HomeFashionStorm Reid on Gen Z, College, and Becoming New Balance’s

Storm Reid on Gen Z, College, and Becoming New Balance’s

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Storm Reid is the definition of a multi-hyphenate. Actress, producer, dancer, and humanitarian, the 18-year-old is gracefully taking the world by storm while simultaneously stepping into her newfound independence as a college freshman. Best known for her roles in Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, HBO’s Euphoria, and DC’s Suicide Squad, Reid has been blessed with a huge platform at a young age.

It’s refreshing to hear that Reid takes none of her success for granted—and uses her popularity for a good cause. Within minutes of our Zoom call, it becomes clear to me that she’s passionate about using her platform to empower young women and leave a positive impact on the world. Among her recent efforts? A new ambassadorship with New Balance.

Live from the sportswear brand’s headquarters in Boston, Reid spoke with ELLE.com about how she became part of the New Balance family, why Gen Z will take over the world, and how the entertainment industry can be transformed for the better.

First off, how did the New Balance partnership come about?

I love fashion and I’m obsessed with sneakers! [Laughs.] So, I was like, “Yes, I’m sold!” Working with New Balance, I realized very early [on] that they’re not just about getting talent and making them ambassadors just for the heck of it. They really want to get to know their partners and advocate for them. They also care about the things that the artist is doing as an individual in other parts of their career, which is very important to me.

New Balance has the same core values as I do, which is to be of service in the world through various areas of fashion. A great example is their Black History Month campaign, their Women’s History Month campaign, and their Pride campaign. They align themselves with all of these things to represent the world as a whole and portray how the world really is. That is super-duper important to me, and that’s the main reason why I thought this partnership was the right thing.

I have to ask: What’s your most controversial outfit pairing with sneakers?

I’m a girl who loves a dress and some sneakers. My mom is like, “You can’t put a pair of sneakers with a dress!” And I’m like, “Oh yes I can—and I’m going to look darn good while doing it!” I feel the most grounded, comfortable, and inspired in sneakers. So, I will always pair a dress with some sneakers. Of course, I do live in tracksuits now. Or if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll pull out a skirt and some sneakers. That’s what is so beautiful about sneakers—you can dress them up or dress them down. They’re such a big part of my life because they make me feel good and they make me feel inspired. I wouldn’t call those outfits controversial, I would just call them my style. I try to put my own unique spin onto all my outfits.

You’ve said that through this partnership, you want to inspire young women to be confident in who they are—even if they still haven’t figured it out. What have you not yet figured out about yourself?

I haven’t figured out anything! I say that not as a joke–I truly haven’t figured out anything. I realized this over the pandemic: I was always being pulled in so many different directions since Wrinkle came out that I was never stationary. So when we went through the pandemic, obviously that was heartbreaking and tragic, but I was able to be home—and thankfully I was still able to work—but I was able to spend a lot of time with myself. I realized that people are always giving me so many great compliments and saying so many sentiments that I took to heart. Things like “I am so eloquent” or “I am so wise for my age.” But I am an 18-year-old girl that has nothing figured out yet and I’m still taking it day by day.

I’ve found beauty in not knowing what my next move is and in how my moods can change, and in just being a regular teenage girl who is still trying to figure it out. I don’t have normal circumstances. I get to do really cool things and collaborate with really cool people. But at my core, I’m just a teenage girl going through everything that other teenage girls are going through. And I’ve found beauty in that. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but growing up in this world, it’s going to be uncomfortable, especially with the duty I have of trying to inspire other young girls.

storm reid new balance ambassador

Courtesy of New Balance

What do you think are the major roadblocks inhibiting young people’s confidence today?

Unfortunately, we live in the age of social media. That has a lot to do with young people’s confidence because it’s an intersection of having these social media platforms that can be very empowering and very inspiring, but as we know, not everybody on social media is a nice person. Unfortunately, a lot of youth is subject to the rude things people say or to mean kids. There is a lot that comes with social media. We also still live in a society that is based largely on conformity and in trying to be a certain way to make other people happy and not yourself happy. So that is what a lot of young people are dealing with. Generation Z has had to grow up faster than all of the other generations because of social media and all of the things that are going on in the world. We also have information at our fingertips, which can be a double-edged sword.

