Next-Gen 2020: Lilliya Scarlett Reid
Every January, Milk.xyz announces the 10 people we believe will have the greatest impact on the art/music/fashion/activism spheres in that year.
Milk is a fan of actress and artist, Lilliya Scarlett Reid. Following an interview we did with Reid in 2018, her paintings have evolved and her acting has taken off. In 2018, Reid’s paintings focused more on parts of the body, but now she paints the face as a whole, using autopsy photos as inspiration, but mostly these characters live in her mind. As much as the painter in her has evolved, she has also excelled as an actress. Being cast in the Netflix show Chambers, gave Reid her first big break. Lilliya Scarlett Reid is one to watch for 2020.
So what have you been up to since we last spoke?
Well, I’m 19 now, I’m not really modeling anymore, which I think is a good thing. I’ve just been painting a lot, and I think that’s where I feel like I’ve grown the most.
Since the last time that you came to see me, I felt like my body of work has changed kind of drastically because I think at the time, if I remember correctly, I wasn’t painting any faces really, I was just painting body parts and teeth.
I’ve been painting a ton and I also got to film a TV show [Chambers] which was really an amazing experience and something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
How did you get into that? Have you always wanted to act?
Yeah, I’ve actually always wanted to act ever since I can remember. My dad is a screenwriter, so I kind of grew up adjacent to that world and got to go on set and stuff. I got to see the nitty-gritty side of screenwriting, which is different than the glitzy glamorous side of the film industry.
At first, I kind of had the idea that I wanted to go into writing, which I still am kind of playing with, I think I eventually will. I do write, but it’s more private now. With acting, I really respect actresses and I wanted to do what they’re doing. I’m taking a bunch of classes and I watch a lot films.
I was auditioning when I was under 18, but I’m very tall, so every time I’d get close to something, they’d be like, “Well, you look too old, and we could hire someone who’s over 18 who could work longer and play your age.” So that was a big thing I had to deal with. It was a lot of rejection and it was mainly because of my height and that would come up every single time.
So then I finally turned 18 and I got to audition for this really great project Chambers. I read the script and was super excited about it, and I was fortunate enough to be cast in it. So that was really exciting. I lived in New Mexico for a year — almost a year.
How was New Mexico?
I was in Albuquerque, which is not where I would recommend visiting. If you go to New Mexico, I’d say go to Santa Fe or Taos it’s really beautiful. I was where they filmed Breaking Bad, so that can give you a picture of where I was living.
It’s really interesting, though, you have forced friends in a way but it really works, and you get really close to people in a way that wouldn’t naturally happen because you were literally curated to be in a certain place together. I lived in a hotel, and that felt strange but it was a good experience in retrospect. I had a great time, but it was a lot of time alone, which was good because I got to read a lot. It was definitely an interesting growing period.
What would you say your goals are? What do you want to work on next?
I’ve been painting, and now I’m working on trying to better my craft and make it as good as it possibly can be. So I feel like that’s been my main thing right now; just spending time trying to deepen and make my acting more meaningful and real too. So that’s been my main focus and I’m not working on a project right now, but you know, hopefully soon.
With painting, you can go and isolate yourself, but how do you practice acting?
I feel like the auditioning process itself is just like a way of practicing acting. So if you’re doing multiple auditions a week, you’re memorizing multiple scripts a week, and it’s like a muscle, you know? I also think that you can choose to not go deep with auditions, or you can. I try to take each audition as a little gift to explore a character each time and see what I can do with it. I think it’s really fun and I love doing it. The work, when you’re actually on set, it’s the best thing; nothing to me is more stimulating. I love doing that, I love it.
Are you in a similar mindset when you’re painting or acting? Or do you feel like they’re just completely separate?
When I paint there’s an emotional vulnerability, not to sound flowery about it, but I guess I could say that there is a similarity to when I’m acting. It’s similar but different. I think when I do both, they require a kind of meditative state.
When I’m painting, I start criticizing myself really fast and I’m thinking, “Oh, I don’t like this. It’s not as good as my last painting.” I get mad and I think that’s similar to acting. You tend to detach yourself from thinking about reading the lines and thinking about saying lines and just have them come from you.
With your painting, you mentioned that you are kind of straying away from your previous subjects. So where did these faces from your current work come from?
I’ll use pictures of autopsies and surgeries as reference for the structures of the faces and if there’s a certain core element or something deformed or dismembered, that kind of happens naturally when I’m painting. I do use some pictures as a reference, but more often it usually comes from my head when it comes down to the expressions and details.
You mentioned that someone had bought one of your paintings, and when we last spoke I remembered texting you a few days later because I had seen someone in San Francisco wearing painted boots that I immediately recognized as yours. What has your experience been with other people interacting with your work?
I think it’s interesting to see who’s attracted to the paintings because I’d say that my paintings are a bit jarring to look at. That’s what I get from people, like, “I don’t know if I’d want to hang that in my house, it’s scary,” you know what I mean?
I get it, I probably wouldn’t want to hang my artwork in my house, if I was a different person and I saw. I’d be like, “I’m not putting that anywhere in my house, it’s terrible, terrible energy.” But it is interesting to see the people who like it. It means a lot to me because my paintings are the most personal thing that I do and show to the public.
What is your 2020 vision?
Let’s see, I think if I could put it all together, I think it would be self-improvement and bettering my arts, everything I do. I want to refine it and fine-tune it so it’s better and I can be the best I can be at everything I’m doing.
I also want to educate myself as much as possible, that’s really important. I’m not going to college at this point in time. I want to see as much art as possible and work on my technique. I want to better my acting skills. I just want to make everything I do really intentional and the best it can be with the most care that I can put into it.
Why do you do what you do?
Because I can’t do anything else. I can’t not paint, or else I’d go a bit crazy.
I guess it’s always a bit of a detox when I paint. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s kind of like washing your hands. For me, that’s how it feels. The painting and the acting to me, I just love it. I love the craft, I will always be painting.
Who are some of the people that you’ve worked with or enjoy working with?
I did have an amazing time working with Uma Thurman, that was great.
Highlight of this year?
The highlight of this year for me was probably that I got to travel a lot. I went to Paris twice and I was in New York and LA. I didn’t ever travel outside of the US growing up. I didn’t leave the country until I was like sixteen.
Where was the first place you went?
I went to France, which was great. I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved it. I’m from Montana and we would road trip all around the U.S. so that was what I did growing up. I actually weirdly appreciate that I haven’t traveled that much until now, because I feel like I get to discover new things and have so much more to see.
I’m appreciative of that because I can tell I have a different perspective because I haven’t seen any of it yet. I feel like I meet a lot of young people who have traveled everywhere and they’re very jaded and they don’t care. For me, it feels it like a big deal to travel somewhere else and get to see the culture, absorb it.
Another highlight for me was really being home in Montana. I got to spend a lot of time this summer in Montana and it was very grounding and it was great and beautiful and being back where the mountains are and like getting to swim in the river and just be in my hometown.
Could you sum up your year in one word?
PHOTOGRAPHER/DIRECTOR: Dana Boulos
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lucas Chemotti
EDITOR: Jacqueline Kramer
HMU: Mayra Godoy
STYLISTS: Chloe + Chenelle Delgadillo
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