Get To Know The Revolve Model You See More Than Your Own Family

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The role of the model in popular culture is to remind us of our humanity. They’re like long, gorgeous rulers keeping the distance between earth and some luxe utopia where nothing does, indeed, taste as good as skinny feels and every door opens before you even knock. We watch them jetset from New York to the Maldives like it’s so casual, so blasé; our fascination endures.

When the pandemic forced countless brands to close their physical storefronts, online shopping became the way of the world. This illuminated the unsung ubiquity of the e-commerce model, who may not be plastered on your Pinterest boards, but who has gotten you through hard times in quiet whispers of “add to cart.” E-commerce models strike a unique balance between accessible and aspirational. Like, here are people who are paid to be hot, but we’re wearing the same outfits. It’s easier to see yourself in the e-commerce model. And to see ourselves in anyone, even in fragmented delusions, tends to strengthen our affinity.

If one retailer defines the millennial women’s online shopping experience, it’s Revolve. Got a wedding coming up? Revolve. Thirtieth birthday celebration in Miami? Revolve. New remote job that simply *requires* comfy-chic matching sets? Revolve. 

Last June, a TikTok of a Revolve model went viral—screenshots of her posed in a variety of outfits set to Cardi B’s famous interview quote: 

“I don’t even have time for my love life, to see my family, I don’t even have time for nothing. I’m working every single day. I’m depressed. I shouldn’t even be feeling that way.”

The comments section exploded in a collective a-ha moment. Who IS this woman we all see more than our own family? Then she went viral again last month on Instagram in a meme reading, “This girl really carries the weight of online shopping on her shoulders.” Nearly 100,000 likes on Instagram.

Meet Ludi Delfino, the Brazilian model and holistic health coach who’s stolen our hearts. Modeling for Revolve for over 10 years, Ludi is one of the most recognizable e-commerce models in the game. 

I sat down with Ludi over Zoom to chat going viral, insecurity and the modeling industry, all things wellness, and everything in between. Spoiler: she even shares her current picks on Revolve for a little model off-duty inspo.

We’ll start with the most obvious. How did it feel going viral (twice!)?

It made me feel so good. I don’t think I read one bad comment, and it really made me feel great because there’s so much pressure on social media. Sometimes I get attacked for being too skinny. I had a personal trainer who posted a video of me and people went crazy saying I was sick and unhealthy. To see people recognizing me and saying positive things was amazing. The next day I was shooting for Revolve and everyone was making the best jokes about it.

I think we can all say, off the cuff, that you’re the face of Revolve. How did you get into the industry and to where you are now?

I was a teenager. My mom and dad put me in classes because I was so shy and had horrible posture. I was like, “hell no!” But then my cousin and I made it a little competition and stayed with it for those three months. I’m from a small town in Brazil, and this brought me to São Paulo. Then I started traveling, first to Asia, then to Europe, and then I came to the US. I’ve been here a good 13 years. At least 10 of those I’ve worked for Revolve. 

So you’ve been this busy… for 10+ years!

Since going viral, people have DMed me asking if they Photoshop the outfits onto me. I’m like no, I actually shoot every outfit. During the pandemic, I was there for four months straight, five days a week. I was also graduating from my health coaching program. It really was like that TikTok, “I have no time for nothing.” I’m married, so luckily my husband was doing the cooking and keeping me healthy while I was working and studying. 

Give me a quick rundown of a day with Revolve. What’s your routine?

I have a 5-minute journal that I love—I’ll write about gratitude and how I want my day to go. Quick shower. I always do lemon water and run out the door. Breakfast is usually overnight oats that I eat at work while I’m getting my hair and makeup done. At Revolve, we do big numbers. Today I shot 136 outfits. You have a 45-minute lunch, and then get touch-ups and keep shooting. I’m done by 4 which is nice, but then I have at least an hour drive, so I’m gone 10-11 hours. I listen to podcasts and my school stuff in the car. A lot of models won’t do e-commerce because it’s hard on your body, but I’m just so glad to be working. 

I want to talk to you more about the holistic health coach aspect of your life. How did you get started on that journey?

I was inspired for many reasons. I lost my mom a few years ago to cancer. At the time, I tried helping her research ways to stay healthy, like avoiding sugar because it feeds cancer cells. I also tried to eat healthy while modeling when I was younger when things were harder with money. You’re traveling and they only give you, say, $200 a week to eat. 

So I started my health coaching journey in 2020 during COVID. I had a bikini brand and we decided to shut down because it became too much with the pandemic. But I was just so used to working and being busy that I needed to pursue something else that I’m passionate about. I signed up with IIN. It’s online, but they’re based in New York and one of the best health coaching schools. It took a year to complete. There’s so much pleasure in helping people feel better and change their life. Now I’m working to become a personal trainer, too. Learning something new is always challenging, but this is hard because English isn’t my language. It’s translation on top of all the memorization. My goal is to offer full programs that include workouts.

What’s your favorite form of movement?

Pilates has changed my body. I also enjoy little 20 minute workouts from Alo Yoga, going on hikes, and I play volleyball pretty much every weekend. Volleyball was how I met my husband. I think if I’m not moving my body and working out, oh man, it’s tough. I feel like shit.

How has being a model and working in the fashion industry impacted your mental health?

