“What hasn’t Consuelo done?”
You could say the singer, composer, songwriter, designer, actress, philanthropist, and entrepreneur has built her success on not only finding her voice, but in helping others find theirs.
Despite the pedigree attached to her family name—she is a seventh- generation descendent of shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt—Consuelo found success through anonymity and carved out her own identity along the way. With an impressive music career—signing her first record deal at age 21, founding her own label and producing multiple hit singles—and her own jewelry line, Consuelo launched SohoMuse, a member-driven social networking platform for creatives, in 2017. SohoMuse has become a melting pot of globally renowned designers, artists, musicians, directors, dancers, makeup artists and more who have collaborated on projects around the world. With the recent launch of SohoMuse Presents VOICES, these creative professionals now have an additional outlet to face issues like women’s rights and diversity. Whatever Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin hasn’t done, she’ll likely approach it with the same heart and fearlessness that has driven her all her life.
Can you tell our readers about your work with death row inmates?
I am honored and it has been one of the greatest life-changing roles for me to facilitate the release of Jimmy Dennis’s story to the world, and to help his life dreams come true. Jason Flom, from the Innocence Project, has been a major supporter of Jimmy. He also founded and was the former chairman of several record companies, including Lava records. But Jason is also known for his work in criminal justice reform, and more specifically the Innocence Project. He has 30 million subscribers on his podcast, which came out on October 23rd.
So, you explore the aftermath the families suffer . . . emotions like shame?
Yes, and we will also expose what happens with the wrongfully convicted and innocent. Can you imagine being incarcerated when you are innocent, yet everyone around you believes that you’re not? How do you live with that?
No, I cannot imagine that…not as a mother, as a sister, as a wife. Let’s shift to you, Consuelo, and start from the beginning. You have a worldview that is second to none. What are your first memories of London? Do you remember being in the United States before you left for London at the age of two?
I do. My Dad loved gymnastics and would take me before I moved to London. I had a strong bond with my dad, which was my foundation and the beginning of memories. I adored gymnastics.
How do you maintain your physicality today?
I work out four or five days a week and then things slowed down during the Pandemic when I was unwell, and now I am fully recovered and back to working out 3-4 days a week.
So how do you mitigate stress?
I learned about managing stress when my mom got sick. I became her health proxy, which was my greatest honor, to take care of her for her last four years. I found a way to deal with her situation in the most amazing way because I saw myself as if I was a person watching myself. I was the best of myself then. I managed my stress in the most powerful way. At that moment, I was able to see myself in the worst of times under stress. Whether it was taking walks, writing, or being completely in my music journaling, it was my absolute release. I learned that if everything were to be banished . . . if I were to lose every piece of jewelry, everything tangible, and was left with only the clothing that I had on my back, the one thing that I would have is my journals. They are the chapters of my life and tell the stories of my life.
Are you going to publish them?
Probably. That truly was how I dealt with my stress at that moment. Today, I don’t deal with my stress the same way. But I am finding a way to meditate more peacefully, play piano, listen to calming music and to overall try to be more balanced. Which is not easy for me, lol, but trying.
You really have learned a little bit more about yourself?
Just being very truthful about who I am. Even in that honesty, always acknowledging the place that I’m in at that moment, and facing my fears, and always trying to overcome them to the best of my ability.
Your parents seemed to be very athletic, which told me a couple of things about your point of reference—your physicality, determination, and willpower. As an outsider, I see these as your strongest traits and characteristics. Can you tell me more about your mom?
I just got chills. My mom was such a light. She was absolutely beautiful, looked like Barbie, and had a very dirty sense of humor. She had these amazing dimples and could get away with murder. She could just walk into a room and light it up. She could light up the world. She was silly and yet she also made the world a better place. She really did. She knew about family and understood connecting. She was all heart.
What was your relationships with your mother like?
We had a beautiful relationship, but as with most mother/ daughter relationships things can be complicated. I think being a singer going against the grain of my family was unnerving for my mother and I think she worried for my path but always supported my songwriting.
How did you come about the name Rebel?
I have never done anything that anyone ever told me to do, haha. Not ever. I follow my own rule book.
Yet, have you been able to sustain a marriage?
