I met Alexi Lubomirski several years ago during my days in print media through mutual publishing circles. I always had a tremendous respect for his photography, his grace under pressure, and his old world charm. Flash forward 15 years, and add 2 sons (Sole Luka, and Leone). Since my departure from print, I’ve been lucky to remain in touch since he married a fellow Cuban lioness, Giada Lubomirski. Together, the couple “walk the walk” upholding environmentalism, philanthropy, and family values — thus the inspiration for his most personal work to date, a heartfelt book of letters to his sons.
Here is the backstory. Alexi Lubomirski is truly named HSH Prince Alexi Lubomirski, a noble title of aristocratic bloodline. The first child in his own family in 500 years not to grow up around royal surroundings, his mother sat him down at a young age and explained what matters most in life — that he was a Prince inside. Living this advice whole-heartedly, Alexi grew up embracing the wealth of the mind while seeking the richness of the soul. His life’s work, his career choices, and the strength of his family unit are testament to this philosophy. It’s no wonder that Alexi has now developed a profound urge to pass the metaphorical torch down to his own children.
“How should they carry this banner?” Alexi writes in his forward. “There are no lands to conquer, no borders to protect, and no treasures to manage. Their wealth lies in their actions, and their legacy will be the manner in which they choose to live their lives”. And so began the journal of personal notes that evolved into a book. Each proverb reveals a little folk wisdom wrapped in elegant graphics, ranging from leadership to romance to chivalry: all truisms on how to raise your own little king. Did I mention that 100% of proceeds go towards a charity dedicated to ending poverty? Altogether, it’s a project with heart and soul contained within the pages of a book that is difficult to put down. It’s a must-read for any young man.
I visited Alexi in his home in New York to ask a few questions about his childhood and his passions… and along the way, we had an afternoon playing with the two striking sons who started it all…
Jauretsi: The notion of royalty is very real in your family, although over the years it has evolved into an abstract term with the loss of properties and land due to communism and world wars. How was own your legacy explained to you as a child in terms of moving forward, and honoring your family’s name in this new world.
Alexi Lubomirski: My parents divorced when I was one years old, so my real father, was only able to teach me about our family’s history when I went to see him. Also I moved to Botswana with my mother and step father when I was six, so was even further removed from that world, which in some way, I consider a blessing. Having such distance from that side of my life, I believe gave me the space needed to return full circle and embrace my history with a fresh understanding. When I turned eleven, in Botswana, I found out about my title and was subsequently told that there were no lands, palaces or property. So when I asked my mother what it meant to have that title, she said that if I was to carry it forward, I would have to act as I believe a prince would act and be a prince in my heart.
J: What was the impetus for writing these little notes to yourself and your sons.. that “a-ha” moment when you knew you wanted to encapsulate all these feelings. Also, how did the loose ideas consolidate into a book project eventually?
A.L.: There were 2 profound moments. Firstly, I wanted to do something momentous for my eldest son’s (Sole Luka) first birthday. I wanted to give him a gift that would last forever, rather than another teddy bear or engraved cup. Being a father for the first time also made me understand my own father and his desire for me to understand my history and to be proud of it whilst carrying it for the next generation. I also wanted to adapt what my father had taught me and make it more about looking forward with hope and spirituality rather than having a focus on what we may have had a few generations before.
Secondly, my step father, John Mainwaring, who had raised me since I was one, was suddenly given 3 weeks to live. He had been the biggest blessing in my life, being an incredible father figure and also giving me great stability and grounding. Those last 3 weeks taught me so much about how I wanted to live my life and what was truly important. He explained to me that the knowledge of his impending death made him realize with great clarity, what actually mattered in his life. He felt so blessed that he had spent as much time with his children as possible, and had been able to share in love and laughter throughout his life, as well as the importance of being a “good” person. I immediately realized the gravity of this lesson and wanted to write something for my son in case anything happened to me.
