London Talent Portfolio II
London Talent Portfolio II
Jaclyn Bethany: Hey, Lyza! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Lyza: I grew up in Somerset and now live in West London.
JB: What was your childhood like, and how were you first introduced to music? What albums and artists inspired you as a child?
L: My parents introduced me to a lot of great music. At home we played everything from Woody Guthrie to The Chemical Brothers to Janis Joplin. And that's not to say I wasn't a massive Britney Spears fan; I used to take my renditions of “Born to Make You Happy” very seriously!
JB: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
L: I always worried about what I would do when I grew up. I knew I wanted to be involved in music, but it took me a long time to figure out in which direction I wanted to go. It wasn't until I'd been a backing singer for a minute and was introduced to Tricky's Maxinquaye by a friend that I began to find my feet.
JB: How would you describe your writing process?
L: Every song's different, but a lot of the time, I start by making a beat first and then leave it looping while I mumble words and melodies into the mic. When it starts to develop, I'll look at the lyrics and figure out what it is I want to say. I don't like it when the track's already fully formed and you're confined to a strict verse/hook/middle eight type structure.
JB: What’s the music scene like in London right now? Do you feel particularly empowered or inspired?
L: I’m excited—it's a great time to be experimental. People are bored of hearing the same shit, so now, more than ever, they’re open to discovering something new. We're at a time where you don't necessarily need a label to succeed, and I think this has given many female artists the opportunity to take control…. I have been lucky enough that the guys I surround myself with in the music industry have never belittled or patronized my work because of my gender.
JB: Is there a song that changed your life?
L: Can I have two? “Overcome” by Tricky and “To Be a Lover” by George Faith and Lee “Scratch” Perry.
JB: What performer would you drop everything to see?
L: Cypress Hill.
JB: Who are the London-based musicians currently inspiring you?
L: There are loads! Dream Wife and FKA Twigs have given me hope this year.
Lyza wears dress by Vilshenko.
Ella Hope Merryweather, Model
I was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and I currently live in West London. My childhood was amazing…. My family isn't too big. There's my parents, my older brother, Toby, and my younger sister, Phoebe (who is also featured in Constellation). My happiest childhood memory is swimming with dolphins and when my mom used to take me to diving lessons. Every time it was my turn in the class to dive off the board, I'd end up belly flopping and I'd be so proud purely because I survived, and all I'd hear when I came up from the water was this woman laughing and clapping at full volume—of course it was my mum.
I was scouted at Boardmasters Surf & Music Festival just as I was jumping out of a mosh pit. I thought it was a joke to be honest.
Shooting the December 2016 Tatler cover felt like a milestone in my career. When I saw the magazine in my local newsagent’s, I almost cried…. Shooting it was amazing. I turned up to the studio to find David Bowie blaring out [of the speakers], disco balls around the room, and a table with models sat around…. I loved working with photographer Ellen Von Unwerth. I have never seen her without a smile on her face. She brought out a confidence in me through her warmth and sense of fun. Shooting with her was an absolute honor, and I'd love to work with her again and again.
The most inspiring thing about the fashion industry today is the way that we are developing on social media and in magazines to campaign about some of the important issues facing society. There's a big push for young girls to learn that they shouldn't identify themselves by a dress size, and there are many models and designers speaking up today about such topics as animal cruelty, global warming, and charities worth supporting.
Because of modeling, I don't have as much time as I’d like for hobbies anymore, although I still try to squeeze in time to enjoy my passions for photography and art. Music’s also a huge part of my life—I enjoy sharing songs and artists. At the moment, I’m really into jazz, indie rock, and soul; I've been listening to artists such as Matt Corby, Anderson Paak, and Loyle Carner.
What I love the most about my body is that it's me. I maintain a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, and this is how my body has turned out…. I struggled for a couple of years while finding my feet as a model, but I feel like that changed when I began to be happy with my own body image. For a girl growing up and struggling with self image, I wouldgive the advice that fashion and trends have changed every decade, year, and month…. The only thing that matters is that you are happy with your own self.
