Photo by Chris Allen
Interview by Robin Pailler
The first time I came across Christie Claude was through Chrissy Leavell’s exquisite independent brand Une Heures.
A clothing label I’ve been enamoured by forever, due to its inherent French New Wave aesthetic and the fact legendary skateboarders Danny Garcia & Raymond Molinar have both played some part in previous campaigns. If you’ve yet to discover it you’re missing out on some of the most underrated garments out there. But I digress. Back to Christie.
It was undoubtedly the resemblance and shared love for Anna Karina that first garnered my attention. As well as the fact Christie isn’t your standard LA model. Uploading an ungodly amount of pouted selfies and self obsessed bikini clad stock photos isn’t her vibe. Instead she shares images of classic movies and cinematic icons. Any selfie stories tend to be deeply rooted in humour of the best kind. Self deprecation and goofiness. Bad hair days and stereotypical caricatures.
So when this pandemic all kicked off and the world began to lockdown. I couldn’t help but wonder what this meant for models and actresses alike? So I reached out to Christie to discuss Covid in LA, the perils of modelling in a lockdown and how best to fight mental health when diagnosed with OCD in a pandemic. Whilst also touching upon her obsession with Ozark, her love for new emo and why receiving life advice from the Dalai Lama wasn’t as grandiose as one would expect.
Photo by Skyler Dahan
Hey Christie. So before we delve into you can we ask how’s it all going over there with regards to the pandemic? We see so much on the news but it’s nice to get a first hand account.
I think that the feeling here now is almost like, not denial but hoping it won’t be as bad as it seems y’know? To carry on in your day to day life you have to have some self preservation.
Is there any comfort in the fact that LA is car culture as opposed to somewhere like NYC where everyone’s living on top of each other?
It’s one reason I don’t live in New York. Like in Paris, I can do the metro but in New York, I just can’t! I’m so claustrophobic. I’d have to get off the subway and call my friend and be like “Hey it’s gonna take me two hours to get to you because I just can’t take the subway, I’m sorry!”.
New York is similar to London for me. I’m always happy to visit but never sad to leave.
Yeah New York is fun, and I’m happy to get a dose of it now and then.
But yeah I’m really happy to be in California right now.
So where did you grow up?
I grew up in Florida.
I see they were late to the social distancing party. I remember spring break looking insane.
I mean that’s Florida in a nutshell. It’s just, the worst of humanity sometimes (laughs). My parents are New Yorkers so it’s kinda bizarre that they spent so much time in Florida.
Photo by Raymond Molinar
What’s your living situation now? Are you on your own?
No I have a roommate who’s a good friend. I’m just really paranoid to go anywhere, I’m not taking any chances.
I’ve been trying to stay optimistic that this whole episode will lead to some grand awakening in humanity.
I mean I’m on board with the idea that… I’m not religious but that there’s a spiritual reason for this. I believe that there is a higher power that has had enough.
Mother nature fighting back?
Yeah really! It’s not something religious. More so, the earth responding to all of our abuses.
And I think that’s the key. To use this as a moment to self reflect and change, come out a better human y’know?
Yeah and I’m really impressed with most people’s response to it. I think at first I was definitely in a very dark place, and I was like, “how are people being so positive about this?”. But I think it’s really incredible, the human spirit and most people’s natural propensity for being positive. I’m kind of a pessimist but so many friends were just like, “Oh I’m good, I’m just reading and doing this and that”. Yeah it’s amazing!
In a fucked up way that’s one reason why coronavirus is a good thing right?
Yeah I mean people are improving their lives and one thing for me is you just realise how much you’re doing things unnecessarily or in excess and how much you don’t need. I mean I have all these clothes and yeah I’ve thrifted them or they’re vintage, and they didn’t cost a lot but I just didn’t need them.
Being a freelancer and having never been materialistic or much of a consumerist my life’s not really changed. But those people who work a 9-5 and live for shopping at the weekend must be losing their mind.
I’ve never had that either. I’m also an introvert so I’m kind of like, “Ooo I can just stay home and don’t have to interact”. Kind of what I always dreamed of but felt bad about. I just wanna stay home and be cosy!
