Hereditary’s Milly Shapiro is making heads spin on TikTok

The 17-year-old star of Ari Aster's horror classic has become an e-girl with viral TikTok videos. Here's why she made the iconic transition.

by Erica Russell
24 March 2020, 8:00am

There was no greater, more visceral shock for moviegoers in 2018 than when (spoiler alert) -- little Charlie’s head popped clean off in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. The abrupt, gruesome sequence, during which breakout star Milly Shapiro’s creepy, tongue-clicking pre-teen is violently decapitated by a telephone pole while her high-as-a-kite older brother speeds in the family Volvo, elicited collective theatre-wide gasps when the now-modern horror classic debuted, forcing stunned audiences to pick their jaws up from the floor. Love Hereditary or hate it, that sort of unexpected trauma -- even fictional -- sticks with you.

But it seems you can always expect a twist (and maybe something a little twisted) from 17-year-old Milly, who has shocked fans once again with her turn as a viral TikToke-girl”, with candy-coloured hair, facial stamps, thick black eyeliner, heavy blush, and a big set of chunky boots. She had been making private videos with her friends on TikTok for “a while”, she says, but it wasn’t until August 2019 that she decided to make her account public. Months later, in March 2020, she went viral when viewers realised she was “that girl from Hereditary” and started sharing clips on Twitter and other social media sites.

“All of a sudden, my TikTok started blowing up,” Milly explains. “A couple days before my account [exploded], my friend commented on my Instagram as a joke, asking me why I wasn’t TikTok famous yet. And then a few days later, it blew up! It was the most hilarious thing. I guess it’s not what you’d expect.”

Her Instagram, where Milly expresses her love of cosplay, Harry Potter and the macabre; and shares photos of her Angelic Pretty and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright lolita fits, is littered with comments from wide-eyed fans who’ve just stumbled across the young actress’ penchant for digital and fashion subcultures. As one user put it: “omg the girl from Hereditary is an e-girl!?” Apparently so, but don’t go losing your head over it.

Holed up at home in New York during the quarantine, where she’s been churning out more content than ever on TikTok, Milly discuss her newfound viral fame, how she got into the elegant gothic lolita scene, her current horror movie recommendations, and what she really thinks about being dubbed an “e-girl” by the internet.

What has been your general reaction to surprised Hereditary fans finding you on TikTok for the first time?
It’s kind of funny and a little bit insane. Me and my best friend downloaded it as a joke and we started making public videos a couple months later. So, I’ve been making videos there for a while. I had two hundred followers for a very long time, and that was about it. The videos would get a few hundred views and we thought having two hundred views was like, ‘Woah, amazing!’ Then, we made a TikTok of us in Central Park, just fooling around and having fun. We looked the next day and it kept getting more and more views. Now, some of the videos have millions of views.

Which video has gone the most viral so far?
The video I posted in response to everyone who kept saying, ‘Oh, you look like Gaten [Matarazzo], you look like Dustin [from Stranger Things]!’ I wanted to explain why that is. We actually have the same bone disorder; it affects your bones, your teeth and your facial structure. People with cleidocranial dysplasia tend to look similar. So, I sat down, thinking I’d make a video real quick to explain it, so people can know why. Now it has a million views!

And you’ve actually met Gaten before. What was that for?
It’s actually kind of funny, because we were on Broadway around the same time. Every Broadway kid knows each other, so we had that connection. I had met him a few times before and he reached out to me, wanting to know if I wanted to go to this CCD (cleidocranial dysplasia) event to meet people. I thought it’d be fun, so I went, and that’s where that picture is from. Gaten was super nice -- everyone there was really nice!

In one TikTok you posted, you’re surrounded by creepy antiques and ghostly dolls. I know you’re a big fan of spooky things. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?
Not really, which is really disappointing. I feel like, because I’m so obsessed with it, nothing has happened yet. I’ve been to places that are haunted and nothing’s happened. I own a bunch of very old antique weird things, but nothing has ever really happened. I have this one doll that’s a couple hundred years old or something and it looks exactly like my sister. A couple years ago, before Hereditary, whenever you walked by it, you’d feel like it was looking at you. I can’t sleep with that in my room, so I moved it. I haven’t had any other experiences where I’ve seen something though. Maybe in the future I will. If any ghosts want to hit me up or come chill or something, I’m always down!

