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ISSUE #84 - JUNE 2018

by Catherine Powell





on working with adam sandler + her time on broadway

on the second season of famous in love + her future goals

on growing with clarke griffin + her philanthropical efforts




on the good witch + stretching her producer muscles

on saying goodbye to the fosters + working on this is us

on the first season of siren + what to expect from season 2




on marvel’s cloak & dagger + his hopes for the show’s impact

on the end of the originals + his upgraded role on younger

on challenging herself as a songwriter + new music


on embracing her inner popstar + her upcoming album


publisher, editor, photographer, designer, writer












When the news broke that Adam Sandler had signed on for a fourth contracted feature film with Netflix, many people wondered how the veteran comedic actor would bring something new and refreshing to the array of stream-ready comedies that have been released recently. His specific brand of humor has always been family-friendly with a touch of slapstick absurdity, which audiences have been yearning for as of late. The film, The Week Of, came out at the end of April, and has received favorable reviews in the month that has followed. The storyline is classic Sandler—two fathers with conflicting opinions on how to plan their children’s’ wedding—but the performance by breakout star Allison Strong is the most endearing aspect of the film. To the film world, Allison is an unknown, but at 27, she has amassed a lifetime’s worth of experience in theatre. You could argue that she has spent the majority of her life preparing for life on the silver screen. But her path to stardom in a Netflix original was anything but conventional. Raised in a quiet suburban town in Hudson County, New Jersey, Allison is of Colombian descent and is fluent in both English and Spanish. She admits she was “a really shy kid,” and as such, her mother encouraged her to take musical theatre classes to help encourage her to gain self-confidence. At first, it was difficult. “I never got a solo because the teacher thought I couldn’t talk. But I would always sing in the car and beg my mom to beg for a solo for me,” she said. Her mother went to bat for her, and eventually she landed the coveted solo at an end-of-the-year performance. Allison’s vocal perfor-

mance left the audience speechless. “Everyone came up to us asking who my voice teacher was, saying I would be on Broadway one day,” Allison recalls. Neither Allison nor her family had any professional musical theatre experience, but they trusted the opinions of those who did, and took a leap of faith. Allison began taking as many classes as her single, working-class mother could afford, and she began to amass a wealth of skills: singing, jazz, flamenco, ballet, tap, and acting. In a matter-of-fact sort of way, she recounts how she did, in fact, end up on Broadway, making her debut at 18, in Bye Bye Birdie. The road to success was slow going at times, and Allison remembers her humble beginnings with fond bemusement: “It ended up taking up our schedule so much because we were basically living in our car and living off of Wendy’s and whatever was available to eat in strip malls,” she says. Even at a young age Allison’s hard work paid off, helping open doors for her that would have been unimaginable otherwise. At 8, she auditioned over the phone for the Metropolitan Opera and began training amongst the elite. Emmy Rossum was one of her now-famous classmates. In order to make performances in the city and live out what Allison remembers as a “very New York childhood,” she regularly missed school and skipped out on standardized tests. But her dedication to her dream landed her singing jobs and helped her score wins in a variety of talent competitions. At 10, she was the Oscar Mayer Weiner girl. “It was a shining moment in my childhood,” she laughs. Amidst the whirlwind that was

Allison’s exciting metropolitan adolescence, she remained a homebody with an understanding of where she came from. She continued to live in New Jersey with her mom through college, even after landing her Broadway role as a freshman. “It was always important to my mom that if I wanted something, I went after it. Completely,” she says. She took her academics seriously, waking up before dawn to commute. As a junior, she landed a role in Mamma Mia! During her senior year, she chose to focus solely on studying and socializing, particularly with people outside of the theatre world. “It was a really weird dichotomy,” she recalls. In 2016, Allison appeared on The Blacklist, and this past year was hand-selected by Adam Sandler to star as his character’s daughter, Sarah, in The Week Of. “Up until this point I had auditioned for mostly television and Broadway, so when I got this audition, I saw Adam Sandler, I thought, ‘This is really special’,” she says. Her first impression was that he was “a good man, and such an incredible performer”—who just happened to be wearing basketball shorts. He was warm and friendly, inquiring about her Jersey upbringing and helping to build their onscreen rapport. “The first day we met was our first scene. We had to go into that father-daughter dynamic relatively quickly,” she says. After the film wrapped, Allison approached director Robert Smigel to thank him, and was blindsided by the response she received: “He said, ‘Don’t thank me. Thank Adam. He picked you.’ Totally mind-blowing, especially when you grow up watching his films,” she says. NKD NKDMAG.COM


bailee madison Words by RACHEL HILL Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

An industry veteran, yet just barely legal. 18-year-old Bailee Madison has a career filmography long enough to impress the most seasoned actor, even appearing alongside some of Hollywood’s most notorious artists like Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman and Billy Crystal. Not to mention she’s also tried her hand at producing, writing, and clothing design. Oddly enough, she got her start by chance, never really intending to become an actress. She followed her older sister Kaitlin to auditions alongside her mom. Bailee booked her first commercial at two-weeksold when the casting director mentioned they needed a baby on set and, well, she happened to be there. There’s no doubt she started to feel comfortable around casting agents and the audition process. “I just remember unbuckling myself from the stroller and trying to crash the audition,” Bailee says. It was at her sister’s audition for the 2006 movie Lonely Hearts where another casting director asked her mother if she had ever acted before. She had never taken an acting class, and never said she wanted to be an actress, but thought she would give it a try. Her sister recalls walking Bailee around the corner and quickly running lines with her. Lonely Hearts became Bailee’s motion picture debut. Bailee spent most of her time in her native Fort Lauderdale, Fl., until along came a project called Bridge to Terabithia. She filmed an audition tape, the actor’s equivalent of a resume, and prayed it would even be watched by the casting team. “Somehow God was incredible. They actually saw the tape and flew me out to L.A. and I did callbacks 08

with about four other girls who were in the mix,” she adds. She got the call a few days later that she would be flying to New Zealand to film Bridge to Terabithia for six and a half months. This faith is something she has been forthcoming about. Her tight-knit family dynamic, as well as her faith, appear to be keeping her quite humble amidst growing up— geographically speaking or not— in Hollywood. She exudes her humility through her philanthropic causes. Bailee has served as an ambassador for Alex’s Lemonade Stand since 2010. ALSF is a national childhood cancer foundation that aims to fundraise for new treatment research. She has hosted Alex’s Lemonade Stand events in cities across the country in effort to support the battle against childhood cancer. “It’s a very under discussed and very underfunded disease, unfortunately, that everyone has a hard time talking about,” she explains. Her family has been forefront in many aspects of her life. When she was younger, she relied on them to help her in discerning which projects to take on. Scripts would follow the traditional agent-to-manager route then continue on to Bailee’s mother who would review it and ensure it was age appropriate. At the end of the line is Bailee and her sister Kaitlin. “I had all these incredible opinions around me to be able to show me every side of the story. And I really haven’t wavered from that as I’ve gotten older,” she says, “I really do think that it’s a team effort so you know now my agents will hand me a script and I’ll read it and I have a pretty clear look at what I hope to be doing within the next