I'm a great believer in the present being a “gift,” so I try to make the most of it. I'm not exactly sure where I will be in 10 years time, but I am lucky enough to be presented with new ideas and options all the time—I'm certainly going to make the most of them! —Ella Hope Merryweather
Ella Hope wears top and skirt by Tibi.
I grew up primarily in Cornwall, England, and now live back in High Wycombe, where I was born. I started modeling through my sister, Ella, who was scouted at 15—she helped me to make some connections. Originally, I’d never wanted to model, but Ella encouraged me and I’m so glad she did.
I love both of the designers I have walked for—Marques ' Almeida and Ryan Lo—not only for their clothes, but for who they are as people: They’re lovely and genuine! Marques ' Almeida’s freedom approach to the fashion industry is admirable: Their clothing has a casual-yet-edgy vibe that’s complementary to all sizes. Ryan Lo’s DIY vibe is awesome, and his use of clashing colors somehow works.
Although I’ve been lucky enough to work with photographers such as Alasdair McLellan, my first shoot was with Piczo. I’ve shot with him numerous times since—it’s always a pleasure…. I also recently worked with Leomie Anderson, who has set up a clothing line/platform called LAPP (or, Leomie Anderson the Project the Purpose), which encourages equality and freedom of speech for 21st-century girls. —Phoebe-élena Merryweather
Phoebe-élena wears a dress by Alessandra Rich.
I grew up all over the place: London first, then Bristol via Nottingham, but I've been based in central London now for seven or so years. The moving around meant I had to get used to being the new girl. I wonder if that's why I enjoyed taking part in the school plays so much. Theater offers its own little community. Growing up, I loved A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett—for her imagination and spirit, Sara was my literary heroine.
I loved university, and going meant that by the time I went to drama school, I knew a bit more about myself and what I wanted…. While training at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, my favorite role was Hermione in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The courtroom scene is genius. The stakes are so incredibly high, yet she maintains complete strength and absolute authority—which at no point diminishes the love she demonstrates toward Leontes. It doesn’t matter what your career choice—education is important because it teaches you how to live in the world.
Upon graduation, I was cast as Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall. It was amazing to work with Peter Kosminsky and a community of such incredible actors…. As for Jane, she was perhaps a bit of an enigma, yes. But I felt it was necessary to follow both Peter and [author] Hilary Mantel's lead in this. We chose to tell a story of a woman who, at first, may have seemed relatively unsophisticated, yet who, in time, demonstrated that she always had the resources and the means to get what she wanted. There were a number of scenes where I would sit in the background with a needle and thread and watch Claire Foy and Mark Rylance spar with one another—I mean, you don't wish for much more in a first job.
Prior to working on the mini-series War and Peace, I didn’t know much about Russian history, but I really enjoyed finding out [the extent to which] French fashion influenced society. All the characters in the novel are so beautifully drawn. It was just a pleasure to work with such rich source material.
My most recent character, Venetia (in Netflix’s The Crown), was inspired by a number of different women that served in Churchill’s offices of government. There are quite a lot of personal accounts of their time with him and their admiration for him that are worth reading. He was evidently such a twinkly character, and it was through reading these accounts that I, too, inherited a total admiration toward him (though, I might add, it's not hard to transfer this admiration to John Lithgow, the loveliest man alive).
Good writing and strong female narratives attract me to a project. I’d like to play Masha in Chekhov’s Three Sisters again; I played her at drama school. Recently, I’ve been really inspired by the stage performances of both Jessica Brown Findlay and Vanessa Kirby in Uncle Vanya (at The Almeida).... and I'd be crazy not to mention Denise Gough in People Places and Things. Extraordinary.
In the year ahead, I am about to start working on a film with James Kent, alongside Keira Knightley. And hopefully I will be able to continue my role on Netflix’s Peaky Blinders. In the next year, I’d also like to get a dog. —Kate Phillips
Credits: Wolf Hall (BBC, 2015), War & Peace (BBC, 2016), Peaky Blinders (Netflix, 2016), The Crown, (Netflix, 2016), My Mother and Other Strangers (BBC, 2016)
Kate wears dress by Vilshenko.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Amy! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Amy Wren: I’m originally from Leicestershire, but I’ve lived in London for eight years now.
JB: Do you have any theatrical dream roles?