I am proud to be a part of Gen Z because we are handling everything with grace and we are smart and we are willing to fight for what we want. And we are not taking anything that’s not good for us or for the world—we’re just not taking it! It’s hard sometimes to be a young person, but it is also rewarding to be a part of this generation. We’ve been left with the duty to transform the world. Yes, we are the future, but we are also the present. We will be the people who are going to be making the decisions one day. Making the laws, and doing the amazing things in the world that we need to do and that need to be done. Gen Z has already taken the steps to do just that by using our voices and doing all the things my peers are so fabulously doing like protesting and community organizing. There are so many things that we’re doing in the world that will and already have led to a better future for upcoming generations.

Why do you think it’s important for women—especially young women—in the entertainment industry to be dedicated to a greater cause?

My mom has always said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” This basically means to put good things out into the universe and not to expect things to come back to you. When artists are in these spaces and have some sort of success, it’s always refreshing to see someone who uses their platform to create something bigger than themselves. For me, empowering young women—and empowering all people—but empowering women, in particular, is important because I was once that little girl. I’d stare at the television and find inspiration in people like Zendaya and Keke Palmer. [It’s refreshing] to be able to see yourself be represented in the film, television, and fashion; it’s refreshing to see women succeed and do good things and to be celebrated and empowered.

You’re now a freshman at USC, congrats! What is something new you have learned about yourself as a college student?

The biggest thing for me is that I’ve learned that I can be independent. My mom raised me and my sister to be independent, but I moved out of my house and now live in an on-campus apartment. I’m now responsible for getting up and going to my classes every day, and getting dressed, and feeding myself. It’s another form of independence where I can be okay without my mom being with me everywhere I am.

storm reid new balance ambassador

Courtesy of New Balance

Has going to college impacted your plans for what you want to do in the future?

I’m on the same path I was on and still have the same goals. I am still just trying to be a creative who is making content that is empowering the people around me and focusing on the world as a whole. That’s really what my goal is through my production company, through collaborating with brands, through being an actress who is aligning myself with purposeful things and creating purposeful content. Being at USC will only expand that and make me more creative in a sense. Especially as an actress, when you’re acting, you try to relate to certain scenarios and situations that you’ve been through in your real life, so to be able to have a degree and to have an education and to further my social life and have fun as a normal teenager… it’s going to be good for me in the long run.

The New Balance Foundation encourages kids to eat healthy and be physically fit. What is your personal fitness and wellness routine that nourishes your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing?

It’s hard to workout sometimes because I might just not be feeling like it. But I do consider myself an active person. Moving my body, whether that is dancing in my living room or going to the gym, movement makes me feel good and it definitely made me feel better during the pandemic. I do encourage people to move their bodies and for the youth to move their bodies. But I don’t think it needs to be to the extent where you are preaching for people to work out or preaching for young people to work out. But if I can encourage them to go out and run and play outside, or have a dance party in their living room, that’s a part of physical movement that can be healthy. Healthy not only for your physical state, but for your mental state as well.

What are your hopes for the entertainment industry? And as a Black woman, where do the historically marginalized fit into that vision?

I hope that it’s just more representative of the world as a whole. I hope more women can get opportunities in the entertainment industry, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera and beyond—making the decisions in the networks and at the film studios. It really goes deep. We are taking baby steps to make it a more inclusive industry, but we have a long way to go. You’re doing something wrong if you’re in the entertainment industry and you have wild success but you’re not opening a door and leaving that door open for everybody else to come in behind you. The only way we can truly succeed in this world is if we try to combat intolerance and try to combat a lot of the hate we see in the world right now. Trying to empower and embrace our uniqueness as people and embrace each other, no matter our differences.

What’s next for you?

I have a lot of things cooking up with my production company, Seed and Wings, and with Euphoria season 2, but I’m just really excited to be a part of the New Balance fam. We have a lot of amazing things that we’re working on. To be a part of a brand that is doing a lot of incredible things… I’m fan-girling even though I’m a part of the family!

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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