tbt: a 13-year-old frances bean cobain talks harry potter, fashion, and famous moms
Artist, model, musician, and now muse to Marc Jacobs, France Bean Cobain is steadily carving a name for herself outside of her parent’s gargantuan shadows. But she was always going to, right? Much more than just the daughter of incredibly famous...
She's just a regular 13-year-old girl, really. But who cannot fail to be intrigued by the psyche of Frances Bean Cobain? Frances is the only offspring of two of the most enduring pop cultural icons of their individual moments, Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. Barely into her teens, she has a sweet surety, a nice turn of phrase, and a Mariah fixation going on. She's got a thing for Juicy Couture and chemistry class. She's also got a cool grip on her own position. We join her in sprightly form, one early autumnal morning in Culver City, CA.
How are you today, Frances?
I'm good, thank you. And how are you?
I'm good too.
Good! We're all good.
What's today got in store for you?
Today's great, actually. I'm going to go shopping with my friends and then I'm going to go and watch the new Harry Potter movie, The Goblet of Fire.
Cool, nice day. Are you excited about the new Harry Potter?
Am I excited? Am I ever! I love the Harry Potter movies. I read all the books in one go when I was nine years old. And I was so excited about the movies and then they came out and, sure, I mean, they're amazing, right?
Which one's your favorite?
Number two. I wasn't so keen on three when they brought in the new director. I thought he told the story in a confusing way. And I know these stories, like, really well. I like the actors, they're all really good. But the director for the third one just let it down a bit, made it too confusing. I want clarity.
What's the best thing about being 13?
The best thing... hmmm, I think the best thing about being 13 is that I'll get to go and see PG13 movies unassisted. That just says everything about being 13. It's like my mom and my nanny and everyone have to give me that little bit of extra responsibility now, because they can see that I'm growing up. So that's the best thing about being 13. People have to start taking you seriously and letting you get on with things.
You've got a very good vocabulary. Are you good at school?
I'm pretty good, sure.
Are there any other kids at school with famous moms?
Yes, there is actually. There is a girl called Tallulah Willis in my school and her mom is Demi Moore. She's a grade younger than I am so I don't hang out with her but we chat sometimes and it's good to have somebody else with a famous mom in school. It doesn't make it so different.
Does Demi come and collect her from school sometimes?
Yes, she does sometimes. She's real nice.
Who's your favorite teacher at school?
Steve, my core teacher. The thing I love about Steve is that he really challenges me. He doesn't let anything fly by. He pushes me and makes sure that I'm really getting on. I like that in a teacher.
What's your favorite subject?
Science. I like chemistry. It interests me, all that stuff. We learned about dry ice last year. I mean, who knew?
Do you like any of the boys at school yet?
No, I don't really. There isn't enough choice because it is quite a small school. No, not yet.
Do you have pinups on your wall?
Only of me and my friends and some other pictures that people gave me. I have five best friends but two really best-best friends, Samantha and Giana and they're my most best friends and they're on my wall.
What are the things that you look for in a friend?
Trust. The thing I like best about Giana is that I could trust her with my life. I know I could. I can talk to her about absolutely anything and share all my problems with her. She understands everything. The thing I like best about Samantha is that she is kinda neat but she's also crazy. Like, she's very good at keeping things together but she also has a little wild side.
Nice combination. Say I was to give you five words to describe yourself, what would you pick?
I'd pick 'outgoing' and 'adventurous' but I'd also pick 'shy'. I'm kinda shy and outgoing all at once, do you know what I mean? Like, with new people I can be really shy but with my friends I'm outgoing.
I'd say you were quite outgoing. I'm a new person and you're not being shy with me.
No, that's true. But I still want both of those. And I would say that I'm a hard-worker and that I'm focused. That's my last one. 'Focused'.
What's your favorite TV show?
Laguna Beach. Oh my god, I love that show! It is just amazing. I love all the drama and what's going on and all the characters in it. I sort of feel like I live in that show I'm so obsessed with it.
I love Laguna Beach, too. Do you like My Super Sweet 16?
Duh! Like, who doesn't? My Super Sweet 16 is my other favorite.
How do you want to celebrate your super sweet 16th?
With the biggest party ever. In the biggest hall, with the biggest food, with the biggest music, and the biggest chef, and I'll come through wearing the biggest dress. [laughs].
Who would you want to sing at your super sweet 16th?
[Thinks long and hard] Um, I don't know. That's really hard [nervously] Mariah Carey? I know, but I just love her.
Have you ever met her?
