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Amandla Stenberg Has A Feminist Take On ‘Jennifer Lawrence Fatigue’

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Photos by Lily Lawrence and This Robinson/Getty Images.

the co-stars of ‘as you are’ hit park city

The Sundance Acura Lounge is a far cry from the globetrotting press tour Amandla Stenberg was sent on for The Hunger Games, but then again, the 17-year-old activist and artist is hardly the girl we met as young Rue. Stenberg was at Sundance for her newest project, the grungy indie film As You Are, which she stars in alongside Owen Campbell and Charlie Heaton. Together, the three best friends bond over their collective outsider status, and wherever there's suburban ennui and angst, there's bound to be some drama. As You Are centers on a crime in the woods and an ensuing investigation, but it also touches on issues of sexuality, domestic abuse, and other hot-button teen topics. Stenberg and Campbell met with Nylon to discuss their collaborative indie movie effort, as well as Internet feminism and film school.

So, tell me about your movie.
Amandla Stenberg: The movie really explores themes of alienation, especially in suburban environments, and how teenagers kind of find their identities through their friends, and they explore themselves, their sexualities, their interests, and their passions through their friends by spending time with them and going on adventures. So, there's a lot of adventure-having in it, and then of course it does turn a bit darker because of this oppressive environment that it takes place in. The movie explores a lot of themes around sexuality, love and friendship...
Owen Campbell: As well, I think, abuse and violence. 

The filmmaker, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, is really young as well so that must have helped to have a kind of comforting environment where everyone feels safe to talk about things they've gone through.
Amandla: For sure. That's what was really special about the production, is that it was a bunch of young people coming together with a huge passion for filmmaking and a desire to create art, and that's what felt so special for me. 
Owen: It was the first time I've ever worked on a film where pretty much exclusively we were all peers. Some of us had more experience, some less, but we were all around the same age; we were all hungry for the same thing. It felt much more like a family making this project. I've made films I really believe in, but never have I been on a film where [there] was such a closeness between cast and crew and everyone. We lived together, we laughed together, it was wonderful. 
 
I feel like that's the future of filmmaking or any sort of media, right? Finding people you want to make your own art with, the things you want, do the things you want. 
Amandla: Absolutely. Honestly, I feel like a really important part of this production was authenticity, and us trying to make it feel as authentic as possible. So there was a lot of intricate character work that led to us trying to create this really genuine feeling that viewers could connect to.
 
How did you guys go about that?
Amandla: Well, we did a lot of discussing about my character and where she's coming from. So, my character's adopted. In this suburban neighborhood, she's like one of the only black girls, and she has white parents, and so she feels kind of alienated, or at least she feels like a part of her identity, she's grappling with. Miles and I talked a lot about how that component of herself drives her to befriend Jeff and Mark, who are also these outsider skater dudes. We did a lot of discussing around those themes and just understanding why we would become friends, why we would have such a love for each other and why we would want to spend so much time together.
 
On a lighter note, how are you finding your first Sundance?
Amandla: It's pretty bomb. I'm having a fantastic time. I actually haven't been able to see any movies because we've been so busy with press, but that in itself has been really cool and I'm just happy to be around filmmakers and friends and the fact that those two words are kind of synonymous with each other now. 
 
It's a really awesome place to meet everyoneother writers, other people, other women who do what I do...
Amandla: Yeah! Especially women! Especially women. I've met some bomb-ass women who've inspired me to go and make some more shit.
 
I was wondering what kind of pressure you might feel to be constantly politically on point or you know, just under scrutiny?
Amandla: You know, I'm a teenager, so it's inevitable that I'm going to make mistakes, and unfortunately everyone's going to have to realize that. [laughs] And so when I make mistakes, I'm not too hard on myself because everyone does, and I think the most important thing is to recognize when I do make mistakes and to try to understand and try to have a conversation. I feel like conversation is the most important. The most important thing to me is not necessarily making a statement or preaching to anyone. The most important thing to me is trying to start a conversation about certain topics. That's where I'm always coming from. 
 
I watch how we build up women, like Jennifer Lawrence–we build them up and build them up and all of a sudden, we're like, 'Ugh, we're over her. How dare she complain about not being paid enough, whatever, all this stuff.' What is that about? How does that make you feel?
Amandla: Yeah! I mean, that's totally an interesting complex that definitely happens with young actresses in particular, where it's like we hype them up so much that we get sick of them. I remember at one point I was on Tumblr or something, and I wrote, 'You guys are saying my name so much I'm getting sick of seeing my own name!' It's unfortunate. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we're women, and a lot to do with how people value our thoughts, and unfortunately for a lot of young actors and women, our thoughts are only seen as valid when we're popular, in popular culture, which is really stupid… I've accepted that. I know that people are going to not like me sometimes and then like me again, and they'll like me sometimes and then not like me again, and all I have to remember is just to stay true to who I am and to continue talking about things I want to talk about.
 
