Welcome to our series of conversations with curious, clever, and captivating people—in other words, the kind you’d like to sit next to for an hour or two.

My mom is Jamaican. My dad isn't. I was born in London, but I lived in Jamaica for four years, from 14 to 17. I actually begged my mom to let me go. I wanted to do something different and going to Jamaica felt intuitive. I went to boarding school and lived with my grandma and I'm happy I did. It taught me discipline. I don’t think I would have performed in school otherwise.

I'm so proud of every place I’ve lived. I'm proud to come from London. And living in New York was a defining time. I think it's very important to live in New York. I never intended to live in L.A., ever. If you told me that four years ago I’d be living here . . . But L.A. has given me the physical and mental space to breathe. New York is so anxiety-driven. Here, I have so many things I’m doing and interested in. But I'm not scattered; it still feels focused.

I love to travel. I've got the itch now. I’ve been in the process of transitioning my visa, so I haven’t been able to leave at all. But I kind of understand why some Americans never leave—it's because you can have so many different experiences here. Going to Joshua Tree is totally different from going to Savannah or Arizona. So I've been doing a lot of stuff in America, but next up is Peru.

My ex-boyfriend and I went hiking in Patagonia once. It hailed and rained and I was petrified. I thought it was going to be glamping. But no, it was like five days with all your equipment on your back. And then all our shit got stolen. All of it. All my jewelry was in there. We had insurance, but it was traumatizing to have to write it all down and then remember all the stuff you’ve lost. He told me at the time, “You'll remember this a bit more fondly later on.” I was like, “No, I hate this trip.” And now I think I do. But it was amazing, seeing the alpacas! I learned that the key is just to travel light.

I don’t think there’s anything that I would be truly devastated to lose. Devastated seems a little extreme. Maybe this picture my first boyfriend took of me when I was 19? I really have nothing that I'm so attached to. But this—I remember that day. He was like, “I want to capture you before you turn 20.” I take these everywhere with me. It's interesting because, in a way, they're not an object. They’re more like a memory. They're a representation of a time.

Living in Jamaica really informed the way that I look at color. It’s steeped in color, like Cuba or any Caribbean country. In school, we didn't have a uniform, we had a color code. You could wear red, black, gray, or white, and I always wore black. I loved the way wearing black created a strong contrast against all the color. Someone asked me my favorite colors the other day. I’ve always been into a deep purple. And cornflower blue. I used to only have that on my nails. My nails used to be wild, but not anymore. I'm L.A.-natural now!

Zeyna Sy 0053

You think you’re free and then you hang out with someone who pushes your boundaries and you realize you’re not even close.

Nowhere feels like home to me. Like, ever. Even England—that’s where I was born and raised, and when I go back there, it feels comforting. But then I go to Paris, where I spent a lot of time and where my dad lived, and then that will feel like home more than London. There’s a huge Senegalese community there. We spent two weeks there every summer and that becomes part of your muscle memory. It becomes a part of who you are. That’s probably where I’m going to live next—Paris. Senegal, too, though. I would love to live there. I’ve been there many times. My mom took me there. My mom is very curious and I think she made us curious. She would be like, “Let’s go to Turkey.” And then we’d go. Or “Let’s go to Trent park,” which was a park that was a lot further than the one around the corner, but it was way more lush. She made us curious people.

Now, I find I surround myself with people who push me, where I’m somehow the more timid one. You think you’re free and then you hang out with someone who pushes your boundaries and you realize you’re not even close. Even the way my ex-boyfriend reacted to our stuff getting stolen. It really made me think differently because he was so zen. And he made me feel kind of stupid for worrying about it. Because I was like, fuck. It’s a terrible feeling. It really is. But that stuff just happens. It honestly happened a crazy amount of times on that trip. I saw a guy go into our van and steal my bag. I chased him all the way up the road—I have that fight in me—but I never found him. I can run really fast. That’s the Jamaican in me.

I’m always interested in how people listen to music and what they hear.

Zeyna Sy 0256

Zeyna Sy 0359
Francesco Scavullo, Miriam Makeba, 1981.

I grew up listening to Miriam Makeba. I don’t want to tie everything back to weed but smoking really helps me listen to the layers of music. I’m always interested in how people listen to music and what they hear. My friend plays the bass, and so she’s listening to a completely different part of the song than I am.

I didn't really smoke growing up. All my friends did, my brother did. My uncle did every single day. But it was never really an interest to me. And then when I first moved to New York, I smoked joints every single day. I was living with my friend for three months and we would smoke joints every single day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. So my tolerance was really, really, really high and then I would go back to England and I would crave it. And then before I began to work for Marley Natural my friend gave me a bag of weed and I taught myself how to roll just because it is a very personal thing. And it still is a very personal thing.

Now, I'm about to start working for Outdoor Voices. I'm excited to be working with an amazing team of women. I get inspired when there's diversity of thought, and when everyone is bringing something valuable to the table to work towards one common goal. I love being part of a team where everyone is motivated to do more because they’ve been given the opportunity and tools.

Zeyna Sy 0006

It’s important to know how to be your own comfort.

The first thing I would say to anyone thinking about smoking cannabis for the first time is to breathe. I know this sounds so hippie-y, but you need to focus on your breath more than anything in life in general. People get so panicked and worked up. Clear your headspace, make sure you know you're smoking weed and that you're going to get some effect from it. Mental space is key because that's what fucks people up—where your head goes.

Research is also important. Before you ingest anything, you should research it. That's why you shouldn’t just go to some shitty place to purchase your weed. Speak to the people! I did a series on Marley Natural called “Meet Our Budtenders,” where I interviewed budtenders. I only want to speak to somebody who's the most knowledgeable. If I'm getting a massage, I want the masseuse to know exactly how to cater to my body. So you should go in there and say, “Hey, this is the first time that I've ever used cannabis.” We have that access now and there's no excuse to not do that research before. Look at Leafly—it’s like the dictionary of cannabis. It gives you lists of effects and of different strains that are good for you. Even though you can’t really be that specific because everything affects people differently. If I eat peanuts, I might break out, you might not. Weed is very, very, very personal. And that’s why the only thing that I can actually say is make sure that your mindset is ready for something different.

And if you feel anxious, speak out loud because that shrinks down those big thoughts that sometimes are inaccurate. Or even if they are accurate, maybe try to be comfortable with that. It’s important to know how to be your own comfort. Someone once told me that one of the hardest things about a job isn't actually the job, it's navigating the people you work with and all the different personalities. It's the same thing in your head. You have to just learn how to navigate your thoughts and have that control. It's not easy. That’s maybe a little bit intense for advice! Just do your research and start with a low dose.

Zeyna Sy 0350

Zeyna Sy photographed by Brian Guido in her apartment in Los Angeles. Follow Zeyna on instagram here. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.