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UA student encounters Lana Del Rey at Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — If there’s one place Jordan Suttles never expected to see legendary singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, it was at a nail salon in Birmingham.

The 21-year-old Tuscaloosa native is currently working retail in the Magic City for the summer before he returns to the University of Alabama to continue his studies in the fall. When asked why, Suttles admitted he just wanted “a change of scenery.”

Before heading to work Monday afternoon, Suttles decided to stop by Gloss Nail Stars, his friend’s family-run nail salon off Highway 280, to get his eyebrows waxed. After checking in at the front desk, he walked to the back to get his appointment started.

“I saw her sitting [in one of the chairs] and I basically did a double take and I thought, ‘Oh, this must be like a look-alike’ because I knew she just did a concert in Canada,” he said. “But I immediately put my hand over my mouth in utter shock and she just smiled at me, waved and laughed a little.”

Suttles will never forget the first thing he said to one of his favorite musicians of all time.

“The first thing I asked was, ‘What are you doing here?’” he said. “It just was utterly shocking and she told me that she was passing through on her way to see her friends that live in Florence, Alabama.”

A staff member then told Suttles that he would have to wait a couple of minutes for his appointment. Del Ray’s nail technician said he was welcome to sit and chat with them.

“We talked for about 15 to 20 minutes and she genuinely was one of the sweetest people I have ever met [and] just asked me everything about myself,” he said. “Like where I’m from, what I’m studying in school, what my favorite song [of hers] was, my favorite album.”

The small talk conversation took an interesting turn when Suttles asked Del Rey why she rarely performs concerts in the South, with her most recent stops taking place in New Orleans and Nashville in 2019.

“She told me she thought people wouldn’t come if [she] performed in the South and I was like, ‘are you kidding me? You’re Lana Del Rey, you would sell out venues here in like seconds,’” he said, stunned. “Then she said, ‘Well, where should I perform?’ And I couldn’t believe it! I said ‘There’s no way you’re asking me for tour advice’ and she was like, ‘Why not ask someone that’s actually from the South?’”

Suttles then recommended various venues and cities across the South, to which Del Ray once again asked if he truly believed the shows would have a huge turnout.

“I said ‘Lana, you do not understand, there are people here that love you,” he said. “I told her that my friends and I are driving 13 hours for Lollapalooza [next month] just to see her and, I will never forget it, she said ‘Girl, I’m not worth that.’ It was insane.”

After the short interaction, “that felt like an hour” to Suttles, his technician was ready to start his appointment. He asked Del Rey for a selfie and a short video together, to which she agreed under the condition that he would not share it with anyone until about two hours after their encounter for her safety.

His Instagram and TikTok posts featuring Del Rey quickly went viral afterward, amassing thousands of likes and comments from fans and locals who were stunned by the spotting of the singer-songwriter in the Deep South.

The next day after his chance encounter, Suttles was still in disbelief about his one-on-one experience with the queen of “Summertime Sadness” herself — who he’s supported since her “Born to Die” album in 2012.

“It’s so crazy and so surreal to see somebody that you listen to face to face,” he said. “I’ve grown up on Lana Del Rey honestly. This is gonna sound cringy, but her music has followed me throughout my life and it was just insane to see her with my own eyes.”

Suttles shared many highlights from the experience — from her revealing that her outfit was just purchased from T.J. Maxx due to her luggage being lost at the airport to her technician’s hand shaking while doing her nails.

Fans later spotted her in Florence Monday evening, one of which was Suttles’ friend who lives in the area.

“She said ‘Oh my gosh, you met one of my best friends at the nail salon today,’ and Lana remembered my name!” he said. “It’s so surreal that she knows that I exist and it’s just a little tidbit that I thought was the icing on the cake, like, wow, she really does care about her fans.”

In an ironic twist of fate, Del Rey’s most recent album “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd” happens to be one of Suttles’ favorites and one of its tracks contains a verse referencing her Alabama connection:

I took a trip to Spain
Just a notebook in my hand
Then I went to see some friends of mine
Down in Florence, Alabama

“Paris, Texas” (featuring SYML) by Lana Del Rey and Brian Fennell

The meeting was definitely not a “Summer Bummer.”

“It was surreal, that’s the only word I can say,” Suttles said, pausing for a moment before continuing. “I’m still in shock.”



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