Photo by Kevin Castanheira
So being an actress and model, how is it affecting your work? Have agencies reached out to support you?
Yeah, I mean I feel really lucky that in the past year I got a really awesome team together. I’d always been struggling like, “please notice me. I know I can do this”. It’s like when you start with anything you’re trying to get the best representation and really do the thing professionally. So earlier this year I was scouted by a “mother agent” out of London. They’ve all reached out to me and been so supportive. I actually responded back two weeks late because I’d been feeling depressed about all of this. I was like, “hey I’m really sorry but this is what I’ve been going through”. And their response was, “Thank you for being so open with us! Send us your writing. Send us the creative things you’re doing. Keep us posted.” Everybody’s been super communicative and vice versa.
What measures have you been taking for your mental health?
So I have an interesting situation in that I do have a mental disorder. I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and panic disorder. So this has been really weird. So before I moved out to LA, I had always been told by psychologists that I had anxiety. But It felt more specific than that. Then I found a really great therapist and found that what I’d be struggling with was OCD. I went to therapy for two years, and after I was mostly symptom free and feeling good. It had been about a full year since I stopped going to therapy and then this pandemic happened. And overnight, all of these things I had stopped doing were back. So it was weird for me because it wasn’t just a broad anxiety about uncertainty, it triggered my OCD. And I’m very open about it. I feel like it’s necessary. People with OCD must be struggling so much right now because it’s just so specific to this. It’s just a bitch when your fears are kind of proven true. So anyway I just got right back into therapy and because I had done so much work on it before it didn’t take very long for me to get it in check which was nice. I had put in two years of really intensive therapy so when I went back to it I knew how to deal with it, I had just been blindsided. So yeah, I’ve just been doing that weekly and meditating every day. I think there’s a silver lining to it. I mean it showed me it’s not gone. And everyone has something like that, whether it’s a diagnosable thing or not. Not that I was really ignoring it, but it did show me that this is something I’ll always have to keep up with. I need to meditate. I need to exercise. I have to do those things. So that part of it has been a really good reminder. I have this thing. I have to pay attention to it.
Do you use Headspace to meditate?
No none of the apps have really stuck with me. So UCLA has a really great OCD program. They have the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center and they actually do research into the neuroscience of meditation and mindfulness. So treatment for OCD can be medication for some people but you can also do therapy in conjunction with meditation and manage, so that’s what I do. I don’t take anything. So I use their guided meditations. They have resources online. UC San Diego has a Mindfulness Research Center as well. All their resources are online, and I kinda just do that. Or lately I’ve been listening to Tibetan bowls and doing my own thing.
They’re amazing! I had my first Tibetan bowl moment in New York last October with Kassia Meador.
I experienced it a couple of times during yoga, and I was so mesmerised by it. I think sound is really powerful and helps me even more so than a voice. Sometimes someone’s voice can be annoying and I start spiralling and thinking, ’this meditation is weird because this person’s voice is annoying’. Y’know? OCD things (laughs). But with the bowls I can be more present with that. I highly recommend it.
Photo by Raymond Molinar
Ok quick-fire questions. 3 albums you can’t live without right now.
Ok so right now I’m in Highland Park but when this all started I was living in a different house in Los Feliz. I would walk to this bridge called the Shakespeare bridge. It’s just really beautiful and an iconic LA scene, and I would listen to Bill Evans ‘Undercurrent’. Porches new album ‘Ricky’. Oh and also, Pinegrove.
Yeah! They’re like an emo band. Like new emo. They’re all really young but it’s playing on music I listened to in high school like American Football. Very sentimental I guess.
Did you ever listen to Pinback?
Yes! I’ve actually been making a lot of playlists and I made a very comprehensive playlist of music from ages 15 to 18. And Pinback was definitely on there.
You’ll have to share some of those playlists with us.
Yeah that’s been a very meditative thing for me is perfectly crafted playlists, specific to a time and place.
3 films you’ve watched recently.
I haven’t really been watching films, but I am addicted to Ozark.
I’ve still not seen it but I love Julia Garner.
