The model and filmmaker on escaping Buffalo, New York, and what she sees when she listens to music.
Like many American dream stories, Destiny Anderson's involves a road trip. Last summer, she and six friends, tired of the East Coast, drove cross-country to Los Angeles. Now, almost a year later, they're still here, living together in the same house. The living situation, however, is the only thing that's stayed the same. Destiny is now signed as a model with Ford, after being scouted on Instagram by LOVE magazine, for a portfolio shot by Kendall Jenner. Jenner's shoot saw Andersen posing in high fashions in the desert alongside Sienna Miller and Kaia Gerber, and led to her going to London for the first time for a LOVE bash, after which its editor told her she should stay in London forever.
Luckily however, she returned to LA to make her latest film, Orange, a surreal, lush imagining of womanhood which she filmed in Pasadena. Andersen has been developing a distinct visual language, informed by photographer Tyrone Lebon and her love of set design. The way Anderson dresses a room is very specific - you feel like each object has a role in telling the character's story. Her first film was an examination of bipolar disorder as seen by teens. In her work, she wants to make visible, even visual, what can't be seen, mental illness being a perfect example of that.
Here Anderson talks about her love of Frank Ocean, fashion, and her filmmaking dreams.
How did you make it out to California?I moved to New York, and it didn't really work out. So I moved back to Buffalo. Buffalo's a nice town, but it's small. They don't have modeling, or video - it's better if you want to be a doctor, or a nurse. So me and six other people road tripped from Buffalo. I get more inspired out here.
When did you start making films?
I started in 2015. I made my first film after I moved back home to Buffalo from New York, called Mixed State. It's about bipolar disorder. But I tried to film it in a way that kids my age or kids younger could receive a message without it being like, "These are the facts." I tried to make it visually nice, so that even if you don't connect with it, it's still cool to watch.
People have a hard time with mental illness because it's invisible.
Basically, I was in New York, and I was snowed in, and I couldn't leave for 3 days, and I got so bored. I was living with my uncle, and his apartment is so small, and he doesn't have a TV. So I'm just sitting on the couch like, What can I do? Music is a big influence on how I do films, and most of the time I choose a song because I see these visuals when I hear the music. So I was listening to music, and a song by Santigold came on, and I was like, This sounds crazy. So I started writing down ideas, and planning everything out.
Are there music videos or films that inspire you?
The "Nikes" video with Frank Ocean by Tyrone Lebon. I love that video, I've watched it like 10 times. I also like fashion campaigns a lot. But the Nikes video was just very wild and real and had a lot of emotions in it. And Kali Uchis's "Loner," she directed her own video and I love it. I feel like she stays true to herself, but also plays the part.
What was it like being shot by Kendall? How did you come to be part of the project?
For me it all started on Instagram. Their casting DM-ed me on Instagram, telling me about the whole project. At first I thought she was lying, like I was getting trolled. But then she asked for my number and called me, and I thought, This is real. She tells me, Friday, be here at 8 o'clock and a bus will take you to this place. It was my first time in the desert. It looks almost fake, like it's a picture in front of you. I would love to film in the desert but I don't drive! Kendall made me feel really comfortable in front of the camera.
What would you want to say through your work to a young person who hasn't made it to a city, or a place they feel comfortable to be themselves in yet?
My family thinks you have to go to school, have a steady job, have a concrete plan. So even me saying, 'I want to move to New York, I want to move to California,' they're like, 'No way, you're not going to make it. You're going to be homeless.' Which I was, but that's beside the point! So they're not really dream chasers.
I've always looked for people that are inspired by going out and doing what they want, taking that chance and that leap. So, in my work that's exactly what I want to show people. Especially for my little sisters. Because they're still in Buffalo and they're still with my parents, and nobody in my family has ever moved away and made a career. If you have a dream, you can go and grab it.
Text Jack Sunnucks
Photography Ella Weisskamp