I think what's so fascinating about the Internet is that it gives anyone a platform, and that can be incredibly toxic, but then you have someone like Janet Hubert, who was on The Fresh Prince, who made a video and was talking about the Smiths, and it was like, wow, she just got on her laptop and decided to talk about stuff.
Amandla: Yeah, and that's what's so wild about the Internet. Which, of course, there are cons to it, but I think there are so many pros that the Internet is really important in that way, in terms of giving people a platform who would not get it in mainstream media, myself included. I feel like if it were not for the Internet, I don't know where I would be at this point, because there aren't enough roles for African-American women; there's not enough platforms for African-American women. The Internet has become a tool for us to claim for ourselves.
 
What else are you guys up to? What have you got planned?
Owen: Amandla's a filmmaker. She also writes and directs film.
Amandla: I'm going to be sharing a little piece that I made called Blue Girls Burn Fast shortly, probably after you publish this article, so look out for it.
 
Is there a plan or are you just going to like, here it is on YouTube! 
Amandla: I'm going to be like, here it is! I just like sharing my art with people, so.
 
Are you interested in going to film school?
Amandla: Yeah, I applied. I’m probably going to NYU's film school. 
 
Tisch. A fine institution. I just saw a movie there that is here at Sundance, How to Tell You're a Douchebag. I think they all went to Tisch.
Amandla: Yeah! I met the producer for that. He was like, 'Yo! I can't wait to be your mentor,' which is so dope. 
Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes www.youtube.com

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Photo by Rich Polk/ Getty

Her hypocrisy would be mind-blowing if it weren't so predictable

It's been just over two years since Tomi Lahren appeared on ABC's The View to assert that, despite her ultra-conservative bona fides, she holds one position more normally associated with the left wing: She's pro-choice. In that talk show appearance, Lahren made clear then that her pro-choice views were consonant with her self-identification as a "constitutionalist," further explaining:

I am someone that's for limited government. So I can't sit here and be a hypocrite and say I'm for limited government but I think the government should decide what women should do with their bodies." I can sit here and say that as a Republican, and I can say, "You know what? I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well."

Back then, we noted the hypocrisy inherent to that position, since Lahren was an ardent supporter of President Trump—who made no secret of his desire to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial benches—and Vice-President Pence, whose anti-abortion views are even more ardent.

Since Lahren's appearance on The View, she has appeared in the anti-abortion film Roe v. WadeRoe v. Wade, which co-starred fellow execrable conservative troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and, um, Joey Lawrence. Though the film has not yet been released, it is alleged to contain "several graphic scenes depicting aborted fetuses," and also the acting styles of Jamie Kennedy, so we're not sure for whom it will really be appropriate.

But while Lahren's role in that film would be enough to make anyone question just how committed she is to her alleged pro-choice stance, the recent news about de facto abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia has incited Lahren to speak out about her views once again.

On Twitter, Lahren opened herself up to "attack[s] by [her] fellow conservatives" and spoke out against the Alabama abortion ban as being "too restrictive." And, indeed, her "fellow conservatives" did quickly attack Lahren for not actually caring about human life, and for having too liberal a position on whether or not a woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape. But then also, as Lahren must have known would happen, other people supported her for... not having one irredeemably monstrous position amongst her arsenal of irredeemably monstrous positions.

But, let's be clear: Tomi Lahren is not—no matter what she tweets—pro-choice, and neither is any supporter of the Republican Party. There is no doubt that there are Republicans who are in favor of safe access to abortion—particularly when it comes to themselves and their family members having said access. But by supporting the Republican Party, they are showing how little it actually matters to them, and showing what it is that they really prioritize over women's safety and freedom: namely, access to guns, bigoted immigration policies, the continued disenfranchisement of voters across the country. I could go on, but there's no need.

Lahren's tweet doesn't reveal in any way that she's an advocate for women's rights, all it reveals is her hypocrisy and that of anyone (Meghan McCain, hi), who would love to have a world created specifically for their needs, and who is willing to sacrifice the rights of the less privileged in order to secure their own. It is despicable and dangerous and incredibly predictable. But, at least, it might give Lahren something to talk about on the red carpet with her fellow anti-abortion movie costars, if that film ever gets more than a straight-to-video release.

If you want to find out how to help women have access to abortion, please visit here for information about donating and volunteering.

Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty also appear

Lil Nas X went all out with the visuals for his hit "Old Town Road," tapping all of his newfound collaborators and friends, like Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty, to star. The movie travels from 1889 Wild Wild West to the modern-day city outskirts, so saddle up and come along for the ride.

As the visuals start, Nas and Cyrus gallop away with a bag of loot, obviously having pulled off a heist. The trio of men on horseback that were in pursuit of them come to a halt, unable to catch up, and Chris Rock—the leader of the group—states, "When you see a Black man on a horse going that fast, you just gotta let him fly." Just as Nas and Cyrus think they're able to relax in stranger's home, it turns out the homeowner isn't so friendly. Nas jumps into a hole to escape, only to end up hundreds of years in the future on the other side.

