Actress Kiersey Clemons isn’t afraid to speak her mind

Public figures have to walk a tricky line, especially today.

If you’re silent about sociopolitical issues, people might brand you a fake or lose trust in you. But if you speak up, you run the risk of alienating fans and losing jobs. And of course, if you’re a young woman of color, your actions are scrutinized even more.

But Kiersey Clemons won’t stay silent. This young actress who got her start on Disney is making major moves and she’s staying true to herself while she does it. We talked to Kiersey about social media, her friendship with Dove Cameron, and more. Get to know her and peep our Betty Davis-inspired shoot with her below, because she’s only getting bigger.

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You recently tweeted that you wish actors would go on a social media strike, what’s that about?

I would love it, I want to get off social media so bad. Specifically Instagram. It’s not effective if I’m [the only one who stops using] it.

I wanna get rid of the conversation of social media when I’m in meetings. I wanna just make movies because the actors are great. I don’t wanna work with someone who’s not that good of an actor but they have a million followers. It affects the entire film. That actor is weighing down everyone else.

And I don’t know, it’s kind of important that we band together and make this statement right now. If we want change in the industry, we’ve gotta come together and speak up about it the way we do it with politics in the real world. Actors rarely go on strike. Directors and writers would. When are actors gonna be like, “Fuck this, stop basing me on a number, I’m here for a reason”?

Have you ever been asked about your social media for a role?

I’ve been asked to get my following up to do a movie. But that would require me to take as many selfies as I can, and take so much time out of my day to take OOTD pictures, and I’m over here writing and auditioning.

I understand it. It’s everyone playing the game and if that’s what it takes to get a part that someone really wants, I can understand why they would do that.

I do get a kick out of seeing my actual progress [on Instagram] and I get excited when I’m like, oh my god, there’s 1,000 more people in this world that fuck with me and see what I’m doing. That’s really cool, to have an honest understanding of your audience.

 

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Do you think social media helps or hurts actors today?

I think it’s a balance of both. We get to speak out and I think a lot of our industry wouldn’t have changed and a lot of the world wouldn’t have changed if we didn’t have social media and we weren’t able to speak out.

But at the same time, on a personal level, I think of course it’s very harmful. It messes with your self esteem and it messes with even day-to-day conversations. Some people, it’s like you can’t even have a conversation with them because they’re not asking questions, they’re making statements.

“Oh, I saw you went to Hawaii, you did this and that,” and it’s like, yeah, I can’t even tell you about my vacation because you saw it online. It’s taking away from the mystery of people and privacy. Like everyone else I feel invaded or paranoid because I posted something online and I’m like, “Damn, now everyone knows where I am.” It’s so weird.

Especially when you’re in NYC and you post a picture on your story or something someone can tell instantly from the background of where you are because the city is so small!

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Back in the day, stars in their 20s were in the news for drugs and drinking, but that doesn’t seem to be happening as much with your generation. Why do you think that shifted?

I think it’s because we give it all away already. Before, there was a lot of mystery and everyone was really thirsty to know what’s happening. But now they know where we are and who we’re hanging out with and who we’re dating and what we’re doing.

There’s no reason to, like, poke and prod. I think that’s why. Because we are now doing the paparazzi’s job [through social media].

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You really speak your mind on Twitter and it doesn’t seem to hurt you at all. Do you ever worry that it could?

I’m for sure aware of the fact that my career and my image has been affected because of the way I speak my mind and I do get backlash. I’m probably least likely to carry a TV series, for example, because when you’re pitching a show like that, middle America is what carries that show. That’s the main audience.

They work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and come home and leave for the day … and then they find out that the lead of that show they really love is speaking out against their president and what they believe in? That’s not really a risk that a studio wants to take or a pilot they’re gonna greenlight.

Times are changing and maybe it will be soon, but hopefully I can be part of that change and progression and putting more fearlessness in other younger actresses that are non-white. But even as a white actress, it’s hard if you speak out against our current president. A studio or network will have a problem with that.

But at the end of the day if you make a quality film, people are gonna see it. I don’t carry a movie on my own. I have co-stars and it has to do with your amazing department, director, script, it’s also very rare that amazing movies come along.