year of my life.” As someone who loves to work and take on as much as she can handle, the learning process of feeling secure enough to use the word ‘no’ when it comes to turning down projects has been tough to grasp and something she is still working on. “I’m trying to stand firm in what I believe in and the values that come with a person like me and respecting those and also looking forward to kind of pushing the boundaries the way that I would like to be pushed,” she says. She seeks to push her own personal boundaries in terms of future roles and worlds she hopes to enter. On her wish list? Action films, of course. She recently dipped (and sprained) her toe into these waters with her new horror film The Strangers: Prey at Night. Bailee would often leave set with bruises and even sprained a toe, describing this as “so gratifying”. There was something about pushing herself outside of the emotional realm that she was so used to being in and instead diving into the physicality of it. Admittedly a deeper answer to a larger question, Bailee reveals it would be a dream to work on a piece that looks at empowering women. “I’m just kind of looking for a female character that breaks stereotypes that I find myself often trapped in,” which she thinks many female actresses would agree with,. “I’m looking for a film that gets to explore the vulnerability of a woman, but also the strains on how hard it is to grow up in this day and age, but also the triumph you get.” Already breaking a stereotype at such a young age, Bailee has twice stepped into the role of producer




on two films. The first, Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket in 2015. And recently, A Cowgirl’s Story in 2017. Back in 2012, she did Cowgirls ‘n Angels with Tim Armstrong as the director. Thankfully, the pair remained friends and one day Tim rang Bailee asking her to be a part of a new script he had and to help produce it from the ground up. “I worked with them on everything from me personally calling the hair and makeup team and hiring them to making sure the right grips were on the ground to waking up at 4:00 a.m. before anyone got on set and being the last person to wrap out at the end of the day,” she explains. “Tim was so fantastic and allowed me to sit next to him for scenes that I wasn’t in and go and sit with the actors and go through scenes with them and do little workshops and help out,” Bailee notes, “It was just a very humbling experience that I totally get what producers mean when they say they never sleep.” Double dipping and producing a film that you are also acting in can prove a difficult feat, yet Bailee has stepped into the twofer with relative ease. “I had to make sure that I was content with my stuff, that I knew really what I wanted to do in those scenes. That way I could watch Chloe [Lukasiak] and Froy [Gutierrez] for it and I could watch our other actors and see their delivery within the scenes so that way when we would yell cut, I could run back to Tim and discuss and tweak and move on if it was time to.” Throw another talent into the mix: her debut novel, Losing Brave was released January 2018. The psychological thriller tells the tale of 17-year-old Payton Brave and her

twin sister who has been missing for a year. As Payton’s struggles to unlock the troubling memories of that horrible night, the more danger she exposes herself to. Bailee and co-writer Stefne Miller cooked up the idea for the novel while on location filming Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket. “We started looking into Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, and we were like ‘OK, nothing like that has been made for a teenage audience that’s one hundred percent clean and also as exciting and scary,’” she says. In the magical town of Middleton, Season 4 of Hallmark’s The Good Witch premiered in April. Bailee stars in the series as Grace Russell, who left off in quite a bad spot with her boyfriend Nick at the end of Season 3 - and don’t expect them to make up early on. Bailee relays that their shared stubborn headedness acts as a reconciliation roadblock. “She now has her boyfriend Noah on the show and something is going to happen which is going to put their relationship in a very interesting place where neither are sure what’s going to happen, but neither one of them wants to say the truth,” Bailee reveals. In the present, she’s striving to push herself in a business sense. Accomplishing her goal of collaborating on a clothing line, Bailee recently teamed up with Knixteen to design a bra for on-the-go women with any body type. Self-care and searching for projects that truly excite her seem to be the center of Bailee’s focus. She has a few upcoming projects she still has to remain tight-lipped about, but reiterates, “It’s definitely on the path to what makes my heart go ‘Yes, This is right. I love what I do’,” she says. NKD NKDMAG.COM



aubrey joseph Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Grooming by LUCKY NAPOLEON

After over a year of hype, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger will finally premiere on Freeform on June 7th – and star Aubrey Joseph could not be readier for people to enter the world he and his cast have created. Aubrey’s story started in “not the greatest neighborhood” Brooklyn, where his mom opted to keep him busy with every possible activity so he didn’t fall into trouble. Throughout his childhood, he participated in church, football and karate, and Aubrey had initially hoped to make it to the NFL – until the first time he performed on a stage. “The way I felt when I saw the crowd react… It was way better than scoring a touchdown,” he reflects. He dove head first into acting and his first role was that of Young Simba on Broadway’s The Lion King – a role he occupied for three years from ages 10-13. Following his time in the show, Aubrey went to a performing arts high school in New York and continued to book small acting gigs, like commercials and guest spots. “It was a lot of fun, but it was also

very serious for me,” he says of his high school experience. During his senior year, he auditioned for “all the best acting schools in the country” and got into every single one. He chose USC partly for its Los Angeles campus, and partly because it was one of the few schools that allowed acting students to go on auditions while they were enrolled. It was during his short time at USC that Aubrey auditioned for the role of Tyrone Johnson (a.k.a. Cloak) Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, and opted to drop out once the show was picked up to series. On his second day filming in New Orleans, his co-star Olivia Holt (who plays Tandy Brown/ Dagger) helped him withdrawal from the upcoming semester after his phone died so he wouldn’t get charged for tuition. “I was like, ‘Is it okay if I drop out of college on your phone?’” he recalls, laughing. Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger follows two teenagers from drastically different backgrounds who come together one night after a traumatic event that shakes both of their lives. It is on this fateful

night that the two of them acquire their superpowers and the first season follows the two of them as they try to understand themselves and their newfound powers. “Just being teenagers, there’s so many weird things that come with it. Finding yourself and trying to fit in, so just adding that on top of the fact that they’re trying to find their powers is a lot,” he says. In Aubrey’s opinion, what moves the show forward is the relationship between Tyrone and Tandy, and how much they need each other. “There’s no just Cloak, there’s no just Dagger. They have to be together. And I think it’s going to be great for people to see that companionship between a black guy and a white girl,” he says. Because of the way the world is right now, Aubrey knows that showing a positive, interracial relationship between young people on screen is extremely important, and does not take that understanding lightly. “I feel like since we’re doing a project like this, and young kids are growing up and seeing this as the new norm, and seeing Black Panther as normal, NKDMAG.COM


