Storm Reid: Student of life

Storm Reid stars on In The Know’s digital cover for August 2021. Read below for her accompanying feature article. You can find out more about the beauty featured in this month’s cover shoot here and shop the fashion looks here.

It’s 10 a.m. on a perfect summer day in Los Angeles (75 degrees and sunny) when In The Know cover star Storm Reid arrives at Smashbox Studios with her mom by her side. She spends the morning collaborating with celebrity stylist Jason Bolden on her cover looks (a Prada jumpsuit is involved). While each piece is being expertly tailored to suit her small frame, a hairstylist adds a pop of color to her braids with a custom-made combination of fabric, string, gold wire and metal beads. 

“Today’s Storm is a girl who is trying to be of service, trying to move in a space of gratitude, but still has a lot to learn,” she says in her cover interview with Elaine Welteroth. “She’s just an 18-year-old girl trying to figure it out.”

Storm Reid on In The Know’s July digital cover. She’s wearing a Prada jumpsuit and her own jewelry.
Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis

She’s certainly got some things figured out already, like how to be an entrepreneur who refuses to be put in a box. There’s Storm Reid, the actor, who made her Hollywood debut alongside Oprah in Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle In Time.” She currently plays Gia alongside Zendaya in HBO’s high-strung cinematic masterpiece “Euphoria.” And most recently, she starred alongside Viola Davis, Margot Robbie and Idris Elba in the new “Suicide Squad.” 

There’s also Storm Reid, the producer, who launched a production company with her mom, A Seed and Wings Productions, that focuses on telling “multi-hyphenate, multicultural stories that represent the real world as a whole.” She’s even dipping her toes in the fashion industry. Storm recently launched her first-ever swimwear line in collaboration with PacSun called ArashiBlu.

And then there’s Storm Reid, the student who just graduated high school during a pandemic and begins her freshman year at the University of Southern California (USC) in the fall. (In case you were wondering, she’s planning on dressing up for class on the first week only.) 

After the cover shoot, Storm sat down with Elaine Welteroth over Zoom. Storm shared how Ava DuVernay helped her navigate the college application process, the best advice Oprah ever gave her and the quality she picked up from her idol-turned-big-sis Zendaya. 

Storm Reid in a pleated Miu Miu midi skirt, a collared Miu Miu top and Miu Miu heels.
Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis

Elaine Welteroth: I feel like you’re going to be in class with people who are going to be like, “Yo, is that Storm?” [Laughs] Is that stressful?

Storm Reid: That’s going to be so uncomfortable and embarrassing for me. Cause like, even when I’m out in public, I’ll totally forget. I’ll be at Target with my family, and somebody will come up to me, and I’m like, “Oh, you know me?” That’s so weird. I’m grateful for it. But it’s just a new experience. It’s not like I’m one of those people who is out to be recognized. I hope everybody at school is chill about it. 

“I want you to see me. I want you to see Storm for Storm.”

Elaine: So one of the reasons that I love you, Storm, is because you are what I would like to call a student of life. Not only are you enrolling in college and going off to learn more academically, but you are someone who is generally wide-eyed, always absorbing everything around you and you’re maximizing every moment. You’re showing up fully as yourself. You’re getting the most out of every room that you enter. And I love that about you. Where did you get that confidence and curiosity from?

Storm: Thank you for those sentiments. I think everybody thinks like, “Oh, Storm is so confident. She has it all figured out.” But my favorite thing to say is, “I’m a new 18-year-old that has nothing figured out.” Like day-to-day, I’m trying to figure out who I am, what I want to do. But I think it really started at home with the people around me continuously pouring into me, and not in a cocky way, but letting me know that I am great. And I do deserve to be in rooms, and I do deserve to take up space, and make [a] change and make opportunities for myself and other people. 

Elaine: That’s really beautiful. Speaking of you as a student of life, you have the most epic teachers, from Ava DuVernay to Oprah, to Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling — the list goes on and on. So, this might be hard to answer, but what would you say is one of the best lessons that you’ve learned from these teachers who have also become guardians of your light? 

Storm: Miss Oprah told me this while we were having a conversation when we were filming “Wrinkle [In Time]”; she said, “Don’t waste energy on things you can’t change in life when you can be using that energy on something else positive in your life.” I think I was 13 at the time, so to now be 18 and have that piece of advice really, really has helped me to think about the good things and not waste energy on the things that you can’t change. Cause if you can’t change it, then why are you wasting time on it?

“If Instagram and all the other social media platforms went away tomorrow, I would be okay.”

Elaine: That’s a word. One person we have in common as a fairy godmother of sorts in the industry is Ava [DuVernay]. I remember meeting you on the red carpet of “A Wrinkle In Time.” You were this breakout star Ava had gushed about and said how much she loved you and that you are the next big thing. I love how when she finds somebody that she believes in, she supports you 1000%.

Storm: There are a lot of people in this world that get these amazing opportunities, and then they leave people behind or don’t try to keep the elevator open for other people. Miss Ava is putting her hands at the elevator door, and she’s like, “Come in, come in, come in.” So that’s why she’s so blessed in my opinion. 

