Thank you for squeezing in a coffee at Virgin Hotels. Do you thrive on being on the road or are you more of a homebody?
I like both. I think after a certain period of time, if you are on the road long enough you can sometimes get a bit tired of living out of a suitcase, but I think it’s fun. I had no idea that Chicago had such a huge theater community. It’s probably just my ignorance, but I think it’s great.
Your “Dancing with the Stars” partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, is here in Chicago with you to practice while you’re in town performing in “For the Record: Dear John Hughes”. “DWTS” is not a joke!
It’s a lot. It’s a lot of hard work, and it’s a whole different way of moving your body and carrying yourself. I noticed within the first two days of rehearsal that my posture changed, and even how I walked into a room and carried myself has shifted a little bit.
Is rehearsal harder than you expected?
My back and lats are so sore. It’s definitely hard. I think I had a totally different conception of what dancing was. I thought it was all very free and throwing your body around. I realized it’s a lot more about the stillness and having the strength.
How has “For The Record: Dear John Hughes” made you grow as a performer?
I would say that when I started these shows, my stage presence and comfort [level] being on stage definitely wasn’t where it is now. I don’t think I would have done “Dancing with the Stars” had I not been doing the “For The Record” shows. Being on stage and being in a live theater, it just gives you such a different kind of tool that you have to exercise. It’s such a different side of your brain that you’re not necessarily used to using.
People might not realize you were raised in Hailey, Idaho and went to Interlochen Center for the Arts in Northern Michigan your freshman year of high school. How was your time in the Midwest?
Three of our “For The Record: Dear John Hughes” cast members went [to Interlochen] as well … I was 14, so going away to a boarding school was such a huge shift. I feel like I’d appreciate it so much more now than I did then, but what an incredible school. It was really intense. Going to a school when you’re 14 and 15 and seeing students your own age that are so unbelievably talented and dedicated and playing and practicing dance, voice, visual arts and theater 12 hours a day is really mind blowing.
Why did you stay for only a year?
I stayed the first year and then I left halfway through my sophomore year just because my parents had moved to L.A., and I wanted to be with them. I just don’t think I was necessarily ready. It was a very hard school. I wish that I had stuck it out.
What’s been the biggest bump along the road and how did you overcome it?
Oh, man! I think one of the most important lessons I’ve really learned in the past year is that you really can’t determine your self-worth and the value that you have for yourself by what other people think. If you’re constantly letting your opinion of yourself go up and down and waver depending on what other people think, then you’re never going to be happy. There are going to be people that don’t like you and people that do. I noticed that someone on my Instagram the other day made some sort of negative comment, and I just deleted it and said, “Look, I’m not asking for you to not have your opinion, but I just don’t want that sort of negativity around me.” I’m just trying to live positively and trying to share that with other people.
When did you come to this realization?
It’s been a long process. I think that when you grow up the way that I have and your whole life is under a microscope, you don’t really have the leisure to make mistakes or get a bad haircut. People are going to document and have an opinion if you bleach your hair and it’s orange or you cut off your bangs and look like a mess. I’ve had my fair share of bad haircuts and crazy fashion moments, but you just have to be yourself and hopefully at the end of the day people will respect you.
How would you describe your journey through show business?
Ongoing. I’m still figuring out what I want to do, and I don’t want to settle myself in one place. I don’t want to say, “I’m an actor, I’m a singer or I’m this,” because I think the beauty of being a creative person is having the ability to try out different things.
Who is the most creative person you look up to?
I’m so inspired by my family and my sisters. Both of my sisters are so incredibly creative and different. My little sister [Tallulah] is incredible. She is so creative with her self-expression. She just shaved her head and she’s so silly and so smart. She is amazing with fashion, but she also draws really well. My sister Scout is an incredible singer and amazing songwriter. She’s a beautiful poet. They’re just such funny, creative people.
You can sing, act and dance. What do you want your legacy to be?
I don’t know [exactly what] creatively, but if I could do anything, I would love to be a role model to show it’s okay if you don’t fit inside the lines. You might not be what everyone wants you to be or your look might not fit your personality, and that’s okay. Val was telling me the other day, “If someone just looks at you they think you’re this badass punk-rocker-chick and then I talk to you and you’re the sweetest person ever. I’m trying to figure out how this goes together!” People are so quick to judge. They are so quick to make an opinion on someone.
I was just going to ask, when was the last time someone was really quick to judge?
Every day. You know when you have those days when you look in the mirror and you just feel great? That is always a nice moment, especially as a girl. I put a picture on Instagram and within hours there was an article about how I must have gotten plastic surgery done. God forbid I take a good photo or people think I look beautiful!
Is it hard to not let that ruin your day?
Oh, for sure. It took me years. You just can’t let it. I had a very long awkward phase where I was really trying to figure out my style, even how to fit in my body, how to dress myself and do my hair. I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and people had a lot of judgment. I used to read every comment and every article that came out. I don’t think that people realize how much of an effect that can have on you. One thing someone says to you years ago can turn into this thing that you’re constantly thinking about.
Who has helped you navigate living in the public eye?
I think a lot of it is just through trial and error. There isn’t a manual that comes out for when you have famous parents, or even when you don’t, that teaches you how to deal with things. You just have to figure it out as you’re going along. Look, don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in terms of trying to figure out how to react to certain things and not letting it get to me, but I’ve just really gotten to a place [where it doesn’t matter].
When you have a night off, what are you doing?
I’m usually at home with my dogs watching “Scandal” or something of that nature.
How many dogs do you have?
I have five.
Is that legal?
I don’t think so. [Laughs] I have two chiweenies that are new puppies. I got them out of a crazy story and then I have a German shepherd mix and two Chihuahuas.
Can we hear the crazy story?
My mom’s dog passed away this past year, unfortunately. It was right before her birthday, and she was devastated. I thought, “I’m going to get her another dog.” I found this little black chiweeni and her name was Delilah. She stayed with me for a week, and I totally fell in love and it was over. I found these other rescue dogs and said, “Alright, well maybe I’ll bring [my mom] options and maybe she won’t pick Delilah.” The [breeder] was only supposed to bring one dog over, but she ended up bringing over a sister and a brother and my mom decided to keep both of them. A friend of ours was looking at another litter mate of the two that my mom got, and one had a perfectly split face. He looked like a Catahoula dog— you know, the ones that are kind of spotted like the ones from “Mad Max”? I don’t have any boy dogs, so I couldn’t give him up. He’s amazing. So, I have Jack and Delilah and then there was another one. So my mom has three new puppies, and I have two new ones.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
I would love to have a drink with Etta James. That would be amazing. I would just want to talk to her about everything and be that horrible person that is like, “Can you please just sing to me while we’re sitting here?”
SEE MORE OF THE ACTION AT VIRGIN HOTELS ON “THE VIRGIN VOICE”
KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH
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