and seeing Wonder Woman – seeing a woman empowered and seeing a black man empowered is going to become the new normal,” he says, “The more types of projects like this that we have, that’s how we’re going to change society. By showing the younger generation that things can be different.” When Aubrey first received the script for Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, he was immediately attracted to the character of Tyrone. “As people, when we go through things, we kind of develop this guard that we don’t even know about, and it was cool to see that in Tyrone because I know so many of us have that,” he says, “I saw that he was a kid that was forced to grow up because of his circumstances and I went through the same thing.” He felt that Tyrone’s story was universal to a lot of kids, and because he related so strongly to the character, Aubrey felt that he could portray him in a way that would make kids watching feel less alone. Entering the world of Marvel has been an experience on its own for Aubrey. Between diving into the source material of the comics, attending comic conventions, learning to avoid sharing spoilers and walking the Avengers: Infinity War red carpet, he has become fully immersed in the ever-expanding universe. “It’s something I never even dreamed of,” he says. The most rewarding part, however, is the bond he formed with his cast and crew while filming in New Orleans. “New Orleans is literally the perfect place for us to do this show because it’s the city of overcoming,” Aubrey says, “It’s a city that has been through 14

so much and is still standing.” He feels that the philosophy of the city directly parallels the characters on Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, because they are able to keep moving forward no matter what is thrown at them. While it’s easy for a comic-based show to become overthe-top and campy, Aubrey believes that Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger stays grounded throughout its entire first season. “I’m really glad for these kids to see themselves [on screen]. There are so many people that feel like they’re alone and that their voices aren’t heard, and I’m happy for people to see that,” he says. He thinks that everyone – regardless of circumstances – will be able to relate to the show in a way. In addition to exploring Tyrone’s and Tandy’s reaction to the traumatic events the unfold in the first episode, viewers will also see how their parents lives change as they work to raise their children in very scary world. “The impact that we were going for… I just really hope that society is impacted, because we are so passionate about it,” he says. Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger was Aubrey’s first time leading a television series, but his experience in theatre had prepared him for the workload to a point where he didn’t feel any pressure while filming the show. Though he anticipates staying in the screen world for the foreseeable future, Aubrey has no doubt that he will return to the stage one day and is confident that his Broadway days are not behind him. “I have to. It was my start,” he says, “It was what made me fall in love with acting.” NKD





As a teenager and young actress, Pepi Sonuga hoped that she would someday be part of successful teen drama series. Today, she can say that her goal has been filled with her role as Tangey Turner on Freeform’s hit show Famous in Love. Pepi was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to America shortly before her teen years. In high school, she was a huge fan of teen dramas like Gossip Girl, 90210, and The Vampire Diaries. So when she first heard about auditions for Famous in Love, she immediately knew that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “I’ve always wanted to be in shows like that, so I always said, ‘At some point in my career, I hope I get to be in a show like that’,” Pepi recalls. Aside from being a drama series about young Hollywood and having a name like Bella Thorne already attached to the project in the early stages, the role of pop star Tangey attracted Pepi because there was potential for her to shape the character herself. “Tangey was just a blank slate,” Pepi says. “I really loved that. I knew that I would have an opportunity to create her.” When she first auditioned for the role, she was surprised to find herself in a room with I. Marlene King, the executive producer and co-creator of Famous in Love – and a familiar name to any-

one who watched Pretty Little Liars. “This is pretty rare because she’s the executive producer,” Pepi says. “Usually, you go in to casting first and then maybe a callback with a few producers and then you test, but I went in for Marlene and I was really nervous.” Following the audition, she didn’t receive any updates for approximately a month. When she read online that the roles had been cast, she assumed that she wasn’t selected. But the next day, Pepi received a phone call and gladly accepted the role. Now that Pepi is part of a teen drama, it feels surreal. “Marlene is so legendary and so amazing,” Pepi says. “It’s really great to be a part of one of her projects.” When Famous in Love aired on Freeform in April 2017 and was made available to immediately binge watch online, it was viewed by millions of people. The show was renewed a few months later and returned for Season 2 in April 2018. Once again, Famous in Love was met excitement and anticipation from fans – and the feelings were mutual for the cast and crew. “I think we were all so excited to go again,” Pepi says. “And I feel like it’s even better stuff. Every season, it’s kind of like, ‘OK, we did that, we watched it, we saw, things went great, and we saw what we would want to do better.’ Everyone goes in with this

energy of ‘I want to make it amazing.’” Like the first season, Season 2 consisted of 10 episodes with fast moving storylines and plenty of drama. Tangey in particular was faced with even more complicated scenarios, from friendships being tested to new relationships and business ventures. This included her friendship with Alexis (played by Niki Koss) experiencing obstacles after a secret was exposed on Alexis’ reality TV show, Alexilicious. “I think they will pull it together,” Pepi says. “And they’re in Hollywood. When you’re in Hollywood, you see people all the time. You kind of have to pull it together. So maybe they will.” This “heated” season also showed Tangey taking charge of her career by leaving her controlling momager, Ida, starting a new record label, and channeling her negative experiences into her songwriting. “She needs to take control of her own life,” Pepi says of her character. “She needs to be a boss. And I think it’s fun to watch.” Just as Pepi wants Tangey to be more strong-willed, she tries to apply the same mentality to her own life. “This is an ongoing process, but I’m learning to be more assertive and to be confident and learning how to just be more business-minded, and care about myself and NKDMAG.COM


also care about other people who I work with, to elevate what I do,” she says. A show about Hollywood also wouldn’t be complete without at least one famous guest star. In Season 2, Pepi got screen time with Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, who she’s personally a fan of. “Ally was so amazing,” Pepi says. “She’s so kind and so … I call it generous. I think it’s generous when people are just game with their energy and their space and their time. She was just so game with everything we were doing, so I love her. I was already such a big fan of her music, so that was pretty cool.” Pepi’s current dream guest star for Famous in Love is Black Panther’s Lupita Nyong’o – or any cast member from the blockbuster Marvel film, for that matter. “Lupita, come our way and I can fangirl over you,” Pepi says with a laugh. Another thing that Pepi would love to see on Famous in Love is more flashback scenes that give fans a glimpse into what Tangey and the other characters were like before they were introduced at the start of the show. With only 10 episodes per season thus far, the plot moves quickly, with not much time spent on the past. However, viewers got a small taste of Tangey, Alexis, Rainer (played by Carter Jenkins), and Jordan’s (played by Keith Powers) early years in Hollywood during the Backsplash 20