Overall, it’s pretty harsh. People are judging you every day. In Japan, I was a little curvier. We’d go to a casting and they’d line us up and one time I heard them calling me overweight. Sometimes you feel like you’re never good enough. Even with things like skin; I’ll break out from tanning. Or they’ll comment on my hair, and I’m like, I’m blonde, and imagine having a hot iron in your hair five times a week. There will always be bad days, but I remind myself no one’s perfect and you don’t need to be. You still get to travel, meet amazing people, and wear great outfits.

What are your favorite qualities about yourself, one physical and one non-physical?

Once you get to know me I’m pretty funny and silly. I don’t take life too seriously. Physical, I like my legs. I always wish my butt was a little bit bigger but then I wouldn’t want my legs to change!

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

That I eat. 

What’s your favorite food?

For indulgence, a burger. I’m doing a gut protocol right now, so I can’t have beef. But I usually eat healthy. I have three meals a day and maybe a snack or shake. When we go out to eat, I have to have sushi. At home, I love grilled steak, shiitake mushrooms, and broccolini. I also love avocado toast. My weakness is chocolate. A brownie. 

Pandemic-related or not, what’s a realization you’ve had in the past year that’s impacted your outlook on life?

The importance of being connected with people. Hugging people, kissing people. We’re talking about health, how eating badly can cause disease, but loneliness causes disease, too. I’m blessed to be married and have my husband. But not everyone has that. We need friends and closeness.

Do you go out much?

Fuck going out, I’d rather sleep. *laughs* I went to a party for the Super Bowl and I was like, “What am I doing here?” I’d rather enjoy my day playing volleyball on the beach than be hungover. Sleep is so important. I get my eight hours. My husband and I joke about who’s going to get to sleep when we start having kids.

Do you have a nighttime routine?

I’ll eat, clean, prep juice for the next day. With school, I come back to the guest room and study. I try 30-40 minutes before sleep to avoid screens. I read a book or journal which really helps. 

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, how do you take it?

I am. I’m obsessed. In this gut protocol, I did a bunch of testing to show what’s good for your microbiome. I got the results and coffee was on my avoid list. When I do drink coffee, I love a touch of almond milk or coconut creamer. I could go the rest of my life without chocolate or anything as long as I could have my coffee.

How would you describe your personal style?

I like to be cool, but I like to be sexy. I love a good crop top to show my abs. A good pair of jeans and a blazer. I also live in sweatpants. I work with Alo Yoga so I have all their stuff.

Your bathroom’s on fire and you can only save five beauty products. Go!

Coconut oil. It’s good for everything, like removing eye makeup and oil pulling. I actually had to stop putting it on my body because I was getting oil marks all over the walls. Native deodorant. I’ve tried so many natural deodorants and this is the one that works for me. Indie Lee toner. It makes my face feel so refreshed and clean. Beauty by Earth face self-tanner; it’s a natural brand. My face is so much lighter than my body and this saves me. And this concealer from Kosas, I could not live without. 

And lastly, what are your picks on Revolve right now?

1. Verona Straight Leg Pants, JONATHAN SIMKHAI STANDARD

2. Ida Tee Ab X To Kate Moss Tee, Anine Bing

3. Cinda Top, NONchalant

4. Zaina Top, LAMARQUE

Image: Revolve; @takeyourzoloft / Twitter

Mindy Kaling Talks About Her Secret Pregnancy, New Projects & More

It’s happening. Everybody stay calm. Stay f*cking calm. Mindy Kaling (yes, that Mindy Kaling) stopped by Betches virtual HQ to chat with Betches co-founders and Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast hosts Sami Sage and Aleen Dreksler. She really needs no introduction, but in case you live under a rock, Kaling is an award-winning actress, writer and producer of The Mindy Project, The Office, and more. She’s a f*cking icon if you didn’t already know.

Mindy chatted with Sami and Aleen about her secret pregnancy, being a mother of two, why she has more time for herself nowadays, and the new projects she’s focusing on.

In case you, again, live under a rock, on September 3rd Mindy surprised the world by announcing that she had secretly had a baby in quarantine. We can’t even keep a first date that goes moderately well a secret, so we’re impressed. Mindy talks about how easy it actually was to hide a pregnancy during quarantine, which makes sense since we haven’t seen another person from the chest down in months. She then talks about her new project for HBO Max called The Sex Lives of College Girls and how weird it is to have done the entirety of the beginning of this project via Zoom. She then discusses her book of essays, Nothing Like I Imagined, and her anxiety surrounding releasing a book during a pandemic. She explains she feels being unmarried has provided her with opportunity for other projects and how sometimes she feels the need to slow down.

Watch the whole video below and check out the full episode of Diet Starts Tomorrow

Image: Cubankite /

TOKiMONSTA On Her New Album, Being A Woman In Music & Her Dream Collab

You know that friend you have? The one who has super interesting style you could never pull off, great energy, and is super cool? Yeah, so that’s basically TOKiMONSTA, née Jennifer Lee, except in addition to being known for her fashion sense, she’s also a DJ. And not just like, a hot girl who takes a few Instagrams behind a booth and presses play on a playlist every so often kind of DJ, either (if that were the case, I would not be here writing this right now). She’s worked with the likes of Anderson.Paak, ZHU, and was nominated for a 2018 Grammy. She’s played all types of venues, from Coachella stages to intimate rooftops in Brooklyn, always bringing the same enthusiastic energy, and her sets are always upbeat and fun—there’s never a slow moment and the time flies.