Forget trying to figure out the logistics of time travel, and just embrace the hilarity of Nas' horse also having wound up there, and in peak racing condition. He impresses the locals not only in the race (with Vince Staples losing money in a bet against him) but with his sweet square dancing skills. Once he and Cyrus (yes, he time traveled too) trade out their old-timey duds for some fresh, rhinestone-adorned outfits, they enter a room playing bingo with Rico Nasty in it. Diplo is playing the washboard, I feel like I'm losing my mind, and this is probably the best music video I've watched this year.

Watch the movie for "Old Town Road" again and again, below.

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus www.youtube.com

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Screenshot via YouTube

They really "don't care" about how this was edited, do they?

Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber used the name of their song as inspiration for the "I Don't Care" music video, and have presented what is essentially a long blooper reel of the pair messing around with a green screen.

The visuals show how dedicated the two are to proving just how much they don't care, because I'm pretty sure they did the editing on this video as well. They dance around in costumes, as an ice cream cone, a panda, a teddy bear, and more. I have a clear vision of Bieber and Sheeran raiding a costume shop just an hour before setting up a tripod and going to town on this one. They also juxtapose their faces on top of a ballerina, a skydiver, and a corn inside the husk.

Blink, and you'll miss the funniest moment of all in the video: Ed Sheeran gets married to a cardboard cutout of a young Bieber with swoopy hair.

Watch the visuals for "I Don't Care" below.

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - I Don't Care [Official Video] youtu.be

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Photo by Jena Cumbo

Her new LP, 'Take Me to the Disco,' is her most personal work yet

Meg Myers isn't afraid to admit she's still figuring out who she wants to be. Originally from Tennessee, Myers moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to dedicate her life to her music career. In 2012, she released her first EP, Daughter in the Choir, which set the groundwork for the releases of Sorry (2015) and Take Me to the Disco (2018). Well-known for her poetic lyrics, crude vocals, and cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," the honest singer-songwriter makes a point to tell me that self-acceptance is a process. After listening to her deeply personal LP, Take Me to the Disco, I know she's not wrong.

In the middle of producing her new forthcoming music, the star opens up to NYLON: "I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art. Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free." It's clear that it is this fearlessness to self-reflect that not only makes her body of work so authentic but also what motivates her to continue to grow.

Below, we speak with Myers about her new music, self-love, and her ever-evolving relationship with creativity.

The Great Eros Pants, Chae New York top, Schutz shoes, and Via Saviene rings. Photos by Jena Cumbo

How did moving to Los Angeles influence the artist you are today?
I feel more safe here. I've been tapping more into my truth and expressing myself on a deeper level here. Growing up, my family was very chaotic, and I never knew what was about to happen. I have four brothers and a sister, and we grew up basically as best friends, making fun out of the chaos and always creating some type of art from it. I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art.

Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free.

What are some of your biggest influences?
I think all the barbecue and shrimp and grits [in Tennessee] really adds a smokiness to my music.

My queerness gives me a lot of material to create with. It's allowing me to be more playful and not take every little thing so seriously.

Silk Laundry jumpsuit, Wild Vertigga T-shirt, and Nakamol earring.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Tell me about your new music. Why is it different than anything you've ever created?
This EP is going to have a lot of similar vibes to my last album, because I wrote it at the same time with the same producer about a lot of the same struggles and self-discoveries as my past music. I'll share more with you on my third album.

I'm such a fan of your cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Why did you gravitate toward that song to cover?
It's such a powerful song! Kate Bush is magic. It's almost like I've been being guided to cover that song for a long time. I don't know how to explain it in words, as they can feel so limiting, and this song is beyond words to me. It's just a deep inner knowing, and it makes my heart flutter.


Chae NewYork blazer; Saku top, The Great Eros bottoms, and Inch2 boots.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Are there any other songs you feel really connected to?
I would love to collaborate with Active Child. The songs "Hanging On" and "Johnny Belinda" are also otherworldly to me. I've been listening to this band called Walk the Moon a lot. I also love Phoebe Bridgers. I have a crush on her. I generally listen to instrumental music and classical. If you look up 432hz music, it's incredibly healing, and solfeggio frequencies have helped me with a lot.

What does self-love mean to you?
It's been a process for me. It's been quite the journey. Right now, I would say [self-love for me] is about accepting myself, and having love for all the experiences that have led me to where I am. It also means being grateful for growth. It's also been about learning to be in the present moment. It's been learning to trust myself and not listening to what others think I need to be doing. As I learn to do this, I also learn how to love others deeper. All this being said, it's a process.

Chae New York blazer and Saku top.Photo by Jena Cumbo

What advice do you have for someone struggling to find happiness right now?
Spend some time in solitude if you can, or with a really safe person who you feel you can express yourself freely with. Find someone who has no expectations of you and is supportive. In that present moment, ask yourself, What feels good to you? What do you feel like doing? Use your imagination. Daydream. Find what it is you enjoy doing. I promise you can unlock magic inside yourself. It just takes patience.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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