I was born and raised in L.A.—I’m a Valley gal.
I was working in film when I started modeling. My last "real" job was at Sundance, in the foreign film department. Modeling ended up being a bit more lucrative. I started acting a year or two later, and it’s definitely something that I’m more interested in. With modeling, you just don’t get that same feeling of creativity. I mean, it happens sometimes, but those aren’t usually the money jobs, I guess.
On Passover four years ago, [my mom] taught me how to embroider on a matzah cover and I loved it.
But I also wanted to start doing something else that was completely my own. As a kid, I was always crafting with my mom. She taught me how to knit and crochet, and on Passover four years ago, she taught me how to embroider on a matzah cover and I loved it.
I started thinking about interesting objects to embroider that weren’t so obvious, for lack of a better word. That’s how I landed on underwear. I bought a bunch of Hanes from Target and started embroidering them for friends. It was all very DIY, with some band merch or custom pieces for wedding parties and little things like that thrown in. Then about two years ago I decided to step it up and do it more officially, and that became Poppy Undies. We launched at the end of last year.
The act of embroidering is something that I love to do and it really helps with my anxiety—focusing on a tiny, very intricate thing where you can’t think about anything else is a great way to redirect those feelings. But it’s so time-consuming and labor-intensive. Now we manufacture our own underwear and I work with a factory downtown on the embroidery. But I still do custom pieces. You can order something custom and I’ll do it by hand.
The act of embroidering . . . really helps with my anxiety—focusing on a tiny, very intricate thing where you can’t think about anything else is a great way to redirect those feelings.
I was in a car accident when I was 19. I was a passenger and we were getting on the freeway—one of those big cloverleaf turns—and the car flipped over because the driver lost control. It’s weird to think back on because it was such a surreal moment. It felt like a movie. Everything slowed down and I knew we were going down. Thankfully, I put my right arm up to protect my head. I’m sure this all happened very quickly, but it felt really slow. We crashed and I blacked out.
When I woke up, it felt like my arm was waving above my head. So I was like, Okay, I probably broke a bone or two. My friend in the back had a skateboard and he used that to break open the sunroof. He pulled me out, and I remember his face when he looked at my arm. He said, "Don’t look." Then he took his shirt off and tied my arm up. My arm had no skin. My humerus bone had broken entirely in half and was sticking out of my arm.
We called an ambulance—it felt like a million hours—and they took me to L.A. County Hospital. I was moved to U.C.L.A. hospital where I stayed for a month. I had 10 surgeries in 20 days. It was nuts. I was just not a person. I would wake up for a couple hours every day, but I was on so much morphine that I mostly just slept.
I had 10 surgeries in 20 days. It was nuts. I was just not a person.
I eventually went home to my parents’ house to recuperate. It was my right hand so I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself. My mom had to help me, which was an amazing experience because it brought us a lot closer. She was already one of my best friends, but it really helped our relationship. She thought I should go straight back to school because if you sit around and you don’t live, you’re going to get depressed and just dwell on it. So I went back, but I hadn’t dealt with any of my emotions. It was extremely traumatic. After the first semester, I was like, I can’t do this.
I started going to trauma therapy, which was very helpful. And at that point, I just felt like I wanted to be somewhere entirely new and start over. So I moved to New York.
I went to NYU and worked at a film company. But I hated New York. I had put myself in a totally new environment where I didn’t know anybody in order to find myself. But, of course, your problems follow you anywhere you go.
I had put myself in a totally new environment where I didn’t know anybody in order to find myself.
I also didn’t think about how intensely my mood would change in the winter. Like, full-blown seasonal affective disorder. I was the most depressed. I was going to work, going to class, coming home, and then taking Xanax and watching 30 Rock. I lasted 11 months. I call it a year. And then I moved back to L.A. and eventually graduated college a year or two later.
Obviously, I was still processing my accident. I think that’s why New York was so hard for me. I’m in such a different place now. I’m more confident and comfortable. If I moved there now, it would be an entirely different experience. But at the same time, I think it was important I went through that to deal with it on my own.
A big part of my career as a model was looking perfect, so having this huge scar was really difficult. It took a couple of years for me to feel a sense of confidence and happiness in my job with it. It’s pretty sizable. It’s funny now because I usually forget that I have it and most people don’t care. I’ve been on a few shoots where they’ll Photoshop it out, or ask if they can, and it’s like, Whatever. If you want to do that, that’s fine.
For a year, I told myself I’d never show my arm in public again. I’d wear long sleeves or cover it with a wrap.
For a year, I told myself I’d never show my arm in public again. I’d wear long sleeves or cover it with a wrap. I would wrap my arm even if it was 100 degrees out. It took about a year and a half, two years for me to feel comfortable going out in public with my arm like that.
When I was in college, I ended up working on a documentary video project about the concept of bodies and scars—how they tell a story—as my senior thesis. The project started at Homeboy Industries. They’re a non-profit organization that helps rehabilitate ex-gang members back into society with professional development, mental health support, education, legal service—everything. I worked specifically with people who had intense bodily trauma.