Elaine: Absolutely. I’m curious, at this point in your life, when your career is taking off, why was it important to you to continue your education at USC versus taking a break from school to focus solely on your career?

Storm: I was actually at Miss Ava’s house. We were having lunch — me, my mom, and Miss Ava. The conversation of college came up, and she was just like, “Hey, I want you to apply to four colleges. You don’t have to go, but just make it a fun exercise. See if you fall in love with the process and if you fall in love with these schools where you get accepted.” 

So I applied to four, and I got my acceptances, and I really started to think about going, with the knowledge that I haven’t put the pressure on myself of “I’ll be there for four years.” I’m going to try it out. I hope to be there for the four years, but if I’m not and work gets crazy, I know that I tried to further my education. And I really just want that college experience. I’ve been homeschooled since sixth grade. I didn’t get a high school experience. So I mean, it’s going to be a learning curve, and it’s going to be interesting, to say the least, but I’m excited for the challenge.

Elaine: I’m excited for you. This is a special chapter for sure. What are you studying? 

Storm: I am a Bachelor of Arts in the USC School of Dramatic Arts. I plan to minor in African American Studies. 

Elaine: Ah, African American Studies — following in Ava’s footsteps! I know that one of your aspirations is to be a filmmaker one day. Do you feel like your college studies will help you achieve that goal?

Storm: I mean, Miss Ava didn’t go to film school, and she’s killing it. So I don’t really feel like I have to go to film school or pick up a film course to be able to be a director or be a filmmaker. I think it goes back to what you were saying about, like, being a student of life, you just pick up things from different people. You shadow, or you watch movies. I feel like you have to try it, and you learn your own way, and you see if you like it. 

Elaine: I have to say, I love that you always say Miss Ava”, “Miss Oprah” — it’s so Southern and so charming! 

Storm: It’s a respect thing. It comes from my mom and being raised in Atlanta. Like if I don’t say miss or mister, or no, ma’am or no, sir, I’m getting in trouble. [Laughs] I’m not trying to be charming. It’s just something that I was taught very early on, and it’s important to my mom to just have that respect. Like you’re supposed to greet your elders with respect and address them with respect. So that’s why I do it.

“If you can’t change it, then why are you wasting time on it?”

Elaine: I love it. Okay, but who counts as an elder? Like at what age do you become a Miss? Like, am I Miss Elaine, or am I just Elaine?

Storm: I think you’re Miss Elaine. I feel like if you’re older than me, I’m going to call you a miss. But like, I wouldn’t call Zendaya, Miss Zendaya.

Elaine: I feel like you’re calling me old? But listen, listen, I’m okay with it because I have owned my Gen Z auntie status! Now I want to know, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from Zendaya?

Storm: I think it’s the quality of not caring. You would see her videos, and she would like take her wig off. And she was like, “If it’s a wig, that’s my business. If it’s not a wig, that’s my business.” And she’s really like that. She’s like, “I don’t care what these people have to say about me. I’m doing me. I’m happy. I’m doing what I love. So why care about what somebody on Instagram is saying? Why care about what somebody in a blog is saying?” And she doesn’t have to say it. She just is. She represents it. Like she has that air about her. It’s not arrogant. It’s not cocky at all. She just knows that she’s Z, and she loves herself. And that’s super cool.

Storm Reid in an Alessandra Rich button-up cardigan, an Alessandra Rich poplin blouse, an Alessandra Rich skirt and her own jewelry.
Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis

Elaine: So, I want to talk to you a little bit about your relationship with social media. How do you want to show up in the world on social media, and how do you think about social media as a tool?

Storm: I try to have a balance of like, yes, this is my work, and you get to see all these cool things – but also, this is me. And you get to see me outside of my characters, but I want you to see me. I want you to see Storm for Storm. So that’s the dancing videos. And that’s me speaking my mind occasionally or being in the kitchen with my family and friends. Like, I want you to see that side of me because that’s who I am. I’m not a character, even though that’s my job. I’m Storm. 

It can get very dark. People are mean, and people are even meaner behind computers and screens. I’ll go like four or five days without posting, just because I don’t want to. Social media is not real life.

So I think it’s good to take those breaks and not feel so pressured to post. Like, if people really love you and support you, they’re not going to unfollow you because you haven’t posted in a week. The people that are unfollowing you because you’re not as active as somebody else. They’re not really in for the long run. And they don’t really support me. So that’s what I’ve had to remind myself of. And I mean, if Instagram and all the other social media platforms went away tomorrow, I think I would be okay.

Elaine: People have told you you’re very wise, and this is why. You know what, Stormy? I have to say, and I mean this in the most complimentary way — even at 18, you give me slight auntie Gen Z auntie vibes, too! 

Storm: It’s so funny you say that because every time I’m around my sister, and I’ll say something, she’s like, “Whose auntie are you?” [Laughs] So hey, I’ll be somebody’s auntie—I’ll take that title! 

Storm Reid in a pleated Miu Miu midi skirt, a collared Miu Miu top and Miu Miu heels.
Photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis

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Go behind the scenes of In The Know’s August digital cover shoot with Storm Reid below:

If you enjoyed our August cover story with Storm Reid, check out In The Know’s July feature with Luka Sabbat!

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