Yes and Rafael and I have a wonderful marriage. He is incredibly supportive always of my family and my Dreams. We have been through a lot together and I am forever grateful to him. He is hysterical, so talented, and incredibly bright and very handsome, I think.
She was in San Francisco, and you had a seven-piece male rock band in Los Angeles. How did that work for the relationship?
Raf and I had only been together for three months. I would commute between SF and LA singing in my band and taking care of my Mom. Raf would also come and visit in SF. I am so grateful to him for his support. I was recording an album in LA at the time, and I was working. I would go back and forth taking care of her. And then I would come back. I became an advocate for the American Cancer Society and the vice president of the Ovarian Cancer Coalition. All this allowed me to acquire information for my mom. I became a huge champion for the Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and that was my greatest gift.
You were her advocate and caregiver until she passed.
I was. My mom made dying okay on every level.
She embraced it.
She did. She did. She did something I had never known. She really made dying okay. She made the world okay. Walking through it with her, as painful as her chemo treatments or her radiation treatments were, I became a part of her journey. It wasn’t something that was wrong. Are you familiar with the CaringBridge?
Yes, but for those unfamiliar can you describe the CaringBridge?
It is a wonderful online tool that allows you to share health updates, and it lets the patient communicate firsthand in their own words, as my mom did, to thousands and thousands of people. Even when she may not have wanted to speak to someone because she did not feel well enough, family and friends would tune in and read her words. The sharing changed my mother’s life. The CaringBridge became her journal. It became the chapters of her life story. People from all around the world would read what she shared on CaringBridge . . . they would tune in every day.
Beautiful. Consuelo, let’s now focus on your life at the time of your mother’s illness . . . on your music career. What was going on with your band?
We wrote an album together, which was an extraordinary process because I had been signed and was in a production deal with Peter Amato, this amazing songwriter. On two or three occasions in my life, I have worked with genius songwriters like Matt Prime, where the world stops during the collaboration and there is such amazing magic.
Were you a collaborator on songwriting?
Yes, always. The magic happens and your world stops when you are so in sync with an artistic genius that you finish each other’s sentences. I write a melody; someone writes a lyric. I had a collaborator, Andrew Richford, who is one of the longest-standing Sony artists on this planet. He would call them purple notes. It’s an unimaginable world that you can’t quite describe, but where collaborations truly come from.
Are you a “creative” or are you a “linear” person?
Creative mostly . . . but probably a blend of both. The reason I speak about these very specific collaborations in my life is that both Matt Prime and Peter Amato were the foundations for the music created. They created very specific moments in time, in music. Once I wrote the album with my band, the first song Naked, stayed on the dance charts for 16 weeks or maybe 20. And then Naked literally went to number 16, which changed the trajectory of my career.
You had an ailing mother, a crazy commute, and were responsible for the band. How did that work?
The complexity helped me to be the best for mom and myself.
Because you were fulfilled creatively and yet you were also caregiving to someone that you loved so much?
I wrote a song and dedicated all of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. I was giving back, and I was doing it all at the same time as caring for her . . . which was an amazing experience. There is nothing more that I could have done.
Does he ground you or do you ground him?
We compliment each other. Every day is different, and I never experience the same type of day. Life for me is never vanilla. It is always purple, yellow, and blue…with a bit of drama.
What was your most successful music venture?
The last single, Body Needs, went to number five in the US. I went on tour in Europe, and it was mind-boggling, performing in Germany and signing autographs. Having people sing your songs and their appreciation . . . there are no words to describe that, truly.
Then you pivoted in your career, why?
It was a very hard and important decision for me. I knew that if I did not take on this entrepreneurial need and void that I saw in the marketplace, I would always regret never having fulfilled this venture. But music is always in my soul and will forever be my first love
Will you be releasing new music in the near future?
My previous album was only launched in certain territories. Last October I realized my music landed between TikTok and everything else technology allows. So, I started integrating pieces into the different facets of my world and putting 30 or 45 seconds of my music into everything. I am basically building out new audiences. I will be launching my album next year.
Are you a complete extrovert?
I am both, an extravert and an introvert.
Do you feel like your mom is always with you?
Is that where you inherited your love of fashion and jewelry? Tell me about your experience selling your line on the Home Shopping network.