I interviewed five people over about six months. Our only point of connection was that shared trauma. One of the subjects was an informant who had his arm shot off by a shotgun at close range when he was around 15, which is absolutely nuts. He introduced me to a couple other people who had intense scars from gang-related injuries. We just connected about the concept of having a scar and how it informs who you are. For a lot of them, their physical scars were the least of their concerns, but it did create a point of connection for us in a really interesting way where we could relate to each other.
I still think about that experience a lot, and it led to the documentary I’m currently working on. It’s going to take a while because everything is delayed as a result of COVID, but I’m interviewing women who have experienced some form of bodily trauma. Most of them are in the industry because I find that aspect of beauty standards especially interesting, but not all of them.
A very common experience with people who have bodily trauma is that, afterwards, that body part doesn’t feel like it’s part of you. So it’s like, there’s me and then there’s this thing on my arm, and that’s not me. You just don’t identify it as you. There’s a process of combining your old self with your new self, into this new person that has a new story and scar. I found that very prevalent in a lot of women I’ve spoken to. Every woman’s experience was so different, but the through line for all of them was the concept of the old self and the new self, and the process of feeling comfortable in what is quite literally new skin.
What changes did they have to make to feel actually proud of it or see it as a marker of strength? Especially in industries where people judge you on how you look. But it creates a lot more empathy for people who have either similar or more intense traumatic experiences because you have been through something like that. It shapes you. I love the idea of imperfection being beautiful, which also aligns with my embroidery and this handmade, not-always-perfect piece of art.
I was talking to my mom about weed the other day. She reminded me of the first time I got caught smoking. It was raining and I had decided the smartest place to smoke was right outside her bedroom because there was a covered area. So, I sat down and lit a bowl, and immediately heard footsteps coming for me. I tried to hide it, but of course I’m literally blowing smoke out of my mouth. Oh, I got in so much trouble. I got sent to my room. I was so high and all bummed out. Anyway, we got over that.
I smoked all through high school and college and loved it. But at some point, something in me just switched and I started getting super paranoid. So I stopped smoking completely.
More recently, in the past two or three years, I’ve tried it again intermittently. I don’t like to socially smoke. I prefer to be by myself or with one other person. But even that—if I’m not in a good place, it’s not good.
I got in so much trouble . . . I was so high and all bummed out.
I’ll go through phases where I totally am fine to smoke and I’ll make a big dinner and watch Netflix, or invite a friend over to join me. And then a couple months later, I’m not okay. So I’ll stop. Maybe it is a sense of awareness? I know weed is supposed to help with your anxiety, but a lot of times it makes it a million times worse. I think about that often. It is so specific because I think it really depends on your mindset.
I found I do better when it’s more CBD with a little THC, like Dosist. My friend Scott, from Plant Paper and Rose Los Angeles, recently dropped off some of their CBD delights and that is what I’m super into now. I take those every night to go to bed because my anxiety, especially with the news over the last couple weeks, has been through the roof. That’s what I do to wind down and get to sleep. They really help me.
For a while I was using Dosist’s Relief pens for my arm, but I don’t really have that kind of pain anymore. It does get more painful in the winter because there’s metal in my arm. So it helps with pain relief for that, but I usually mainly take CBD for my mental state to calm down.
With Poppy Undies—and any of the other projects that I do—my goal is always to create a sense of self-love and coziness and community.
My main focus now is Poppy, and expanding it into a more interdisciplinary world. For the release, I made a newspaper with a bunch of friends. There are written pieces, poetry, paintings, and recipes. It was all part of that yearning for community and a desire for connection during this strange quarantine time. I have a bunch of exciting collabs coming up this year with different companies. My goal is to just make it a broader universe of objects with artists that align with my world.
We did a small collab with Devendra Banhart. He made some hand-drawn newspapers that are available now. We’ll also be releasing unisex boxers in the spring. I’m excited for that. I love boxers. We’re doing a small capsule for the boxers together as well. He’s going to be helping me design some of the embroidery for them.
For Valentine’s Day, we’re doing a special “lovers box” for delivery in L.A. including undies and goods from a local florist and bakery. I’m talking to a hotel about a larger-scale partnership, as well, with home goods and a robe and beauty products—a collection that spans the whole world of comfort within a hotel.
I also designed Poppy Wear, which is a line of very simple lounge wear. It’s a sweatsuit and an undershirt available for pre-order. The limited sweatshirt and undershirt are handprinted with the layout of the newspaper by me and one of friends. The panties will be back in stock at the end of the month with a new style as well. I’m also working on mesh underwear with embroidery and a western vibe.
I was going through a bad breakup when we finally launched. It was all during quarantine, so it became really important to me to celebrate a strong sense of self and confidence in what was a very tumultuous time. With Poppy Undies—and any of the other projects that I do—my goal is always to create a sense of self-love and coziness and community. I want everything I do to align with that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Emily Labowe photographed by Maggie Shannon at her home in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.