A New View with Myha’la Herrold
'You can and you will, if you decide to.' The COS SS23 campaign co-star on finding her own truth in her work, and how to empower the next generation of female film and TV talent this International Women’s Day.
In British TV drama, Industry, a slick interrogation of the inner workings of London’s finance industry, Myha’la Herrold (she/her) delivers a groundbreaking performance as Harper Stern, an icy, ambitious and unstoppable young woman. However, despite her character’s boldness, the brilliance of her characterization lies in the subtleties – the nuance of a lilting line, a moment of hesitation, a turn of the head. In fact, this complexity underpins all of her performances. As an actor, it’s becoming her trademark, and the world is beginning to take notice.
This International Women’s Day, we sat down with the rising star to talk about women and womanhood, the importance of music to her existence (it can’t be overstated), the women she admires the most, and the inspiration she takes from her mum.
'Equal opportunity, equal pay, equal recognition for what's done. Women don't need anything extra to be able to do what anybody else does – they just need opportunity.'
– Myha'la on what equity looks like for women in film.
WHAT EQUITY LOOKS LIKE FOR WOMEN IN FILM
'Equal opportunity, equal pay, equal recognition for what's done. Women don't need anything extra to be able to do what anybody else does – they just need opportunity. I feel really grateful to live in a world where, when women have taken that opportunity, they have surpassed all expectations.'
THE WOMEN WHO INSPIRE HER
'My mom first and foremost because from the very beginning, she is the person who encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do, and to do it with love. So many others in this world that I'm in, but a handful I'll throw out there. Sophie Okonedo, Julia Roberts, Olivia Colman, Regina King, Viola Davis, Michelle Yeoh, SZA. My dearest and best friend, Selena Norman, who's launching her own jewellery and clothing brand. I have a lot of women friends who are out there chasing their dreams and being bosses. They inspire me every day.'
THE ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN STARTING OUT
'You can and you will, if you decide to. It's probably going to be hard, just like everything is hard but commit yourself, do whatever you need to do be great. Don’t let anybody catch you slipping. There are fewer opportunities if you make mistakes. You can and you will, if you work hard. I believe in you.'
WHY IWD SHOULD BE EVERY DAY
'I’m not an anti-holiday person, but I'm a pro-"celebrate yourself and others every day" kind of person. International Women's Day, to me, is just another day – I get to be proud and excited about my own womanhood, and to celebrate everyone else's womanhood, and to join people in celebrating all of the wonderful things that are born out of women – born literally and born figuratively. I guess it's a particularly nice day because we, as a global community, get to celebrate women at large. But, myself, I try to celebrate that in me as often as possible.'
'Acting is about conveying truth, and creating real moments that feel like they’re happening for the first time – it's about being a storyteller.'
THE ESSENCE OF ACTING
'My mother says I came out of the womb singing and dancing. From six years old, I knew I wanted to perform. Through high school and coming up to college I took part in musical theatre and for a long time I categorised myself as a performer. It wasn't until I went to Carnegie Mellon School of Drama that I learned that all performance falls under the category of acting. It’s about conveying truth and creating real moments that feel like they’re happening for the first time. Really, it’s about being a storyteller.'
THE BEAUTY OF THE SHIFT
'When I left school I initially got a lot of auditions for TV and film. I noticed that there were a lot more stories here that I could see myself in. While I was working on Industry, I realised that the camera allowed more opportunities for honesty. You don't have to focus so much on voice projection as you do in theatre – where you have to worry about the audience hearing you at the back of the house. With film you can concentrate on the soft intimate moments. The close-up camera picks up on nuances, and I realised that is where I feel at home; where I can do my most exciting, truthful work.’
ACTING FROM THE INSIDE OUT – AND THE OUTSIDE IN
'If I want to build a character who has, for example, a certain kind of walk, I might start by formulating that walk, and then live in that walk for a little while, and see how that makes me feel. What I'm doing on the outside influences how I feel on the inside. Another technique is to go into what a character feels like on the inside – and that then influences how they move in the physical space. However, my personal process is very “Acting 101”: go to the script first, learn everything you can learn about the character from what's on the page, and build from there.'
THE LOVE OF MUSIC
'Music or singing is what happens when words fail to express what we're feeling. Music is the through line; it means the world to me. I'm hardly ever without it. There’s something you understand when you hear music beyond what a person can tell you. I am a very emotional person, so the drama, the theatrics of singing – I feel that so hard. If I'm feeling a lot, I'm gonna sing about it.'
FEELING GOOD IN CLOTHES
'I like to think that my personal style evolves as I evolve. It is a reflection of whatever is going on inside. I love a little androgyny. I love to go all the way one way, or all the way the other. I love playfulness. I love nods to past eras. I love simplicity. I love minimalism. When I'm choosing a garment, I think about its quality, fabric and craftsmanship. I want it to feel good on my skin. I really can't stand things that are scratchy. I want to feel good in what I'm wearing, and also like what I see.'
LETTING GO FOR THE YEAR AHEAD
'Coming into this year, I'm holding on so tightly to the love I have in my life – the love for my family, my friends, my partner. I'm in the process of letting go of any insecurities I might feel about the spaces I'm entering into. Just as anybody who enters a new phase – a new job, or a new friend group – I often have that nagging voice in my head: Do I belong in this room? Do I have anything to offer? But I've decided that, if someone's asked me to be there, then absolutely, I am meant to be there. So I'm gonna bring my fullest, lovely, confident self to everything.'
What do you collect?
'Furniture. I've just moved into a new apartment, and I've decided that I'm curating the space with my forever items.'
What would you like to tell your younger self?
'Keep going. Don't let the haters get to you. They don’t, but don't let them. You’re fabulous.'
What's your favourite song?
'Oh I don't have one. I wish I did, but there are too many good ones that fit different seasons of my life. But there is a song by Boyz II Men that I sing for my mom all the time, A Song for Mama. I don’t know why it came to mind: it's just Boyz II Men singing about how much they love their mom.'
What's the last book that you bought and loved?
'A Nadia Lee Cohen table book called Women. The imagination of that woman! The creativity, the expression.'
What brings you peace?
'Deep breathing. I have a little meditative moment. My cats; if I'm really upset, my cats – Bangbang and Natalia – notice. They're emotional, you know?
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be? 'I loved Berlin. It was the most similar city to New York that I've been to in Europe. I really liked it there.'
Words by Maisie Skidmore
Myha’la Herrold wears the Spring Summer 2023 collection for COS. Photography by Glen Luchford. Styling by Suzanne Koller.
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