AW: This year I saw Billie Piper in Yerma and Ruth Wilson in Hedda Gabler—both amazing performances and dream roles for many women, I’m sure.
JB: You were scouted by Disney Channel at 16. How did that come about?
AW: That actually came about through the National Youth Theatre (which I was a part of). They posted an open casting for Disney and I went along to it. It was a long process and I was extremely lucky that at the time I auditioned, they were looking for someone with very little experience so they could start fresh. I didn't even have a headshot; I took in a photo of me at a party and cut my friend off. I was very new to the business! I got picked up and placed into two shows, one called Inbox and one called Life Bites. That was a very magical time; I never went to drama school, so I felt like that was my training.
JB: Your first feature role was playing Frances in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, based on the novel by Emily Brontë. What was it like to be a part such a gritty, intriguing reimagination of a classic work of literature? Were you familiar with the book before you were cast?
AW: Andrea is just amazing. She knows how to tell a story with such truth and how to portray pain and strength in a way I had never seen before. I was very overwhelmed when I got the part; I had seen her films before and the process was a million miles away from children's TV. It was muddy and dirty and real—it made me realize this is what I love. Being so hands-on was a challenge to start with, as I was nervous, but now it’s one that I search for.
I will admit that I didn't know much about Wuthering Heights before I got the role, but I also think that was good because Andrea’s take on it is so different to the original. She told me not to read the book until after the shoot.
JB: You then continued your work in television and made an appearance in beloved series, Skins.
AW: Yes, I played Jane in the last installment of Skins. The show was groundbreaking when it first came out, and I think it really gave young people a voice. I was never as wild or as cool as the kids in Skins, but I liked that it never sugar-coated anything and brought to light that had perhaps previously been ignored. British television is exciting because it’s allowed to be raw and dirty and rough around the edges.
JB: Your most prolific role so far has been on the series Tutankhamun. I remember reading about this expedition in school. How did this role come about?
AW: Tutankhamun felt like a bit of a fluke. We all had one audition and then we were cast. Normally the process is a lot longer, and this was scary because I didn't know if I could do it and I was scared they would realize that! But I soon found out that everyone felt the same. Playing Lady Evelyn was a dream for me. She is strong in her beliefs, but not afraid to show her vulnerabilities, too. I hope I did her justice.
The whole experience was magical—we filmed for three months in South Africa. We spent two weeks in the desert and the rest was shot in Capetown. It was an experience I will treasure forever.
CREDITS: Wuthering Heights (2011). Skins (2013), Silk (Television, 2012-204), The Last Kingdom (Television, 2015), Tutankhamun (Television, 2016)
Amy wears a dress by Sandra Monsour.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Pippa! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Pippa Bennett-Warner: I’m originally from Buckinghamshire, but I've lived in London for 10 years.
JB: You made your debut at age 11 as one of the original young Nala's in Julie Taymor's 1999 London production of The Lion King. Having started your career at such a young age, what made you decide to pursue your education further at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)?
PBW: I’d always been slightly anti-drama schools, but knew deep down that I should go if I wanted to try and do this properly. When I was leaving school, I was auditioning for RADA in addition to a show at the National Theatre. I got both offers and remember being very clear about wanting to turn down the job and go straight to school. I was told I was mad, so I did the show and went to RADA the following year…. I learnt a lot. It was tough and tiring, but I'm really glad I went.
JB: Do you recall any favorite roles from your years at RADA?
PBW: Liz Essendine in Present Laughter by Noel Coward and Heather in Loyal Women by Gary Mitchell. I definitely wanted to lay my foundations in the theater.
JB: What was it like to perform in Lynn Nottage's play, Ruined, at The Almeida Theatre. Why did you feel this play was important?
PBW: It was wonderful. I was a long time fan of Lynn’s, so to get to work with her, was, for me, such a treat. Her writing is fearless, bold, and strong. She’s so intelligent, and that shines through in her work. Ruined put a real spotlight on the troubles in the Congo, which I think is hugely important. I think sometimes we all forget how lucky we are. First world problems, etc.
JB: This led to another prolific role as Cordelia opposite Derek Jacobi as the title character in King Lear (2011, Directed by Michael Grandage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music).