Once I started writing it, it came out in 3 very intense days, as if I had flipped the lid off and they all streamed out. Things that I had learnt along the way came out, be it vocabulary lessons from my uncle, romance lessons from my mother, chivalry lessons from my father or spiritual lessons from my wife. They all came out at once and the final edit is pretty much the order that it came out of my head!
I asked an illustrator friend, Carlos Aponte, if he would do a few drawings for my sons book and after he read the first 5 pages, he rang me and said, “Alexi, you have to publish this…. This needs to be read by young men.” A few years later and after a lot of persuading from Carlos and my wife, Giada, I went through with it! Carlos ended up doing the “jewel like” illustrations on each page of the final draft.
J: Despite all the lost land, art, and treasures displaced over the years, are there any old sentimental objects that remain in your deep history to be passed onto your sons or are you creating new “pass-me-downs” moving forward in your family tree. What is the importance of ritual and objects within this new framework?
A.L.: One thing that my family’s history taught me is that physical property is fleeting. I saw the generation before me have to deal with the fact they would never be able to reconnect with what the family had or did for the previous 500 years. So I wanted to start afresh, where no physical attachments would ever hold such importance. I wanted my “pass-me-downs” to be more of a loving, spiritual and educational nature rather than physical.
During the last days with my stepfather, I spoke to him about what was life’s purpose if society’s idea of the accumulation of wealth and objects was so obviously futile. We come into this life as a soul or a spirit and we leave in the same manner. So what do we do in between to “evolve” or “enrich” that soul, as no matter how many houses or cars you have, it makes no difference at your last breathe. We agreed that to evolve the soul we have to enrich it spiritually, with LOVE being the greatest ingredient. Life’s purpose should simply be 3 things.
1. To Love.
2. To survive and provide for your family.
3. To help others.
That should be our ritual to pass on to the next generation. I feel strangely blessed that I was not left anything material from my family. I inherited their beliefs and values without having the burden of managing an estate built by generations before.
J: Your words in the book seem filled with an overwhelming affection for your children. Can you put into words how you changed as a human being after birthing children?
A.L.: Wow. It is difficult to describe without sounding dramatic! It is all consuming. It is humbling. It is inspiring. The love you feel for the child is crippling and empowering at the same time. You realize that you want to be the best version of yourself for that child. The child represents innocence and therefore you want your actions to maintain their innocence for as long as possible. They are also here to teach us and everyday I see how I have to be a better person through them, whether it is about being more patient, more zen, more positive, etc etc.
In the same way that my stepfather’s passing made him realize what had been important in his life, so to, did the birth of my sons in making me realize what was important right now. Seeing his first breathe as he was born was like a sledgehammer of love and awe to the chest and it never really goes away.
I wrote a poem to my sons which I put at the beginning of the book, which describes just a fraction of this emotion.
J: Now that you have released this book into the ether, what other projects can we expect to see from you next?
A.L.: At the end of this month I am fortunate enough to have my first Photography book, DECADE, by DAMIANI coming out, which contains a selection of my celebrity portraiture and fashion photography from my first ten years as a photographer.
Another project that I am working on, is inspired by my wife and has a working title of SIREN. It was born from seeing my wife pregnant and being in constant awe at her transforming beauty, also seeing what her role of “woman” was and how it evolved.
I started to see “Woman” as a mythical creature that is all at once, sexual, powerful, passionate and mysterious. At the same time having the power to love, cradle and nurture new life. So the project is a celebration of the complex being, that is “Woman”.
J: Tell me about the charity that all proceeds will go to, and why you selected them.
A.L.: Over the last few years I started to consolidate my charity donations to six main charities, but of all of them, CONCERN was the one that was everywhere, all the time. They implement emergency response programs, saving countless lives, and provide opportunities for a better standard of living for millions of people; as well as working constantly in the countries ranked in the bottom 40 of the United Nations’ Human Development Report. They were also the first charity that I ever gave to, so it felt right to attach it to the book.
Written by Jauretsi