But that’s not to say she hasn’t endured her fair share of obstacles. As a woman in music, it’s never easy. She does say she doesn’t think she’s encountered “extreme difficulty” but offers that could be due to her resilient nature. And boy, speak of resilient. In 2015, she was diagnosed with Moyamoya, a rare brain disease that left her temporarily unable to speak or produce music.  After undergoing brain surgery, TOKi went on to release Lune Rouge in 2017, which earned her a Grammy nomination for best dance/electronic album. The nomination makes her the first Asian-American producer and the first woman to earn a nomination in that category, plus it was named one of Billboard’s Top 40 Greatest Dance Albums of the Decade. Talk about a comeback.

Some people might feel the pressure to follow up an album of such acclaim, and Lee does admit, “I’m terrified and excited,” to release her third album, Oasis Nocturno, out March 20. Despite any trepidation, Lee says she didn’t go into the album with the express purpose of topping the last. When asked what her goals were when creating Oasis Nocturno, TOKiMONSTA said, “I didn’t really have any goals. I try to create based on how I feel.”

While her music is, to use the professional term, f*cking awesome, mixing different genres and subgenres like hip-hop, dubstep, and house, TOKi says the hardest part of making Oasis Nocturno was not anything like finding inspiration, or figuring out how to best blend her different beats, but actually the opposite: “Narrowing down which songs end up on the album (so I don’t go overboard with a 50 song album)” was a top challenge, as was the more technical aspect of mixing it. Although many people in the industry tend to get engineers to mix their tracks, she says, “I like the ownership of knowing I’m doing it myself. I always feel like I’m turning into Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.” The result is a melodic and cohesive project that infuses complex vocals into Lee’s smooth psychedelic production.

Ahead of the album release, on January 14 TOKiMONSTA dropped Fried For The Night” feat. EARTHGANG, the second single off the new album, which is kind of like the song that describes when you go out on a Friday night after a full work week—or as she puts it, everyone has a moment where they feel fried and burnt, but what about those moments you feel fried and turnt?” So she linked up with Atlanta-based hip-hop duo EARTHGANG to produce a song that’s “dedicated to those psychedelic moments where our reality opens up a new point of view.” Can’t relate, but I can relate to the trippy house party visuals.

On the heels of Oasis Nocturno come Coachella performances, a set at Holy Ship! Wrecked on January 24 in Punta Cana, and a headlining spring tour with 16 North American stops. Whether it’s playing for huge crowds at festivals or cozier venues, TOKi loves connecting with her fans. “Festivals feel like the entire crowd is one entity and venues feel like you can connect to each person there,” she says, but she loves the energy at both. It may seem like she’s done it all, and she basically has, but one goal she does have is to work with Bjorn and Missy Elliott, who she says would be her dream collab.

Simply put, if you’re not already #woke, TOKiMONSTA is one to watch. It’s been a hell of a ride for her so far, and 2020 is going to be a hell of a year for her.

Images: Bethany Vargas

Hailey Bieber Is ‘Too Tired’ To Throw A Party, And Same

If there is one adjective I’d use to describe all of us, as a collective species, in 2019, it would be tired. No matter if you’re rich, poor, conservative, liberal, male, female, we can all agree that we are just exhausted—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Show me someone who can’t relate to one of those “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since 2008 memes” and I’ll show you either a speed addict or a liar. Even celebrities are tired, apparently! That’s evidenced by the fact that Hailey Baldwin Bieber (gotta get used to that), who just turned 23 today, revealed in an interview with Highsnobiety that she would have thrown a blowout birthday party, but she’s simply “too tired”. Now, as much as I want to come for her, I’ve got to say, the girl has a point.

Upon the interviewer remarking that today is, in fact, Hailey’s birthday, Hailey says, “It’s my Jordan year. I’m turning 23 (today, November 22), and I had this idea where I was going to throw a Jordan party and everyone would have to wear Jordan.” Sounds both literal and expensive. E! News reported on Mrs. Bieber’s initial party plans in an article called “Hailey Bieber Is ‘Too Tired’ to Throw a Party For Her 23rd Birthday”, remarking, “‘Jordan year’ is in reference to famous basketball player Michael Jordan whose number was 23 throughout his career. Who knew Hailey was such a sports aficionado!” To which I have got to say: no, she is not a “sports aficionado”—that’s like me saying that knowing Derek Jeter used to play for the Yankees makes me a baseball connoisseur, or having a “22” themed birthday makes me a Taylor Swift superfan—she is simply a person who was alive when Miley Cyrus, Juicy J, and Mike Will released their hit song “23”. To which I have to add, having a “Jordan” party is very 2013.

In any case, outdated reference or not, the Jordan party will not happen because, as Bieber tells Highsnobiety, “I’m just too tired, I don’t want to entertain people.” I wanted to inquire if she would even be responsible for planning or coordinating her own party, but it didn’t even seem worth the effort. Whether she is actually organizing the minutiae of the event or not (almost surely not), she would still have to get her makeup done, show up to the party, pose for photos, socialize, and just generally be around people—feats that I think we can all agree sound thoroughly exhausting. Not to mention, Hailey has had not one, but two weddings this year, and her big blowout wedding happened just two months ago. That was basically her huge birthday party, no theme necessary.

