Wonderland.

ALEXA DEMIE

The Euphoria star talks her role as Maddy Perez in the Autumn 19 issue.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie cards

Bodysuit OTTAVIA, corset MICHAEL NGO, boots PINKO, ring MISAHARA, ring DJULA.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie cards
Bodysuit OTTAVIA, corset MICHAEL NGO, boots PINKO, ring MISAHARA, ring DJULA.

Taken from the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

Patron Saint of girls who like their acrylics long and their eyeliner flicked with ferocity, Alexa Demie became a style icon overnight with her role as Maddy Perez in Euphoria. Strutting the line between vulnerable and untouchable, her portrayal was captivating. Rosie Byers meets the actor who’s determined to do it all.

We’ve all seen the memes: “Maddy Perez saved hot girl summer”. For those who watched HBO’s gritty teen drama Euphoria, you already know. And to anyone who hasn’t been sucked into the heady whirlwind of the show, where have you been living for the past three months?

Landing in June, Euphoria broke the mould for TV shows set around the American high school experience. While we might look back with rose-tinted nostalgia at the glitzy neighbourhoods of 90210 and The O.C., or the late-‘00s fashion parade that was Gossip Girl, all were undeniably plagued by one dimensional characters, white-washed casting and highly unrealistic plot twists (xoxo, Dan Humphrey).

Long overdue, Euphoria arrived championing inclusivity that didn’t feel forced. Exploring everything from addiction and mental health to sexuality and body image, the show mapped out a gloriously messy portrait of teenage-hood and intimacy in the age of social media, depicting trauma, teetering friendships and first loves with delicacy and self-awareness. And — lest we forget — with a costume wardrobe descended from heaven. Back to Maddy Perez.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie apple
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie knife

Left: Dress BLUMARINE, earrings AMWAI, crown RINALDY A. YUNARDI. Right: Jacket ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, bra AGENT PROVOCATEUR, ring YVAN TUFENKJIAM, ring MISAHARA, earrings AMWAI, shoes BAROLLO.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie apple
Left: Dress BLUMARINE, earrings AMWAI, crown RINALDY A. YUNARDI. Right: Jacket ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, bra AGENT PROVOCATEUR, ring YVAN TUFENKJIAM, ring MISAHARA, earrings AMWAI, shoes BAROLLO.
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie knife

A certified bad bitch, Maddy serves ‘90s-inspired matching co-ords on rotation, with extravagant matching eye makeup complete with chains, glitter flicks and diamante gems – the kind of looks that ruin exes’ lives, and claim “hot girl summer” memes for life. For actress Alexa Demie, curating her aesthetic was a dream role in itself. “It was incredible, because it was such a collaborative experience. I got to bring in like, all of my mood boards,” the 24-year-old tells me from her home in Los Angeles, reeling off character references ranging from old photos of Nina Simone to gaudy 1995 movie Showgirls and Sharon Stone’s Ginger in Scorsese’s Casino. Growing up, she’d spend hours poring over the fashion magazines her makeup artist mum kept “literally flooding” every room of their house, and as we speak, Demie’s prepping looks for upcoming film festivals and premieres. “Oh yeah,” she deadpans, her East Hollywood accent distinctively low and velvety in tone: “I style myself.”

Raised in LA’s Atwater Village, Demie came of age immersed in the opulent nightlife of the city, taking shuttle buses to mansions in the hills armed with a handful of friends and a fake ID. It’s a world she seems already acclimatised to and completely unfazed by, noting that, as a “very observant person,” she’s witnessed people spiral into wild lifestyles upheld by empty friendships, vowing to never pander to either herself. Speaking on her career so far, it’s clear she operates with a steely focus and self-possession: Alexa Demie was always going act, sing and design – “no” wasn’t an option, but neither was compromising her own vision for a phoney five minutes of fame.

“Oh my God – the complete opposite,” she stresses, when I ask if her own teenage experience resembled that of girl gang ringleader Maddy. “It’s funny, because I think everyone assumes that I was a cheerleader or hung out with football players… I was quite a loner and had a lot of trouble with girls. I was bullied probably from elementary school all throughout high school; sometimes I’d leave early to avoid certain situations. I was in the performing arts programme in senior year and I only had one or two classes, so I’d go straight home and work on my sunglasses.”

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie man
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie man

Cape LULU HARAZIN, bra DIANA COUTURE, earrings DJULA.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie man
Cape LULU HARAZIN, bra DIANA COUTURE, earrings DJULA.
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie man

Picking up boxes of plain frames in Downtown LA, Demie would customise them with beads and gems, building a business that gained attention from J-Lo and Nicki Minaj, investment from Japan, and saw her fly out there for meetings the summer after senior year. “They wanted me to start mass producing them, and that’s not something I wanted to do,” she shrugs. “I wanted to keep it handmade and very select.”

After making a name for herself starring in Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s earlier this year, Demie was set on taking a break from acting to focus on making music and designing again. But then came Euphoria. “I got this script and I. Freaked. Out,” she enthuses animatedly. “I read it so quickly and I just wanted to read it over and over again. I’m very visual and Sam [Levinson] is so good at describing everything so perfectly that you actually do visualise it. I was able to see the entire world and the music selection. It was just a dream script.”

From there, she paints her casting as fated. First, a serendipitous email from Augustine Frizzell, the show’s pilot director, who Demie had auditioned for a different project for exactly a year before. Then: “So many beautiful, synchronistic things started happening with it. Like, I would go to a deli and a cheese was called Euphoria… I just kept seeing Euphoria everywhere. It happens to me a lot.”