PBW: We didn't do a read-through on the first day of rehearsals, which meant we were on our feet ploughing into Act 1, Scene 1 straightaway, so I had little time—if any—to feel intimidated. Plus, Michael [Grandage] and Derek [Jacobi] and the whole cast were the warmest, loveliest people.
JB: Why do you believe that Shakespearean works needs to be revived and refreshed for new generations?
PBW: Because [these stories must] keep moving with the times so that they can continue to engage new audiences. King Lear is such an accessible play, I remember doing school performances when the audience consisted of a couple hundred children, and they were with us the whole way.
JB: What attracts you to new writing, and who are some of your favorite playwrights at the moment?
PBW: I love new writing. The last play I did was a period piece, and there’s something quite nice about not wearing a corset and playing someone who's living, who could most definitely be a version of you now. It’s also great to be able to have the writer in the room—it’s a bit of a gift. I think Vivienne Franzmann is phenomenal. I also love Lucy Kirkwood and Moira Buffini.
JB: Are there any directors you’re dying to work with?
PBW: Amma Asante. I saw A United Kingdom a couple of days ago and thought it was sublime.
JB: How are you approaching 2017?
PBW: Gosh, I mean, where do I start? Politically, we are in such a horrid time of uncertainty which I find really scary. First, the deeply embarrassing Brexit and now, the terror that is Trump. I’m really hopeful that 2017 will bring some clarity. I’m approaching the new year cool, calm, and collected.
Pippa wears a dress by Alex Eagle.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Georgina. Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?Georgina Campbell: I am from Maidstone originally; then we moved to Sheffield, then back to Kent, and now I live in London.
JB: What was your childhood like? When did you first discover acting?
GC: I was a creative child. I enjoyed art and putting on shows with my sister—normal stuff that children do, I suppose. I discovered acting when I was at school taking part in plays. I was often the “one-line wonder,” but I remember really enjoying collaborating with other students and creating a performance. I didn't think for one second that my passion for acting would take me as far as it has.
JB: Is there a particular book or character that deeply inspired you as a child?
GC: I guess I'm 100% from the Harry Potter generation. I remember the pure excitement I experienced for those books, queuing up for their release and racing through the actual material within a few days. I don't feel like there's been quite a phenomenon like that since, so I would definitely rate those books highly within my childhood reading experiences.
JB: You started out in television, specifically One Night and Murdered By My Boyfriend, for which you won a Bafta. Why do you think this has been deemed by some critics as “the golden age of television?”
GC: Television has changed dramatically over the last few years. I think the new platform of watching television on laptops has really changed the entire industry. Television shows with the budgets [typically provided to] movies are now being made, and I think a lot of people enjoy that they can watch a story unravel over a long time with the same production values as a film, which is wrapped up within a couple of hours. Basically, you can get utterly spoilt by television.
JB: Tell me about your character in Murdered By My Boyfriend, Ashley, and how you developed her.
GC: Ashley was a character based entirely in reality. She was a young woman who got involved in an abusive relationship that lasted for years until her boyfriend murdered her. The entire program was based on fact; the brilliant writer Regina Moriarty worked with many researchers to create a truthful depiction of Ashley's life. I then researched domestic abuse myself, watched documentaries, read reports, and also drew from my own experiences to bring Ashley to life.
As much as this was a depiction of one woman, it was also a universal story of women who suffer domestic abuse all over the country. I think art imitates life: It is our job to show a true reflection of society. I feel that Murdered By My Boyfriend did exactly that—it was an important story that needed to be told. The response that the program received illustrates that people do want to see these things—they want to see reality and if they do, that is when conversations happen and change occurs.
JB: Can you tell me a little bit about your role in the much anticipated King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Joby Harold)?
GC: I play Kay, who is a prostitute—she runs a brothel with Arthur. She's incredibly smart, savvy, and absolutely fearless. King Arthur grew up in the brothel, so we are the closest thing he has to family.
JB: Is there a particular filmmaker you’d love to work with?