Oh God, it was amazing. There is nothing on this planet like that . . . no preparing in advance or training you can do either. I performed in front of 250,000 people before, but presenting on the HSN is like being a puppeteer in that medium. You have a host and 25 different items with random people calling in while you are talking to them live for a maximum of one-and-a-half minutes. You hope that that host likes you because if they don’t like you, your entire hour or two hours is sabotaged. Meanwhile, you are trying to upsell as the producer is talking to you through an earpiece. You keep repeating the same thing, which is insane . . . just the craziest thing I’ve ever done. But I loved it. I loved it so much. I never wanted it to end . . . for as long as I lived.
And you loved it because?
Being able to sell to so many from the comforts of your own home and really have people relate to you is an amazing experience.
Did you prepare or wing it?
I prepared for about six months in advance.
Will you do it again?
It was so much fun and so amazing to have had this experience.
When you were songwriting and in the real performance stage of your life, you did not use the Vanderbilt name.
Never. I wanted to be really known for my music. It was important to me as a musician that my music be based on anonymity. It was my pride and joy to be Consuelo. I wanted one name: one name and on my own. I did this and it had nothing to do with anyone else. I stood completely alone and on my own, rock solid. The label would say, “Consuelo is too Spanish sounding.” They asked me, “What is your nickname?” I answered, “Mo. Because my best friend called me Ho.” Then, “What’s your last name?” I answered, “Costin.” The label said, “Great, then Mo Costin.”
And that’s why you did your own label?
No one knows what the magic ingredient is. I own my own label to control the narrative and the distribution of my music.
Is there too much responsibility with your last name Vanderbilt?
It is incredible and I feel very fortunate but it also comes with expectations as well.
Why is your family name anyone’s business?
It is not anyone’s business; again, I am very proud of my family’s name and background.
You are self-made and self-actualized. What is the end game . . . for SoHo Muse to be a household name?
Yes. Because these are extraordinary opportunities—these young brands, these young artists, young talent—helping them to achieve their dreams. There is so much undiscovered talent, such a need for mentorship and internship job opportunities, we want SoHo Muse to be a facilitator and truly become a trusted source for the creative community.
Do you trust people?
I think through life experiences it has made me more self aware so not as trusting as I may have been before, but I also live with my heart so I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Every woman, further in her journey, who is not threatened by your beauty and brilliance, relates to you. How do you temper jealousy, or do you even try?
I don’t believe in Jealousy or ever look at this quality. I have in the past tried to hide behind and make it about others rather then my self but I have been working on this.
I am going to cry, Consuelo. Never dim yourself. That makes me sad. I don’t know why that touches me.
I did. Because it was just easier.
When you diminish yourself, you give them . . .
If you want to be remembered for one thing, what would that be?
What one piece of advice do you want to give women that are embarking on their own journey?
Don’t be afraid to be you. That would be my advice. Always.
Do you think that people know who they are, and when did you figure out who you were?
Two years ago. Truly.
For women who are 35 and younger, how does that self-awareness manifest?
I think love and parents do this. When a child feels safe—the cocoon between the child bonding with the parents—it starts there. When you don’t feel safe, you are constantly fighting, searching, and needing things to fill the hole. When you do feel safe, you grow up knowing you can succeed, because you have that rock-solid foundation. I spent my life searching, sadly, because I didn’t have that.
Does the journey of hard knocks force people to eventually figure out their life’s purpose?
Sort of. I think you get to the point where you say, what does it all look like? Or something inside of your heart says you are enough. This is where forgiveness comes into play. The interesting thing about forgiveness is that in the end, you don’t blame anyone for anything. I don’t blame my parents . . . my mom showed and taught me about dying. Planning her funeral was one of the greatest things I have ever done, which sounds so strange. It was one of the proudest moments of my life because I felt that I honored everything that she wanted. It was remarkable because of who she was and everything that she was about . . . it was extraordinary.
And the world saw it.
And the world saw it. Her legacy, truly, was that she became so much more in her passing.
You did not have children?
Not yet. I still want to experience motherhood if I can.
Like everything Consuelo, you will figure it out and you will be an amazing mother. Thank you so very much. I hope I will. ■