“I’d love to be able to do it all at the same time”. Inside the world of multifaceted star Esther McGregor 

In conversation with , June 14, 2023

People, Photography, Film, MainPost

Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU

I speak with Esther McGregor on a cloudy afternoon in late May. We’re both in Los Angeles, and like everyone else, feel off-kilter by the change in weather. Despite the sudden gloom and chaos around her - at one point Esther pauses to corral the animals that live in the home she shares with her mom and sister, including two puppies and a hairless cat - she’s buoyant, curious and warm. The twenty-one year old actress, model and singer - by the way, she tattoos and designs clothing, too - recently appeared in an episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Star Wars TV miniseries, and starred as Natalie in the coming-of-age series High School, based on the memoir of the same name by Canadian twin pop duo Tegan and Sara Quin and released on Amazon Freevee last year. In her spare time, she’s managed to start a band with fellow musician Leo Major titled French Thyme, whose double meaning seems to reflect a duality that has always been present in Esther’s life. I get the sense that Esther thrives in the space of back-and-forth movement and flow; all of this makes her a talent to keep an eye on, a glimmer of light pealing through the clouds.

Full look MISSONI 
Full look MISSONI 
Full look ALBERTA FERRETTI
Full look ALBERTA FERRETTI

Present Space

What excites you about the particular forms of creativity you’re engaged in? Do you see them as separate or related?

Esther McGregor

Acting is actually something that has been my main goal in life and my main love since I can't even remember. I did a lot of theatre growing up. I was in a conservatory school. I did a lot of summer programmes in New York and London. I didn't really want to go to school for acting, though. That was just kind of how I did it. I started auditioning when I was in about 11th grade. It's definitely a very competitive industry. It's not like, “Oh you audition for this and you get it.” Mostly you get used to hearing “no” a lot. My modelling kind of popped off a bit faster, so I feel like people are getting used to the idea that I'm an actress and not a model, but that is something I very much stand by. Modelling just came, which I feel very lucky for, and it was a good way to make some money on the side, too. With acting, it's very ungrounded. You get work for three months and then you go home and you're not working for another six months, and then you work again for six months. It's just very on and off. I personally don't really find modelling to be an outlet for my artistic creativity, but that's why I have my tattooing and I have my music. It all kind of goes into one another. My biggest thing is just stories and storytelling, so wherever I can find a way to do that, I try to. I've always been someone that's really curious. I love working and I need to work all the time, whether that's literally making a friendship bracelet with my little sister and having something to do with my hands. I have really bad ADHD so it's a way to keep me kind of grounded in that sense, which is how I found tattooing. Ever since I was in school, I was drawing all over my homework and all over my arms. I would come home with different arm pieces that I'd work on throughout my classes. It was a great way for me to focus and find peace. [These] arts give different things to me; acting is a little less grounding and more of my complete passion, and tattooing is something that makes me able to focus for long periods of time. Writing, singing and music is a way to let go. I've had opportunities to make that part of my career, but I've really not wanted to because it's the one thing that I have just for myself. I don't want anyone else having any sort of say on my music or when I need to make music. No say at all is how I like it. When I feel inspired and when I want to have fun, that's the way that I get that kind of release. I do a lot but they bring [out] all different parts of my life and I don't think I could live without any of them. They're all important for my soul.

Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU

Present Space

I would love to know if there's a story behind your band's title. There seems to be a big French influence.

Esther McGregor

My mother is French. I grew up with only French in the house. It was very important that we kept the language with us, and with that came listening to a lot of French music. Some of my favourite movies are also from France, so I can thank my mom for that, because she's got great taste in music and showed me some people that really inspired me. Funnily enough, my music partner [Leo Major] is also French. One day we made this song, an electronic pop French song, and the whole time we're basically just saying strawberry and raspberry in French. It was kind of a joke song, but that song picked up because we started playing it for people and people were like, “Wow, this is sick.” COVID hit and we had nothing else to do so we would just sit in the studio making these beats and getting inspired by different artists like Françoise Hardy, Charlotte Gainsbourg and her father [Serge Gainsbourg]. We would just sit and listen to a bunch of music and then within two seconds have pumped out a full song. It was something that made us really happy and was a great outlet during the first quarantine moments of COVID. The French influence is definitely from my upbringing, I would say. My love for French music too [has] always been a part of me and something that I love. I also love French literature, so I've been reading a lot of [that]. I want to write more in French. I also think that there's something cool going on between French and English because that's the duality of my life. I used to respond to my dad in English and then speak to my mom in French. Both languages are part of me and pretty effortless to go back and forth. I definitely wanted that to be a part of my music. And French Thyme, I don't even know how we really came up with it. We were just messing around one day, trying to find some cool band names. I think we were like, “it's like French time, it's time for French music” and then I was like, let's make it a bit more funny and interesting, so we did it like thyme as in the plant because it has this duality in itself, meaning two different things, whether you're reading it or hearing it. With my music, I sing and I talk about a lot of serious stuff, but I have so much fun doing it. It's a lot about fun and enjoying myself and listening to myself as well.

