exploring the meaning of life with lily mcmenamy

As the she transitions from modeling to acting with a role in 'A Bigger Splash,' we get existential with the i-D cover star.

by Jina Khayyer
17 February 2016, 2:20pm

When model and former i-D cover star Lily McMenamy answers the question where do you come from? with the word "tricky", you know she isn't exaggerating. The American-born, English daughter of a Paris-based, Tunisian nightclub owner has more facets to her upbringing than most (and that's before we mention her mother is Kristen McMenamy -- one of the biggest models of the 90s and repeat i-D cover star herself). With a role alongside Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash set to mark her transition from modeling to acting with just that very thing -- we caught up with the super-cool 21-year-old to talk happiness, monogamy and figuring out where you came from.

Who are you?
I'm trying to peel away the layers of what I'd decided I was. It's a reductive process with the goal to become an empty foundation.

Where are you from?
Tricky. Yesterday at acting school we had to be divided into groups based on where we come from and I realized there's not one country that I associate with: I am American, English, French and Tunisian. I am all of it. I am a chameleon. When I speak to someone I try to be like a mirror to them. If I'm talking to an American girl, I copy her accent and become all American. If I talk to an English girl, I become uber British. For me identity is fluid. The country where you're born is just one aspect of who you are.

What is the opposite of you?
I often worry about how I'm so removed in my life as a middle class white girl I'll never fully grasp what it means to be someone else. Did you see that movie -- The Lobster? It's set in a hotel that you only check into to fall in love. The goal is to find someone you can fall in love with and to find out what you have in common, otherwise you'll be turned into an animal. I was talking to my boyfriend the other day about it and we both agreed that we don't want to have things in common. I'm so intrigued by his otherness. Although opposite and otherness are not the same thing, are they?

Are you happy?
Yes. At the moment I am super happy. But for me happiness is fucked up. I have never been happy in my life before. So now that I am I don't trust it. Some days I catch myself waiting for the curtain to be ripped by demons singing WE ARE BACK.

What does happiness mean?
I don't know. I just know that seeking happiness is dangerous. And it's nothing materialistic. And if I think about why I am happy it's because I found an activity that I love. So I feel I am applying myself to my passion.

Are you where you want to be?
As a young woman today I am feeling so much societal pressure about what I should have achieved by now, which I find crazy. So I try to erase that and live in the present as the present is the only thing that exists.

What is now most important to you?
Just maintaining my life as it is and not being too caught up with nonsense.

Monogamy or polygamy?
I am in a serious, monogamous relationship.

How do you deal with fear and this terrible feeling of anxiety that continuously grows inside?
I take rescue remedies and I have a snack.

Do you ever dream of running away?

Are you more political today?
No. I don't trust politicians. I care about the oceans and I care about women, this is where I engage myself.

What is love to you?
Honestly, I don't think I am experienced enough to know what it is to love outside of oneself.

Top? Or bottom?
Top! Bottom sucks.

The biggest lesson you have learned so far?
That you can't change people. And you shouldn't want to.

Do you ever ask yourself the question of the meaning of life?

And did you find an answer?
Everybody has a secret journey that they are fated to carry out. So every day I wake up and go on this quest to live my journey. 

Questions taken from SOUVENIR by JINA KHAYYER, a multilingual card game available in German, English, French and Farsi.



Text Jina Khayyer
Photography Benjamin Alexander Huseby for i-D, The Time is Now Issue, i-D No. 325

fashion interviews
A Bigger Splash
lily mcmenamy