NAZANIN SHAHNAVAZ

UO Interviews : Sasha Lane

Discovered on Panama Beach as a 19-year-old college student, Sasha Lane’s debut in American Honey was one of the most compelling and powerful performances of last year. Here we sit down with the actress to find out more about her strength, style, and what life has been like since finding fame. 

Sasha Lane 
Photography RJ Shaughnessy

Sasha Lane’s debut in AmericanHoney is one of the most compelling and powerful performances of 2016. Thefilm follows the adventures of a runway teen named Star, who escapes a troubledhome to join a travelling crew of salespeople as they embark on an epic roadtrip across America. Propelled by sex, hard-partying and hip-hop, the filmtells a tale of young love and recklessness uncovering the darkness beneath thesurface of contemporary life.

As soon as Sasha steps onto screen, her raw talent andwild energy instantly captivates. Plucked from obscurity and catapulted intofame, the untrained actress was discovered on Panama Beach in Florida duringspring break. The film’s director Andrea Arnold had just lost her lead andspotted Sasha celebrating with her friends, then a 19-year-old Texas StateUniversity Psychology and Social Work major trying to find path. Mesmerisedby Sasha’s individuality and free spirit, Andrea knew in that moment she hadfound her girl. Much like the character of Star, Sasha was looking to escapethe monotony of her world and Andrea offered not only excitement but also a newlife; much like what Star found when she climbed into that van her life istotally transformed.

After receiving critical acclaim, American Honey won the Cannes Film Festival's Jury Prize andset Sasha on a trajectory that blossomed from strength to strength. She hassince travelled the world, graced magazine covers and is now muse to some ofthe biggest fashion houses – with everyone celebrating her uniqueness andoriginality. Currently on the cusp of making two new all-female-films, Sasha has not only broken down barriers and defied expectations as abreakthrough female actress, she has become a role model to many in theprocess. She focuses on the responsibility and privilege that comes with her newlife and strives to illuminate the possibility of hope for everyone. Whilst on set for her Urban Outfitters x VANSshoot, we sat down with Sasha to find out more about her strength, style andwhat life has been like since finding fame.

Sasha Lane 
Photography RJ Shaughnessy

What were your life plans before you began acting? 
I was trying to figure it out. I was studying psychology and social work, I knew I wanted to do something with that but wasn’t sure what that would be exactly. I just had this end goal, where I lived in a house on some little island and I would make enough to help everyone out, pay my bills and be good. Then in my free time I would play music all day and sell flowers and that was kind of all I had. I dreamt about building a little safe haven, where life would be simple, beautiful and peaceful. 

That sounds idyllic, how has life turned out?
My life is so intense now – everything has kind of flipped – accept for when I’m on my own I still do the same things, I’ll sit at my window to chill and read. It’s just all the outside stuff that’s changed, I travel a lot, I never thought I’d travel! I also have a lot of hope now.  

What are you working on at the moment? 
The production on my movies hasn’t started yet, so I’m focusing on poetry right now. I’ve just been working on my mind and writing. It feels really awesome. I love writers like Charles Bukowski, he’s so raw with his work. I write through through feeling, my ideas come from my head or I’m inspired by people on the streets or even ants – random things like that. 

Sasha Lane 
Photography RJ Shaughnessy

What are you working on at the moment? 
The production on my movies hasn’t started yet, so I’m focusing on poetry right now. I’ve just been working on my mind and writing. It feels really awesome. I love writers like Charles Bukowski, he’s so raw with his work. I write through through feeling, my ideas come from my head or I’m inspired by people on the streets or even ants – random things like that.

What are the emotions you are exploring? 
It’s more of a conversational type of thing, it’s wide and relatable. I mean, it’s from me so you either get it or you don’t. I often feel or speak through colors and as the thoughts come, it’s spontaneous, I’ve noticed that’s how it flows better – instead of sitting down and being like this is what I’m going to write about – I just let it come and watch the world and try to translate that. 

Sasha Lane 
Photography RJ Shaughnessy

The VANS campaign is about “strength in style” — what does that mean for you? 
I think what you wear – at least for me – deciphers how I’m feeling that day. I’m such a mood person, if there’s a day that I wear really big and comfy clothes, I’m using that as a blanket, something that keeps me tucked away. I love color and I wear things like bows to make me happy or I paint my nails a certain way as a way of expressing myself and I see that as strength. If you dress how you want to dress that will make you feel good, there’s something really strong in putting your own style together. It’s who you are and that’s individual and unique. 

How does it feel to be celebrated for your individuality? 
All I ever wanted was to be understood or attempted to be understood for just being me, and I always had a feeling if I stuck to it then good things were going to happen. So to see that it is happening for real is great! To be celebrated for my individuality, who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want to be uplifted by just being them? It’s a blessing, especially because in the past it wasn’t always a positive thing. 

Had that not always been the case growing up? Did you felt like an outsider? 
Yeah, it’s so funny, now when I take pictures, everyone’s always like, ‘your hair, your tattoos, your style, the way you move’ and those are all things that people were critical of when I was growing up. People would say, ‘‘you shouldn’t have that many tattoos, you shouldn’t have your hair like that, you should dress more like a girl, you should dress this to look professional, this is how you should walk and stand and move’. Which is ridiculous! So now I get to be exactly as I am and seen as somebody who is special and beautiful and cool and that’s awesome. 

Sasha Lane 
Photography RJ Shaughnessy

Do you think young girls are looking up to you as a role model? 
I think so, it’s really nice to hear when girls say that they are inspired by me or they think I’m beautiful and we look the same – we get to see ourselves in one another. Me and my friend Kiersey Clemons – who is another actress and is also biracial – we can look at each other and be like, ‘Wow. It’s so nice to see someone like you making it.’ You don’t have to be an actress to make it, but just be doing things for your life and doing things for yourself. And you know, I try to go about everything in a very genuine and raw way and I think people are really digging that and gravitating towards that and finding some type of empowerment and that’s really neat and is what makes a lot of it worth it. 

What has given you strength as you’ve grown up and become who you are now?
My mind, I think, because it’s such a thing to battle and to deal with and working on that myself has really helped me a lot. My friends and the people that I have kept in my life, their encouragement and support is very inspiring to me as well. Mostly though, I like the simple things in life, like seeing someone smile or nature, like little birds gathering or squirrels playing or catching the sun and feeling it on your face. Nature is so magical and I feed off of that. 

As a role model, why do you think it’s important to pass on your empowerment? 
The world can be such a dark and cold place. There needs to be more love and individuality, we need to have people come together – but as themselves. That’s a very strong notion and that’s what gives the world hope, it’s what gives me hope. You need hope to move forward and we need to keep moving forward in a more expansive way, find the beauty in everything.

Sasha Lane by Nazanin Shahnavaz for Urban Outfitter x VANS.