She is incredible. I’m always taking notes trying to remember certain moments from certain episodes. The acting is wild. I just think the characters are so well developed and the writing is so good along the lines of True Detective or Breaking Bad where you’re just like, this is television at it’s best! It blows my mind.
True Detective Season One is still my favourite.
Same. I was living in New Orleans. I went to school down there and so something about it really hit. I was studying writing and taking all these film courses. That was kind of the turning point for me where I wanted to be an actor. That show. I remember thinking, I would be happy just taking out the trash on this show. I was so enamoured, like, “I need to go to LA and do something with films because I would literally give my right foot to be in this world in any way’. I was that amazed at the world they created.
Photo by Kevin Castanheira
It’s incredible. So moving on to the modelling. I think we first discovered you through Une Heures. A brand I can’t help but love for its strong Jean-Luc Godard influence, as well as the fact legendary skateboarders Danny Garcia & Raymond Molinar have been involved via modelling and photography respectively.
It’s funny, I didn’t know they were skateboarders! I knew Raymond was from Chrissy. And then I realized ‘ok there’s this skateboarding/photography link’.
Totally! And Danny’s been one of my favourite skateboarders ever since I was a kid.
Danny just looks so cool! Like someone in a Godard film.
Definitely. How did the whole Une Heures gig come about?
So I don’t really remember. Maybe I befriended them on the internet. It’s so nice when you find people that are really just doing what they’re doing out of pure love for it, for creating. It’s so well done. I don’t even know how to describe it, but they’ve got a grand plan and do things very precisely. The shoots are often just the model, Chrissy the creator of the brand, and the photographer. I feel very honoured. They’re creating these gorgeous photoshoots that you’d see in Vogue or something and it’s just her and her partner. They have great taste and vision. It’s some of my favorite work, and when I’m old, I just want to have big prints framed from those shoots. Like the shoot we did at Little Dom’s with photographer Kevin Castanheira. We just woke up at six in the morning one day and went to the cafe and borrowed it for an hour. It came out so cool— I’m a big, big fan of of their work.
And their clothes are great!
So minimal and beautiful. And such a nod to a time when things were made differently. You feel like “this sweater was made for YOU”. It’s just a really cool brand.
What’s your favourite Godard film?
So ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ (1965) is the first one I ever saw and so I feel like that’s my favourite. Just because it was my discovery of French New Wave and it was like, this is me! They get me! That’ll always be my favourite. And Anna Karina in that movie…
Oh she’s incredible!
Well my parents are both very into film and my Mom speaks French. She’s a Francophile. She’s spent a lot of time there, and she kinda instilled that in me. And so we have a Francophile family I guess, and that’s part of why I wanted to live in New Orleans. I took the name Claude because I wanted to sound French and Godard-esque. Or like, Claude Chabrol and the new wave directors. So at Christmas when I was home, Anna Karina had just died. I tried to get my parents to watch ‘Le Petit Soldat’ and it’s like the back of her head for twenty minutes and they’re like, “I’m sorry what is this? This is not fun!”.
I mean it’s not for everyone. I tried to show someone Alphaville once and they did not enjoy it. Did you see any of Godard’s Instagram live?
I saw a little bit, Chrissy from Une Heures posted it!
What books have you been reading?
I haven’t really been reading books but I just read this issue of The Paris Review that my roommate has and it has this interview that is such a gem. It’s by a psychoanalyst named Adam Phillips. He talks about the purpose of psychoanalysis and how it should be about exploring yourself, not knowing yourself. Not labelling yourself. I don’t know, it’s very timely because it’s like, ‘nothing is certain. You’re not certain. You don’t know what you are. Just be. And stop being so concerned with trying to figure things out.
Amazing! Well hopefully more people take the time to investigate these things as a result of the pandemic and try to expand their horizons.
It’s so funny because the Dalai Lama came to visit New Orleans when I lived there and you could tell everyone was waiting for him to give this grand speech on how to live. And he was like, “sleep, food, structure”. Get 8 hours of sleep. Eat well. And it was wonderful, but you could tell everyone was expecting something grandiose.
Photo by Ethan Gulley