TV show reunion episode that took place in Season 2. “I would love to see more stuff like that, seeing where they came from, or at least just talking about it to get more history about the Hollywood kids,” Pepi says. She also wants an episode being filmed from Alexis’ perspective, or in an Alexilicious-esque manner. “Watching the show from her perspective, that could be really fun.” Even though Famous in Love is one of Pepi’s biggest roles to date, she’s been part of the industry for several years – and has learned a few things along the way. “I think in general, I’ve learned that it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” she says. “That just means that building a career takes a long time, especially if you want longevity, and that requires a lot of patience.” “I’ve learned to really just enjoy where I am at the moment, instead of thinking, ‘Why am I not doing that right now?’” she adds. “It is a journey, so I really just try to soak in every single thing I’m a part of.” Aside from Famous in Love, Pepi has been busy with other projects. She recently traveled to South Africa to film the horror movie Leprechaun Returns – a direct sequel to the 1993 classic that starred Jennifer Aniston – and she put her “blood, sweat, and tears” into it. She also hopes to do even

more films and explore other film genres besides horror in the future. “I would love to do an indie drama, definitely,” she says. “Just a script that I connect with that really touches me. There are a lot of scripts that I’ve been reading so far that have just been so amazing, and a lot of things are on the horizon. I’m just hoping that something sticks.” Film roles aside, she also wouldn’t mind temporarily moving to New York at some point to do theater productions. And for people who might be interested in being part of the entertainment industry, Pepi has clear-cut, honest advice that can really be applied to the pursuit of any goal. “First of all, make sure this is what you really want to do,” she says. “I know people say that all the time, but really. There are a lot of things I could have done if I didn’t want to be an actor. It’s not, ‘Oh, this is the only thing you can do.’ But if this is what you know in your heart and soul that you have to do, do it. It’s not easy and you have to really have love for it to persevere.” “Secondly, have an idea at least of what you want to bring to the world,” she adds. “I think having a sense of what message you as a person stand for just makes you make better art and it makes you pursue your goals in a different way – and that’ll help you.” NKD



amanda leighton Words by SELINA FALCON Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

When Amanda Leighton auditioned for the role of Emma Kurtzman in the Freeform (formerly ABC Family) show The Fosters, she was guaranteed, possibly, four episodes. That was in 2013 during the show’s first season. “I think it was over Christmas break or something – I had gone home – me and my whole family, we binge watched the first 10 episodes and then I was hooked,” she says. Her first episode of The Fosters, “House and Home”, aired in the new year and she continued portraying Emma throughout the rest of season one, solidifying herself as a series regular. Now more than 50 episodes in, Amanda is gearing up for the three-night series finale in June. Amanda was born and raised in Fresno, a growing metropolitan city in the middle of Central California’s farmland. The now soon-to-be 25 year old grew up participat-

ing in dance competitions, and at the age of 10 began taking acting classes. “I remember getting that feeling,” she explains. “I told my mom, I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life’, and she was like, ‘Yeah, right. You’re 10, you don’t know what you want.’ But then I just kind of kept going with it.” For six years, Amanda’s mom would drive her down to Los Angeles for auditions and classes. She was 12 when she booked her first project. “Then there was kind of like this space of those middle school, awkward years where I was just wasn’t working,” she says. She continued to take classes because she loved acting, but the ball didn’t start to roll until Amanda graduated from high school and made the move to Los Angeles full time. “I just realized [that was] like, seven years ago, which is blowing my mind. It’s almost

a decade now,” she explains. “Now I’m here and it’s great. I still love my job.” The first scene she read for The Fosters was the first scene Emma is in where she’s running on the beach and bumps into Jesus Adams Fosters (then portrayed by Jake T. Austin, now played by Noah Centineo). She says she thought the dialogue was cute and fun, the later binge watch with her family solidifying her love for the show. “Fosters has been such a big part of my life, I’m so grateful for it. I’ve met the most amazing people, I’ve met great friends, I love everybody that I work with, and, you know, it’s sad it’s coming to an end, but it’s also like, I’m just super blessed for how it became such a big part of my career,” she says. A career that has become a busy one over the past few years. While filming The Fosters, Amanda was also working on four other shows, three of NKDMAG.COM


which were voice-over shows that included The Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network, Trolls: The Beat Goes On! on Netflix, and a new, unreleased animated Disney show. Voice acting is something Amanda says fell into her lap. She was looking for new agents and was asked if she had ever considered doing voice over. Her first audition was for The Powerpuff Girls, for which she booked and now voices Blossom. “Ever since that, the ball started rolling with voice over and I found a real love for it because it’s so much fun. It was just a really good accident,” she admits. She learned a lot and got the hang of voice acting while on The Powerpuff Girls. “Everybody that I worked with like Tom Kenny and Roger L. Jackson, they’ve been doing this for years. So, a lot of the time, it was a really cool lesson,” she explains. “When I wasn’t recording or anything I would just watch them and be like, ‘What are these guys doing?’, because they’re pros at it.” The fourth is the groundbreaking NBC family drama, This Is Us. Amanda plays the teenage version of Sophie in the flashbacks, who is portrayed by Alexandra Breckenridge in present day. “I’ve actually never met her,” Amanda says of Alexandra. “I’ve really only met Chrissy, Justin, Milo, and Mandy. I haven’t met anybody else on the show yet besides the [younger versions of the characters].” But despite not physical in24

teractions with Alexandra, Amanda still made herself familiar with her work. “I definitely went back and I looked at her scenes just to see if she had any nuances – like the way that she laughs, or the way she talks, or something like that. Something that would stay true to character. Something that would help me, I guess, play the same character,” she says. Amanda says the audition process was quick – she got the script on a Friday, and her audition was on a Monday. “It was like two-page dialogue or something. I went in and they were like, ‘Can you come back in an hour for a chemistry read with Logan [Shroyer],’ who plays young Kevin, and I was like ‘Yeah, sweet!’ Then it just kind of happened all fast and I think I worked like, three days later,” she recalls. Her first episode in This Is Us was the second to last episode of the first season, titled “What Now?” She returned for six more episodes throughout season two, which just aired its spring finale in March. Season 3 is expected to premiere sometime in September, but Amanda is unaware if Sophie will be brought back. “It kind of just depends on whenever they want tell a story from their past,” she says. In the same fashion of when she booked The Fosters, when Amanda got the audition for This Is Us, she went home and binge-watched the first season. “I was bawling,” she says. “That show is just heartwarm-

