Laura Brown
Photography by
Bjorn Iooss

Styling by Julie Ragolia at Jed Root. Hair by Shin Arima at Frank Reps. Makeup by Asami Matsuda at ArtList. Photographer’s assistant: Zenith Richards. Stylist’s assistant: Melissa Yates.


My goddaughter Odessa came to stay with me in New York last September, right after the Toronto Film Festival. It was so right after the festival that she arrived in full red-carpet makeup, sitting on my couch and pulling off her false eyelashes (with many yelps) while I unhelpfully videoed her and laughed. She slept on an air mattress in my living room for a week.

Odessa is an actress—an actress who is, they say, about to become a big star. The next big star out of Australia who isn’t part of the Hemsworth family. She has two films coming out this year, Looking for Grace and The Daughter—starring alongside such luminaries as Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, and Miranda Otto. And she’s getting rave reviews.

By the time this piece comes out, Dess will be eighteen. I remember the day her mother Rachel texted me to ask if I would be her godmother. It was 1998 and I was sitting on the top level of a London bus. I was twenty-four and about as far away from godmother material as you could get. I guess Rachel thought I could be of some use, eventually.

Now, all godmothers are rightfully nepotistic, but I like to think I have a little more perspective. For Odessa’s entire life, apart from two years of it, I have lived in another country. So I’ve seen her with some degree of remove. She’s beautiful, for sure, but she has a presence, a strange blend of maturity and hippiedom. And she knows herself. Hollywood has been all over her, but she’s taking her time, electing to keep working in Australia until she’s “ready.”

And on that day, she’ll be too fancy for me and my air mattress. But I’ll have it for her anyway.

Laura Brown: You’re up and at ‘em—what are you doing?
Odessa Young: I’m not up and at ‘em, but I’m still awake.
Are you lying down?
I’m in bed.
I’m in bed too. I’m just lying on a bed.
I’m in it.
Oh, you’re in it? See, that’s the secret to your success. You just immerse yourself.
Exactly. I’m in it—it’s all or nothing.
I’ve got so much to learn from you.
You should be telling yourself. You’re great!
You’re great. [Laughs] When are you doing this workshop, the weird screaming one?
It’s a drama workshop. It’s not the screaming one. I did the screaming one two weeks ago.
We’ve moved on from the trauma.
I’m onto another technique apart from screaming.
Oh, what’s this technique?
She’s Meisner.
Meisner—look at you, you’re so serious. Are you so serious about your craft?
I’m a serious actor, you know. I am the serious actor. [Laughs]
I think you are! I mean, you are almost eighteen.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
Can you imagine, when you turn eighteen, how serious you’re going to get?
I’m going to get the lines under my eyes, that’s how serious it’s going to be. [Laughs]
Ha! Don’t worry, I’ll get you some SK-II. You’re not allowed to age. No, you have to stay this age now.
No, I know.
We’re going to cryogenically freeze you, like, “Hey, this is Odessa Young, she’s a hot, young thing.”
Have you done it?
No, I don’t want to. Is it good?
Yeah, I didn’t enjoy it. The only thing that I enjoyed about it was I could play Springsteen in the little chamber.
Because you have the musical taste of a fifty-year-old man, which I commend you on. [Laughs]
Pretty much!
I commend you on it! Ahead of your time, ahead of your time.
LA is my favorite for that reason, because you can always find the Eagles, Tom Petty, and Springsteen on a radio station around the city.
That’s true. LA has the best radio, it really does. Ok, let’s ask questions that readers will care about—or we can just indulge ourselves. [Laughs] This is very funny, let’s just enjoy the irony of the interview again. I’ve known you since in utero, when you used to play with your food in your little highchair—which you still do, which is weird.
Not often.
Ok, tell me this—when did you experience your very first desire to act? How old were you, and what was it?
The only one I can remember is being on set at My Place.
The kid’s show! The ABC show. What were you, nine?
I was eleven. Maybe I was nine. I’ve been telling people I was eleven, but now I’m thinking about it.
Dessy, don’t age yourself! Have you learned nothing yet?
Oh God! What have I done?
People will start thinking you’re nineteen, and you’re not!
What have I done?!
Shit—ok, thank God I’m here.
Ok, I’m either nine or eleven. We can confirm that later.

