Could you imagine being 13 years old and getting nominated for an Oscar? Actress Hailee Steinfeld doesn’t have to. After her tour-de-force performance in 2010’s True Grit, the California native was embraced by Hollywood greatest in a way that has since been unprecedented. Instant fame followed and so did a few famous friends such as Taylor Swift—who insisted Steinfeld, be cast in her all-star “Bad Blood” video. Now, at 19, its clear as day that Steinfeld wants to be known as more than a mere Swift squad-ette in the music scene as her recently released EP, Haiz, proves. It includes the hit, “Love Myself,” a song that’s been able to crack the Billboard charts, as well as a duet with Joe Jonas’ DNCE group, on her latest single, “Rock Bottom”. During a recent trip to Toronto, Steinfeld—who will be performing at the IHEARTMUSIC Much Music Video Awards this year—opened up on proving herself as singer, actress, fashion lover and music fan.
What was the biggest shock to the system going from making movies to making music?
It’s so fast paced in music. With movies, it can take years. You get into pre-production and then you shoot the film and you hope that people see afterwards—if it even gets distributed! I’m also realizing the struggle of trying to make a relationship with anyone work when I’m on the road. It’s so crazy, you always feeling like you are filling people in. In term of being committed to someone, that seems so difficult but I believe you can do anything if you work hard at it.
When you perform a song like “Rock Bottom,” whom exactly are you thinking about?
So many people! The song came into my life when I was in a situation that so perfectly articulates. The song captures the complication and the roller coaster [feeling] you have when you are going through a relationship that’s complicated. I’ve had people come up to me and talk about how similar their situation was to mine. I love that it’s been able to get them through something that they are dealing with.
What advice would you give to someone who is living through a “Rock Bottom” moment?
Remember who you are when you are in a relationship. You were someone before someone came along and you fell in love with them. That person that you were—before you fell in love—should exist. That’s where “Love Myself” comes in nicely. Hang on to that person that you know that you are…nobody who comes into your life.
“Love Myself” became an anthem for so many people. What kinds of reactions have you been moved by since releasing it?
I remember getting a lot of feedback from young women around the world, saying thank you for this song. I’ve heard things like ‘hearing this reminded me that I only really need myself to achieve what I want.’ I got a message over social media about someone who told me they were a few months sober and the song was helping them. The fact that it affected them in a personal and serious way made me realize this is something special. It makes me think about how incredible music and art—in its truest form—can be.
Another song off your EP—”Hells No and Headphones”— has the line about being the “new kid” on the music scene. Has the attitude worn off or do you still feel like a newbie?
No. I’m so new to this. It feels like its taken forever to get to this place but it hasn’t even started.
What gets the most shuffle time on your iPhone?
Justin Bieber and The Weeknd’s new albums. Also, Rihanna’s Anti—sonically her album takes so many unexpected turns and “Close to You”—my favorite song off Anti—brought that all together for me.
Beyoncé once said that every time she steps on stage, she’s proving someone wrong. Do you feel the same way?
There are so many people who don’t want you to succeed. Now that I have the opportunity to do that—and do what I love—I’m showing those people who told me I can’t do it, that I am doing it. I feel like I can count on two hands the number of performances I’ve done live. I’ve gotten a few under my belt over the past couple of months but I’ve done close to nothing compared to her.
What do you do before you step on stage to calm your nerves?
I’m still getting into the pre-zone, pre-game thing before performing. If I’m with my dancers, I do a warm up so it feels like what we do with an audience is just a continuation of the warm up. It helps. It releases pressure and expectation.
Your next film is called Edge of Seventeen, where you play a socially uncomfortable teen named Nadine. How are you most—and least—like your character?
Luckily I’m passed the edge of seventeen, I’m nearing the edge of twenty—which might be more terrifying. I’m very much like my character in that she goes through so many quintessential high school experiences where you are awkwardly standing alone at a party or trying to make conversation with a person who is totally not sober and you are… those situations that are common. The film has this classic, John Hughes-y vibe to it that I love.
If you had to go on a world tour and had an unlimited budged, who would you get to design your stage costumes and why?
I’m a huge admirer of Givenchy. That would be pretty amazing. I haven’t listened to Lemonade, but I have seen pictures from the tour and I’m loving the custom Gucci business, which I think is stunning.
Gucci’s latest collections for men and women seem designed in a genderless way. Do you think it’s a sign of the times?
I live in men’s clothing so I love women’s lines are inspired by menswear and vice versa. I don’t see why it’s ever been an issue. You look at people like David Bowie and Prince and there was never a question about how great they were because they wore what they wanted and didn’t care about rules. They are such icons for so many reasons but the way they expressed themselves through so many different outlets—including fashion—was one of those reasons.
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