5. Nina Simone One of the first songs I consciously realized was hers that had a very profound impact on me was “Four Women.” I remember hearing that for the first time and I was dancing to it. It’s not just about music and it’s not just about sound. It is about truth. You feel her pain and her human self. That is also femininity and strength in womanhood and her unapologetic approach to her blackness and what she represented during her time. Of course, there are other artists that do a similar thing. But I don’t think Nina Simone makes it pretty, and that draws me in.
6. “Zazie dans le Métro” My namesake is “Zazie dans le Métro,” which is a French book by Raymond Queneau, and [Louis Malle] made a movie of that. I grew up watching this movie. This film is about Paris relatively soon after World War II. The story is about a 10-year-old girl named Zazie who visits her uncle and her aunt in Paris for the weekend, and shenanigans ensue. Even though I would watch the German version, I always felt like I was her and this was me. I felt driven to be able to read my namesake and watch the film in its original language. So I was a French major in college and then I lived in Paris for a year.
7. “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” I am obsessed with midwifery, to the point where I looked into school. I wanted to be a doula. A few years ago, David gifted me for Christmas this book because I am so interested in this transition and in this complete surrender of power in a way. I think women are looking death squarely in the eye as you give birth to a little being who is still, in my point of view, attached to the universe. I’ve never given birth, so maybe I’m romanticizing it all, and it’s terrible. But I want to help women feel empowered on their journey.
8. Knitting When I was 8, my mom taught me very basic stitches. For a long time I could knit in one style: rectangle. Then four years ago, I picked it up in a serious way. I devoured videos on YouTube and bought all these books and taught myself a craft and a trade. And now I’m like: “I’ve learned a skill. I can make things that are useful to people.” I’ve found great pride in that.
9. Period Clothing One of my most transformative moments in acting is when I put the costume on. It informs the character so much. It changes how they move, it changes how they engage with the world and who they are. I am enamored with the Jane Austen world. One of my favorite movies is “Marie Antoinette” by Sofia Coppola. And a huge part of that is the costuming and the aesthetic of it all. On red carpets, my inspiration for hair is honestly Marie Antoinette, and in my head that’s what my hair looks like — though obviously not what it looks like in real life.
10. Lianne La Havas I discovered her when I was in college, and I felt this immediate kinship. She’s around the same age as me. She is also mixed race and her hair was similar to mine. At the time, the natural hair movement in the U.S. was just getting its wings, and I identified so much with how she looked. Each album she comes out with, she’s grown up more, and I’ve grown up in this same way. I feel this quiet friend who I’m like, “I know you.”