GC: I would give my foot to work with Andrea Arnold; I’m a huge fan of hers. Her films are so organic, beautiful, and truly artistic. I saw American Honey the other day and lost my mind; it was incredible. I'd also love to work with Catherine Hardwicke, Thirteen is another one of my all-time favorite films.
JB: What's next for you in 2017?
GC: I have a couple of exciting projects lined up, so hopefully 2017 will be a new and exhilarating year. I’m excited to be a part of the last season of Broadchurch, which we'll see return to ITV in February, so keep an eye out for that! And of course, there’s the release of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, my first movie role! I just hope to keep working and most importantly, to enjoy the work I'm doing.
Credits: Murdered by My Boyfriend (BAFTA Television Award, Best Leading Actress, 2014), Flowers (Television, 2016), One of Us (Television, 2016), Upcoming: Broadchurch, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword
Georgina wears a dress by Alex Eagle.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Morfydd! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based? And what can you tell me about your name...
Morfydd Clark: I am from just outside Cardiff, Wales, and now I live in South East London.
My name originates from a Welsh Arthurian legend. There are twins born of two worlds. One of them is a boy, Owain, and the other is a girl, Morfydd.
JB: Was there a literary heroine who inspired you growing up?
MC: I remember my dad reading me Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren, and I just fell in love with that character. She was so brave and full of life and lived in a forest full of wild horses and magical creatures. Often when I'm playing a part, I think there is a bit of Ronia in them.
JB: Tell me about your acting training at Drama Centre London. How did it prepare you for your career?
MC: [It] was completely all-consuming. I don't think I really got to know London at all until I'd left, as we spent almost all our time in school. There were 15 people in my year, so it was very intense but also exactly what I needed coming from Cardiff and knowing barely anyone. It was like being thrown into a very tumultuous but loyal family from day one.
JB: What was your first professional job as an actor?
MC: I did National Youth Theatre of Wales and Welsh National Youth Opera, and it was the people running those [organizations] that really gave me the confidence to pursue acting and audition for drama school. My first job was back in Wales doing a play about the character Blodeuwedd, a woman made of flowers who was wild like them. It was on a hillside in North Wales, which was wonderful because that's where my mum grew up, and I thought about her childhood and her running around and riding in the fields a lot while I was up there.
JB: What do you most enjoy about tackling classic theatrical roles (like Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Cecile in Dangerous Liaisons) while also working on new writing, like Violence and Son at Royal Court Theatre?
MC: What I've learnt from doing both Shakespearean, classical roles as well as modern characters in new writing is that people have not changed! Our desires are still the same: to be safe, to be loved, and to be happy. I think the classics are fascinating—they’re the building blocks for where we are now. Gary Owen, who wrote Violence and Son, also wrote Iphigenia in Splott, a retelling of an old story through the life of a Cardiff girl, which I think is a wonderful merging of old and new. When I'm doing a period piece, I always try to find its modern equivalent, both narrative and character-wise. I try to find little parts of people I love in all my characters.
JB: Last year, you appeared in the film Love & Friendship, a new Jane Austen adaptation directed by Whit Stillman. Were you an Austen fan before you signed onto the project?
MC: I love Jane Austen, but my mum’s love for her is on another level. So when I was cast in Love and Friendship, I felt I was giving a little bit back to my mum for all the worry I've caused her! I feel so lucky to be in an Austen [adaptation], especially one directed by Whit as he is such unique filmmaker—the combination of the two for me was a dream.
JB: You most recently appeared as Cordelia in King Lear opposite the legendary Glenda Jackson (who returned to the theater for this production). What was it like to work with her, particularly seeing such a powerful actress tackle one of theater history’s greatest roles, albeit originally written for a man?
MC: Working with Glenda has been an utterly fascinating experience. Every day was like a masterclass. She has so much conviction and imagination, on and off stage. I think I've come into this industry at a time where brave women have paved the way for us now. However, I still think we need to push and strive for diversity in the theater, not only in terms of gender.
JB: On a day off in London, what do you love to do?
MC: I love London because I don't have to plan anything! I often just get a bus somewhere and wander around until I stumble on something interesting. I love food and South East London is full of amazing places to eat. My favorite place, Zeret Kitchen, is on the Walworth Road. It’s an incredible Ethiopian restaurant with the loveliest owners. The Prince Of Wales pub in Elephant and Castle is also a favorite—it reminds me of home.
