What does it take to be the next big thing? Whether you say innovation, irreverence, or lots of flash, it’s undeniably the elusive It factor—that can’t-look-away but also can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it instinct—and we’re doubling down for It Girl, It Brand, our latest series, speaking to who and what is on the edge of being huge.
This month, we paired actress Brigette Lundy-Paine with New York–based brand Collina Strada. What’s the reason behind such a pairing, you ask? September happens to be a noteworthy month for the two sartorial risk-takers, with the season two premiere of Atypical, Lundy-Paine’s groundbreaking Netflix series, and Strada’s serene S/S 19 showing at New York Fashion Week. With eyes on both, we can assure you these are two exciting names to know right now.
Sitting in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel in New York City, I open my weather app: Thunderstorms are expected. I anxiously await the arrival of Brigette Lundy-Paine—the subject of this month’s It Girl, It Brand story and star of the Netflix dark comedy Atypical—hoping she beats out the storm. As soon as the thought crosses my mind, though, a torrential downpour begins. Shortly thereafter, Lundy-Paine enters the hotel, unphased by the elements and decidedly chipper for her 9 a.m. Saturday call time. It was just the energy we needed on this gloomy August morning.
After a two-hour shoot that consisted of rolling around in bed (a dream Saturday-morning scene, to be sure) and lounging dreamily in a bathtub outfitted in looks by New York brand Collina Strada, Lundy-Paine joins me again downstairs for our interview. I’m immediately captivated by the 23-year-old as we talk about everything from season two of Atypical, which premiered last week, to the source of her undeniable confidence and eclectic fashion aesthetic.
Why do you think it’s important to have a show like Atypical now?
I think anything that promotes acceptance right now is so necessary, no matter what it is. Anything that promotes people getting to know each for who they are and releasing biases on any platform is what we need, and this is so cool because it’s Netflix and has such a wide reach. There really hasn’t been a story like this with someone with autism that is from their perspective. You don’t get let off the hook with prescribing them clichés, you know? You have to get to know Sam.
It’s nice to see that we are normalizing it.
I think we have realized that we can’t just sit around and entertain ourselves with stupid stuff anymore. We have to start talking about things. There is something deep that I feel has unlocked in the human consciousness in the last year, especially the American consciousness. We can’t get further from it now; we only have to get closer to it through truth and community.
What do you love about playing Casey on Atypical?
When I’m working on the show, I never feel more like myself, in a way, because she is such my inner child. She is so playful, and she’s so athletic, and she knows herself so well that it’s the job I’ve felt the most comfortable in on set. Playing a teenager in general is so fun because they are magnificent, and you don’t get to have fun as an actual teenager, because you are going crazy and are in it. Now I’m 23, so when I get to be Casey, it’s so freeing. She is so funny. I love her.
As an actress, what are the stories and/or characters you are most drawn to?
I think I’m most drawn to queer characters. Not necessarily people who identify as gay, but I think that I really just love stories where people are allowed to express themselves in ways that I feel are like—I kind of see the spectrum of like entertainment and things that have been done as like a block of knowledge, and I like to slide in between the spaces of places we haven’t yet explored or we don’t yet understand about how people are. Sometimes that is written into the script, or sometimes I can just smell the character has the possibility to reveal something. So I think I’m always looking out for that.
Who are the young women who inspire you?
I’m really inspired by Rowan Blanchard. I think she is just incredible, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a couple times. The first one was at a phone bank for Standing Rock two years ago, and she was like 15 at the time. I just think she and Yara Shahidi are some of the most outstanding young women I’ve had the pleasure of watching from afar because they are reaching such a wide demographic and have such a responsibility to their work. But closer to home, I’m really inspired by my close friends.
Doing a deep dive into your Instagram, I can see you’re not afraid of a transformation. What are your sources of beauty and fashion inspiration?
I think most of them are intuitive, like what needs to happen next. All of my weird hair decisions have been people around me being like I want to do that to you. My blonde hair when I first started working, I came home one night, and [my friend] had just died her hair auburn with this blonde hair kit, and she was like, “I left it in for 15, so if we leave it in for 60, it should be like a light brown.” And it was orange and patchy because she’s not a professional hairstylist, so when my agent found out, she sent me to a professional stylist, and they died it blonde. Then I died it brown and started parting it down the middle because I thought that’s what models did, and I’m obsessed with models. I don’t know what it is; it’s this fascination I’ve had my whole life.
We have to talk about the Marie Claire Fresh Faces red carpet look. How did that come about?
I had just watched Man on the Moon, which is a movie with Jim Carrey about Andy Kaufman, and I was so excited about it. I was like what are the ways I can bend my world a little bit inside of the possibilities and resources I have? So I started talking to my makeup artist on Atypical, and she told me about a man named Bob Ramiro who lives in Sherman Oaks and has 400 pounds of hair in his house, because I told her I either wanted hair or prosthetics. I called, and I got him to set up an appointment; I kind of forced him into it. I told him I was looking for some facial hair, so for about an hour, I sat with him, and he brought out box after box of hair and told me stories about Hollywood. He had done the hair for Planet of the Apes and all of these iconic films. I ended up choosing a mustache and beard because I thought it would be really nice to show my absolute freshest face, you know? Not just the idea of a beautiful fresh face, but the freshest face that I could find. I got in a little bit of trouble for it—just a little.
Lumia Nocito; On Brigette Lundy-Paine: Collina Strada top and pants
What are you drawn to in terms of fashion?
I actually think fashion plays a huge role in my life—or aesthetic plays a huge role. My clothes that I’m wearing right now, I’ve had these jeans for a long time. These shoes are just regular Birkenstocks, but I bought them after someone robbed me in Barcelona. I was chasing them in these amazing Givenchy shoes I got at a thrift store. They were hurting me so bad and I didn’t want to ruin them, so I took them off and bought Birkenstocks so I could walk to the police station and file a claim. And like, these socks were when I was feeling really insecure in Paris, and these were all I could afford to like look more fashionable. These keys [on my necklace] are from my childhood diary. I think I really like fashion because it helps me tell a story of myself.
Is there a trend or look you would steer clear of?
I don’t really know about trends so much. I guess athletic shoes. I love the way they look on people, but sometimes I’m confused why everyone would want the same shoes. I remember, I think it was when I was 19, people were wearing athletic goth. It was like a thing. I kind of miss that. It was a brief and wondrous trend.
You are very passionate about current social and political issues, but most recently I saw your support for the National Resource Defense Council. What are some changes you are making in your everyday life to help the planet?
Well, I like to live as low waste as possible. It’s as simple as bringing your own coffee cup to the coffee shops, making food at home when possible, bringing your bags to the grocery store—really simple things. Other than that, my biggest goal, and what has been since I was in high school, I was the president of the gay-straight alliance. It’s really so, so, so important for me that queer culture be accepted mainstream and that queer stories be told with more vigor and less fetishizing. I think we are close, but sometimes it takes just being yourself. I know there are so many people right now who are just really paving the way and becoming mainstream. I have been watching Hari Nef’s career since she was on Tumblr and I was in ninth grade. She is such a star. So yeah, so I think that is the overarching goal.