How do you go about choosing the perfect audio or background song for a video? What’s your TikTok creative process?
It kind of depends on the video. I watch so many TikToks, it’s an addiction. Once you’re on the app, you’re spending your entire life there. If I find cool sounds that I like, I’ll save them. If I come up with an idea for something I think would be cool to do, I’ll look through those sounds to see if I like any. If I don’t, I’ll find a sound that I think fits it, or if I don’t have any ideas visually but I know the vibe I want, I’ll look through my saved audio to see if anything fits that.

You quite recently posted a hilarious Hereditary TikTok using the ‘I am actually president of the company’ trend. What sparked that idea? And why’d you re-upload the video?
I guess I thought it would be really funny. I was like, ‘Oh, no one would actually be able to make one like this, I’d be the only one doing it, probably’. People would ask, ‘Is she the girl from Hereditary, or is she not?’ I first posted the video with the picture of the [severed] head not censored. I figured, it’s not real gore so it’ll be fine. Then TikTok was like, ‘How dare you!’ I’ve seen people post the decapitated head photo before and it was fine… and I’m posting a picture of literally my own head! I thought that was kind of funny that I had to censor it for the re-uploaded video.

People who have found you on the app, and even people on Twitter and Instagram, have been calling you an e-girl. Do you embrace that? Does it bother you? Do you care either way?
Well, I never really care what people say. I tend to take inspiration for makeup and fashion from a bunch of different subcultures and communities, then mash them together to create my own thing. I do get a lot of influence from TikTok girls though. I watch those videos on repeat at 3am, as you do, and feel like TikTok has a very specific style that I love and that I have been inspired by. You can definitely tell by my style and how I do my makeup where my influences are from, and a lot of that is the TikTok e-girl.

Speaking of style influences, I know you’re a huge fan of the EGL (elegant gothic lolita) subculture. How did you get into lolita fashion and what are your favourite brands?
I randomly stumbled upon a Lovely Lor video about lolita fashion and I became absolutely obsessed with it. I watched every single video about it, every video I could find. I really wanted to try it, but I didn’t know anyone who was into it and it’s kind of hard to get hold of. But I was really lucky that when I started, there was a Baby, the Stars Shine Bright store in New York, and right before it closed, I stopped in there once or twice. I also love Angelic Pretty, and Alice and the Pirates... I think it’s a really fun and beautiful fashion subculture.

Do you have any underrated horror movie recommendations, especially for the folks holed up during home quarantine right now?
This is such a good question, but I forget every single movie I’ve ever seen when people ask and I don’t know why! I love high jump-scare movies. The Paranormal Activity series, you can watch all the films one after another and they’re really fun. The original It is one of my favourites.

I always recommend Hereditary and Midsommar, because, well, you know. I loved Midsommar when I saw it; I thought it was very gory and fun in a creepy way. I feel like horror movies are a great way of relieving stress because they give you something else to worry about. You’re like, ‘Well, at least that’s not my life. Things are more manageable’. They’re a great escape from reality.

Since you notched ‘act in a horror movie’ off your bucket list, what sort of roles are you itching to try next?
I would really love to do something either like the Hunger Games -- an end-of-the-world, apocalypse, sci-fi thing would be really fun to do -- or something like Lady Bird. I really love acting. As an actor, you get to bring someone’s art to life. It’s really cool to embody a character and be a tool for an artist and create something together. I’m always down for any role. It’s very interesting to step into another person’s shoes.

Since its release, Hereditary has become a modern horror classic, with a certain level of prestige among the horror community. And that was your first film role! What does that feel like, to attribute your breakout role to something so critically lauded?
It’s kind of weird. I’m obviously not shy about it. When I read the script, it was so engaging, it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. I was audibly gasping and freaking out just reading it. I knew it would be really good. When I first auditioned for it, it was one of the times in my life where I knew I needed the role. I did whatever I could to get it. But I’d still watch the movie even if I had no connection to it. It’s a really well-written movie; Ari is a wonderful creator. It’s become such a staple in the community. I don’t know how to describe it. I sometimes forget that I’m in it.

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