Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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10/8/10: Cassius Marcellus Cornelius Clay ’13

Kanye West has a new BFF: tall, thin, young, blond. No, not Taylor Swift: think taller, younger, and much, much preppier. Bow tie–wearing Andover grad Cassius Marcellus Cornelius Clay ’13—he’s a descendant of the nineteenth-century Yalie abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay—is taking a leave of absence from Yale College to work as stylist to the irrepressible hip-hop star. Word is that West spotted the 6-foot-5-inch, 19-year-old Clay shopping at Barney’s in New York last summer, admired Clay’s shoes (slippers embossed with gold crests), and struck up a friendship that has become a professional relationship.

After appearing on Saturday Night Live last week, West named Clay in a Twitter thank-you to his “art and style team.” That mention seems to have fueled the once-and-future sophomore’s elevation from the subject of Ivy League fascination to 15 minutes of international celebrity: a New York Post profile got picked up in outlets from USA Today to the UK’s Telegraph.

People who know Clay say that, for such a showstopping personality, he likes to keep a low profile. He declined the Post’s interview request. But that doesn’t mean he has nothing to say on the subject of pop culture and why it matters.

“The ivory tower of academia is a comfortable place to barricade oneself against the creep of barbarism and the Billboard Hot 100,” Clay wrote this year in a Yale Daily News paean to Lady Gaga. But “straddling the liminal balance between fiction and authenticity, Gaga has forged a fantasy of everything bizarre and beautiful, and our fascination with her manifests a desperate need to pretend.”

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