YOU HAVE WORKED WITH UNICEF AND OFTEN COMMENTED PUBLICLY ABOUT YOUR SUPPORT OF THE UNIVERSAL EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WORK WITH UNICEF AND WHAT MOMENTS HAVE YOU BEEN PARTICULARLY PROUD OF IN RELATION TO YOUR WORK WITH THEM?
I believe with my whole heart that it truly is the most important thing that I can do. At a young age, my mother instilled in me and my sister a duty to give back; what more important way than to educate one girl, in one corner of the world, who has been wrongfully denied what should be an inalienable right to an education? This year, for the International Day of the Woman, I partnered with UNICEF- together, we launched a campaign to fundraise for the education of young girls and their mothers. This summer, I had the privilege of travelling to Brazil with UNICEF where we were forever changed by the life saving work that they have done and continue to do. Most recently, for the Day Of The Girl, I partnered with UNICEF to write an Op Ed urging congress for the support of the Keep Girls In School (KGIS) Act, whose aim is to ensure all girls have access to a quality education. There is no stronger force than that of an educated woman. Therefore, it is our duty to fight for them.
WHO ARE YOUR PERSONAL FEMALE ROLE MODELS?
I have always been in awe of women like Cher, and Barbara Streisand who were actors and musicians- performers in every sense of the word. I have followed their careers with deep admiration my whole life, they have paved the way and opened the doors for women like myself to follow that same dream. I feel immensely grateful that I have been able to have a career in both film and music, and I can’t wait for what the future holds. However, my first and foremost role model is my mother. She is the epitome of selfless love and unmatched strength. A businesswoman, a mother, a leader, a force. I have the privilege of working by her side in this career and not a moment goes by that I am not completely in awe of her. I long to one day be even just a third of the woman that she is.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WANTED TO PURSUE A CREATIVE CAREER AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
I close my eyes and think back to when I was a little girl and I can honestly say - with a smile on my face - that I do not remember a moment in my life when I didn’t know with my whole heart that this is what I had to do, for the rest of my life.
Performing is not something that I do, it is who I am. It runs through my blood. I could never deny it...My mom tells me that I was dancing before I was walking, and singing before I was talking, and performing any moment that I possibly could. I am one of the lucky ones...I had a family that saw in their little girl a performer and a dreamer, and they decided to let her fly. I am forever grateful.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY IN TERMS OF SINGING AND ACTING?
My mom and I are kindred souls, and the moment she recognised in her daughter a deep love of music, she began to share her love of music with me. Classic and iconic records from Elvis Presley, to The Beatles, to The Police, to Cher, echoed in our house. But, one of the first songs she ever played for me was “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from Evita . I remember it vividly. We have a video of me at about three years of age, singing and performing the song in our living room. I was completely immersed and transported. It’s one of my favorite memories.
WHAT MOMENTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE AND WHY?
I look back and cannot help but feel overwhelmingly grateful for the few but magical years I’ve had in this career. Truly. The moments that hold the most special place in my heart, are the moments where I’ve had the blessing of being able to use my music, or my voice, or my films to mean something to just one girl in one corner of the world. I believe it is my greatest duty and responsibility. My work with UNICEF has been a significant part of that… Also, another memorable “pinch me” moments was when I performed at Coachella. That was something out of a dream.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER?
It was a difficult and frustrating reality when I first started making music in this business that most of the songs sent to me were derogatory towards women. So, I said “no” (a scary word)...Then, I encountered the same issue in the roles I was sent to audition for. So, I found the strength to say “no”, to any song, film, or role that painted women in any detrimental or negative light. And waited. I am forever grateful I did. Today, I am creating the music that is true to my heart, telling the stories that I want to tell, and playing roles that represent women for who we are- beautiful, complex, layered, unstoppable.
TO CONTINUE MY WORK WITH UNICEF AND DO MORE TO EDUCATE YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS AROUND THE WORLD WHO ARE UNFAIRLY DENIED THEIR RIGHT TO AN EDUCATION.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN ATTEMPTING TO BUILD A CAREER IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
It’s a tremendously exciting time to be a woman in this industry. We are at the forefront of history making movements. I would say to never be afraid to use your voice, it is all that way have- never allow anyone to silence you. Stand for what you believe in, in your music in your films. And no matter how many doors close, know that the one that is meant for you will open- with perseverance and strength and a little bit of pixie dust.
YOU HAVE WORKED LARGELY WITH THE DISNEY NETWORK AND HAVE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED A FILM WITH NETFLIX. WILL FANS SEE A CONTINUATION IN TERMS OF STYLE OR GENRE TO YOUR PREVIOUS WORK, OR WILL IT SHOW A DIFFERENT SIDE TO YOUR CREATIVITY?
I am thrilled to be working with Netflix and I truly can’t wait for the world to see this film...I worked with an incredible director (a female, of course) Elissa Down, who worked so closely with me to bring April (my character in the film) to life...April is complex, and layered, and grounded, and funny- in a way I hadn’t explored before. She is a balance of drama and comedy, because life is exactly that: there is no darkness without light. I loved every single moment of being April.
YOU HAVE A GREAT LEGACY AT DISNEY. IS YOUR NEW FILM WITH NETFLIX THE START OF A NEW CHAPTER IN YOUR CAREER BRANCHING AWAY FROM THE PRE-TEEN AND TEEN MARKET?
The fans I’ve had for the last few years are growing up as I delve into different projects in film and music, and as I continue to grow as an artist (which is incredibly exciting). We’re in this together. They first met me in the Fairytale world that was the Descendants franchise, and fell in love with Evie; then, they saw me dive into the dark, dramatic, and mysterious world that is Pretty Little Liars and met Ava, a complex and conflicted young woman who also introduced me to a new audience; and now, together, we’re entering the world that is Netflix.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG TERM AMBITIONS OVER THE NEXT DECADE?
To continue to grow as an artist in film, tv and music and have the privilege of doing what I love every single day. To continue my work with UNICEF and do more to educate young women and girls around the world who are unfairly denied their right to an education.
ARE THERE ANY FILM AND TV GENRES YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK IN WHICH YOU HAVEN’T YET WORKED IN?
There are few things more rewarding than stepping into the mind and heart of a new character and telling their story. I’d love to continue telling the stories of deep, complex female characters, something like Angelina in Girl Interrupted or Charlize Theron in Monster has always fascinated me. (I’ve also been in love with Moulin Rouge and Baz Luhrman’s work since I was a little girl and would love to work with him...)
OUTSIDE OF YOUR CAREER AND YOUR WORK WITH UNICEF, WHAT ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT?
My family. My family is my everything. My sister is my best and my better half and our relationship means the whole universe to me. Sofia Carson stars in the new Netflix film Feel The Beat.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Frederic Monceau
FASHION DIRECTOR: Ameni Shafik
MAKE UP and HAIR by Elisa Rampi
SET ASSISTANT: Benjamin Wyler