We talk superstition, gemstones, and working through pain with the Hollywood supernova
Welcome to Witch Week, a campaign dedicated to exploring how witchcraft, magick and beauty intersect. Discover photo stories shot featuring real witches in NYC, a modern reimagining of the witch, and one witch’s mission to get a tan, as well as in-depth features exploring herbology, science and alchemy, and male witches. Elsewhere, we’ve created four special covers to celebrate the campaign and our one year anniversary – something wicked this way comes.
24-year-old Alexa Demie is currently one of Hollywood’s most sought after young things thanks to her breakout role as troubled cheerleader Maddy Perez in HBO’s blockbuster hit, Euphoria. The series – too often lazily drawn as the American version of the English series Skins – centres on a group of teenagers experimenting with sexuality, drugs, clothes, and make-up. Before the series had a chance to go viral, the make-up looks caused an Instagram meltdown. Not since Buffy or The OC has primetime television offered up such a visual cosmetic feast. Sky blue eyelids with chainmail applique, rhinestoned eyebrows, thick plum lip liner, and Slush-Puppie blue winged eyeliner are just some of the highlights that are part of Maddy’s ever-changing look throughout the series. It’s a show that reflects and sets the trends of Instagram glam in real-time. Maddy, who’s been raised on beauty pageants as a child has blossomed into a somewhat controversial, C-word dropping, stone-cold bitch of an adolescent. Contrastingly, the Alexa who calls me from her home in LA is chipper and charming. She’s energetic and excited about her forthcoming shoot for Dazed Beauty that sees her transform into a modern sickle-wielding Wednesday Addams witch.
“I was 10 years old, and my mum was doing my make-up,” Alexa reminisces of an early beauty memory. “She blocked my eyebrows out and drew them on in a thin rainbow shape. Powder blue eyeshadow. Red lips. She was working for MAC at the time and she had to practice a 10-minute make-up look and I was the model. A big editorial look for a 10-year-old. She let me walk around the mall with that make-up on all day.” Transformation is something that clearly runs through Alexa’s veins. It would seem that she was destined to take on the role of Maddy, a complicated young woman, both tough and vulnerable, made cult by her experimental beauty looks, the majority of which were dreamt up by Alexa herself. “My mum did a lot of editorial and runway make-up when I was a kid. I grew up with a house full of fashion magazines, beauty magazines, and make-up books. I’ve been collecting references from old films and runway shows since I was tiny,” she tells me. So, when she heard that the creator of Euphoria, Sam Levinson, was very into make-up, she asked to bring her own moodboards and set the tone for Maddy. “He was like, ‘Absolutely yes!’”
The Euphoria look was much mimicked on last season’s catwalks. Most notably, Maddy’s crystal gem eye make-up looks (see Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui). “I brought that photo from Miss Simone (a Nina Simone documentary) to set, the one where she had gems in her brows. I brought a bunch of showgirl looks too and some crystals from home and we just started to play.” Naturally, her fans are curious about how the looks will evolve with season two. “I’m excited to push it and go for maybe some darker colours and experiment more with shapes,” the young actress shares.
When Alexa read for the show, she wasn’t set on one particular character, which she admits is an unconventional approach for any actor, but felt instinctively drawn to the script. “I would have been any of the characters, to be honest,” she pauses, “but I feel very lucky that it ended up being Maddy.” I ask her if she felt she related to Maddy beyond her predisposition to experiment with make-up and fashion. “Some of the choices that Maddy had I would often find myself getting frustrated with her about. You know, she’s a bit more submissive in her relationships. She comes off really strong and confident, but it’s clear that in her relationships she’s very submissive and that’s the complete opposite of me.”
Maddy’s abusive relationship with Nate is a complicated dynamic that plays out painfully throughout the series, and one that unfortunately lots of Alexa’s fanbase identified with. “I think Euphoria is someone’s reality somewhere. I’ve received a lot of messages from young girls and boys saying that they’ve left their relationships after watching how that romance was portrayed,” she muses. For Alexa, on a personal level, other storylines spoke to her too. “Every time I watched Rue (played by Zendaya) fighting with her mum, I would cry. My mum had me at a very young age. There was a lot of fighting growing up.”
