Lena Hall was raised to be a prima ballerina. Now she stuffs her pants with a fake (but hey, anatomically accurate) penis, shades in an Adam’s apple, glues on two furry sideburns, and goes by Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The cult musical has had lines out the door and down the block since it opened last month, starring Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig, a drag queen bitter from a painful combination: a botched gender-reassignment surgery and an ex-lover who got famous off Hedwig’s music. Yitzhak is Hedwig’s husband, who bears the (physical) brunt of Hedwig’s frustrations. Hall was nominated for a Tony Award for her transformative performance, which caught Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s eye. Wintour invited Hall to the Met Ball this year, although she was hard to recognize in her sorbet-colored gown—no Adam’s apple in sight. We spoke with Hall about the cult of My Little Pony, whether wearing a fake penis makes her want to ask for a raise, and her high-school band called Gyration Nation.
VF Daily: You play Neil Patrick Harris’s husband. Did you ever watch Doogie Howser?
Lena Hall: Nope. But [years ago] I was dating his friend, who was living with him in L.A. It was a long-distance relationship, so I would call the house a lot. And Neil would answer, and they had the same voice. So Neil would pretend to be Tim to screw with me, and I’d be like, “Hi, honey, I love you!” And he’d be like, “I love you, too!”
What is he like to work with in Hedwig?
He’s great to work with; he’s a consummate professional, no whining. [He’s] very fun to work with, and fun for me, because there’s a good rapport between us—it’s insult-based, in a good way.
Tell us about your makeup and transformation into Yitzhak—we’ve read all about your fake penis (called a packer). Has it made you want to ask for a raise, or Lean In a little?
Not yet! I do my makeup for the show. It takes about an hour to get into Full Man. I put my hair in pin curls, and have to tease them a certain way to get the wig to sit right—so I look awesome after the show. The makeup takes a lot of shading; my eyebrows take the longest. The only thing that’s added hair is the sideburns, the rest is makeup and shading. I took a picture of a guy on the subway—he didn’t know I was taking it—the way the shadows were made his face perfect. I took a picture to follow that outline. I shade in my neck and an Adam’s apple.
When people saw you at the Met Ball, you were hard to recognize out of character. Tell me about how you found your dress.
Wednesday we got the invitation [the ball was the following Monday]. Lisa [Hall’s publicist] called me and was freaking out, like, this never happens! I know hair and makeup people, because my sister does hair and makeup, so I knew I had that covered. The dress was the big thing. I ran into the assistant costume designer, Val, and I told her [about the invitation] and she flipped out. I said, “I need help!” And she said, “Who would your first pick be?” I said Zac Posen, because I love his stuff, and he had seen the show, opening night. He [Posen] said, “Absolutely, I have something in mind.” So when I walked into his studio, they were like, “Here’s the dress, this is it—the only dress we’ve pulled for you.” I don’t think I’d get to wear anything as good if I were getting married. It was surreal.
How was the red carpet?
I felt like it was my coming-out ball—everyone’s a prince or a princess, and I’m a newcomer. Everybody said to take the stairs slow, so you don’t fall. After the insanity outside, you walk in, and it’s dead quiet. You go down a red carpet into these different corridors of the museum, and flanking the corridor are models—it’s so weird. You only hear your dress swishing around. Then you turn the corner [and] there’s a whole long receiving line. Anna Wintour was standing there waiting to receive me—I was like, OH MY GOD, don’t trip, don’t trip.
You’re simultaneously in a rock band in Hedwig but also apart of a rock band called the Deafening. Is that the first band you’ve ever been in?
I was in a band when I was a teenager called Gyration Nation. [Laughs] It was a 70s cover band. I was vocals. We were cool! We were awesome. It was a bunch of friends from high school.
Hedwig is often called a cult musical, and it appeals to everyone—but especially misfits. Earlier you told us you watched the season finale of My Little Pony last night, which is another show with a huge cult following. Why do you like it?
When you watch it, it makes you super happy. You can’t really explain the feeling. The animation is super good, it’s really pretty to watch, and the music’s amazing. There are valuable lessons. The season finale was about the sacrifice you make for your friends, which makes you all stronger. She—Twilight Sparkle—had to sacrifice her magic. I’m a proud Pegasister. . . . I also watch Game of Thrones.
Maybe if we publicize it enough they’ll have you voice a new pony.
I would DIE if they asked me to be a character. I could be the rock ’n’ roll pony! !