PREDICT A RIOT
Rebellious (and down-toearth) star, Sasha Lane.
PERHAPS IT’S BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD happened to her, and not the other way around, that 22-year-old Sasha Lane doesn’t seem preoccupied with clamouring to please it. “I’m pretty good at sticking to my guns,” she says. “I don’t care how much money they’re offering, or how big the role, or how cool the party is. I just don’t take shit from people. I’ve been asked, ‘Will you switch your hair?’ Fuck, no. What for?” she says, pointing emphatically at her dreadlocks.
The star of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, a film that won the 2016 Cannes Jury Prize, was a 19-year-old psychology student with no acting experience when she was spotted by the director on a Florida beach during spring break. A month later, she had the lead role opposite Shia Labeouf in the gritty film about runaway kids selling magazines – it opened to widespread critical acclaim for Lane’s visceral, compelling performance.
Just three years ago, Lane was uncertain about the future. Now, she’s one of the most sought-after young actresses out there, with a string of upcoming releases, including the indie Hearts Beat
Loud and blockbuster Hellboy, due out next year. She’s also the face of numerous fashion campaigns, with an A-list pack of best friends that includes Chloë Grace Moretz and Riley Keough. In short, you could say that Sasha Lane is living the Hollywood dream.
But she’s careful about the work she takes on. Lane reads roles with a bullshit detector, knowing that in the age of #Oscarssowhite, projects may need her more than she needs them. “There are a handful I get [offered] that I know are specifically for a white person; the whole family dynamic is geared towards a white person,” she says. “I don’t have those experiences. My mother is Maori, from New Zealand, and my father is black. I grew up with a lot of black people. You thought [offering me this role] was diverse, so you can say you have someone of colour in your film, but I’m light-skinned enough that it doesn’t throw white people off,” she says. “As much as I’m glad to represent people, don’t use me as your token.”
Lane is dressed in a relaxed, low-key style that reflects the neighbourhood but has a pinch of kook: wide-leg black sweatpants, a teal thrift-store windbreaker, unicorn socks and a pair of Nikes. Most of her friends are on the eastside of town, and that’s partly why she chose to live there when she moved to the city post-american Honey.
One of those friends is fellow actor Riley Keough, who solidified their close friendship by inviting her to the Dior Couture presentation in Paris when filming for American Honey wrapped up in the summer of 2015. “We refused to separate, so I went and sat on her lap and watched the show.” It was the Texas native’s first time leaving the country. “I remember we went to this cocktail thing. I was wearing heels and was like, ‘This is fucking ridiculous.’ I took them off and smoked a cigarette on the couch; a lady walked by and said, ‘I wish I could do that right now.’ I realised these people have to be stuffy and ‘on’. Then Riley and I went to a dinner and ran around stealing bread from everyone. So that was my first Fashion Week experience,” she says.
Lane is small in stature, with long dreadlocks, tattoos and a graceful, ballerina-like slouchiness. Her doe eyes and pursed upper lip register in person as beautifully as they do on-screen, and her face moves like clay. She has a calming effect, saying
people tend to relax around her, whether in fashion settings or conference rooms. “They take one look at me, let out a sigh of relief and chill out,” she says in a sweet American twang. “They drop any [forced] demeanour.”
The fashion industry has welcomed her fearless attitude with open arms. She’s been the face of Louis Vuitton, part of Coach’s “Class of 2018”, and a front-row guest and loyal supporter of Fendi. She’s graced the covers of Wonderland, Dazed and Teen
Vogue, and was a guest at the Met Gala. “It’s kind of cool that the girl with the locs and tattoos can wear this [clothing] and still feel comfortable. People can think, ‘Oh, she looks like me, which means I can wear that stuff, too; that I can be beautiful.’ We don’t all have to look the same.” It’s clear that Lane’s commitment to being genuine, in terms of personality and appearance, is what makes her so attractive to the fashion world.
Her acute self-awareness dates back to childhood, a period in Lane’s life that lingers with her. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and she spent her formative years regularly moving around Texas. From a young age, she knew money was tight. Lane admits she saw so much of herself in Star, her character in American Honey, that filming took a mental toll. “I kind of lost it. I couldn’t tell the difference between myself and Star. Every emotion I had in that movie was drawn from my own personal experience. I have gone through sexual abuse, I’ve had crazy, passionate relationships and I’ve been the kid who people didn’t believe in.”
Lane’s father, with whom she has a close relationship, walked out of the movie. “He never told me why. I think he’d just seen enough to be like, ‘I’m proud of you, but I don’t want to see any more.’ I think the sex scenes — going through the sadness – was just too much for him to handle.”
People probably feel relaxed around Lane because of how candid she is about taboo subjects. A quick scroll of her Instagram reveals how honest and vulnerable she is willing to be in comparison to her peers, from her commentary on the “fakeness” of the industry, to her personal life. She talks openly about her struggles with mental illness: “I have bipolar disorder, and the more intense my life gets, the more intense my head gets,” she says. “It’s hard to act like you’re not hearing voices when you’re trying to say your lines. I want people to know that just because I have designer bags and I’ve travelled the world, I’m still having a breakdown every other fucking day.”
To take care of herself, Lane paints; a hobby she took up while in Bulgaria shooting the upcoming comic-book reboot Hellboy. She says writing, music and weed also help. But her greatest comfort is Sergio, her older brother and flatmate. Together, they’ve created a familial cocoon in the foreign territory of Los Angeles. “I’m not an activity person, so I try to be as chill as possible,” she says, describing her and her brother’s daily routine, which mostly involves hanging out at home, dancing to reggae in the living room and rolling in a circle of musicians and creatives. Terrified of what roles would follow the success of American
Honey, Lane’s upcoming choices reflect her interest in directors who “will do a full, raw version of a story”. She arrived at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with the cast of Hearts Beat Loud, in which she played the love interest of Kiersey Clemons’ character in the story of a father/daughter songwriting duo. She also starred alongside Chloë Grace Moretz in Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation Of Cameron Post as a teen at a Christian gay conversion camp in the ‘90s – the film won top prize at the Festival back in January this year. As someone who has been romantically linked to men and women, Lane felt the heft of the movie. “We filmed it during the inauguration [of Donald Trump], so it felt like we were actually making something that mattered.”
Next year, Lane takes a career jump as the Neil Marshall-directed Hellboy is released – her first big-budget blockbuster – in which she plays Alice Monaghan, an ass-kicking do-gooder who develops magical powers after being kidnapped. Her performance is likely to catapult her to another level of notoriety entirely. Of course, none of this hype seems to phase her too much. She maintains: “I’m just fucking winging it, man.”