I’ll admit, I was ready and eager to do a full roast of Hailey Bieber for these comments. Too tired to throw a party?! How will we, as a collective society, survive without what would have surely been the cultural touchstone of the century? Not to mention, doing a “Jordan” themed party where your guests are all required to wear sneakers that cost upwards of $100 is not exactly the most socially conscious or aware decision. But then again, neither is turning your baby daddy’s album cover into a theme park or having not one, not two, not three, but FOUR designer dresses at your wedding in the first place. And, I am pretty confident nobody on Hailey Bieber’s guest list would have been unable to afford a pair of Jordans, anyway. So, even though this never-realized party is not exactly groundbreaking in either theme or cultural relevance, it’s not even outlandish enough to be worth a roast.

After all was said and done (and I actually read the initial Highsnobiety interview), I wondered if E! News was giving Hailey a bit of the Emma Watson treatment. The questions about Hailey’s birthday are ordered first in the interview, but the initial interview does not position those comments—which are clearly meant as a joke, since after remarking she’s too tired to entertain people, Hailey laughs—as front and center or the focus of the piece. The title of the interview is actually, “Hailey Bieber on Calvin Klein, Her Beauty Empire Dreams & Why She Thinks Kylie Jenner Is ‘a Genius”. This stays true to what is discussed in the interview. I’m not saying that Hailey Bieber is the next Gloria Steinem or anybody, or that E! News did her a huge wrong, but the interview is not completely vapid, either. She lauds Rihanna and Kylie Jenner for creating products and brands they genuinely believe in, and expressing similar aspirations while being aware of the danger of copying existing celebrities’ brands. In other words, it’s pretty standard stuff.

Then again, when asked what matters to her, things get a little murky. She expresses the desire to use her platform for “talking to young women”, which seems like a good idea in theory, but is left extremely vague. What does that mean exactly, answering DMs? Bieber does not really expand upon this idea; she simply says, “Women supporting women has become such a big conversation but theres still so much we can do. There’s no reason there needs to be this girl against girl drama, and social media makes it way worse. There’s no reason why we cant be kind to each other.” That is all fine and good, but she offers no further ideas about what actually we can do. I’m all for celebrities taking up a pet cause, but just pointing out a (pretty mild in the grand scheme of things) problem is not actually the same as doing anything about it. I feel like, if anything, this is just another callback to Selena Gomez and her new-ish song about Justin Bieber—so, essentially, Hailey’s answer for “what matters to you” is kind of, “that people stop talking sh*t about me”. A relatable sentiment, for sure, but more of a personal problem than a noble cause.

So when all is said and done, who am I really mad at? E! News, for putting a somewhat funny and relatable spin on an otherwise meh fluff piece? Highsnobiety for asking a bunch of softball questions and then publishing that in a Q&A format, without even an attempt to synthesize all these comments into some sort of narrative? Or myself, for getting all excited to do a complete take-down, only to actually read all the background information and be sorely disappointed, and then playing right back into that with my own headline? Myself. Definitely myself.


Get To Know Cray, The Artist Fighting For Better Treatment For Women In Music & Gaming

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based DJ Cray is a one-woman show, or so she told me when I interviewed her at a music festival in Atlanta—just us, no publicist, no manager. That’s very rare in the music world from what I’ve encountered, but it fits right in with Cray’s laid-back, completely unpretentious vibe. “I’m kind of get in, get out,” she explains. “I’m pretty independent. I’m a one-woman show!”

Speaking of, being a woman in show business was a huge topic of conversation. I didn’t mince any words; I just jumped straight into it and asked how she dealt with working in a historically sexist industry. “I think there’s a ton of judgment against women,” she admits. When they see a woman in music, people question, “if she’s doing what she is doing for real, if she’s too pretty,” and on and on. (Not that it matters, but Cray is gorgeous and looks like an e-girl-meets-Instagram model.) I express incredulity that people would actually count attractiveness against a woman (because who among us has not been called an ugly bitch who isn’t talented by our haters). Then again, how could I ever underestimate the hypocrisy of men? Cray assures me that, yes, it happens. “I get a lot of like, you’re too pretty to make music,” she confesses. But she questions, “Like, if I was ugly, would it be chill?”

She continues, “You would never tell a man, ‘oh you’re too hot to be doing what you’re doing’… but I’m being told those comments.” And while it seems like a no-brainer to say, it’s apparently not: she asserts, “I’d rather you look at my talent and not my face.” But think about it: has anybody ever said Justin Bieber was too attractive to sing? Or, if you think that’s a more objective skill than being able to produce music and DJ: have you ever taken a look at Calvin Harris, or Martin Garrix, and thought they were unqualified? I’ll wait. “If someone’s making art, and giving art to you, it’s a pretty vulnerable thing,” she asserts. “So just respect their art. If you don’t like it, don’t listen—you don’t need to make mean comments or judgmental things like that.”

