Kanye West says he was a functioning alcoholic, used 'Clark Kent' persona to mask mental health struggles

Kanye West is opening up about how he’s evolved throughout his time in the spotlight, and the public persona he maintained earlier in his career that wound up causing him more harm than good.

“Me being normal—that's not even a true statement. You know what normal is to me? An act,” the 42-year-old told GQ for its May cover. “I can act normal, and that's me as Clark Kent. But artists are people who have embraced themselves as a superhero.”

The rapper, designer and father to four children with wife Kim Kardashian had multiple conversations with the publication in which he detailed his current ventures in both fashion and architecture. Overall, he pointed out that the creative projects have also been outlets for his mental health, which began to suffer just as he was breaking ground with the West family’s home.

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“I was working with Axel Vervoordt on revitalising [the West family home in Hidden Hills] that started as a McMansion and is now an iconic home that informs a lot of other people's homes,” West explained. “We begged Axel to redo the space. This is before I went to the hospital. I felt like I might go crazy, and we felt like having this wabi-sabi space might help deter that.”

Kanye West talks being a "functioning alcoholic" and his Clark Kent persona. (Photo: Getty Images)

West went on to say that his longtime collaborator, Vanessa Beecroft, told Axel, “You must do this to save Kanye's life.” And although West did end up being hospitalised in 2016 for stress and exhaustion, his work with the interior designer would inform the way that he now approaches his mental health.

“I'm trying out a different cure than medication,” West said. “Fresh air. Fun. Inspiration. Space.”

This also coincides with the pivot in music that West now creates, explaining that at the end of the Saint Pablo Tour just before the hospitalisation, the rapper said, “The show’s over.”

“I was thinking of not rapping again, because I rapped for the devil so long that I didn't even know how to rap for God,” he explained. “One day I was in my office working on the couture collection, and there was some Grey Goose in the fridge and I was just going to get a daytime drink, and I looked and thought, ‘Devil, you're not going to beat me today.’ That one statement is like a tattoo. I haven't had a drink since I realised I needed to take it day by day, but I never owned up, or was even told, ‘Hey, you're a functioning alcoholic.’ People have called me a crazy person, people have called me everything — but not a functioning alcoholic. And I would be drinking orange juice and Grey Goose in the morning.”

Kim Kardashian, left, and rapper Kanye West watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

West acknowledged that he’s never publicly been called an alcoholic, although he believes that award shows “partially led me to alcoholism.” Just prior to cutting off Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for “Best Female Video” during the 2009 VMA’s, West had walked the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessy in his hand.

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“I really grabbed the drink to be able to even go to the awards show due to the information that everyone knows now. To say, ‘Okay, I can handle this,’” West said — agreeing that the alcohol helped him to be Clark Kent.