There’s a running joke on the internet that Storm Reid is in constant emotional tumult on-screen. In a way, it’s not a far-off observation, as her body of work is far heavier than that of most actors her age. Reid’s big-screen debut was in the 2013 Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, where she played an enslaved girl forcibly separated from her mother and sold off. Since then, she’s starred in multiple weighty productions, including When They See Us, a miniseries directed by Ava DuVerney that documented the experiences of the falsely accused—and later exonerated—teenagers known as the Central Park Five. Most recently, she garnered attention for her role in Euphoria as Gia Bennett, a character who is grappling with the impact of her sister’s drug addiction and the recent loss of their father.
The projects Reid takes on aren’t exactly lighter fare, but that’s arguably what makes her one of the most dynamic young talents in Hollywood right now. On-screen, Reid is often swept up in a (excuse the pun) storm of emotions and experiences far out of her control, but that’s not who she is once the camera shuts off. In reality, Reid is effervescent and wise beyond her years, or at least that’s what I deduced after an hour-long conversation with her over Zoom. When I ask why she gravitates toward these roles, she explains, “I am so intentional with the projects I choose to be a part of because it’s about wanting to connect, inspire, and empower the people that will be watching it. So I don’t get upset when people talk about how I’m always distressed or crying in my roles because I’m addressing real-life situations on-screen. Not everything is, you know, peaches and cream.”
While growing up in the spotlight might foster a personality that’s aloof or arrogant, that’s not the case with Reid. Her sparkling chocolate-brown eyes, beaming smile, and open demeanor make you feel like you’re talking to a close friend. And in many ways, that humility has to do with how Reid views coming into fame so young. “I have grown up in this industry, but I think I’ve been able to recognize that I still have a lot more life to live, a lot more mistakes to make, a lot more lessons to learn,” she says. “Even though people think I have everything figured out, I am still just a 19-year-old girl going on 20 at the end of the day, so I don’t have it figured out. And I’m okay with that. There’s beauty in not knowing and taking it one day and one step at a time.”
Despite regularly appearing on red carpets and sitting front row at fashion shows, Reid leads a surprisingly normal life. The main difference is that she wears more hats than most, shifting between being an artist, a student, an advocate, a girlfriend, a devoted daughter, and, most importantly, a 19-year-old. When Reid isn’t on set, you can find her attending classes at the University of Southern California or binge-watching beauty TikToks in bed. Being able to experience average things is of the utmost importance to Reid and was the main driver for her continuing her education. “I get to experience so many cool things in my career and life, but I was missing out on the experiences that other people go through—going to school, football games, and parties. So I’m so grateful to be able to further my education and just to take up space as a young human being who’s experiencing meeting people from different walks of life, learning, and figuring it out along the way,” she professes.
Photo:Christian Cody; STYLING: Amorphose hat; Lafayette 148 dress; Larroude heels
But it’s not just about satisfying her desire to experience a normal life. Reid, by all accounts, is an inquisitive person who doesn’t just want to learn something. She wants to embody it and use it to make the world a better place, and that’s evident in every aspect of her life, from her choice of major to the projects she’s partaking in. Reid is working toward a bachelor’s degree in dramatic arts with a minor in African American studies. For her, studying Black history is imperative to being a well-rounded person. “I think it is pivotal for us to learn our history [and] where we come from and learn about our ancestors,” she says. “Even though my mom did her best to inform me of what was happening in the world, in a digital age, it’s more important than ever to know the facts to understand what’s happening.”
For as long as Reid can remember, she’s aspired to serve a larger purpose through her work. She recalls a time when, at just 3 years old, she went to her mom and told her that she wanted to be on television because it was what she was put on earth to do. And it is not just about acting. Rather, she wants to nurture her talent to inspire and empower audiences. Reid has been able to do that through her innate ability to wade through the depths of a character’s emotions and make viewers see their humanity. No one can deny how powerful her performance was in season two of Euphoria, specifically the scene in episode three where Gia confronts Rue about smoking marijuana because she’s worried about her sister relapsing.
Photo:Christian Cody; STYLING: Versace dress
Beyond her role in the breakout HBO series, Reid has taken on several heart-wrenching projects this year, including her starring role in Missing. A follow-up to the film Searching, the thriller follows June (Reid), who must take matters into her own hands when her mother goes missing while on vacation in Colombia. “Playing June was the most challenging role I’ve had yet because of the technical aspects of production. Everything was filmed on iPhones, watches, and computers, so I couldn’t rely on stage partners or camera angles to emphasize emotions. It really pushed me as an actor,” she admits.