JB: What's next for you?
MC: I'm filming in Dublin at the moment with Dan Stephens and Christopher Plummer on a film about Charles Dickens.
JB: We can’t wait to see it.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Jenn! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Jenn Murray: I grew up in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. I went to drama school in Dublin and then I moved to London. I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and I love New York, but I am based in London at the moment.
JB: How did you get into acting? Was performing always a part of your childhood?
JM: I loved to play dress-up as a child in my home. I would do impersonations to make my family laugh. I enjoyed drama in school, but I was quite shy, never putting myself forward for school plays. In school acting seemed to be about the loudest people in the room, which I was not. I knew as a teenager that I would love to be an actor. But that was all it was: a sentence, an idea. However, when I was 18 and filling in my UCAS forms I had to ask myself a serious question: Was I really going to try to be an actor, and if so, how? I deferred a place at university to keep my parents at peace and in my gap year, I auditioned for drama schools. With the offer on the table, it was easier to convince my parents that I was serious about acting.
JB: Who are some performers you admired growing up and why?
JM: Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Holly Hunter, Joe Pesci, Goldie Hawn and Daniel Day Lewis. In my house, we regularly watched Sleepless in Seattle, Moonstruck, The Firm, My Cousin Vinny…. watching films was an event in my house. I remember if I was unwell or upset over something at school, I could watch Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and everything would feel better.
JB: You made your feature debut in Dorothy Mills, which went on to receive numerous accolades. What was it like to take on such a challenging, disturbing role?
JM: The day I got the phone call—the moment I got the offer for that role—I still can hear my agent at the time saying, “You got the role of Dorothy.” I was thrilled. And it just kept getting better. The costume fittings, the voice coaching, the set design, the other actors! Playing the scenes! I knew how lucky I was. It was a role in which I could delve deep and find creative fulfillment…. The challenge and the unknown are so exciting. You are vulnerable and exposed; you lean on your scene partners and the director. You have to trust in one another quickly. All these things make you feel brave and free and like you are making progress every day.
I never looked at my director, Agnes Merlet, as a woman. I just saw her as my director—a director who had given me a golden opportunity—and a person from whom I could learn. The fact that she was a woman did not define her mission, her creativity.
JB: You followed up this performance with roles in short films and various television series, which then led to your role in John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s Brooklyn. I loved your character, Dolores. What did you learn about young immigrants during this time? Being from Ireland, did you feel that the film was a bit of a love letter to your home?
JM: Colm Tóibín’s a favorite writer of mine. His novel, Brooklyn, was etched in my heart years before a screenplay came into my email account! This story was so important to me: My grandfather had gone through Ellis Island in 1932, my brother was living in Brooklyn at the time, and I was and am in love with New York! The moment I set foot in New York, I felt at home. I went there for the first time when I was eight and returned for a prolonged period of time when I was 18. For the first time, I felt that my Irish identity was clear, without question marks…. A common thread in each person’s life is saying goodbye, moving, grief, and choices—choices that will define your destiny. It was a privilege to be a part of this story.
JB: What's the best film you've seen recently?
JM: I really enjoyed Arrival. Denis Villeneuve is a director I have admired for many years…. The story was simple yet gripping. The actors carried the urgency and magnitude of what was happening in their faces, and the cinematography was breathtaking. Every actor in the film, whether they led it or had one or two lines, was top class.
JB: What inspires you to act and to continue the pursuit of your dreams?
JM: Acting for me has always felt like a vocation…. When I was growing up, films shaped who I was and what I wanted my future to be. They gave me confidence and conviction, and I still feel that I want to be part of a medium that can do that for myself and others.
Credits: Dorothy Mills (2008), Testament of Youth (2014), Brooklyn (2015), Angel (2015), Love & Friendship (2016), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Jenn wears a dress by Vilshenko.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Immy! Where are you currently based?
Immy Waterhouse: London! But I like to bop around and spend some time in Los Angeles.
JB: What was your childhood like? Growing up with so many sisters, was it clear from a young age that all of you would pursue a career in the arts?