Full Look LOEWE
Full Look LOEWE
Shoes LOEWE
Shoes LOEWE
Full Look LOEWE
Full Look LOEWE

Present Space

Are there any creative peers or artists you feel particularly connected to?

Esther McGregor

Definitely Leo Major, the guy that I make my music with. He's a huge inspiration to me. He's one of the best saxophone players and producers I've ever worked with and I'm so thankful that I'm able to make music with such an awesome person. We just really click on that sense. In terms of music, it really just depends on the day. I listen to so many different kinds of music. Sometimes I'm listening to Lausse the Cat [which is] kind of alternative rap music. There's a lot of French music as well. Back in the day, I would always listen to Francois [Hardy], Charlotte, stuff from back in the day. I grew up listening to Arctic Monkeys and Cage the Elephant and more alternative rock. Green Day, Foo Fighters, that kind of stuff. U2. Those [bands] were very much a part of my life also.

Full Look ISABEL MARANT
Full Look ISABEL MARANT
Full Look ISABEL MARANT
Full Look ISABEL MARANT

Present Space

I would love to know who some of your favourite filmmakers are.

Esther McGregor

Film is a huge inspiration for me. I, in general, want to start making movies and not just be in front of but also behind the camera. David Lynch was a really big part of my exploration of film. There are a lot of French New Wave directors. I'm obsessed with this movie called The Holy Mountain; that's what got me very visually invested in movies and trying to see how visuals can affect the brain. [It] would be insane to work with Tim Burton or [Quentin] Tarantino, any of those people. Tim has, to me, meshed artistic visuals with story and plot, which I really appreciate. Alfonzo Cuaron is also one of my favourite directors.

Full Look CELINE
Full Look CELINE

Present Space

If you had no limits, where do you see yourself in four years? What is your life like? What’s the dream?

Esther McGregor

I would be working on a fantastic film with anyone that I just mentioned. Tattooing on all my days off and making music. Basically what I do. I feel like I'm so lucky. I would like to be a little bit mentally healthier, more stable in that sense. I would love to be surrounded by my family too, but limitless speaking, I'd love to be able to do it all at the same time, which I haven't really figured out how to do yet - balancing modelling with acting, music. I even make clothes. All of that. I wanna just be able to do it all. So maybe having a huge studio space that I can do all of my physical art [in] and then still being able to go to set every day. That would be freaking awesome. In four years, I hope to be able to balance all of my passions and not have to cut anything out of my life. With travelling, I've had to slow down a lot on tattooing. I would like to figure out a technique or some tools to be able to do everything that I want to do, which has been proven to be harder than I want. I'm still very into my education. I'm just taking it a lot slower than most people just because of my work. It’s proved to me to be impossible to do it all at once. I'm just taking it slower, taking a few classes at a time so that I can travel and do everything as well.

Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU
Full Look MIU MIU

Present Space

Are there any classes that have been interesting?

Esther McGregor

I had a very interesting class about extinction and dinosaurs. I didn't think I was gonna be as invested as I turned out to be. It had nothing to do with my interests at all. It was definitely a lot of work writing and reading wise, but I love to learn new things that don't seem to fit exactly into what I do. But I think that's why I like it so much; I'm just a very curious person. I love to learn. It taught me a lot about the planet that we're living on, too. It gave me hope in the future. I think a lot of people lack hope right now in terms of our environment and our planet, which makes total sense. It was interesting to look at it in a very scientific way.

Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY
Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY
Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY
Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY
Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY
Full Look STELLA MCCARTNEY

Present Space

In the spirit of the issue’s theme, what are some things that make you feel connected, whether it's to yourself or to other people?

Esther McGregor

I'm obsessed with literature. Right now I'm reading Kafka by the Shore by [Haruki] Murakami. I’ve been really into that and it's been very inspirational too. [It’s] about this young kid taking a step away from family. It seems pretty relevant [to] these coming years [as] I've moved out from my home and started my own trajectory in life. Literature, in general, connects me to other people because I like to read outside of my comfort zone. I like to read about things that I might not be so well versed in, and it gives me an opportunity to learn about a new culture and a new space of life.

Full Look SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO
Full Look SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO
Full Look SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO
Full Look SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO

Photographer DIEGO VOURAKIS 
Photography Assistant HENRY HAN 
Talent ESTHER MCGREGOR
Stylist BRITT LAYTON
Make-Up LILLY POLLAN
Hair KELLY PEACH
Prop Stylist CHRISTOPHER KATUS
Producer ANASTASIA SOMOVIEVA 
Art Director JUAN DUQUE
Creative Director NIMA HABIBZADEH

Cookies

Present Space uses cookies on this site to help provide you with a high quality browser experience. To find out more about the cookies used on this site and how to delete them, visit our personal data management page. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.