sasha lane is on the cusp of adulthood and fame
Meet the street-cast star of 'American Honey' as she discusses dreads, race, and finding love in a hopeless place.
Sasha wears all clothing model's own.
Spring Break, 2015 and Sasha Lane is having a messy one. "I was sleeping in a car because I got kicked out of a hotel," says the then Texas State University student. "I wasn't sleeping, I was chilling in a car and checked into some other random hotel and went straight to the beach and met Andrea and it went from there."
By it she means starring in Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold's new film, American Honey, which debuted at Cannes, picked up the Prix du Jury award, and turned the now 21-year-old Lane into this year's breakout star.
The British director had been on a scouting mission during Spring Break in Florida when she spotted the girl in the dreads and tattoos on the beach. When Andrea approached, Sasha thought it might be a porn scam. Instead, it was a chance to play Star, the lead in the director's first Stateside-based film, a wild, meandering road trip with a millennial underclass.
In American Honey, Star, an Oklahoma teenager, escapes her bleak and impoverished home life by running away with a wild, partying door-to-door sales crew. The gang weaves its way across the southern states, taking its magazine subscriptions scam unto doorsteps by day, partying at whatever motel they end up in by night. Star falls for the team leader (Shia LaBeouf), is kept on her toes by a brutal manager (a brilliant Riley Keough), and parties her way to some understanding of herself and the messy, mad world.
It's a world that Sasha understands. She didn't dream of becoming an actress; those opportunities just weren't available to girls like her. Her mom is Kiwi, her dad African-American; being mixed-race has invited questions about her identity since she was young. How she chooses to portray or be herself — the dreads, tattoos, the joints on her Instagram profile — have caused other people to make assumptions about her, before and after American Honey. i-D sat down with Sasha just after her 21st birthday to discuss life before and after the spotlight.
What did you do for your birthday?
I did everything. Oh my god, 21 is exhausting. It was a small group of people, which I'm good with. We just bounced around [in L.A. — where Sasha now lives], drank CBD alcohol drinks [a weed cocktail], which is dope. It's like what weed would do but without getting paranoid. It's really chill.
How are you in a party situation?
I'm not like a big party rager, big group [kind of person]. I'm like let's chill, feel our minds. I like to chill and I like to connect.
Were you all quite pumped up for the party scenes in the film?
Yeah, yeah. I feel like once I'm in something, I'm in it. I loved everyone so we would still all hang out. I feel like when I get with American Honey [cast], I'm more like 'YEAH.' It was different than who I usually am but I liked that; it was cool.
What's been the biggest challenge you've had since you've been in the spotlight?
I'm a naturally uncomfortable and anxious person, so I prefer intimate things. The red carpet and big parties make me freak out a little.
Your hair has become a talking point. Why so?
Because they're dreads, they're associated with being dirty and all that doesn't mean anything. I feel very strong and very beautiful in them. It's part of a culture. It's much more than hair. It represents a lot of things.
What does your hair represent to you?
For me, it's very free. I never felt more beautiful than when I got dreads. People said: "You can't hold yourself in a room full of professional people because of that." Don't put me in that group just because you think this is dirty. I feel amazing.
How did you feel when you were accused of cultural appropriation for having dreads?
People see that I have lighter skin so they said: "You're not black, you're this white girl with dreads." I'm not black? What do they mean? My dad is black. I'm mixed and I'm not embarrassed by that. I've dealt with a lot of people saying, "you're not black enough for this, you're not white enough for this." It's this weird middle man thing; I very much embrace both sides. It's just stupid ignorance and another way for people to dig at you. White girl with dreads? Like you really just saw a skin tone and assumed I was this? Ridiculous.
You strongly identify with the kids in the film. Is that because of how they're perceived or where they're from?
It's lack of opportunity. You can't really dream that high. You've not given that type of freedom. Star is naïve is the way that I'm naïve. It's not just like fantasy land, everything's beautiful. It's more like despite the shit that I've been given, my environment, people telling me "you can't do this" but I still try really hard to find beauty everywhere and in everyone. I'm very much about that. That's a big strength, despite everything else.
American Honey is in cinemas October 14.
Text Colin Crummy
Photography Matt Jones