abbey lee is living her dream
We speak to the Mad Max star about making the permanent shift from modelling to acting, as her new film opens this weekend.
Still from Ruben Guthrie
Since her iconic portrait last graced the cover of i-D's 2011 September Issue, Abbey Lee Kershaw's life has undergone significant, self-motivated changes. Most notably, she's left modelling behind to focus all her energy on acting and, in this capacity, has been busily demonstrating her talents with a string of diverse projects. Abbey's most recent film is Ruben Guthrie, a funny, entertaining and fairly real glimpse inside the hedonistic world of Australian advertising. She plays the disheartened Czechoslovakian fiancée of the main character as he battles his addictive demons and a destructive relationship to alcohol. Ruben Guthrie is Abbey's first film since her break-out role as one of 'the wives' in Mad Max: Fury Road, and she's really great in it. She is a strong actress and it comes as little surprise that the camera loves her. The film navigates the humorous side of a serious situation and Abbey's performance is accordingly nuanced.
Abbey is also a great model; great enough to be universally deemed a 'super' during her almost decade-long reign at the top of the industry. Consistently in demand for her ethereal and versatile beauty, she's worked and walked for the world's leading brands. From an outsider's perspective it appeared to be a dreamy existence but it wasn't making her happy. "I always knew that modelling just wasn't 'it'," she explains, "but I knew that it was a good platform to find the right thing. I didn't really know what that was and I'm glad I stuck to it until I found acting. By the end I was exhausted. My brain was dying. I was exhausted with not having the chance to give more when I think I've got more to give."
In a world hungry for details about the lives of public figures, Abbey is reluctantly open, and behind the glamorous images of editorials and ads, we see pictures of her at home in bed with a pet lizard or hanging out in a tracksuit with her family in Sydney. She's always spoken openly about her life and loves beyond modelling--the things which have helped her maintain sanity. There's her tight-knit group of friends, "when I'm close to someone I keep them really close and I love being around those people". There's also her band and her art and her penchant for tattoos and piercings and there's a sense that she approaches all of it with a similar enthusiasm. Despite this picture of a quirky, spirited character who may not give two cares about what anyone else thinks, she has has always been impeccably professional when it comes to her work. She is strong, opinionated and authentic and has never felt pressure to be anything but herself. "I don't think that anyone has ever expected me to behave a particular way. I'm just honest."
Even so, in the current relentless cycle of news and opinion, there is a lot demanded of Abbey and little control over what's said. Instagram didn't even exist when she began modelling so she admits she's struggled to keep up with the younger models who understand it innately. "Unfortunately we need Instagram. Companies essentially require us to have it because it's such a valuable tool. Sometimes I feel like I've been forced into it," Abbey tells me. "That said, it's also the only form of publicity that I have control over. You can use social media as a platform to show people who you really are. I really like that about it."
Right now Abbey is auditioning for roles, there are a few things in the pipelines but nothing she can confirm yet. Like most actors, she's keen to find strong roles that allow her to explore her potential. "I'm forever watching films with men as the lead and wondering when I'll get a script in my lap with a role that's, like, playing a female prisoner who's addicted to meth or something. Ha, I mean there are so many interesting psychologically-driven male characters that don't exist for women…yet. I think it's getting better though."
Text Briony Wright