It’s hard to believe that Reid needed any more pushing, especially considering her uncanny ability to embody the circumstances of her characters’ lives without getting lost in them. When I ask how she does it, she confesses, “I always try to step into my character’s shoes wholeheartedly and experience how they’re feeling and experience their given circumstance while also not neglecting how I would feel. It’s hard at times to differentiate the two, so I always have to remind myself that my character’s reality is not mine. That helps me escape the sadness, fear, or whatever my character’s going through.”
Reid makes a concerted effort to remind herself that there are grains of truth in every character she’s playing, even if she’s in a world that feels far out, like that of HBO’s adaptation of the video game The Last of Us. While the critically acclaimed series follows the fallout from a fungal disease that turns people into zombie-like creatures, it’s not lost on Reid that the global-pandemic story line hits home, as it’s comparable to what we’ve collectively been dealing with for the past few years. She states, “Of course, their pandemic is way different than what we went through, but it’s still a similar situation of feeling isolated and alone and not knowing what to do, and I think that’s so beautifully depicted in the series.” She pauses, then continues, “Even with these last few episodes, you can feel the sadness, the loneliness. That’s what many of us felt during these last few years. My character [Riley] and her friend [Ellie] are just young people trying to figure it out in this crazy world. That’s what everybody’s doing—we’re all trying to figure it out amid all the madness and noise.”
Photo:Christian Cody; STYLING: Mikhael Kale hat; Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini top and pants; Larroude shoes
Reid understands something that many people have yet to comprehend: Growth and healing aren’t linear. That’s why she’s continuously evolving the way she views well-being. “Growing up, you hear things about mental health, and you’re given a definition of what it should be. But I’m still trying to figure out what it means to me. I’m still trying to find the best way I can show up for myself and other people,” she says. The evidence of the work is clear when you look at Reid’s advocacy. She’s worked with both Maybelline and the Child Mind Institute to provide resources for young people grappling with mental health issues. It’s important that her work “lets young people know, specifically, that it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect. It’s okay not to have it all figured out. It’s okay to wake up confused, sad, and want to cry. Everybody has those feelings.” She continues, “But I think the first step of mental health is not judging how you’re feeling or where you’re at on your journey. It’s just important to sit in those feelings, accept them, and then learn to transition out of them.”
Photo:Christian Cody; STYLING: Gigi Burris hat
Helping others is how Reid cares for her own soul, but she also finds solace in family, friends, music, and fashion. “I really appreciate makeup and fashion because they are such a great way to take up space, to let people know how you’re feeling that day, and express yourself,” she says. On the surface, you can see Reid’s devotion to self-exploration through her ongoing brand partnerships. Reid is a brand ambassador for Prada, where she’s starred in multiple campaigns, and she also designs a swimwear line with PacSun.
A quick scroll through her social media feed will show that Reid—who describes herself as a “tomboy with girly touches”—isn’t afraid of a glamorous moment. She is the same person who will casually wear a two-piece white grommeted gown with a 13-foot ponytail trailing behind and show up makeup-less in an oversize blazer the next day. When probed about her ability to get dolled up or dress down based on her mood, she muses, “I have always been explorative in that way. But I think being in the positions where I’m working on set or collaborating with my stylist has informed my risk-taking regarding fashion and beauty. I’d also say social media has expanded my mind about what I can do with my hair, makeup, and nails.”
Photo:Christian Cody; STYLING: Gigi Burris hat; Brandon Maxwell outfit; Larroude boots
Like many of us, Reid has found inspiration, community, and joy through social media, but to say being online while growing up in a digital age has always been positive wouldn’t reflect her experience. “Social media is a double-edged sword. We go on for funny videos, outfit inspiration, or community. But on the other side of that, it can be a dark and sad place,” she says. “It’s always about your approach and how you choose to show up in the world and show up on social media, and you have to be cognizant of that.” Reid circumvents the stereotype of being the cliché Gen Zer who is glued to their phone. Sure, she is active online, but she’s aware that it’s not the most important thing in the world. “Posting [on social media] doesn’t prove my talent—it doesn’t prove how smart I am. It’s a glimpse of my life, and you can choose to accept that and follow that, and if not, that’s fine, too, because social media is not real like people are,” she adds.
Reid isn’t trying to follow the blueprint laid by others, something she admits to me wholeheartedly. “Many incredible women have come into my life and taken me under their wing, from Oprah to Zendaya to Ava DuVernay. And while I look to them for guidance, I know everybody’s journey is different,” she says. Some days, she may find herself challenged by trying to navigate the world as a young Black woman in the entertainment industry, but she won’t let that dull her shine. As we wind down the conversation, she leaves me with one last nugget of wisdom passed down from her mother: “Above all else, just try to be the best person that you can be. The rest you’ll figure out along the way.”