ingly sad, you know? It’s so real and I feel like everybody can connect to it. Fosters too. I think both of those shows have really good storytellers. They tell a lot of things that happen in real life and I feel like it really hits people in their core.” After five seasons of those types of stories being told on The Fosters, there are now only three episodes left to bring the series to a close. The spring finale, which was also the show’s 100th episode, aired in March and left off with a small time jump. “[Emma and Jesus are] going to continue from where that jump was. So, it’s just kind of, you know, wrapping up some stuff,” Amanda laughs. “I don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but they’re so good. The last three episodes are amazing.” The filming for the finale was done over two weeks in Turks & Caicos, which Amanda says was the best way to wrap up the show. “I mean, you’re there, and you’re working, but also its kind of like this big farewell party,” she says. When asked what she hopes fans take away from The Fosters finale, Amanda gives an “Aw”, and then with sincerity says, “I just hope that they enjoyed it, because we did. I loved coming to work every day, and working with these amazing people,” she says, “And the awesome stories that needed to be told, they told them. And I hope that that stays with people.” NKD



charles michael davis Words & Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Grooming by ERIN ANDERSON


Charles Michael Davis has spent the last five years of his life being the king of New Orleans, but as his time as Marcel Gerard on The Originals comes to an end, he’s taking New York out for a spin. Charles was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio by his Filipino mother and Kentuckian father, who met when his father was serving in the military. He had an incredibly normal suburban childhood and then went to Miami University in Ohio for college – where he studied marketing – and was mostly involved in sports – partly because that was the only outlet available for him. “I feel like I was Eminem in 8 Mile, minus the ability to rap,” he jokes. Not wanting to get into sales, Charles got into print modeling and eventually by way of a convention in Florida, began to flex his acting muscles. “My thinking was, ‘If I’m the second overall acting at this convention, with some training, I’ll be one of the best actors in the world’,” he recalls, laughing. So, he decided to skip graduate school and moved to Los Angeles. Once in L.A., he continued in print modeling and commercials before booking simultaneous reoccurring roles on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth and CBS’s The Game, which opened the door to the world of television. After a seven-episode arc on Grey’s Anatomy where he was working side-by-side with NKDMAG.COM


Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo, Charles had all the confidence in the world to keep pushing his career forward. While filming Grey’s Anatomy, Charles booked The Originals and took on his most notorious role yet. Because of the success of its predecessor, The Vampire Diaries, the cast of The Originals was able to skip the agonizing months of waiting to find out if they were being picked up to series and immediately jumped into the world of Comic Cons and fandom fame. “It was baptism by fire, in a way,” he reflects. Despite the success of The Vampire Diaries massive success, Charles admits he was “naïve” to the potential of The Originals at the time, and wasn’t fully convinced he had just signed on for the next five years of his life. Last summer at San Diego Comic Con, it was announced that the upcoming fifth season of The Originals would be the show’s last, which allowed the cast to go into filming with some added clarity. “It was enjoyable because we really got to really relish and enjoy each other, and at the end, for me, it was pretty emotional,” Charles says. After leaving Ohio, Charles had spent eight years in Los Angeles before uprooting to Atlanta for five years to film The Originals. Between filming Seasons 4 and 5, Charles opted for a change of scenery and decided to give New York a try, which ultimately led to him booking a reoccurring

role as Zane on TV Land’s Younger. He appeared in five episodes of the show’s fourth season and was bumped up to a series regular for Season 5, which premieres June 5th. Charles was able to find the common thread between Marcel and Zane in the sense that they are both incredibly ambitious. “At its core, The Originals is about human needs and family, and Marcel was on his own and looking to have his own family, and Zane is kind of the same way,” Charles says, “He’s trying to build his own company, his own family, he comes from modest beginnings.” Zane’s arc in Season 5 will follow his new job at Empirical Publishing and watch him attempt to win back Kelsey (Hilary Duff ), while the two of them work under the same roof. More sides of Zane will come to light as the relationship with Kelsey deepens, and as Zane interacts with his new boss, Charles Brooks (Peter Hermann). “Charles and Zane have a lot in common, and Charles trusts Zane,” Charles shares. Both The Originals and Younger have massive social media fan bases – but that didn’t stop Charles from abstaining from it for most of his career. While on the set of The Originals, he noticed that his cast mates were often glued to their phones in between scenes, and he felt much freer not having the crutch. Watching his good friend Justin Baldoni (of Jane

The Virgin fame) use social media as an effective and unique tool to promote things he felt strongly about is partly what inspired Charles to sign up for Instagram. As a new member of the community, Charles still isn’t entirely sold on the idea of social media as a whole, but has been enjoying the platform as a space to share his photography and follow artists whose work he enjoys. “There is a marketing aspect, and I do have a marketing degree,” he jokes. During his print modeling days, Charles developed an interest in photography and while on shoots would study what the photographers were using and how they were shooting, and then go out and buy the same equipment to teach himself. While on The Originals set, Charles saw the potential opportunities in directing. “I was inspired by the great Paul Wesley – he’ll love this, we’ve got a bromance going on – I thought, ‘Well, shit, if Paul can do it I can do it’,” Charles says. He ended up directing two episodes of The Originals – Episode 407 and Episode 506. Charles recently directed a music video that will be coming out soon, and is looking for more directing opportunities. He recently met with the Shadowhunters team about directing an episode next season (if they get picked up) – something he watched Paul Wesley do recently. “So, I’m just following Paul’s footsteps,” he says, laughing. NKD NKDMAG.COM




Singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is making her debut into the world of pop with a sound that incorporates relatable lyricism and head-turning melodies. As an only child growing up in Livingston, Scotland, Nina found herself writing short stories and poems to keep herself occupied, then at 10-years-old she picked up a keyboard and started putting her writing to music. “It’s something I’ve always done. Music is something natural to me, I don’t know why,” she says. At the age of 15, Nina learned how to play guitar and began uploading her music to Myspace and YouTube, quickly gaining a group of fans within her hometown and then throughout the world. “I didn’t come from a musical background or a particularly wealthy background to get into the studio so the only way for me to make music was to buy a cheap acoustic guitar and put myself online so that’s what I did,” she says. When writing her music, Nina drew inspiration from other female songwriters like Taylor Swift and Alanis Morrisette. “Anyone that started their own career and wrote their own music really inspired me,” she says. After starting her career on YouTube, Nina was “lucky enough to tour with other artists” and, at 17-years-old, was signed to her first label and released her first record, Peroxide, in the UK. As a signed artist, Nina had the opportunity to go to London and curate her own unique sound and experiment with new ideas that deviated from the simple acoustic style of her YouTube content. During this time, she also began writing songs for other artists and established herself within the songwriting community. After four years, Nina decided to