No, I haven't. But I'd love to. I think that I'd like Mariah as a person. I hope I would. The thing that's great about Mariah is that everyone thought that she was so over after she made that horrible film, Glitter. But then she just, like, bounced back with her best album ever and she's number one forever and in all these countries around the world and everyone loves her again.
You wouldn't get your mom to sing at it?
No. But I like her music. I think she has just the right combination of rock and pop.
You have a little rock'n'roll side to you?
What's your favorite of your mom's records?
I think probably Live Through This.
Not really. You should listen to it more.
But you're more Mariah and R&B?
Do you like American Idol?
Come on! Who does not like American Idol? Duh! It's the best. My favorite in the last series was Michaela.
Yeah, she went out, like fourth or something. But she was really my favorite. I like Carrie Underwood but country and western is so not my thing. I am soooo not country and western.
What's it like having a cool mom like Courtney?
It's really cool, you know? I get to meet everyone I want to and I get quite a lot of attention because of it, you know? I mean, it depends on the situation. I have an awesome mom, I really do, but of course it hurts when you see a lot of lies about her in the tabloids and then you think, well, it's not so cool to have a cool mom. I don't read it all. I don't like it. But it can be hurtful. I don't like seeing my mom upset. No one does, right?
Right. What's your style Frances?
It's really very girly. I like lots of pinks, lots of subtlety. I think the way you would describe my style is probably 'classy girly'.
Do you ever say to your mom 'Oh, dress your age'?
Yeah, sure! [laughs] But not often. You know the funny thing about my mom? That stuff works for her! She can get away with it. So I might say 'dress your age' sometimes, but usually I let her go.
She looks good in it.
Sometimes I do think I wish our lives weren't so hustle and bustle and tabloid and all that stuff wasn't going on. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so much home alone and that it wasn't about nannies and chauffeurs and all that stuff. But then my friends say 'gee, I wish I had your life.' Sometimes I think 'gee, I wish I had your life, too.' We all play that game.
I think that's the nature of being 13, I'm afraid. Everyone else's life looks a bit better than yours.
The grass is always greener, right?
Spot on. What are you going to do when you grow up?
I'm going to be a photographer. That is just my favorite thing ever, capturing memories of the moment. How awesome is that? I think I'm quite good at photographs already. I mean, I love it. So when the school put together a magazine of poetry they had room for ten photographs in there and [bashfully] nine of the ones they put in were mine.
You're sounding kind of shy and outgoing now.
I told you!
Here's a thing. I interviewed your godfather Michael Stipe a year or so ago and he was talking about his photography. Have you seen any of his shots?
Sure. I have a bunch of his stuff on my wall as well. He gives me his photos. They are actually very good.
I know. Is he a good godfather?
Do you know what? He is the best. A lot of my friends don't even get to see their godfathers but Michael is really sweet and he's really fun. When he comes over we go on great visits and trips out and he takes me to do really neat things. I love him.
He said he was a good godfather, but I think everyone says that. It's good to hear it from you, too.
Oh, he's the best. Believe me.
Do you like shopping?
DUH! I love shopping. Who doesn't? It is the best fun in the world. There is a really neat little boutique that I love to go to called Intuition and I love Bloomingdales and I loooove Saks Fifth Avenue. I'm really into Armani Exchange at the moment and I like the Juicy Couture line. I like AG Jeans, 575s, Paper Denim. There's a lot that I love. What would I do without my clothes? What would I be without my clothes? I love them.
What do you think you have most in common with your mom?
I think it's probably our sense of humor. We will crack the exact same jokes at the exact same time. That's cool, right?
Right. Do you have a performance streak? Have you been on stage?
Oh, like so many times. I have been in Fiddler on the Roof and Hair and Grease and... [goes on to list just about every musical in the entire history of musical theatre].
Who did you play in Grease?
That's the best part.
I know. I got to sing "There Are Worse Things I Can Do."
Which is the best song!
Are you going to be famous, Frances?
I don't know. I guess if I was going to be famous I would rather be an actress than a singer and really if I was going to be an actress then I would rather be a Broadway actress than a movie actress. I don't know. At the moment I really do want to be a photographer, but I think it depends on where I go with my life. We'll see.
I think you're a little star already.
That's very kind. Thank you.
Text Paul Flynn
Photography Nick Haymes
Styling Havana Laffitte
Hair Dennis Devoy at Management Artists Organization
Make-up Meli Pennington for India NY
Set Design Sara Kugglemass for Xing Design
Styling assistance Tyler Mahowald
The Skin Issue, no. 262, 2006