Jared Leto’s hair is an atmospheric shade of pink. Not bubble gum or Pepto, but the washed-out color you expect to see softening the horizon line between sand and sky just as Joshua Tree is starting to wake up. Photographers and hikers set early alarms to catch those quick-burn pastels, floating above the park’s alien terrain. So it was unusual to come upon that pink earlier this week, during a video call from the actor’s New York hotel room. Afternoon city light filtered in from a nearby window, but on Leto’s head—a rakish desert souvenir.
“The desert’s really interesting because from afar it’s certainly vast, and it can seem bleak and oppressive,” the actor says. “But when you look closely, it’s full of life.” Leto is sketching out his connection to Twentynine Palms, which acts as the gateway city to Joshua Tree and also supplies the name for Leto’s new lifestyle brand. (Between sentences, he’s casually snacking on what seems to be trail mix, minus the trail.) “I’ve been going there to climb and explore and spend time in that beautiful place for decades now,” he says, explaining that his home in the nearby Mojave Desert overlooks mountains he can reach in a 12-minute drive. “That’s the reason I live there, so I can be close to nature.”
Leto, with his full beard, shoulder-length hair, and lineless beatific presence, has earned his share of Biblical allusions. For the 2019 Met Gala, he arrived in a rhinestone-festooned Gucci robe, carrying a facsimile of his own head, like a fancy-dress Holofernes. The following March, nearly a week into the global shutdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, Leto took to Instagram with an Old Testament–style revelation: After a 12-day silent meditation in the desert, he had returned to civilization only to discover a world thrown into turmoil. “Mind-blowing—to say the least,” he wrote in the post, unleashing a viral episode of his own.
The moment arrived as a dose of comic relief. “It was the perfect time to learn how to meditate,” the actor quips, looking back on the retreat’s lasting takeaways. “I was prepared for some solitude, that is for sure.” It also cemented Leto’s place in that desert landscape, laying a long-game foundation for Twentynine Palms, whose initial 12-piece lineup includes skin care and shower essentials, along with a limited-edition scarf by artist Douglas Mandry. After all, Joshua Tree and Leto obliquely share certain qualities. Both are associated with extremes of experience, with the actor shedding some 40 pounds for his Oscar-winning turn as an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club.Both carry a sense of mystical power, according to fans (known as “the Echelon”) of Leto’s band, 30 Seconds to Mars. And in 1994, when Joshua Tree earned its official designation as a national park, the actor, blue-eyed and elusive, was also solidifying his pop-culture stature as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life.
Now, with Twentynine Palms (debuting October 25, following a launch event this week at New York’s Dover Street Market), Leto is ready for a new kind of closeup: as in, the screen inches from his face, giving me a microscopic look at his pores. That’s how the 50-year-old responds—in outré jest—when asked about the maintenance strategies at play for his admittedly lustrous skin and hair. “My life is constantly in flux. I wouldn’t be able to have a routine if I wanted one,” he cops. After all, he is in the final stages of mixing the next 30 Seconds to Mars album; a Karl Lagerfeld biopic, with Leto set to star and produce, is in the early stages of development. There’s a sprawling investment portfolio too, which some pointed out, by way of similarity, when he played Adam Neumann in WeCrashed.