Alexa grew up in a tough neighbourhood in a single-parent household run by her mother who was on welfare. Her mother, Rose, immigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles, and the pair are working on a film about her life. “I didn’t have a great male figure in my life so I think I grew up being a bit hard on men. I wasn’t a cheerleader, I was a bit of a loner in high school. I think there came a point in my life where it got really dark and I was really, really sad, but it’s made me stronger.” She certainly emanates a positively infused don’t-fuck-with-me vibe that most self-made people possess. It’s quite infectious. “Now people would see where I grew up and see it completely gentrified,” she laughs, “but it was not cute back then.” I imagine an emptied-out, tree-lined suburb. “No! I’m talking gang member shit going on. I had a friend get shot at the corner of my house. There was a meth house across the street from us. The area always managed to be somehow half-pretty.” Alexa found herself combating violence both on her doorstep and at school – “all the girls wanted to fight me at school, so I had to learn to be tough and defend myself.” She’s clear on hating the violence (“I did not engage with the aggression,” she explains) but appreciative of the thick shell it forced her to grow.
Perfect, I imagine, for a speedy ascent in an unforgiving Hollywood. Toughness, and an ability to thrive despite your given circumstances, is a character trait she clearly admires too. “My mum didn’t have the easiest life growing up, and all of the women in my family are very strong.” Does she think it’s why she was drawn to Euphoria, or her character in Jonah Hill’s Mid 90s (officially her first foray onto the big screen) who has one of the most almost-unwatchable movie scenes in living memory (she seduces a young boy, being only maybe, 14 herself, and describing the role as “incredibly tough”). “I grew up loving Sharon Stone in Casino, Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, and Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” enough said.
It’s clear that from a young age she’s been hustling (she regales me with entrepreneurial stories of her selling paintings for a dollar a pop as a kid, and, remarkably started a line of sunglasses in high school that Nicki Minaj ending up wearing) fuelled by a feeling in her “bones that something big was going to happen” to her. “I do believe in other forces and I do believe in angels and I do believe in signs,” she muses. I tell her she’s going to have to explain the signs part. She takes a deep breath: “OK, for the past few years I’ve had a hawk in my life almost every single day. No matter where I am. I will look up and see three hawks circling in the sky above a busy street. I’m very in tune with the universe and nature. Whatever it is, it helps me, it makes me feel better. It makes me feel connected. I do a lot of sage and Palo Santo. I like to cleanse and clear the air. I pray a lot.”
Higher forces or sheer talent, either way Alexa’s in high demand. In November, Waves – directed by Trey Edward Shults – will have its UK release, a similarly hard-hitting family drama in which Alexa is once again embroiled in a complicated romance. She’s also set to play a small role in Gia Coppola’s movie Mainstream starring Andrew Garfield, and is in the process of establishing her own fashion and accessories brand, but for now she’s “very much focused on making music.” I ask how she possibly finds time for herself. “I’m definitely the type of person that has to go lay in the grass or nature at least once a week or I will lose my mind.” Nature is inbuilt into her future plans too. “Beyond directing which I really want to do (I’m making a film with my mum currently) I would like to have a giant ranch somewhere with horses.”
It’s uncommon to find a 24-year-old who has such a clear life plan mapped out before them, especially one that culminates in a quiet life among the wilderness. I wonder how she keeps a level head, as someone who so recently and meteorically has been thrust into the public arena. “Some days I wake up and think ‘WOW, I’m fucking gorgeous’ and the next day be like, ‘I look disgusting.’” It seems to be the poisoned chalice of being a celebrity now. Where once we idolised silver screen stars, we now look to either buy into their lip kits and O2 Arena tours, or tear them down, ridicule and deride them pulling them back down to earth with a thump. “Those fucking HD red carpet pictures that get every pore on the face,” she makes a mocking sigh. “I have my moments when I spiral a little bit when I see something that I’m like ‘eh’ and just let it go. At the end of the day, it’s just looks... right?” Wiser than her years I ask what advice she might impart to, quite frankly her not-too-distant teenage self. “Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Value your time, value your space, and your energy.”
Despite the full-on glamour Alexa sports on Euphoria she assures me she feels most beautiful with “no make-up on with (her) hair naturally wavy and crazy” and “barefoot in some grass.” I insist that’s quite far away from her public persona but she doesn’t care, “I know I sound like a fucking hippy but that’s when I feel the greatest,” she says, and I think I can hear her smiling.
Director and photography Bunny Kinney, styling Julia Ehrlich, make-up John McKay, hair Lauren Palmer Smith, nails BritneyTOKYO, set designer Heath Mattioli, executive producer Saorla Houston, producer Rhianna Rule, stylist assistant Jess Colman, nails assistant Gen Machi, set assistant Devin Tolentino, on-set producer Nick Scherma, DP Eli Ronen Arenson, gaffer Mohamed Alaali, key grip Craig Schumacher, electrician Valentin Salembier, AC Felipe Larrondo, music Tom Furse, 3D art and VFX Geoffrey Lillemon & Realexis Christofides, grade Oisin O’Driscoll @ The Mill, edit Charlie Reddie @ Stitch, studio Dream Factory Studio. With special thanks to Marta Johansson.