But the music industry isn’t the only space where Cray is on the receiving end of sexist comments and doubt. She’s also a big gamer with over 40,000 followers and 500,000 streams on Twitch. Anyone who paid attention to #gamergate in 2014 knows the gaming world as a whole is not exactly welcoming to women (understatement of the decade). I pose this question to Cray, and she seems like she’s thought about this a lot. “So I’m basically in the middle of two industries that have issues with equality of women,” she says without missing a beat. While she admits, “music and gaming are very different,” she finds, “the issues they have are the same.” She again cites the skepticism she has encountered that women are gaming “for the right reasons” (right, because women only pursue hobbies for the approval of men) and, again, the doubts about her sincerity and skill because of her looks. And yet I hate to think of the types of vitriol Cray might get if she weren’t conventionally beautiful. It’s a lose-lose.

It wasn’t always this way—getting metaphorically beaten down for being too pretty. “In high school I was so insecure, and thought I was so ugly all the time,” she admits. You’d never know it by looking at her Instagram, where practically every photo she posts is envy-inducing. It looks effortless, but the reality? Far from it. After being frustrated and insecure in high school, she says, “I took a selfie, every frickin’ day for literally ever.” At some point, she recalls, you just start figuring out your angles. “So now,” when she poses, she says, “it’s like clockwork.”

But taking good pictures on Instagram can blur the line of reality, and even though Cray plays into this to an extent, she also acknowledges the danger. “What happens when you see someone in real life?” she asks rhetorically. “The more we edit and the more we try to post those unrealistic expectations, the sh*ttier we feel inside.” She admits, “I see some photos and I’m like, ‘oh my god why can’t I have that body?’ And I go to the gym and I’m like, can I have this body? And like, ‘that’s not f*cking real’. So it’s unrealistic and makes you feel like sh*t.”

And she insists that the camera-ready version you see of her on Instagram is not her reality. “I have so many days like that where I’m like, I can’t even fake it,” she confesses. On those days, it can be hard to show your face to over 190,000 followers, but she does it even if it’s uncomfortable. “I make sure to show people me with no makeup, no editing,” she assures me. “I want to make sure that young women who follow me don’t see it as an unrealistic beauty expectation. I want people to realize we all have insecurities. I want people to understand that even the most beautiful people have insecurities, it’s just something we live with as people.”

So even though she’s still being discredited because of her looks, and even though the music industry is far from equal, Cray admits there are “strides being taken.” She recalls, “I started in this industry 5 years ago when I couldn’t even tell you how many women were on the lineup—maybe two or three—so now the fact that we have more is great, but still have a long way to go.” On the one hand, she acknowledges that “women treated equally is hard in a male-dominated industry, and it’s hard to change something that’s always been the same, it’s kind of hard to go against the grain.” But she does give props to a number of women in the industry who are uplifting each other, like Anna Lunoe, Whipped Cream, and Kitten. “All these women are just fucking killing it, and we all respect each other, and I wish that respect was everywhere,” she says wistfully.

Obviously, the problems facing women in the music industry were not created by women, though, and it’s not solely on their shoulders to fix it. It’s on everybody. When I ask what we can all do to make the music industry better for female artists, she rattles off a laundry list of solutions: “Just honestly more men becoming allies, more fans understanding equality on how to treat women in the industry, more agents and managers picking up female clients, more people just honestly researching too.” To that last point, she elaborates, “there are so many women out there making such amazing music, and if you just take the time to check it out, it’s out there.”

Being modest, she doesn’t explicitly include herself in that list, but she should not be counted out. This October, she dropped her newest EP, seasons change and so do i, via Ultra Records. “The debut single, “idontwannatalkaboutlove,” has a total dark-pop vibe and exudes themes of female empowerment and authenticity. “This EP is my heart on my sleeve,” she admits. “It’s honest and real and I just want to connect with people.” And even though she admits that the EP is very vulnerable and there’s apprehension in that, she says ultimately, “I’m excited to show that side of me to the world, and finally put it live for everyone to see.” Because with her music, as with her Instagram, interviews, etc., she wants to get across to people that, “we all go through changes and heartbreaks. You aren’t alone.”

Images: Ashley Osborn

Women Who F*ck Sh*t Up: ‘Pretty Woman’s Samantha Barks

For many people, the chance to lead a Broadway show is the dream of a lifetime. One of those people is Samantha Barks, who is currently living out that dream playing Vivian Ward in Broadway’s Pretty Woman: The Musical. The chance to step into the iconic role created by Julia Roberts is the opportunity of a lifetime, and for Barks, it was an opportunity that came after years of hard work and dedication.

Samantha Barks is probably still best known for playing Éponine in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables, earning numerous awards for her breakthrough performance. Years before that, she got her start when she was cast on a singing competition show in the UK at the age of 17. For Samantha, that opportunity changed everything. “I auditioned for fun. I didn’t think I would get through. I ended up on live TV for two months—that was a crazy jump,” she recalls. “I’m from a little island, a beautiful island called Isle of Man, and all of a sudden, everyone recognizes you because you’re on primetime, Saturday night TV.”

Despite the show leading to numerous theater gigs for Samantha, her sudden exposure wasn’t all positive. “The fame thing—even though minor fame—there were aspects of it that I really didn’t take to, and it made me very, very anxious,” she admits. “In a way, that surprised me because I always just thought about the career aspect…but I didn’t think about the stuff that came along with it, and that actually was something I found really difficult to get a hold of.”

