Steve Madden Talks ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ & Handling Rejection

Steve Madden is not one to mince words.

The always-candid designer and businessman is on a college tour, and his first stop was the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) at the State University of New York.

Madden sat down today with College Fashionista founder Amy Levin for a conversation, during which he dished on being a “shoe gangsta,” collaborating with rapper Ja Rule for the Maven x Madden shoe collection, his portrayal in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and his short-lived college days.

Read on for what the fashion-footwear mogul had to say.

On his short stint in college:

“I went to the University of Miami, and I only lasted a year. I was too immature to be on my own. I was just wild. I had no discipline. My father called me up on the phone and said, ‘I’m not paying for your schooling anymore,’ and that was that. I’m grateful that he did that because school was not useful for me. I have Attention Deficit [Hyperactivity] Disorder, and I was a terrible student. So, for me, school was going to work in a shoe store.”

On being a “shoe gangsta”:

“I was always into the whole gangsta rap [thing]. That’s not what I wake up and listen to, but I like it. When I was getting started in my career, I listened to [rappers], and those guys were really plugged into the art thing and money thing. They would rap about money, and I would see them throwing money, and I really got that. I really felt that and [understood] where they were going. I’m a shoe gangsta.”

Steve Madden Amy Levin
Steve Madden chats with College Fashionista founder Amy Levin.
CREDIT: Sheena Butler-Young.

On working with Ja Rule:

“I did a great collaboration with him. He wants to be from Long Island and sit by his swimming pool, and I want to be a gangsta. I’ve been trying to do all of this gangsta shit with him, and he’s like, ‘No, I just want to sit by my pool, Steve.’ I love Ja Rule. He is cool — his music really spoke to what I was doing — in its own way.”

On inspiration:

“The best reward is seeing people wear your shoes. I could be in a crowded elevator, and a couple [of] people in there could be wearing my shoes — that’s the best thing.”

On handling rejection:

“Rejection — whether it’s work or romance — is a bad thing, and it hurts, but it does build muscle. I’ve been rejected and I’ve failed many times, but you can’t quit. I know it sounds corny, but that is the sign of character — how you handle failure.”

On being featured in “The Wolf of Wall Street”:

“I thought it was funny. The guy [Jake Hoffman] that played me did not look like me. The director didn’t want to let him meet me because I think he wanted him to be a sort of abstract Steve Madden. But I was really into meeting him — I thought we’d be like Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles!”

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