PHOTOGRAPHY VANESSA GRANDA @ohmynessa @thecanvasagency
INTERVIEW SAMUEL RYDBACKEN @samuelrydbacken
STYLING RACHEL GILMAN @rachelgilman_ @alteredagency using only personal wardrobe pieces, vintage and sustainable designers
HAIR CHIKA NISHIYAMA @chika_nishiyama @87artists
MAKEUP TIFFANY LEIGH PATTON @tiffanyleighpatton
STYLING ASSISTANT JOHNATHAN DUNHAM @johnathandunham
Hi Milly! Congratulations on putting out the video for your latest song Following Laika, alongside your co-collaborator and best friend Spencer Arjang. How did that song and video come about?
I wrote Following Laika back in the fall and we recorded it shortly after. There was a lot of re-recording and finessing every tiny detail because I was very adament that the overall feeling of the song had to be the strongest thing about it. I very much wanted to create the sort of soundscape where you could transport yourself into the point of view of the song. The video came about in a very random way I had made friends with a videographer named Mark Bloodworth and we thought it would be cool to do something together. The video for following Laika is really cool and was a lot of fun to make and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
In the chorus you sing ”I’m following Laika it seems,” in reference to the famous first dog sent into space. What does that metaphor mean to you?
For me, the song is about the feeling when you’ve helped people but ultimately are left behind. I wrote the song after I was broken up with and I was feeling like I always have helped people but often times I just end up alone. It’s that kind of feeling, where you are at the end of things and just floating with no way out.
Together with Spencer you form the band AFTERxCLASS. What would you say are some of your musical points of reference behind your work?
I would say my musical points of reference are definitely the music in Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Those were the songs that got me inspired to start learning the ukulele and eventually starting to write music. Also Cavetown is a huge inspiration to me musically I just love everything that he does.
Do you also draw inspiration from non-musical things in your life? What’s your process of translating life into melody?
When I write music it’s basically like writing a diary entry. Often times it’s at three in the morning when I wake up with a start and have something I need to get down. Usually it’s a feeling or a vibe. Everything that I write in music it’s just my thoughts and feelings about my real life that I’m trying to understand and deal with.
Creating art with your best friend must feel very natural. Are there difficulties alongside the obvious benefits?
It’s really fun creating art with a friend. I don’t know if I’ve particularly had any difficulties with it. I think in the beginning it was a lot harder to speak my thoughts as much just because I was insecure and didn’t want to overstep but now I’ve really gotten into the groove of it and it’s a lot more fun collaborating with someone else because they can help you bring ideas to life more fully than you could’ve on your own.
What is something you and Spencer have learned from each other?
I would say Spencer has taught me to have a lot more faith in myself. Spencer’s been a really great friend to me throughout my life and he’s always there for support and a helping hand. And I don’t know what he’s learned from me but I’m really happy that I get to do something that I love with my best friend.
You started working at a young age. Tell us about the experience of growing up in the spotlight (or broadway stage light)?
I always wanted to do things in the arts ever since I was very young and I was in a position where I had the opportunity to do those things which I’m really lucky for. I would say it’s given me a different outlook on myself. I am aware of what I’m capable of which is really great but it also makes things harder. The standard that I have set for myself of what success looks like is a lot higher because of the success I achieved at a young age. It’s hard to always live up to that. It tends to make you feel like you’re not successful unless you’re at that level again but I am definitely trying to appreciate the things I do a lot more as I get older. Something that has helped me with that is imagining the numbers. If 100 people listen to a song I wrote that doesn’t sound like a lot but when you imagine 100 people in the room you’re in and it feels a lot more real.
Did working as an actress from such an early age shape your view of beauty in ways that you’re aware?
I would say being an actress at a young age definitely shaped how I view beauty. As an actor, you’re told that you have to look a certain way to be successful and get jobs. And I hid a lot of myself away to fit the look that is supposedly “better”. But as I started to get into other things like music and social media I started to look at it differently. I am an artist and an actress but before that, I am myself and have to look whichever way makes me the happiest. I think beauty is definitely an opinion-based thing and ever since thinking this, it’s a lot easier to see beauty everywhere.
Having talked about your music work relationships, you’ve also collaborated with the stylist for the accompanying images here – Rachel Gilman – on a series of editorials. What has that visual partnership been like, and how does it differ from your experiences in music and acting?
I first worked with Rachel Gilman a few years ago and I love the way that Rachel styles people. We’ve kind of become really close over the years and I really love the way that we’ve been working together. Rachel has helped me a lot with figuring out my own style and I love Rachel and everything we do together looks super cool. it’s very much about like shapes and identity more so than looking pretty or normal which is something that I always really love. I would say that in the work that I do with Rachel she knows me and it’s very much like my personality is coming out in these pictures because of the styling.
On social media you get a lot of admiration for your make up. What is your relationship to that attention? Do you find it uplifting?
I would say there are definitely people that like how I do my makeup. It’s always interesting because a lot of the time on social media I don’t really post what I look like without makeup which is something I’m trying to do more now because makeup is just like an accessory: it’s not necessary but like it can be a lot of fun. It’s cool to me that people like my makeup because it is an art form and I have a lot of fun doing it.
How do you relate make-up to self-expression? Is there a correlation between how you feel and want to express yourself and the way you use make-up?
I think makeup is a great way to express yourself. I started wearing make-up when I was 13 because I had really bad acne and make-up was a way to cover myself and hide my insecurities. But as I started to get older I started following a lot of people on social media who have really wild makeup looks. This inspired me to start making myself look like how I look in my head and having fun with the colors and the shapes that you can make with makeup. I used to not go outside at all without make-up on but for some reason doing more alternative things with make-up helped me like my own face better and now I only wear make-up when I wanna have fun with it.
Is there someone special that you look up to in the beauty world?
I don’t know if there’s someone per se that I look up to specifically. It kind of changes almost every day but a lot of my friends are what I look up to more so than anything. Seeing real people looking how they want and being happy with it even if it’s against the standard – that has been so inspiring to me.
You guest judged on Dragula, the reality tv competition focused on finding the next drag supermonster. How did that come about and what was the experience like?
The way that whole thing came about was very random. I saw a drag show with my mom and tweeted about it. The Boulet Brothers saw the tweet and invited me to guest judge on the show. I was very excited because I’ve always loved drag as an art form and Dragula really sees drag as an art that anyone can do. It was such a fun experience for me and getting to meet all different kinds of people that have an appreciation for the same thing that I do was an amazing experience.
You are also somewhat vocal on social media about your journey finding work and other opportunities in acting now that you’ve grown older. What pushes you to be open in that way?
I wanted to talk about my experience with acting because everyone’s experience is different. As someone that chooses to dress alternatively and looks different in general, it’s a lot more difficult to find rolls. It’s not really a good thing or a bad thing it just kind of is. Because film especially is such an aesthetic-based medium, what an actor looks like it’s always gonna be a factor. I wanted to tell people what it was like for me because a lot of people just don’t understand what it’s like to be in it. There are always in-between stages in acting where it’s harder to find roles. Some people have said to me that I should just look normal if I wanna find work but there is no normal look and ultimately you have to do what’s gonna make you happy in your everyday life.
Coming back to your latest song, Following Laika. If in the future, humanity has to leave this planet because of the way we’ve treated the environment. Would you want to be on that ship?
That’s honestly a hard question to answer I feel like maybe I would want to. It would be cool to see a different world and be in space but part of me feels like I would wanna go down with the ship aka. Earth.
And lastly, what is one thing that you would bring with you to space?
I would probably bring my ukulele. It’s how I write music and how I deal with my life and I feel like I couldn’t survive in space without it.