When Samantha heard that Pretty Woman was being turned into a musical, she knew it was something special. “The minute I saw that they were doing it, I was on the phone with my agent being like, ‘Please, I have to be seen for this role,'” she recalls. As fate would have it, the timing worked out perfectly. “I was actually filming in London, I had a week off to come and do some concerts at 54 Below , and it happened to be on the same week that Pretty Woman were holding their auditions—thank you, fate! So I auditioned, and they wanted me for a callback, but I couldn’t because I had to go back on the plane, and they were talking about flying me back, and there was all this back and forth, and then I landed in London and they said, ‘It’s yours. They want you to do it.'”

Barks landed the role more quickly than she had even imagined, but that was just the start of the hard work. For one, she was faced with the challenge of creating her own version of one of the most iconic film roles ever. The first rule? No watching the movie allowed. “It’s banned. Just because, you know, it’s such a beautiful, iconic performance from Julia Roberts.”

Rather than try to top Roberts’ star-making role, Barks looked for a more personal connection to the character: “What does Vivian feel like to me?” she asked herself. “What does Vivian feel like in my skin?” She also turned to the show’s musical element to unlock new aspects of the character. “The fact that we’re now singing songs by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, that’s amazing, and it changes things. It gives you these little three-minute snapshots of a character.”

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HAPPY 100th show to @prettywoman can’t believe how lucky I am to get to take those thigh highs for a spin every night!! ?❤️?❤️?????#broadway #newyork #prettywoman @themichaelkushner @thedressingroomproject

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Once Samantha figured out her take on the character, she could really have fun with it. Vivian is “such a fun character,” she says, “because she has such a great journey… The best thing about her is from the beginning to the end, seeing the transformation that she goes on. Not the transformation that people think of—the hair and the clothes—that’s just fine. It’s actually her finding her voice and finding that self-worth.”

Of course, Vivian is a sex worker, a profession that is often considered taboo. But her journey in Pretty Woman defies the stereotypes of her background, and offers something for all of us to learn. In talking about what Vivian has unlocked inside of her, Samantha says, “It goes back to her finding her self-worth, and actually saying ‘that’s okay.’ Standing up for yourself, and having the confidence to go ‘I’m actually enough. I’m enough!'”

Even though Vivian’s choices might not always be the easy ones, she knows what’s right for her. “You have to stand up for yourself and make hard decisions, because you’ve got to believe in yourself,” Barks asserts. “We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time, and it’s like, you’ve got to be a fan of yourself, be a supporter of yourself. That’s not easy to do, but Vivian becomes that. We can all learn from that.”

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Find someone who looks at you like I look at @juliaroberts ? hehe @prettywoman

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For Samantha Barks, a year of stepping into Vivian Ward’s thigh-high boots eight times a week has been full of unforgettable moments. Perhaps the biggest one of all came last summer, when Julia Roberts herself paid the Broadway company of Pretty Woman a visit. “She walked onto the stage and just looked straight for me, and she just hugged me and hugged me and hugged me, and we stayed in a hug, and she was so nice about what I had done in the show,” Barks gushes. ” so kind about my portrayal of Vivian…I was blown away. Even just to meet her and give her a hug is amazing when you’ve played this role, but for her to like what I’ve done with it—surreal. Surreal, but lovely. To get her stamp of approval was amazing.”

In addition to some special celebrity backstage visits, Pretty Woman has given Samantha Barks a long-awaited debut in the Broadway community, and they’ve welcomed her with open arms. “These are your peers, your family,” she says of her Broadway friends. After years of flying back and forth for various film projects, Broadway has offered Barks a supportive home to grow with other artists—especially women. “I love that. When women celebrate other women, I love it. I see a lot of that, and it’s been lovely.”

Samantha Barks is currently starring as Vivian Ward in Broadway’s Pretty Woman: The Musicalat the Nederlander Theatre.

Images: Shutterstock; MissAVuk, Pretty Woman: The Musical / YouTube; @samanthabarks (2) / Instagram 

Galantis Reveals The Surprising Meaning Behind Their Hit Song ‘Emoji’

Galantis is probably one of those names you’re seeing everywhere nowadays. Between 150 live shows a year, numerous festival appearances, and two new hits, to say they have a lot going on is an understatement. Thankfully, they made the time to sit down with us at Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta over the weekend to talk about what it’s like touring together, how the duo Galantis formed, and a few of their new songs. Check out the interview below.

What did you guys do yesterday?
Show, at Syracuse.

What did you think?
It was a good show! Really good energy.

How are college crowds versus music festival crowds?
I didn’t know it was going to be such a great crowd. We actually talked about that, we should do it more. 100% of the crowd went haywire. They were happy we were there.

So you guys tour together a lot.
150 shows a year.

How do you keep up the energy to do that many shows?
It’s like, you press a button, you know, you’ve got to reset. And then you have to be as off as you can between the shows, but once you go onstage it’s like a switch in your head, and it just goes.

What was the moment that you were like, ‘I’m going to link up with this guy and we’re going to make music, and we’re going to do this?’
I actually know where I was in Stockholm when I called you that time. It was Old Town. Just so you know… I remember I was walking from a lunch or something and I had the idea. I started to think of names for the band before I actually joined.

What were some of the other names?
Well, we had some of the worst names ever. I’m not gonna say them, but it took a very long time to find the right name, actually. And when we found it, someone else gave it to us.

