Wonderland.

NICôLE LECKY

Breaking down the dark side of influencing and sex work, the actor opens up on her BBC series Mood and what she hopes people take away from it.

Nicôle Lecky MOOD

SET SHUSHU/TONG, Jewellery LAGE.

Nicôle Lecky MOOD
SET SHUSHU/TONG, Jewellery LAGE.

44 outgoing calls, a pounding headache and only a half-eaten kebab for company – sound familiar? While this sorry situation might not be a million miles away from the kind of early-20s chaos we’re used to seeing splashed across our screens, Nicôle Lecky’s Mood tells a darker tale. Following the story of 25-year-old aspiring singer-songwriter Sasha, the BBC Three series chronicles the pitfalls of social media, hustle culture and sex work – shining a light on the not-so-thinly veiled underbelly that lurks grimly below the sponsored posts and all-expenses-paid trips.

Debuted under the title Superhoe in 2017, the series has seen multiple articulations, now finding a home as a succession of fast-paced glimpses into the world of online sex work and sugar babies interspliced with heart-wrenching moments and musical interludes. As writer, producer and star of the series, Lecky had her work cut out. Describing the experience as a “baptism of fire”, she explains “It was a huge labour of love. It started out with the play and it’s gone on this huge journey that I never even thought it would go on, especially writing it in the pandemic when there was this boom on OnlyFans.” Somewhat ahead of the curve, Superhoe explored the idea of cam sites and camgirls, Lecky tapping into the zeitgeist years before online sex work exploded into the public sphere. However, with a reported 615% growth in 2020, it seemed obvious the show should shine a light on the platform the series rebrands as DailyFans. With a smile, Lecky continues “I suppose I was a bit of a Mystic Meg! I was shown this really random site that led me down this rabbit hole and I wanted to explore sex work. I was ahead of the curve but it was definitely happening, it just wasn’t in the public sphere whereas society has very much cottoned onto it now.”

Nicôle Lecky MOOD

Top ROOM 24, Dress GALVAN LONDON, Rings ARA VARTANIAN, Shoes, René Caovilla

Nicôle Lecky MOOD
Top ROOM 24, Dress GALVAN LONDON, Rings ARA VARTANIAN, Shoes, René Caovilla

Shining an analytical lense on influencer culture, Mood doesn’t shy away from the interplay between social media and sex work, with Sasha’s career as an Instagram star and prostitute shown to go hand in hand. “Influencer marketing is huge now. People have this facade on social media and I was very interested in who these women were in real life and who they were presenting online.” Lecky continues “I wanted to look at it and unpick it and see what pressures people were facing. I’ve felt pressure myself of what we show on social media and what you don’t and I thought we needed a show like this.” Wrapped up in the nuances of this world, the lines between empowerment and objectification are easily muddled, Lecky agrees: “It’s blurry, it’s so murky and it would really depend on who I spoke with whether I felt like they were being exploited or whether I felt like they were being empowered and had agency over their own bodies.” However, as is the case with Sasha, it’s all too easy to see how a false sense of agency can be revealed to be exploitation. “It’s a tricky topic, I understand the conditions of how it’s set up especially for young women to fall into doing work like that. For me as a woman, I can’t tell another woman how to feel empowered, but I think it’s about agency and choice and I feel unsettled when I see young women doing things against their morals but that’s how they feel like they have to be seen in the music industry.”

Nicôle Lecky MOOD
Nicôle Lecky MOOD

(LEFT) Dress ANCIELA, Earings & Necklace LAURIUM, Bracelet MI MANERA, Shoes PIFERI (RIGHT) Top & skirt STOLEN STORES, Cape SORCHA O’RAGHALLAIGH, Ring ANGHARD, Shoes RENE CAOVILLA.

Nicôle Lecky MOOD
Dress ANCIELA, Earings & Necklace LAURIUM, Bracelet MI MANERA, Shoes PIFERI Top & skirt STOLEN STORES, Cape SORCHA O’RAGHALLAIGH, Ring ANGHARD, Shoes RENE CAOVILLA.
Nicôle Lecky MOOD

Like Sasha, I felt myself being seduced by the glamorous world or promoter tables and designer outfits depicted on screen, with the show’s half-way mark acting as a sobering reflection – neither myself nor seemingly Sasha knowing how it had all ended up this way. Lecky replies “A lot of young women are really confused about how it happens. You’re on this rollercoaster, it’s hustle culture, it’s this heady mix of fun and you don’t want to think about the dangerous aspects but I found through talking to women they’d pause for a minute and think ‘How have I ended up here? I wanted to be as singer and now I’m a sex worker” but it’s literally girls gotta eat, you’ve got to pay your bills, you’ve got to finance yourself.” In a particularly jarring scene, Sasha’s family remark on how good she looks, how successful she is, her little sister cooing over her follower count – uncomfortable viewing when book-ended with graphic depictions of sex work. On the question of whether we’re willing to ignore the truth when Balenciaga bags and penthouse apartments divert our attention, Lecky remarks “I don’t think we delve at all really. I don’t think it’s really about questioning influencers and saying how are you making your money really but it does set up an intrigue. You ask ‘is there more beneath the surface and are these women being protected?’ If you’re doing this out of desperation, that’s a problem.”

Nicôle Lecky MOOD
Nicôle Lecky MOOD
Dress ANCIELA, Earings & Necklace LAURIUM, Bracelet MI MANERA, Shoes PIFERI Top & skirt STOLEN STORES, Cape SORCHA O’RAGHALLAIGH, Ring ANGHARD, Shoes RENE CAOVILLA.

Interwoven through the narrative is the loaded topic of race –  the nuances made particularly apparent when Sasha is given the alias ‘Lexi Caramel’. Describing the pervasive fetishisation of skin tone on sites like OnlyFans, Lecky comments “Sasha is naive and it takes another black sex worker to tell her ‘you will be fetishized and overly sexualised because of your race.’ but it’s something authentic that you couldn’t escape. I’m mixed-race, I was playing a mixed-race character and your race intersects with your everyday life, people like to bring it up so you end up discussing it really.” Receiving widespread praise for the sensitive portrayal of such delicate topics, Mood has drawn comparisons to the highly-acclaimed series, Fleabag. However, that seems to do the series a disservice, pigeonholing it into a certain genre that it seems to sit outside. While Fleabag centers on an individual, Mood tackles wider topics others would be too intimidated to attempt. On this comparison, Lecky replies “I understand it, it’s just trying to steer people to try to understand the type of creator I am” then adding “I do think we don’t really compare men. Fleabag is completely brilliant but the shows are completely different.”

So is there anything Lecky wants viewers to take away from the show? “For me, it’s a way to thwart people’s judgments or preconceptions – life can be really tough, especially for young people now, especially with social media so I think it’s about having empathy and compassion right now in a society.” Free from moralistic judgments or preachy undertones, Mood provides a colourful, all-encompassing insight into the murky world of sex work and should be essential viewing for anyone with an Instagram account or even internet access.

Photography
Jemima Marriott
Fashion
Ruta Jane
Words
Olivia Allen
Stylists Assistants
Rianna Garner-Dormer & Carmel Anderson
Makeup
Justine Jenkins Using Seeds of Colour
Hair
Miguel Perez @ The Wall Group
NICôLE LECKY

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