January 31, 2024
Fashion & Beauty
“I’ve got this big hair, but just because it’s tangled up doesn’t mean that I am,”quips Natasha Lyonne. The actor, writer, director, and producer’s musings are a stream of consciousness, but she’s right – her mind isn’t stifled with heresy or homogenous thought, but a beautiful chaos of deep pondering and unfiltered honesty. She’s someone who took a decade off acting, only to make a comeback and reach household name status in her 30s. At 44, Natasha’s unfettered takes on everything from late-stage capitalism to Artificial Intelligence highlight her distinctness, and for a moment she lets us in on her untangled yet intricate mind.
Rodarte dress, Hue socks, Charles & Keith shoes, Hanut Singh rings
Natasha Lyonne is incredulous that I don’t start my day with The New York Times’ Spelling Bee or end it with Wordle. When we get on the phone, she’s already done the Spelling Bee and has also been swimming in her pool. For her, the newspaper’s games are bookends, and she jokingly asks how I possibly know my day has begun or ended without them. I laugh and say we’re a bit out of touch in New Zealand, where I live, and this is all the information she needs for her insatiable curiosity to come out and play: “Do you believe in nature?” she asks, followed by “I should come out there and you should heal me”. She then queries who the equivalent of Larry David is in my country.
Before we teeter too heavily into Natasha’s conversationalist abilities, I pivot back to the interview. I ask for her thoughts on the SAG-AFTRA strikes that are taking place as we speak, and I quickly learn she doesn’t give anything less than an intricate answer.
In her raspy New York accent, she shimmies from dissecting late-stage capitalism to dunking into the very real threat of Artificial Intelligence. “I think people should get fair wages across all fields, and it’s insane that’s even a question up for debate,” she tells me. “It’s extra dumb to watch capitalism destroy creativity for so many people who are in the prime of their creative output. It’s a real crime to take that from society. Capitalism is an all-consuming soul sickness, and it feels so obvious and easy not to cause suffering and allow people to live and benefit from their work.”
I barely have time to respond to her points, before we’re already 13 minutes into the interview and I’m wedged deeply into Natasha’s mind-mapping. She says no part of her has any interest in being a follwer and accepting the status quo: “On a larger scale, we’re seeing a handful of billionaires controlling all the wealth in the world and a move towards oligarchs, while everyone else is supposed to be happy peasants at their mercy with no free will. The potential of AI is just around the corner and moving so much quicker than any of us can process.” She’s alluding to the strikes and the homogenous, capitalist drive of the big entertainment studios here, but also examining the world and her part in it as a whole. “We’re in a very disturbing collision of moments, and speaking as someone who is very artistically minded and a punk by nature and a New Yorker to the core, if you tell me, ‘the sheep are walking this way’, my automatic instinct is to walk in the opposite direction.”
Marc Jacobs bodysuit, Stine Goya sunglasses, Tag Heuer watch, Natasha’s own watch & bracelet worn throughout, Katherine Bentley rings
Patou jacket & shorts, Andrea Wazen shoes, Stine Goya sunglasses, Hanut Singh rings
As a multi-hyphenate artist, she says the devaluing of artistic work breaks her heart. “I deeply believe in being the change and letting that be in every aspect of what you do, through your aesthetics and through your work. I don’t see writing, directing, producing, acting, and what I’m wearing and who my friends are and the music I’m listening to and how I’m structuring my business deals as very different at all. They’re all part of my body of work.”
Natasha’s social media presence gives us a snippet into her world. She frequently shares references to old Hollywood movies, shout-outs of support for her best friends in the business – who include the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Amy Poehler, Melanie Lynskey, and Maya Rudolph – and a sprinkling of dedication to her fashion moments from both today and the 90s. I ask whether social media gives her another avenue to express herself, and she’s initially nonchalant. “Well, I don’t know if I care too much about social media, but it is a fact of our existence,” she says.
Then, in true Natasha fashion, she delves deeper. She heeds world-renowned tech genius Jaron Lanier’s warnings about the skyrocketing threat of AI, and is hyper-aware of social media’s fakeness. “I personally have always treated it [social media] as a surrealist exercise and a platform for non-sequeters as opposed to literalism. I think it can get pretty tenuous when it gets heavily sincere and literal, and when it becomes copycat behaviour as to the issue of the day, but nobody’s done the actual deep reading required. I’m always very wary of anything that’s groupthink.”
In her signature wit, she adds; “Thanks to the strike, instead of being a writer, director, producer, and actor, I’m now an Instagram model. So that’s an unexpected twist in my life that I can’t say was ever a great passion. I thought I left that behind when I left Ford Models at the age of seven, but I guess we’re back in the business. I’m not quite sure that was the overarching achievement I was hoping to be at in middle age, but hey, I’ll take it. It’s definitely helping my sex life.”
Loewe dress & shoes, Lanvin sunglasses
Prada jacket, jumper, skirt & shoes, Acne Studios sunglasses
As much as Natasha supports the protests, it’s also clear that not being able to work right now has her grasping for air. Show business is her everything. “If I was on a deserted island, I’d set up a bunch of coconuts and direct a play for them that I would write, and I’d help them with their voices and set up shots for how the coconuts are going to move through space and what angle they’re going to be looked at.” You get the point.
In the 90s, though, Natasha Lyonne was dubbed an ‘it girl’ for her regular appearances at fashion shows, usually alongside her longtime friend Chloë Sevigny. She’s still a front row regular, so I ask what fashion means to her. Her answer is pragmatic. “It’s been a part of my life for so long that I don’t really see it as any different to going to see a band play. Chloë, who’s like my sister, or as she says, ‘wife for life’, and I would roll into a situation and it happened to be a fashion thing and previously we’d been at another thing.”
Friendship, rather than fashion, has always been her drive in the fashion world. “With Chloë, it was more like I wanted to hang out with her because she’s my best friend, and that’s where my best friend was.” Her friends are integral to her success. “My friends are one big circle that feels infinite and that I draw strength from.”
“There’s no question that this business has so much corrosive energy floating around and is in so many ways superficial and full of shit and disgusting, but simultaneously – life has this weird thing where it can hold multiple truths – it’s also endlessly inspiring, supportive, and keeps you whole.”
Rodarte dress, Hanut Singh rings