leave the major label to become an independent artist. Having already found radio success and several songs on the iTunes charts before being signed, becoming independent again was a welcome transition. “I enjoyed it independently, but when you’re 17 and someone offers you a major label deal you think. ‘These people know what they’re doing’, and put your trust in them, for some people it works out and for others it might not be the right time,” she says. Now, Nina has signed to a smaller independent label. “A lot of the album was already written before I’d signed to the new label, so I could say, ‘This is it, take it or leave it.’ With a major label, you’re signing up to a business, you’re constricted to what you can do,” she says. Especially with streaming playing a massive role in the music industry today, it was important for Nina to be able to license her new music to different labels in each country, rather than staying under one “label umbrella”, by choosing exactly who fits her sound and concept, she’s taking steps to make sure that her music will reach the most people and have a lasting impact. In her latest singles, Nina has made a dramatic shift from a poetic singer-songwriter to a brilliant pop artist. Nina has fully embraced pop music, despite feeling hesitant and embarrassed because of the stereotypes typically associated with the genre. “I love pop music, I grew up with a lot of pop music in the house around me so I think that was naturally in me but I was always a bit embarrassed about it, now I know there’s nothing to be ashamed about,” she says. Nina’s song, “The Best You Had”,

her first foray into pop music, was recently featured on Taylor Swift’s “Favorite Songs” Spotify playlist, a playlist that has helped bring many smaller artists into the spotlight. “It was absolutely amazing. She’s one of the reasons that I picked up a guitar, I used to sit and listen to her when I was 15 and 16 so it felt surreal to be included on her playlist,” she says, “When you grow up listening to someone it seems really strange when you interact with them. I think she’s very clever and her songwriting is amazing. I couldn’t believe it”. Despite a total change in genre, Nina is remaining true to her storytelling nature and keeping her lyrics vulnerable, honest and relatable on her upcoming album. “I want to make music that expands internationally and can be related to by a lot of different people in a lot of different situations and still feel personal,” she says. Her music tells her personal stories of heartbreak and triumph, but allows the listener to take what they need from it. To write and produce her new record, Nina has spent most of her time in a small studio in her flat in London. “That’s where I write the majority of my music. I kind of enjoy being alone and putting my phone down with nothing else going on,” she says. In addition to the studio time, she makes sure to enter writing sessions with other songwriters to collaborate with on not only her music, but what she’s writing for others. “Sometimes these sessions can be a good way of getting out of my own headspace from my own projects,” she notes, adding, “Sometimes I’ll surprise myself and say, ‘Oh, I like this song for me’.” For her upcoming album, Nina NKDMAG.COM


has chosen the lotus flower as an important image that spans across her social media, website, and the album artwork, with the flower representing how she felt at the beginning of writing the record and how she feels now. “By the time the album comes out, if you start at the first single and work your way along the album, the artwork tells a story and the lotus flower represents that beautiful things can still come from dark places and grow,” she says. As for when the album will be released, Nina says it is finished, but that she’s “waiting for the right moment” to share it. However, the title will be announced soon along with a few more singles to be released throughout the year. “I’m really proud of it. From start to finish the album is a journey, it’s not just a collection of songs. It’s something that people can put on and leave on to follow the journey and hopefully take what they want from it,” she says. Nina also just wrapped filming on the music video for the next single that will include new visuals to further detail the central ideas, saying, “It’s the first video in which the album visuals come to life so I’m excited for it to come out. I hope that people take what they want and relate to it how they want. It’s definitely a very personal album for me”. For the rest of this year, Nina says she is “taking a creative break” and deciding what to do next. “Maybe I’ll find something that I want to write about, I’m stocking up on information at the moment,” she says. She’ll be spending the summer on a headlining run throughout the UK as well as a US tour with Jesse McCartney this June, and another U.S. run in the fall. NKD 34




Shirt by HONEY PUNCH Jeans by WILD HONEY Shoes by ASOS


drama teacher that encouraged Eliza to audition for a show called Pirate Islands, which became Eliza’s first on-screen role. “And I never went back to drama class,” she laughs. She continued acting throughout her adolescence – working on various children’s shows before booking what would become a three-year stint on the popular Australian soap opera, Neighbours. Following her time on the show, she moved to London at 17 as a result of her newfound “fierce independence”. When she returned to Australia a few years later, Eliza struggled to book work because she was so associated with the character she had played on Neighbours – a role

she occupied for 167 episodes. Experiencing a lull but still needing to support herself, Eliza started bartending at a place called Love Machine in Melbourne and truly loved it. “I ended up bartending for two or three years,” she recalls, “It was so much fun and so different.” She was happy with her life, but one day at work a patron came up to her and handed her a napkin. “I thought she had just spit her gum in it or something but it was actually vomit,” Eliza recalls, laughing, “And I was like, ‘I need to go back to acting – this is gross!’” With the encouragement of her manager at the time, Eliza booked a flight to Los Angeles and within two months had

Jumpsuitt by LULUS.COM

When Eliza Taylor was cast in the lead role of The CW’s The 100, she was essentially an unknown name in the United States. But five seasons later and the show – one of the network’s highest rated – has catapulted the Australian actress into stardom. Eliza was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and spent her childhood “playing make believe”. There was a solid year of her life where she would only answer to Ariel – as in, The Little Mermaid – and wouldn’t speak because she was “on land”. When she was 11, she joined a drama class at the encouragement of her mother, who thought her introverted daughter would be able to make friends in it. It was her

booked The 100. “And the rest is history,” she laughs. Eliza was immediately attracted to how unapologetically strong of a female character Clarke was. After typically being cast as the stereotypical “ditzy blonde”, Eliza loved the prospect of getting to play someone who was a leader – and she was immediately intrigued by the story. “The whole pilot kind of read like a feature film,” she recalls, “It was quite a page-turner, and Clarke had a Katniss vibe.” After spending five years with the character, Eliza feels she knows Clarke pretty well, but admits she still does things that surprise her. “There are times when I’m like, ‘Really?! No!” she admits, “But our writers are really good at making everything make sense in the end, even if it’s quite shocking at first read.” After spending three years on one show in Australia and struggling to separate herself from the role afterwards, Eliza was a little nervous going into The 100 that the same thing would happen, but admits that it’s been extremely different. “On the soap opera, I didn’t get to show much range, but with Clarke I get to reinvent her all the time, so I don’t feel like I’m going to get type-cast,” she says. The size of the industry in America also allows for more wiggle room when looking for other roles during Eliza’s hiatus months. One thing The 100 has