IW: Growing up in a family of six was noisy and slightly chaotic but fun. It’s great to have siblings—I used to dress up the twins and orchestrate nativity plays at home and charge my family for tickets. I don’t know if it was obvious that we would pursue similar vocations, but we all certainly knew we were not going to become doctors or lawyers.
JB: Do you have a favorite place where you’ve traveled beyond London?
IW: The Sahara Desert.
JB: How do you feel as a young woman working in the arts today?
IW: I think it is especially important in these uncertain times for all women to use their voices and to stand up not only for themselves, but for those around the world who are still unable to do so.
It’s no secret that women in the arts are still undervalued. I feel more and more that I’m getting auditions with strong, well-represented female characters, but there’s still a ways to go. I’m now in a place whereby, if I ever do feel uncomfortable on a shoot for whatever reason, I will say it. However a few years ago, I wouldn't have, because I would have been afraid of sounding like a “diva” or worrying that I was being oversensitive. I now recognize the importance of standing up for yourself in order for any change to happen.
JB: What does feminism mean to you?
IW: Feminism to me means men and women working together to create equality through education and standing strong against all issues [whether or not they directly affect men]. There’s a great TED talk by Jackson Katz, an anti-sexism educator, who pinpoints the fundamental problem of sexism and how issues such as domestic violence and rape are pinned as “women’s issues,” so men tend to not feel like it’s their problem. Worth a watch.
JB: How influential is social media to you?
IW: I have a marmite relationship with social media. On one side, I think it’s an amazing tool for people to get condensed information and learn and connect with people from all over the world—it can have wonderful consequences. On the other hand, I can see the effect social media has on young people and their confidence and self-esteem and how it changes values of what’s important. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to a plethora of people that are seemingly more beautiful, successful, and interesting than us, and in doing so, we raise our own anxiety.
JB: What's next for you?
IW: I’ve written a short film that I hope to make in the new year. Aside from that, who knows!
Credits: Nocturnal Animals (2016), Upcoming: The Halcyon (Television Series), The Last Photograph
Immy wears a jumper and trousers by Ganni; Jewelry her own.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Renee! Where did you grow up, and where are you currently based?
Renee Stewart: I was born in London, but grew up in Los Angeles. I’m now based and living in London, where I just graduated from the London Contemporary Dance School in July.
JB: How did you first discover dance, and when did you decide to pursue it as your profession?
RS: My mom was a ballet dancer for 13 years. Seeing photos of her in her pointe shoes when I was younger definitely inspired me. I started dancing when I was about six…. When I was about nine, I started to take my training more seriously and have been dancing ever since. I trained in contemporary dance for three years at University of London. As a dancer your training never ends—you’re constantly learning more about your art form and yourself, which is why I love doing it so much.
JB: Is there a performer you would drop everything to see live?
RS: Sylvie Guillem is a French ballerina who I’ve looked up to her ever since I was young girl starting my training. She danced with the Paris Opera Ballet and then with The Royal Ballet in London. She recently retired from dance in 2015.
JB: What led you from dance into your modeling career? Do you find that these two modes of “performance” inform each other?
RS: My first modeling job was in 2010 for a Pantene commercial in Australia and New Zealand.
They were able to incorporate my dancing into the commercial, which I absolutely loved. Modeling has a lot to do with movement. It’s incredible to see how many editorials and campaigns use dancers now—it’s very exciting. But for me, being in front of the camera and performing on stage are two very different things. I don't think I will ever feel comfortable in front of the camera.
JB: If you ever stopped dancing, what would you do instead?
RS: Ever since I was young, I've wanted to be a National Geographic photographer and travel the world. I take lots of photographs now, anyways, so if I could no longer dance, that would be my choice!
JB: What are your hopes and dreams for 2017?
RS: I’m looking forward to dancing more and to creating more work with fellow dancers and artists! I would also like to start working more behind the camera. ★
Renee wears a dress by Gabriela Hearst.
All interviews and text by Jaclyn Bethany. Photographer: Rosaline Shahnavaz. Stylist: Hannah Sheen Hair: Kim Rance. Makeup: Martina Lattanzi at One Represents using YSL