The reality of it is whatever, I’m not really missing out on anything anyway, because if you’re relying on me keeping my mouth shut to like flop the movie, it’s probably shitty anyway. That means your script isn’t good enough. Your script should be distracting people from the fact that they hate me.

I’m not intimidated anymore, I’m not so afraid to lose work [by speaking out].

Would you ever consider writing your own scripts?

Oh, definitely especially now. I think a few years ago I would say, “Oh no, that’s too intimidating.” But now I can’t be intimidated because as a 24-year-old actress, good scripts are very rare. I feel like no one knows what a 24-year-old is going through.

A lot of scripts I get, there’s a sex scene in every single one of them. A lot of them are unnecessary.

And [the storyline is] all about a relationship. They’re always about relationships. Of course, yes, in your 20’s relationships are important. But for the most part, me and all my friends are with guys we’ve been with for years. I don’t wanna watch a movie about a relationship. I have my own relationship to worry about.

We’re focused on “am I gonna have a career?” That’s what’s happening, not the weird scripts I’m reading about troubles with my boyfriend.

Also like, where are the troubles with my girlfriend, man? It’s all just so boring. I don’t like a lot of the scripts right now and in the next few years I won’t be doing anything because I’m not gonna take jobs that I don’t like. I’m sure me saying this will have people going back and saying, “Damn, let me rewrite this.”

I think now, actresses are willing to take that risk of saying no. I find that when I go into meetings and I say, “You need to change this,” or “this is sexist” or “this is not politically correct” or “this rubs me the wrong way,” a lot of times nowadays they’ve been rewriting it and they’re kind of like, “Yeah, I actually understand that.” They’re listening because they know they have to. We’re coming together, we’re banding together. If one girl doesn’t wanna do it, the next girl’s not gonna wanna do it that much either.

 

I saw you also recently said acting includes partially running your own business, can you tell me more about that? Do you feel like you were prepared to do that?

It’s running a business. It’s having to hire people, let people go, have conversations I don’t necessarily want to have. I have people to pay. There’s meetings, there’s deals, there’s just a lot of things that a few years ago, when it all hit me, I wasn’t aware that it came with my job and I thought, “Oh, an accountant handles that,” or “a manager handles that.” But it all falls on me at the end of the day.

Or you can sit back and relax and be a brand and be like a toy on a shelf that’s being marketed, but obviously no one wants to be that. That’s a very sad, empty life that I wouldn’t like to live. I’d rather be a badass.

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Did your parents teach you to be outspoken and talk about important issues?

I think it actually was the opposite of my parents being very aware. My mom dealt with a lot racially obviously because she grew up in the South and she’s white and my dad’s black. So a lot of her important people in her life and family disowned her.

And I think just from experience within my own family and friends at school, and the questions I was asked and the questions I had, I was just a very curious person.

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I saw a lot of fans were freaking out that you and Dove Cameron were holding hands recently. Are people just getting you confused with Diggy or was there something to that?

Me and Dove thought it was really funny. I mean, I actually have a few matching tattoos with my friends. I hug, hold hands, and kiss all my friends. I’m just a very loving person.

My publicist is probably giggling because she knows I’m so physically aggressive with people I love. I love to grab ‘em and shove my face in every crevice of their body. Because we put videos and photos online of us loving each other so much, sometimes [the fans] go overboard.

And also it’s that whole fantasy, her fans are different than mine. They’re young preteens they like to write fanfic and stuff.

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Why do you think fans are so obsessed with the idea of young female stars being bisexual? Do you think it’s just innocent excitement, or a good sign for LGBT acceptance — or do you think people are being creepy and voyeuristic?

Yeah, I think a part of it was a little creepy. But I think a part of that was always a little creepy.

I always thought there was a bit of ignorance. Like I got a matching tattoo with one of my best friends so now we’re lesbians? What does that even mean? Also even if we were dating, why are you concerned? Like why is that your business?

But that’s okay. But also I think people were like fetishizing like being gay, and that part was creepy. But whatever, we laughed it off.

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Christian Cowan jumpsuit and Cesare Paciotti shoes

On Aura Tout Vu bodysuit, Cesare Paciotti shoes, House of Emmanuele earrings and rings, and Hanes fishnets

Photography: Prince and Jacob

Styling: Alexandra Mandelkorn

Makeup: Ernesto Casillas