Left: Dress by Edun.Right: Trenchcoat by Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. Shirt by Public School.

[Laughs] And when you went to your first set, what was the audition like for that, or did you just turn up?
I don’t really remember. This is my extremely interesting life that I don’t remember.
Exactly—welcome to your forties.
The audition was—I remember I was wearing an olive-colored sundress.
I’m glad you’re putting in fashion, because it’s something I can understand.
Exactly, I’ve made comparisons between my life and various collections that I think you’ll understand.
Could you? Ok, what collection are you in right now?
I’m thinking Miu Miu 2005.
Oh yeah! Early Miu Miu—yeah, you’re early Miu Miu, you’re sort of gamine, but quirky with her whole life ahead of her. Before the price rose, Miu Miu was still the secondary line, but then it became a premier line. This is an apt metaphor for your career growth.
I’m so glad it worked out like that, because I literally pulled that out of my ass.
I know you did, and you pulled it out of your ass while in a bed—that’s really good. You went to performing arts school and you were doing the acting, bits and bobs, but when did you feel like, ‘Ah, this is my jam’?
It was probably when I was in France and I was on exchange, when I got gastroenteritis and had to sleep in your hotel room. That’s when it hit me—favorite day of my life. I think it was the fact that I was willing to come back home to Australia to act. I had been saving up for years. I was in the process of auditioning at the time and I knew there was a possibility that I would have to come back home, but I think it was the idea that I would actually do anything, make sacrifices to do it.
Right, to go back to another hemisphere, the one of your birth.
Yes, just to get in front of a camera, dedicated to the attention.
‘Traveling for Attention: The Odessa Young Story.’ I’ve already named your memoir.
It’s the name of my autobiography.
So your first part—give me your chronology.
The first thing I ever did was [actor and director] Aden [Young]’s short film.
Yes, your uncle. What was it called?
It was called The Rose of Bad Ziz. It was all stills, there was no movement. I was technically a model, I suppose.
Oh Jesus, how cheap. So you’re used by a family member as nothing but a mannequin! Oh, I’m offended. Honestly, how much of a help, hindrance, guide, spiritual advisor has Aden been in your quest?
Quite a lot, actually. We have very different experiences, and a lot of the time that comes to a head, but I think it’s just mainly the respect for each other that helps. I respect the way he feels about the industry and he respects the fact that I’m in a completely different decade than him.
Then you did the TV show ‘Tricky Business,’ and then which was it? ‘Looking for Grace’ first or ‘The Daughter’?
Looking for Grace was first and then on the very last day on set for Looking for Grace, I was in the hotel room, I packed my bag, got on a red eye, landed in Sydney at six or seven in the morning, and went to the set of The Daughter.
Well, you can do that because you’re young and vital.
I think it was something like that. That may be a dramatic recreation.
It works better and I support it. When you got the role in ‘The Daughter,’ were you like, “Oh, this is a serious thing and I can be serious and I feel like it might have legs”?
I actually didn’t even think about that. I remember thinking that it was a serious thing, that I was way out of my depth sitting at the table read with Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neill and Paul Schneider, these serious, serious actors. Just sitting at the table read with them and watching Geoffrey Rush open his mouth and perfect actor talk coming out of it.
Does everything slow down?
Yeah, you sound like you’ve rehearsed for years and it’s the fist time you’ve read it out loud.
Then it’s been very well received and you’ve been to, what, three film festivals now with this film: Toronto, Venice, Dubai. Where did you feel it had the best response, and what was the adventure of that like?
In Venice, it wasn’t part of the offcial selection, and then in Toronto, it was part of the offcial selection and it got a really amazing reception.
How was Dubai? Was it cool? Was it weird?
It was so excessive, I loved it. I loved it and I felt guilty that it was amazing.
Now you’ve got your WME agency here, where are you at with roles right now? What’s happening? What are your meetings?
What’s happening? I think I have two features that are coming up this year in various parts of the southern hemisphere, because I get homesick and I don’t take jobs in the northern areas.
I know, but you will at some point. Not yet.
I’m not ready.
You’re not ready, it’s fine!
I’m not ready. I’m getting ready, but I’m not ready yet.