After sourcing her iconic wardrobe, bringing Maddy Perez to life on screen was a challenge any actor would have found demanding: Demie had to pivot between amplifying her glossy, seemingly impenetrable front in some scenes (before which she’d play Beyoncé’s “Flawless” on repeat to get into the “bad bitch zone”), to portrayals of abuse at the hands of her on-off boyfriend Nate (played by Jacob Elordi).

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie flower
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie horse
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie dress

Left: Dress ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, earrings ÂME, shoes CHARLOTTE OLYMPIA. Middle: Dress and socks MIU MIU, corset RITUAL, shoes ALEXA CHUNG, earrings ÂME, ring BORGIONI, ring MISAHARA. Right: Dress ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, earrings ÂME.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie flower
Left: Dress ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, earrings ÂME, shoes CHARLOTTE OLYMPIA. Middle: Dress and socks MIU MIU, corset RITUAL, shoes ALEXA CHUNG, earrings ÂME, ring BORGIONI, ring MISAHARA. Right: Dress ELIZABETH EMMANUEL, earrings ÂME.
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie horse
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie dress

Euphoria’s depiction of their relationship is chilling. Over eight incisive episodes Nate and Maddy spiral into malicious competition, bargaining and upstaging each other with possessive stunts until he snaps, and emotional manipulation inevitably jumps to physical violence. “I would be alone before [those] scenes and listen to certain songs and think back to my past – you know, being a child and seeing a dysfunctional couple in my home and trying to justify why she would stay and allow this,” she says on preparing herself mentally on set. “When I was growing up I would not let any boy or man say one negative thing to me, because I didn’t grow up with the best male figures in my life. I actually didn’t grow up with much respect for men; I think that’s something that was built throughout time and just meeting new people… Being vulnerable and allowing that was really something that was very difficult for me and I think most of it was me trying to have compassion for Maddy.”

Now strangers approach her online and in person to thank her for capturing those moments on screen, and Demie feels genuinely grateful that they do. “A lot of the time as women, I think we try to be a mother figure for men,” she continues, with the conspiratorial air of an older, wiser sister. “We think that we can fix them, and that was definitely me growing up. I had a lot of dysfunctional high school relationships where I thought I could help them or change them, you know? And that is something I think Maddy was definitely doing.”

Right now she’s still taking it all in, but Demie’s voltaic presence in the show has brought an abundance of opportunities her way. Next she’ll appear in Gia Coppola-directed drama Mainstream alongside Andrew Garfield and Maya Hawke, as well as A24 film Waves, which follows two young couples through the chaos of growing up and falling in love. Like Euphoria, she tells me, it’s “very driven by music,” and her character is trapped in the more toxic relationship (“why do I keep getting these roles?”)

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie table

Dress MARIA LUCIA HOHAN, shoes GUCCI, crown LECIEL DESIGN.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie table
Dress MARIA LUCIA HOHAN, shoes GUCCI, crown LECIEL DESIGN.

She’s also recently turned her atten- tion back to music, “a little darker and cinematic”, which is lined up for release soon. Videos, a full project, and maybe even a venture into disco will follow. Later in life, Demie plans to open a school focused on preparing students for the working world instead of just getting them into college, with an emphasis on nurturing creativity. “I’ve known since I was a little girl – I would always say I just want to have an empire,” she explains nonchalantly. “To have my designs and albums, and I want to direct and write films. I think I’m meant to do it all.”

I ask if she ever feels like she’s expected to ask for less. If, as a young female navigating an industry that profits from our self-doubt, she’s felt pressure to bend in compliance or box herself in. “No, I don’t struggle with that,” she replies sharply, as though the idea she would is entirely absurd. “Because I just don’t believe that. I really don’t. Since I was super young I would perform at school, I wo- uld draw pictures and sell them for a dollar. I was always doing different things and I’ve always encouraged everyone around me, all of my friends, that they can do everything.”

Poised to skyrocket this year, you’d be forgiven for wondering how she’s coping with the influx of attention unfolding around Euphoria. But after just under an hour in conversation, it’s clear that though the world is watching, no one’s going to tell Alexa Demie who she is or where to venture next – and whatever that may bring, she’s capable of handling it, her way, just like she always has done.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie nails
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie castle

Left: Cape LULU HARAZIN, bra DIANA COUTURE, earrings DJULA. Right: Dress BLUMARINE, crown RINALDY A. YUNARDI.

Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie nails
Left: Cape LULU HARAZIN, bra DIANA COUTURE, earrings DJULA. Right: Dress BLUMARINE, crown RINALDY A. YUNARDI.
Wonderland Autumn 19 issue interview Alexa Demie castle
Photography
Ellen von Unwerth
Fashion
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Editorial Director
Huw Gwyther
Production
Federica Barletta
Words
Rosie Byers
Video
Alex Seiler
Hair
Iggy Rosales at Opus Beauty
Makeup
Raoul Alejandre at The Only Agency
Manicure
Yoko Sakakura at The Only Agency
On-set Production
Taj Alwan
Digital Operator
Anthonie Gonzalez
1st Photo Assistant
Kenny Castro
2nd Photo Assistant
Andrew Hazeltine
Fashion Assistant
Gorge Villalpondo
Special thanks to
Houston Hospitality's: No Vacancy Los Angeles
ALEXA DEMIE