What is the significance of it to you?
The name now? I don’t know. Then it was the perfect mirror for the music we did, but now it’s life, you know? And now we figure it’s too late to change it.

You recently came out with “Emoji”. What was the idea behind the song?
I think a lot of people didn’t realize that there are a lot of deep, serious thoughts behind it, and thought it was kind of lightweight but it’s not. It’s kind of like, sad in one way, that you do start to only communicate through emojis, but also something beautiful with it, depends on what it is. Like, we’re away from family all the time, and you don’t even have words anymore sometimes, you just send a heart, you know, and that’s useful. I think we all know those words, but you sending that emoji means something either way.

And that kind of started the thought, how something simple like an emoji can change how people have a conversation. Because putting an emoji, words, it’s not the same thing. It actually added to the way you can communicate. So that’s where it came from, the idea.

Do you guys have a favorite emoji?
The heart!

I like the crying laughing one.
That’s very good actually! You can’t put that into words either!

How did your new song “Bones” with One Republic happen?
It’s kind of a long and wacky story. There was like a seed of this original that came across us, and then we wanted to work on it, and then it was already taken by OneRepublic. And I kinda knew Ryan Tedder from the past, so I found out where he lives and I went to his place. And said, “you don’t have the correct idea, I have it.” No, I didn’t say that, but I did say I think we can do an amazing version together, how about that. And I think he liked the way we came really strong, and said that we could take this song somewhere great for both. And I think, yeah, it was such an easy quick thing after that. We were thinking the same thing about the song, and they already started a lot of cool stuff on it, so we took it from there and made it what it is today. But I think they’re great, I think Ryan Tedder is one of the best songwriters, I think his vocals are amazing, unbelievable.

So, what do you guys have in the works music-wise? You just released a new song, are we getting a new album?
We got a lot of music really close to coming out. It’s kind of a race which one will come out first. 

Images: Jimmy Fontaine

Ookay Talks ‘Thief’, Stealing The Show At Coachella & Why Women Run The World

I’ve conducted a few artist interviews in my day. Most of them are formal—you set up a time to meet in the designated press area at a festival, or (if you’re lucky) you’ll get escorted back to the artist’s trailer or tour bus. You get anywhere from five to 15 minutes, and you’re on the clock while a publicist times you like a hawk. You’re ushered in, you do the interview, maybe snap a few pictures if you have time, and then you’re whisked away just as quickly as you came.

My interview with DJ and producer Ookay (real name Abe Laguna) was not like most interviews. When I caught up with him during weekend one of Coachella, I met him and his almost exclusively female entourage (“my biggest inspirations right now are all women,” he says) inside the rose garden, where we sat down on the grass and sipped rosé and chatted casually. While most interviews are intimidating, with Ookay, I honestly felt like I was talking to a friend. We laughed and joked; I even called him a troll at one point. Despite the 350,000-plus Instagram followers and the fact that his songs have personally put me deep in my feelings (due to one memorable Ezoo experience when I was cracked out and listening to his song “Thief” on repeat until 5am), I felt completely at ease. I didn’t feel like I needed to impress him with well-thought-out questions, and in fact, I learned more about him from the ones that popped up off the cuff. Ookay’s publicist told me in advance that he’s “super light hearted and full of personality,” but even still, I was taken aback by how much that characterization rang true.

It was not most interviews, in part because Ookay is not most artists. The San Diego-born DJ and producer plays drums, trombone, piano, bass, guitar, harmonica, as well as some instruments I’ve never heard of. “The melodica, keytar, SPD, which is like a drumming apparatus,” he ticks off his fingers. I ask how many instruments he can play. “I think 6 now?” he responds, not even completely sure. He credits his musical prowess to his father, a bassist who introduced him to “very complex jazz early on, like, 13 or 12 years old.” He says, “It’s all thanks to my father, I wouldn’t even be here right now if it wasn’t for him.”

And in an age where being a DJ can mean anything from “getting paid to hit play on a premade playlist” to “arranges all their own music,” Ookay sets himself apart from the pack, especially with his live shows. He’s been performing live on the festival circuit for a few years, but revamped the format for Coachella, where he plays multiple instruments and sings. He’s also upped the visuals. “It’s funny,” Ookay remarks, “it’s called dance music but there’s no dancers.” So he added dancers onstage. “Problem number one, fixed.”

It was important to switch up his live set for Coachella because it is a special place for him. (He will also be playing weekend 2 at the Sahara Tent at 2:45pm.) “I had a lot of realizations here, in good ways. The first time I came here , I figured out I want to be an artist that gets to this kind of level to play this kind of festival.”

It feels oddly poetic, then, five years later, he’s taking the stage with this original set format, performing as not simply a DJ, but a bonafide artist. “It’s kind of full circle,” he admits, “very wholesome.” He reflects that every year at Coachella he’s learned something different. This year? “I think it was more of a reflection of how far I’ve come to get to this point,” he decies. “My blood, sweat, and tears, the traveling, being exhausted, working my ass off, being in a warehouse for two months straight… it’s worth it, everything we’ve been going through led to something special.”

He gushes, “And for everyone that I’m involved with—as far as like, my team, and crew, and all of my fans even—it’s awesome to see it just progress and keep going. And a lot of new fans, even just walking around people have been like straight-up, ‘yo, never heard of you before but checked out your set because we walked in and we heard people just like jumping around and it’s awesome to see you doing all this stuff on stage—’”

I shit you not, on cue, our interview is interrupted.

