Pushing the Limits with LeRoy Bennett
Talking design, fashion, and his decade-long creative partnership with Prince
In today's world of self-promotion and overconfidence, it’s rare to meet someone whose walk is bigger than their talk, but after even a brief conversation with LeRoy Bennett, it's apparent that his CV barely scratches the surface of his creativity and knowledge.
A lighting and stage designer by trade, Bennett has worked with several generations of iconic artists, including Prince, Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Robert Smith, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and more. Beyond this list, however, what is so impressive about Bennett is the almost philosophical approach he takes to his projects.
More a creative partner than simply a builder, Bennett looks to get inside the minds of the artists he works with, creating abstract visual experiences that aim to enhance the emotional and experiential quality of the artist’s performance. This novel approach might be best summed up by Bennett’s first concert experience— a rock show his dad took him to at 14, “I remember walking into the venue and all these sensory experiences just hit me at once, the smells of patchouli and pot smoke, the people walking around in suede fringe jackets and platform shoes; the noise, the lights, it was like a religious experience for me.” It was this all-encompassing encounter with live music that made Bennett fall in love with concerts, and not long after he got a job working for a company that did lighting and stage design. Eventually, he found himself working with an emerging artist (at the time) named Prince.
Bennett describes working with Prince as one of the most grueling but rewarding experiences of his life – talking about how in the first five days Prince had pushed him to his absolute limit and beyond, how he went back to his hotel room on the verge of tears nightly but, as Bennett describes, it that was all part of Prince’s genius. He would push people to their creative limits and beyond to see what they were truly capable of. After the tour, Prince insisted he only wanted to work with Bennett moving forward and that began a 14-year friendship where Bennett became his creative partner on all elements of his on-stage performances. As Prince’s star began rising and more people started coming to see his shows, Bennett found himself with a growing list of artists inquiring about his services, kicking off his 42 (and counting) year career.
The time working alongside Prince built a foundation for the rest of Bennett’s career. Prince taught him to have no fear, to constantly push himself beyond what he thought he was capable of, and not let technological or physical limits inhibit his creative concepts. Today, Bennett is still not done pushing himself. Whether it be his still-thriving business, his personal creative projects or his ongoing love for the discovery of new music and fashion, he is a man who unabashedly enjoys new experiences and challenges.
Bennett is a culmination of his parts — a love of Yohji Yamamoto, an appreciation for the design elements of the Aston Martin, his years working alongside some of the greatest musicians of our time. He has developed within himself a strong understanding of what he likes, “I’m drawn to things that feel timeless, that possess a bit of elegance, sometimes simple is the hardest thing to do.”