Kiki Layne, breakout star of Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, may just be getting started in her film career, but it feels like she’s already a pro. With a critically-acclaimed film under her belt, the 27-year old has quickly turned into a darling of the fashion industry and a red carpet fixture. Luxury designers are clamoring to dress her and, as of today, others have placed her razor sharp cheekbones front and center in their ad campaigns. Joined by Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink and Ozark‘s Julia Garner, Layne stars in the spring Kate Spade ad campaign featuring creative director’s Nicola Glass’ first collection. Right before the news broke I caught up with Layne to see why she wanted to work with the brand and what this wild fashion ride has been like.
Congrats on your amazing break out role! It’s so exciting!
It’s good I’m so thankful. I don’t know, I’m just enjoying the ride. Really, I’m super excited and for this campaign to finally be out so I can share with people that I’m working with Kate Spade.
We’re you a Kate Spade fan growing up?
Um, not necessarily. I do remember thinking how major the Box bag was especially growing up in the ’90s. But I’m just excited to be working with the brand now as they’re moving forward with what this brand represents today. The Kate Spade woman is a classy sort of working woman who’s still stylish. To me Kate Spade represents a woman who still has stuff to get done. She’s like, “yeah I’m stylish but I need to be comfortable and able to move.” I’m excited to be a part of a brand that’s meaningful to women in that way.
Yeah it’s definitely one of those brands that was created by a woman who understood what women needed, and is continuing in that way.
It’s exciting, though, with what Nicola Glass is doing. All of the colors and prints and just how much fun she’s having with that. It still definitely has that same sophistication and class to it, but there’s also, I feel, this added fun and uniqueness to it. At the shoot, working with Julia [Garner] and Sadie [Sink] was so dope. It was supposed to be just three girls having fun, like on a weekend getaway where silly, random stuff was happening. I was so at ease with what I was wearing. You know they allow me in the campaign to have my hair-wrap still, which to me was the truth. Like if I’m really taking a trip with my girlfriends, I’m probably going to pull up with my hair still wrapped and keep it moving [laughs]. I thought it was awesome that they allowed me to do that.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
You could really feel that everyone was really excited about being a part of this campaign, and we all kind of understood what it meant to be a part of this campaign in particular. It was just really warm and Julia and Sadie are super dope. I’m also a huge fan of Stranger Things, so as soon as I learned that I was working with Sadie, I was just like “don’t you fan girl her at all” [laughs]. And it dope meeting Julia as well. She’s going such great stuff with Ozark and all of that. I also just love that the brand chose us, these young women who are all starting off our careers in these projects in really dope ways, but it’s still very much so the beginning for all of us. So I’m really thankful that they even thought to reach out to me. I’m just now hitting twenty thousand followers on Instagram, like, who knows how many I had when they first reached out [laughs]. But to me that speaks to, what we’ve been saying, that genuine feeling from Kate Spade. They support women and they support the growth of women. Like I said, I’m still thankful I was even invited to the party!
You’re killing it on the red carpet, but also new to that game too. What’s the ride been like for you?
I mean, it’s been amazing. Working with all of these different brands is just really exciting, and learning more about the individuality of each of these brands, I think that’s actually been amazing. I’ve just been learning so much about these different brands about what’s important to them, what are they trying to represent, why it matters to have them in the bigger world of fashion. Sometimes I can just be a big ass kid and it’s just like I’m playing dress up. My stylists Wayman and Micah are so dope and we just have so much fun. I’m still very much at the beginning, and so I’m having fun just exploring, and trying new things. Seeing what works, what doesn’t work. What am I more comfortable with? Versus what should I maybe step out of my comfort zone a little bit, to explore.
Were you into fashion before you started promoting the film?
Well, I used to model back in high school, and I was one of those people that, every week I was tuning in to America’s Next Top Model. So I was into it that way, but I feel like now I’m into really getting to know the brands in a different way. But I’ve always had an interest in fashion, and always had an interest in the stories you can tell through fashion, but I feel like now I’m more interested in really getting to know these different brands and, again, just understanding why it matters to have all these different brands, like what do the represent to fashion, and what story am I able to tell depending on who I’m wearing. So that’s been a big difference in terms of how I’ve grown, in terms of my relationship to fashion.
What are you trying to say with your choices on the red carpet?
Truthfully, the first thing that pops in my head is “this black girl can do anything.” We’re having fun switching it up. Some stuff is softer than others, some stuff is a little bit more edgy. Because, just like for my acting career, I don’t want to get stuck into any type of box, and I want to break boundaries in terms of what actresses and black actresses that look like me, what we have historically been allowed to do in Hollywood. And I want to do the same thing for fashion. That’s important. It’s another version of representation. What does it mean when I wear something that makes me look like a Disney Princess? Versus something that’s like “ooh, maybe Kiki Layne can be a sex symbol.” Because these are things that, sometimes dark skin actors with natural hair, we don’t get put into those types of conversations. So I definitely recognize the power of using fashion to put myself, to put this image of a black woman, into conversations that maybe historically, we’ve been left out of.
Wayman and Micah also style Regina King and Tessa Thompson. Have either of them given you any fashion advice?
The main thing they always remind me of before I go on the carpets is confidence. Remember, it’s all about confidence. You wear the clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you. But the best thing about working with them is just how collaborative they are. They really listen, and are just so tuned in to making sure that, even if I’m wearing something that might be a little out of my comfort zone, they still make sure that I am finding comfort in stepping out of my comfort zone. Does that make sense?
For sure. Who are your style inspirations?
Rihanna. That’s the number one. I think she’s amazing. She brings herself to everything that she wears. I don’t feel like I ever see her wearing anything and its just like, “girl that does not look good for you,” or anything like that. She just brings so much of herself to it—from the different styles she’s done with her hair to how she puts that together with the wardrobe—she is definitely someone that I look up to in terms of fashion. And I also do look up to Lupita Nyong’o as well. Especially when she was coming on the scene promoting Twelve Years a Slave. Just seeing this beautiful, chocolate woman, with her hair out wearing these beautiful gown. I’m like, “girl, c’mon, chocolate skin!”
What sort of things can we expect from you in terms of red carpet looks coming up?
Well, I’m excited because I think I’m at the start of doing more promotions for Native Son, its premiering at Sundance this year. What’s cool about that is that my character in Native Son is definitely a lot edgier, a lot more fashion forward than Tish. It’s also modern, so I think once we start doing more promotion for that, you’ll see a shift there in terms of sticking more to who my character in Native Son, Bessie, is, so I’m excited to play around with that. We’re just going to keep on playing around, and I’m excited for what works. I’m excited for what doesn’t work. I’m having fun, like I said, its always just a really big game of dress-up, which I’m always happy to play.