been commended for is its positive representation of LGBTQ+ characters. Fans especially drifted towards the relationship between Clarke and Lexa (Alycia Debnam Carey), whose relationship ended tragically when Lexa was killed in Season 3. “Clarke was the first bisexual lead on network television, so that wasn’t a story that was being told often,” Eliza says, “It was a joy to have such an impact on young women around the world.” Season 4’s finale saw Clarke make the ultimate sacrifice by choosing to stay on earth and brave The Death Wave so her friends can successfully escape into space. While she thought she was giving up her life, she ultimately survived the nuclear apocalypse and after a few months of isolation, befriends a young girl named Madi, who is also braving the near-uninhabited world alone. “Their relationship is quite turbulent to begin with, because [Clarke]’s found this little ilfe who’s obviously been without a family for quite some time,” Eliza says, “But then they form a really, really strong bond and Clarke becomes her surrogate mother.” Clarke’s new maternal side is something Eliza really enjoyed exploring this season, as it’s not something she’s portrayed on screen before. “It was really cool for this season to see a different side of Clarke,” she says, “She’s a fierce Mama Bear.” While Clarke is no strang-

er to war, the battle of this season between Wonkru (the surviving grounders and sky people) and the newly-landed prison ship is different. In previous seasons, the decisions Clarke made were to protect everyone – whereas this season, she is making her choices to protect one person. “It was about making the right decisions for her people, and now it’s about her person,” Eliza says, “It might make her a little brash and a little blind sighted.” Overall, the usual dynamics between familiar characters have been flipped on their heads with this season of The 100. Because so many people were separated, and because survival was the driving force for everyone, the reunions are “really beautiful”, according to Eliza. In addition, Eliza feels that this season serves as a “really nice callback to the pilot” because now they are the grounders being hunted by people who have fallen out of the sky. “It’s a great role reversal,” she says. Because of the nature of the show, even the most beloved characters aren’t safe from death – which leads to some nervousness among the cast. “Everyone’s on their best behavior, I’ll tell you that,” Eliza jokes, “No one wants to die.” While the show has lost quite a lot of characters over the years, Eliza admits that losing cast members never gets easier because they are such a tight-knit group. “Losing the actor is always the hardNKDMAG.COM




est part because they become your family,” she says. While Season 5 is still airing, Eliza herself is enjoying some downtime. She spent her last two breaks filming movies, but this summer is opting to enjoy her free time and travel instead. She’ll be appearing at conventions all over the world and is excited to not only meet fans, but explore different cities and countries. Because of the passionate fan base that The 100 has, Eliza finds conventions extremely fun and loves interacting with the show’s audience on a more personal level than she can online. “There are so many amazing people who will come up to me and say that our show got them through chemo or that they came out to their parents because of my character, or that they have an eating disorder but are getting healthy because of the positive body image stuff that I do,” Eliza says, “And that to me is so amazing.” When she’s not filming or traveling, Eliza is focusing her energy on philanthropic avenues. A few years ago, she started a campaign to raise money to build a school on the island of Koh Tao, which is part of Thailand. The campaign has raised over $150,000 to date and was inspired by Eliza’s god children, who live on the island. She and their parents felt that they weren’t getting a proper education and noticed that many families were leaving NKDMAG.COM


the island because of the lack of educational opportunities for their kids – or worse, kids were being sent off the island to study while their parents stayed behind, separating families during the most pivotal times in children’s lives. “It’s been a lot of hard work and I can’t take a lot of the credit because Claire [Eliza’s business partner and her god children’s mother] is actually on the ground there making it all come together, but it’s really coming along,” she says. Part of her hiatus season will be spent visiting the school for the first time in over a year. Eliza’s and Claire’s school is the first non-for-profit school in Southeast Asia, and the two have high hopes to expand their program to other places around the region, with Bali likely being their next venture. The 100 is already picked up for a sixth season and will be returning to The CW in 2019, which means Eliza will be back in Vancouver and stepping into Clarke’s boots again sometime this summer. Looking into the future past The 100, doing more indie films and flexing her comedy muscles are two goals that Eliza has for her next projects – or really anything that involves less mud. “A lot of the time I’ll get home and I’ll shower and there’s still dirt on me that won’t come off, and I just have to sleep in it,” she laughs, “To be clean would be a treat.” NKD 44






fola evans-akingbola

Like many successful actors and actresses today, Freeform’s Siren’s Fola Evans-Akingbola didn’t grow up with plans to pursue a career in theatre. Instead, the London born-and-raised actress planned on attending university back home to earn a degree in philosophy. However, after a taking a gap year, Fola ended up in a place she could’ve only dreamed of – landing a lead role in a pilot nationwide television series. Growing up in an equally academic and musical family, Fola was lucky enough to have parents supporting her every decision. “We [my sister and I] really had a choice and they’ve been very supportive of that,” Fola says. At the time, she wasn’t sure whether or not to pursue art as a career. After her mom insisted she needed a hobby that isn’t about work, she started acting classes in 2014. For the past four years, she has been acting professionally both nationally and internationally. “I started acting classes bust still not wanting to do it for a job…one thing led to another and now we’re here,” she says. Working in theatre quickly became a full-time gig for Fola. However, school and education were still priorities in her mind. “I did the National Youth Theatre and then I joined a drama school, which is like a part time school in the UK in the evenings,” she says. Shortly after, Fola was signed by her current agent and started landing bigger jobs throughout the UK.

After working in the industry, Fola landed a pilot spot on Freeform’s original series Siren. The series, which follows a group of marine biologists on their adventures in the town of Bristol Cove, premiered on Freeform in March 2018 and was recently renewed for a second season. Fola portrays Maddie Bishop, one of the show’s marine biologists. “I really enjoyed working on a bigger thing. It was good because this was our first time being series regulars, so I think we all have supported each other,” Fola says. Along with her cast members, this was the first time she landed a role as a series regular. As opposed to your schedule being hectic and unpredictable, for once Fola was able to settle down with a constant filming schedule. “I probably shouldn’t have been an actress,” she chuckled. When not shooting a series like Siren, she often sat wondering what job was next. “It’s true what they say. If you book a holiday, you will get a job,” she jokes. Shortly after landing the job on Siren, Fola flew across the Atlantic to film for four straight months in Canada. The stamina of shooting day in and day out can be stressful on actresses, but Fola attributes her stamina in shooting long hours to the smaller roles she had been in at home. “I think that learning what it’s like to be on a set, learning that it’s so different like what we were just talking about, that it’s so different in the classroom, training is so important,” she

says, “Nothing will prepare you for the madness of set and that fact that you could be wasting around in your trailer for three hours and then suddenly be filming.” In Siren, Fola’s character Maddie Bishop is a marine biology student who has just taken a job at the marine mammal center with her boyfriend. “You meet her when she was just starting to take the reins of her life and become more independent. She’s really trying to define ourselves in routine and structure,” Fola says, “And then when the mermaid comes into their lives, this force of nature turns everything upside down. What was fun this season is really getting to see how Maddie deals with all of that.” In the second season, Maddie’s dad will be introduced. As sheriff of the town, her family dynamics get tested as the temperatures rise and tensions are built. Beyond Siren, Fola has been working back home in the UK on smaller projects, with a film coming out “I’ve got a UK film coming out in summer. It’s being released by Attitude Films, who released Moonlight in the UK. When I go home to London I think I’ll be shooting a film called Being Dead,” she shares. As Fola gears up to head home for a bit in between shooting, she notes how living in Vancouver has offered her a second home and she’s excited to go back and continue working on a project she believes in. “I love London as a city, but it’s nice to be around nature,” she admits. NKD NKDMAG.COM



