The life of a model, a singer and now, an arthouse actor.


Usually when we talk about a movie star being effortless, we mean her demeanour or style. “Effortlessly chic” is the caption in Us Weekly for American actresses who know how to tie Hermès scarves, and smartly pair them with “the perfect T.”

Kaya Wilkins is someone who doesn’t think you can buy the perfect white T-shirt in a store — you have to steal it, already threadbare from someone else’s life. For our interview, mere hours after she’s deplaned, and exactly one hour before she’s going to take a long bath, she’s wearing a black hoodie and purple sweat pants. “It’s my friend’s hoodie, I’m sure he’d be mad if he knew I had it,” she says, in a tone that lets me know she thinks the risk is well worth it.

The last item of clothing she bought was from a museum gift shop in Amsterdam. “I live in a super small apartment so I just wear the same stuff,” she explains. “I bought really tacky Van Gogh sweater like your aunt would wear with some pearl earrings or something.” Sounds gloriously Gucci. “I’m kind of psyched on it.”

(LEFT) Dress PRINGLE OF SCOTLAND, shoes NOMADIC STATE OF MIND, necklace MARYAM NASSIR ZADEH and socks stylist’s own
(RIGHT) All clothing Y/PROJECT

She is not yet a “movie star,” but she’s made a seamless acting debut. In fact, one could say she’s having an effortless career — and who among us can say that? There’s a reason it doesn’t effortlessly fall off the tongue, we usually say “stumbled into” but I don’t really imagine her being heavy on her feet.

Wilkins is a certified triple threat — a musician, actress and model — but the language feels too professional. Nowadays, I guess we call triple threats “alarmingly symmetrical girls who think”. She was reading Eileen Myles on the plane and Gogol at an early age, a side effect of growing up with a publisher-cum-painter parent. Symmetrical girls who think. And who ‘gram just as much as millennials.

Right now in her life, she’s also doing a classically young thing for a 25-year-old adopted New Yorker (besides modelling for Demna Gvaslia, though she’s doing that too) — she’s in love, and taking the train downtown from her house in Greenpoint, to record music with her new boyfriend. She was a fan of his music first, but with everyone who crosses paths with Wilkins, seemingly gets on board immediately — and now the songs are on her soon to debut album.

As a musician, she’s already worked with master producer of The xx, Sampha and King Krule, Rodaidh McDonald. Even with such a small output currently, Jamie xx has already played her unreleased tracks as Okay Kaya in his mixes. She makes blissful lo-fi lullabies, the latest being November’s release, “Damn, Gravity”.

(LEFT) Shirt COS, trousers LINDER, belt TIBI and necklace MARYAM NASSIR ZADEH
(RIGHT) All clothing Y/PROJECT

How does she balance her three careers? It’s easy, she says. She models to make money so she can make music. Simple. Wilkins has landed in LA to shoot a commercial for Banana Republic. (“I’m wearing beige in a tropical garden?”) She worked with the guy before and he called her.

She worked with Joachim Trier, starring in his new Norwegian-language movie Thelma, as the girl Thelma falls in love with. The titular character and Wilkins’ love interest has a fit that leaves her with the supernatural ability to make people disappear. She got the part because a guy she knew, a talent agent, called her, and convinced her to take an audition, which she saw as an excuse to see the director “like, from across the room.” Conveniently, Wilkins is from Nesoddtangen, Norway originally.

Tier picked her to play the popular girl at school, naturally. Eili Harboe — her co-star — and Wilkins played their parts in such harmony Trier allowed them to go unscripted. “The scene where Thelma and Anja are smoking on the balcony is improvised,” Harboe explains over email. The scene is just moments after they first meet, as the beguiling Anja begins to lead the religious Thelma astray, daring her to say the most sacrilegious things she can imagine. “Kaya and I were just taking a break when Joachim suggested we should shoot it.”

“I didn’t have to act, I just played myself,” Wilkins tells me, laughing.

Effortless indeed.

Taken from the Winter 17/18 Issue of Wonderland; out now and available to buy here.

(LEFT) Dress HELMUT LANG, shoes NOMADIC STATE OF MIND and socks stylist’s own
(RIGHT) Top TIBI, trousers HELMUT LANG, underwear BASE RANGE, shoes NOMADIC STATE OF MIND, necklace MARYAM NASSIR ZADEH and socks stylist’s own

Amber Mahoney
Rachael Wang
Kaitlin Phillips
Sabrina Szinay for Kevin Murphy at The Wall Group
Linda Gradin at L’Atelier NYC using Mac Cosmetics
Clare Rhodes at Casting By Us
Photography Assistant
Lea Winker
Fashion Assistant
Jenna Wojciechowski
Kaya Wilkins at The Society Management

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