“Are you Ookay?” asks a girl who came up to us with a male friend in tow. I look to Ookay to see how he’s going to handle this.

“I am,” he answers calmly. She visibly starts freaking out.

“I love your songs so much,” she tells him.

“Thank you.”

“Can I give you a hug? Is that okay?”

He stands up, gives her a hug, takes a picture. The whole interaction is too perfect, and timed too well, to make up. But I can tell this isn’t out of the ordinary for him—not the getting recognized part, but the “being genuinely grateful someone likes his music enough to tell him personally and engaging that person even though he’s clearly busy” part. After making this fan’s day, we sit back down and resume the interview, picking up at what makes Coachella so special to him. Yes, there’s the fact that Ookay credits it as “one of the first festivals I paid for,” but it’s also where he got the inspiration for his breakout hit “Thief,” which boasts over 56 million Spotify streams to date and has been remixed by the likes of Slushii and Flux Pavilion.

He wrote it after that first visit to Indio, where he was inspired to, as he puts it, “make a song that matters in two seconds… something so spectacular that you get excited.”

So that’s how the musical aspect of his smash hit came to be, but the lyrics?

“Oh, it’s definitely about my ex-girlfriend. That’s what most of the big songs are written about.” That’s not a bad claim to fame. “Yeah, well, I’m forever thankful,” he says without a hint of irony. Given just how big the song has gotten, there is plenty to be thankful for.

He credits the success of “Thief” in part to its snappy and immediately recognizable intro, plus the memorable sax riff, but what I suspect most of all, the vulnerable lyrics, which are a breath of fresh air in the realm of dance music. “ the first time I ever put my voice out there like that, one of the first songs I sang/wrote, period.” His approach to writing that song, more or less, went as follows: “I’m going to take what you would consider a journal or a diary and throw it out there.”

As far as other muses, he credits a lot of women. Piggybacking off his comments about his female-led entourage, he says, “I’m a huge fan of what Rezz and Alison Wonderland and what all these women are doing.”

Women run the world foreal.

— OOKAY (@Ookay) April 11, 2019

He adds, “it’s really cool to see women set the bar on so much shit. On top of that, the black hole thing that happened was discovered by a woman. It’s amazing. I think most things have been women-driven. We got 10 more years before—”

“Before we figure out how to get rid of you guys?” I chime in (I’m sorry, I can’t help it).

“Oh my god, please get rid of us, we suck,” he agrees.

Ladies, he’s single.

When, naturally, I ask Ookay where his dating life stands now, he seems surprised by the question.

“It’s nonexistent,” he answers plainly. “I think I’m at the point where if you were like, ‘text a girl right now’, I couldn’t do it.” I clarify: because he has no girls to text? “Pretty much,” he replies with a shrug. Seems surprising for a young musician who’s playing stages like Coachella and Electric Zoo.

“When it happens, it happens,” he answers nonchalantly. “I’m not looking, I’ve been finally single for a year. And I’ve been working hard, so music has been my girlfriend.” He expresses that when he’s ready, he’ll go out there and find someone—or perhaps someone will come to him. He jokes about maybe even finding the love of his life at Coachella. Then he and I in turn joke about doing an interview a few years from now about that. “Who knows,” he guesses. “When I’m married! Or dead—just kidding, hopefully not.”

I inquire if he sees himself ever getting married. He quickly answers no. When I press him on why, he says, “I don’t know. A ring costs a lot of money.” After a pause, he elaborates, “Marriage is interesting, it’s like the weirdest tradition. It’s traditional, you know what I mean? It’s conventional. No one’s like yes, marriage is going to be beneficial”—except for maybe the tax benefits, which launches us into another side tangent about people who get married for healthcare benefits. He sees it often, being from San Diego where there’s a huge military base, where people often rush to get married.

And just like that, I find myself falling into a predictable pattern of jest that I would with my close friends, making a wisecrack about rolling up to a military base to find a boyfriend. Ookay doesn’t think I’m being desperate or weird (or, to put it plainly, that I’m being serious); he gets it, as if we’ve known each other for more than the 15 minutes or so we’ve been sitting on the grass.

All joking aside, he asserts, “I’m focused on my work right now, I’m very happy. I just wrote a song about that actually; it’s called ‘Better Off’,” as in, better off alone.

He doesn’t mean it in an antisocial way, either, but rather, more on the side of self contentment. “I’ve gotten used to dinner with my phone,” he cites as an example.”I really don’t mind being alone. And that’s fine! And I think that’s where I’m at right now, I think right now I’m just like focusing on being the best version of me for someone who comes along, whenever that happens I’m cool with it.”

For now, Ookay is working on his relationship with his music, with an album in sights—his first comically accurately named album, Wow! Cool Album!, came out a little over a year ago. He pledges to return to his roots and make more EDM, because, he explains, “those are the people who gave me the platform to do this ”. After a few shows in Vegas, he’ll take a break from performing, return to the studio, and come back with another new live show. He’d like to do shows in cities that don’t often have electronic artists come through, perform overseas, but above all, stay creative and keep pushing.

He puts it simply: “I’m just going to keep making good music for good people and try to reach an audience.”