For as long as she can remember, Kim Petras has dreamed of becoming a popstar. This fantasy is not uncommon in young girls, who idolize Britney and Christina before they can spell diva, but Kim has put in the work to make pop-stardom her reality and has been reaching goals nonstop, a veritable powerhouse of success. Kim grew up obsessed with music in Cologne, Germany. She wrote her first song at 12 after discovering songwriting documentaries and becoming instantly fascinated with pop. “It was just a sad song about having a crush on a boy in my school,” Kim remembers, but it was an important step in launching her songwriting career. As a kid, she could invariably be found writing and producing out of her bedroom. Her first big break was a German laundry detergent commercial at 16, which landed Kim her first record deal. “Ever since I was young, I was trying to become a good songwriter,” Kim explains. “I don’t think anybody thought I would really go and do it.” Though her family and small circle of friends enjoyed her music and supported her creative endeavors, “I never really found people who liked pop music as much as I did in Germany,” Kim reflects. So at 19, she made the life-changing decision to move to Los Angeles with no money or connections.

Her bed was a studio couch, her writing partner anyone willing. To many, Kim’s dream seemed impossible, but she had a plan: write one big hit for someone else, then use that success to launch her own artistic career. Kim’s goal was achieved when Fergie recorded one of her songs. Although the track was never released, the publicity she garnered led to an American publishing deal. Now 25, Kim is working on her first record. Her debut single, I Don’t Want It At All, went straight to number 1 on the Spotify Viral Charts in 2017. Since then, Kim has released five more songs and was featured on Charli XCX’s song “Unlock It”. Kim’s sound is unlike anything else on the radio today. “I like to think I have a unique perspective,” she remarks. “It’s definitely all-out, unapologetic pop.” Her songs are fast-paced, glamorous, and energetic. “No song is ever inspired by the same thing,” she adds, from emotions and conversations to colors or movie quotes. From the start, Kim has written in English, as German artists tended to wax poetic and acoustic. At first, Kim wrote alone and prioritized quantity over quality, but now she is focused on collaboration and creating one great song. “It’s such an important thing and such a beautiful thing to find

[co-writers] you really connect with,” she says, as the intimacy of songwriting creates strong bonds and better songs. “I love when you’re in the studio with another artist and you can pick their brain about what they’re going through and you can write about it together and bring something out of them,” Kim explains. When writing with artists in the studio, the songs are created with them in mind, but of the songs she writes alone, Kim only gives away wrong fits. “Whenever I write a song that I know is totally me and has me in it too much, I would never give it away,” she says. “I definitely see visuals while writing,” Kim notes. She has a color, outfit, hairstyle, or scene in mind for every song. As she writes, Kim hopes to create vivid images, which she reinforces with ambitious music videos. Fashion shines in her visuals — inspired by her stylists, 2000s Dior, and Karl Lagerfeld. The biggest influences on Kim’s music are her friends. Her most frequent collaborators are lil aaron and Baby E, as well as songwriting partner Aaron Joseph. When they met four years ago, Aaron was the first to appreciate Kim as her own artist, and they have been best friends ever since. “[If you’re] not having fun writing songs in the studio, then you’re doing someNKDMAG.COM 09

thing wrong,” she adds. Other inspirations include Freddie Mercury, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, SZA, Kendrick Lamar, and Rae Sremmurd — the only commonality being writing prowess. Her dream collaboration would be with Kendrick, Drake, or Rihanna. Out of all the songs she has written, the ones closest to Kim’s heart are her latest single, “Heart to Break”— which took months to write and perfect and “really sums up my whole love life” — and the song coming out next, an “anthemic-sounding, crazy girlfriend song.” Now Kim has secured a place in the world she once dreamed about. “I’ve researched the shit out of [what] it takes to becoming a popstar,” Kim reveals, so the journey has come with few surprises, “but it’s definitely not glamorous once you’re doing it.” Being a pop sensation is a full-time job and Kim rarely gets to see her friends, but she “wouldn’t want it any other way.” Kim has spent the past few months on the road for a radio tour. It’s a wild lifestyle, living out of a suitcase and waking up early in a new city every day, but Kim loves it. Her favorite city so far is New Orleans: the jazz bars, food, and culture hold a place in her heart, and “you can drink out in the street, which you can’t in L.A.,” she mentions. One of the most rewarding aspects of celebrity is fandom. Kim tells about a trip to Disneyland where she rode Space Mountain with her fans and chatted to them about Kingdom Hearts. “I don’t remember how it was before them. I really love them and I feel super 10

loved,” she enthuses. “My fans just understand me completely.” Another thing making Kim unique is her historic status as the youngest German to undergo gender confirmation surgery (at age 16). Kim began hormone therapy at 12, becoming the subject of documentaries and talk show discussions. Kim’s parents guided her through all the attention, teaching her “that not everybody’s as lucky to have supportive parents as me, and that there’s a huge suicide rate with transgender people,” she recalls. The documentaries were meant to help other young transgender people, which she is immensely proud of. “People still write me to this day that I inspired them to live their lives as they want to,” she says. “I used to not tell people I worked with that I was transgender,” Kim shares. “I just really worked hard to get where I am. I think it’s amazing that I get to help other people that are transgender and fight for that openly, but at the same time, it is who I am.” While being transgender has impacted her experiences in the studio both positively and negatively, “I don’t know how it is any other way,” she admits. For every goal Kim meets, five more spring up. She dreams of a No. 1 single and hopes to keep creating “sick” albums, songs, and videos. “I only want to keep getting better at doing what I do,” she adds. Kim is ambitious and driven, qualities that made her dream a reality. She hopes to one day headline an arena tour and to “always keep evolving and never repeat myself. Artistically, I want to be great.” NKD




NKD Mag - Issue #84 (June 2018)