SOKO Always Gives It 100

SOKO Always Gives It 100

The French actress and singer transforms herself for two very different film projects this fall.

text by Justin Moran / photography by Ryan Pfluger / styling by Solange Franklin

Just days before shooting our Beautiful People issue, singer/actress Soko was not in a healthy headspace, tweeting about being exhausted by her back-to-back press schedule and comparing herself to food that's been “cooked on simmer mode," but ultimately “burnt coz we forgot to check the stove." The Bordeaux-born talent has taken a lengthy hiatus from her music career to star in two films -- The Dancer and The Stopover, out this fall -- which she's since been tirelessly promoting across the world. Photoshoot, interview, next city. Photoshoot, interview, next country. Repeat. “I miss music so much" she tweeted. “I don't feel like myself anymore at all. I've been too many characters … This pretend life is too lonely." Yet there we were on another set, posing her behind another camera, asking her another interview question and dressing her in another runway-ready designer look. The problem, perhaps, is she's too human for the entertainment industry, where artists are first cultivated for their skills and then forced to work on auto-pilot in hopes they'll never burn out.

“I live my life one hundred percent," she says after the shoot wraps, sipping tea in a Brooklyn bar next to the studio (Soko doesn't drink). “Sometimes I feel like I fast forward a bit too much. I live life at a higher pace because I'm impatient and then end up working on a million things at once. I recently had one day off and drove out of the city to just get some air, see some nature, watch a wave crash into the shore." The 30-year-old continues, “I'm totally down to put my whole life on hold and devote it to something I'm going to learn from. If it's not a great challenge then I won't bother."

In The Stopover, a military drama adapted from Delphine Coulin's novel, “Voir du pays," Soko plays Marine, one of two French servicewomen returning from Afghanistan. It's an ambitious role that sees her embodying a character far from Soko's naturally soft, pacifist personality. The story centers on soldiers dropped into a three-day, government-imposed hotel retreat, where they're encouraged to relax among tourists, though the fleeting holiday could never fully erase what they've all witnessed at war. “It was hard for me to play someone so opposite from who I am," Soko says. “Marine is violent and one of the boys -- she can't take account of her femininity. I don't know if I enjoyed playing someone who's so far from everything I believe in. When I saw myself in the film, she didn't look anything like me. I almost couldn't watch it. If I didn't have another movie booked right away, I would've had a really rough time."

Thankfully, Soko was able to immediately shed Marine's tough soldier skin and slip into modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller's world for The Dancer, a drama about Fuller's competitive relationship with Isadora Duncan, played by 16-year-old Lily-Rose Depp. To prepare her body for the rigorous role, Soko says she danced 7 hours every day for 2 full months, a testament to her extreme “one hundred percent" work ethic. “I've always been the shittiest dancer ever," Soko says. “I'm so clumsy, I don't know what to do with my body. I was like the 'fat hippo' in ballet school that was body-shamed because I wasn't skinny enough to wear the little white tights. But The Dancer was about someone with zero self-confidence who hated her image and changed that through making theatrical magic. Loïe was a struggling artist that invented a completely new form of dance, so playing her was fascinating."

Both films were directed by women, The Stopover by Delphine and Muriel Coulin and The Dancer by Stéphanie Di Giusto, which Soko says has been a common occurence throughout her career. “The last four movies I've done were directed by women and I was the lead in them all," she says. “With women directors I get so many offers, and with men directors I get nothing. I love working with women because they have to prove themselves more than men do in the industry, they're so much more passionate. Women have a fire that's really enlightening."

Throughout our conversation, Soko speaks with the same breathy earnestness you hear on her two full-length albums: 2013's I Thought I Was An Alien and 2015's My Dreams Dictate Reality. When music gets brought up, she purses her lips and says that since she's had no alone time in the past year, she's been unable to fully flesh out any new song ideas for a third full-length album -- though at one point she pulls out a notebook packed with scribbles of ideas. Soko's press schedule hasn't allowed her to “explore who she is" outside of acting, she says; there's been no time to sit alone in her bedroom at 5 am and write lyrics. As our conversation continues, Soko explains that she's been feeling sad lately not only because of her loaded itinerary but also because of the violent, socially unbalanced state of the world.

“It's such a horrible world," she says. “It makes me feel so lonely; it makes me feel guilty doing all this fashion stuff, right now. What's a story in a magazine compared to what's happening in the rest of the world?" She speaks about the June 28th attack on Turkey's Istanbul Ataturk Airport, where three terrorists armed with bombs and guns killed 36 innocent people and left another 147 injured, one of many mass killings the world has experienced this year. Our conversation inevitably turns towards death, a motif strung throughout Soko's entire discography. Her best known track, “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow," soared up Billboard's Hot 100 in March, 2014 when it was included in the viral “FIRST KISS" video.

“I lost my dad when I was 5," she says. “He died in his sleep, so death has always been very present to me. You grow with it -- live with it. It becomes your reality, your curse and your gift all at once. That's what's underlying all the work I do. I'm doing this because I'm fucking terrified to die. I wake up every morning and I'm like, 'Oh my God, I'm fucking alive! What am I going to do today? Let's make this the best day ever because maybe I won't wake up tomorrow.'" It's this attitude that has given the artist a sound understanding of her purpose in life, both as a friend and a public figure. At the same time as she's become a street style star over the years, she's aimed to used this newfound attention as a way to celebrate all different types of sizes, features and fashion tastes, all in an effort to bring more positivity and acceptance into this world. “When I don't feel like I want to be seen or even be a part of this world, I remember that maybe I should be out there more because not everyone is a sample size or traditionally beautiful," she says. “There are still so many conventions out there. I love when my guy friends, who're totally straight, want to wear my dresses. I'm like, 'I don't care if you're straight, you can totally wear my dresses if you want!'" For Soko, her goals are at once both simple and profound. As she puts it, "I want to have a loving, grateful life and have good people around me to empower and make feel special."

Hair by Andrew Fitzsimons

Makeup by Grace Ahn

Nails by Ami Vega

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