John Galliano’s interview with Charlie Rose was televised last night, and the most striking thing about it was how terribly nervous he looked. This was his first-ever sober TV appearance, and his fear was palpable. This is clearly a man with a lot of shame and regret, and you could see it in his face, which was strained and pale.
Rose didn’t hold back, and asked him several very direct questions about where exactly the designer’s anti-Semitic statements came from. Although Galliano has said many times that he doesn’t remember that night because he was in such a stupor, here is what he has come to understand about it:
I was in a blackout … I’ve since discovered that one is a blackout drinker, what happens is that it can release paranoia of such a stage that it can trigger frustrations from childhood. And due to that, it can trigger a self-defense mechanism. Now, having had quite a tough time in school, and being subjected, persecuted, bullied, called all sorts of names, as children do, and living a lie, really, because I was gay but I couldn’t admit that at home, honestly I couldn’t escape.
Also, around the time of that event, I was heavily researching for my John Galliano menswear collection, which was inspired by the life of Rudolph Nureyev, who was an anti-Semite. When I research, I really go into it. Where does she live? Does she read by candlelight or gaslight, the color of her hair dye, the scent on her breath — is it gin? — the powder of her makeup; it helps me to create. It helps me to create a character… I’m living it, I’m breathing it. I’m not making excuses at all, but this is the work I’ve done since that event, to try and find out what happened.
As he said himself, this is no excuse for what he said, but it does provide some explanation for why those words might have bubbled into his drunken subconscious. And for those who need to hear his apologies out loud, he does express his regret in the interview, several times:
Rose: You recognise that what you said was hateful, vile, anti-Semitic?
Galliano: I do. I apologise. And I am trying to make amends in the best way that I can.
Although Galliano’s Vanity Fair profile very aptly characterizes Galliano’s deep remorse, there’s something far more moving about hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. People will always doubt his motives (he needs a job, for one), but there’s certainly no question that he is truly and deeply sorry for what he did. If anything, he has become a poster child for how inexcusable anti-Semitism is, and how one should and can overcome those prejudices — but it’s clear that his aspirations lie far beyond that.