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Jenna Ortega for adidas
Courtesy of adidas

Jenna Ortega on her fashion faux-pas, sitting frow, and fronting adidas

The actor reflects on her journey to the upper echelons of Paris Fashion Week, Virgil Abloh, and her new gig as the face of adidas

When Jenna Ortega was 18, she wrote a collection of personal essays scattered with motivational aphorisms like “be spontaneous, don’t be afraid to let loose, laugh, and act goofy.” That book, which surfaced towards the end of her stint on the Disney Channel, was an exercise in personal branding that now seems at odds with the actor’s public image. In the two years since publication, Ortega has become a poster girl for the pop-horror genre, starring in blockbuster A24 slashers and The Addams Family spin-offs. She talks less about “being patient with a broken heart” and more about performing autopsies on dead lizards, “freak representation”, and her macabre interest in “disturbing things”. 

Though she is best known for playing a glum and disaffected sociopath, even Ortega’s more venal characters are tempered with wholesomeness. Perhaps that’s why she’s fronting adidas’ first new label in 50 years (adidas Sportswear) where goth-adjacent, black tracksuits are pinned with a “you can change the world girl” badge in Etsy lettering. Even the belt-as-tie styling looks like an innocent, schoolgirl quirk. Every now and then, the fashion industry casts a new protagonist, and Ortega’s appointment as adidas envoy is perhaps the latest instance of her taste-making cachet. Less than two weeks ago, she was placed front row at Saint Laurent’s AW23 menswear show and her red carpet looks have run the gamut of Versace, Gucci, and Valentino.

All this access, however, seems to have complicated Ortega’s relationship with clothing. “It’s funny,” she says. “I could dress better when I was younger, whereas now I feel like I could just stare in my closet forever and overthink everything.” (It probably hasn’t helped that she’s spent a total of four nights in her LA apartment last year.) “I used to go to school in little plastic heels with feather boas and I was really into funky socks and sequined vests. Fashion made me feel like I was my own person.” At award shows she wore tutu skirts and Minnie Mouse t-shirts, Vans and space buns. “You can look back at anything you did when you were younger as embarrassing,” she says. “But good for her! I was feeling myself. I think it’s adorable, I wish I had that same trust in myself to be like her.” 

As the first to wear the new adidas imprint – a fusion of its Performance and Originals offerings – Ortega sees her ambassadorship as some kind of homecoming. “I used to play a lot of soccer and all my uniforms were from adidas. I thought it was so cool. I was known as the adidas girl on set when I was younger because I lived in their stuff. All my money went towards their clothes.” There’s a moment in the campaign which seems to reference all those memories, with Ortega clad in a lilac tracksuit, reading from a telenovela script (her first big break was in Jane The Virgin, after all). “Being on a shoot with them, and getting to see all the new shoes they have coming out, was really, really surreal. I was sending photos to my mum all day in the dressing room like ‘the adidas girl is back’.” 

While designers across the fashion industry are grappling for an Ortega co-sign, it’s her affinity with sportswear that feels most authentic, and she regrets not having worked with Virgil Abloh for that same reason. “In my brain I kind of thought that it might have been a possibility, because we have a lot of mutual friends. So that was really devastating. Everything he did felt current and with the times, and he made beautiful and thoughtful pieces. I can't really compare his work to anyone else's.” Be it a BrainyQuote Disney tween, an avatar of gothdom, or an adidas patron, for Ortega, fashion is an ongoing process of self-realisation. “You gain a sense of self when you have the right outfit on.”