's reaction.
"I remember my mom saying, 'What am I supposed to tell people?' I said, 'You don't have to make them comfortable. You don't have to say anything, or you could say that it's weird for you too.' I wanted her to know that she didn't have to take care of other people's feelings."
At the time, the New York Post reported that after Lyons split from Vincent Mazeau, her husband of nine years, she "fell in love" with a woman. The Post identified her as Courtney Crangi, the sister of celebrity jeweler Philip Crangi.
A source told PEOPLE in 2011 that the Lyons-Crangi relationship "absolutely" did not break up the Lyons-Mazeau marriage.
"They met at a fashion event several years ago … at least three years ago … and became friends," the source said. "They got together this summer after Jenna's [nine-year] relationship [with Mazeau] ended."
Lyons and Crangi split in December 2017 — around the same time the fashion personality left J.Crew. Looking back at the break-up, Lyons told ELLE UK, "I had a girlfriend, a massive job and three assistants and they all went away. I didn't control my finances or pay my bills. There may have been some collection notices."
Speaking with PEOPLE in December, Lyons said she was trying to figure out her next step during that time.
"I don't know if I can explain to you how different my life felt, but right when I left J.Crew, I was sort of trying to figure out what I was going to do," she said. "It was a whole year and a half when I finally started to have a conversation about [the TV show]. During that year and a half, I really felt this disconnection from the fashion industry."
The person who gave Lyons the idea to enter the TV arena was none other than Vogue's Anna Wintour.
"She told me I should do TV and I was like, 'No way!' Then when someone called me and said, 'Do you want to do TV?,' I was like, 'You know what? Anna Wintour told me I should do TV. Maybe I should take this call.' I decided to at least entertain the idea and so I did, but it was a complete fluke."
The new HBO Max show follows Lyons and her trusty sidekicks, chief of staff Kyle DeFord (formerly chief of staff to J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler) and creative director Sarah Clary (a New York-based stylist) as they kick-start Lyons' new venture — a creative agency called Lyons L.A.D., which stands for "life after death."
The agency takes on projects that go beyond the fashion sphere and into home decor and beauty (Lyons started her own false lash line, LoveSeen) and viewers get to see Lyons' perfectionism and unparalleled attention to detail range from styling outfits to decorating a home.
The competition aspect comes in as Lyons tries to pick a new addition to the team. We see her interviewing candidates, assigning out styling challenges and testing the crew of hopefuls on all-things design through different projects the agency is taking on (like decorating an N.Y.C. brownstone and curating a pop-up shop).
While the show is somewhat of a The Rachel Zoe Project-and-Project Runway hybrid, what viewers don't see is the typical sort of elimination format.
"Somehow along the way [of filming], they were like, 'Well, what if there were real stakes involved and real people are actually going to vie for a job?' I was like, 'Okay, but I don't want to do a reality contest show. So, how do we make it different? How do we make it ours?'" Lyons explained.
The February issue of ELLE UK is on newsstands now.