Trenchcoat by Joseph. Shirt, stylist's own.

If you could emulate anybody’s career, who would it be?
That’s a very good question. I think I like the idea of Mia Wasikowska’s career just solely because she’s fun and from south Australia and I really like that.
How do you manage all of the press? How much press are you doing now and how does it all flow through your head?
Since I quit school, it’s been a bit easier. I couldn’t have done any of this if I was at school. I think if I’m working on set, then my entire psyche is dedicated to working on that job, and then if I’m working on press, it’s the other way around, so I ignore the other part of my job.
Right, I see. You’re immersive. What are you confident about, and what makes you nervous?
Let’s get deep for a second. I get really nervous about my intellectual capabilities, especially because I haven’t been to drama school and I haven’t been trained and I have no idea about technique, which is something that I now am trying to educate myself on, but I’m behind in leaps and bounds on that stuff. If I’m talking to someone who’s been to drama school, they know what they’re talking about, so I’m sitting there like, “Yeah, I was in this thing once.”
But there’s something to be said for intuition, is there not?
Well there is, but I also think that when you’re eleven years old and you can act like you can near the camera, then you’re labeled as good. Then when you get to your self-aware age, when you start to actually get judged for your acting abilities, I think intuition can take you so far, but it’s also about honing down that intuition into viable performances.
That’s true. What are you confident about?
What am I confident about? I’m confident about my independence, my political ideals, and my morals. I’m confident that I’m
trying my best to be a good person.
I concur, Dessy. I concur. You’re about to turn eighteen—what does it mean? Can you do things now?
I have an offcial age that I can drink—that’s about it. I already kind of have all the freedom that eighteen-year-olds have. It really is just a piece of paper.
Do you know what your first sip of alcohol will taste like? I wish I could be there.
I’ve been drinking so much grape juice just trying to imagine what it will taste like. I’ve researched it all. I know the first cocktail I’m going to buy. I know the first beer I’m going to get. I’ve never tried beer before.
Oh honey, that’s so cute. I wish I could be there for this.
It’s all ahead of me.
Exactly. Brandon [Laura’s boyfriend] has two questions for you that he’s written down. You ready?
Brandon: This comes from a place of genuine curiosity.
“Do you worry that living this dream sequence before you’ve really matured, you’re missing out on the common experience and you’ll wake up one day in your twenties and realize you’ve alienated your generation?” [Laughs]
I’m going to go get drunk at seven in the morning, because I don’t want to think about that!
Well done! “And if so, how do you think you’ll cope with the crushing loneliness?”
Brandon: I think she just answered that.
[Laughs] Yeah, sorry.

It’s alright, I’ll think about it one day.
Ok, we’ll finish in a minute, but the most critical question I have for you is, how awesome has it been having me as a formative influence on your life? And you’re welcome. [Laughs]
Fine, like my aunt’s overbearing, she’s a bit obsessed with me, but otherwise good. She has nice clothes, so I think that will come in handy one day. I’m going to go to Paris soon, so we should align then.
When? I’m going to go for the shows in March. We’ll work it out. We’ve got so much to do.
Oh, the places you’ll go!
One day I want to go to Paris with you and take you to the Chanel show.
I wouldn’t say no to that.
We’ve got our lives to live. Hang on, I think that’s it. I think you’re great. This is fun!
I think you’re pretty great. This has been really fun. We should do this more often. Can I interview you some time? I love you. You’ll make me sound much more interesting and intelligent.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
I love you, I love you, have a great day.
Give mommy a kiss for me.
Yes, I will.
Ok, love you, talk to you later.

Laura Brown
Photography by
Bjorn Iooss

Styling by Julie Ragolia at Jed Root. Hair by Shin Arima at Frank Reps. Makeup by Asami Matsuda at ArtList. Photographer’s assistant: Zenith Richards. Stylist’s assistant: Melissa Yates.

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