Arriving at the loft studio in New York’s Chelsea district at the appointed time of 10am on a rainy spring morning, I’m surprised to find our cover girl is already on set. In fact, Millie Bobby Brown, the 15-year-old breakout star of Netflix science fiction horror series Stranger Things—who is set to make her movie debut in the pop culture phenomenon Godzilla: King of the Monsters—actually arrived early. Sporting a rainbow tie-dye hoodie, khaki cargo pants, Doc Marten boots and small-rimmed glasses, Brown is sipping a Starbucks beverage and casually chatting to the hair and makeup crew.
A STAR IN THE MAKING
Incidentally her hallmark hair—famously shaved to play her character Eleven in Stranger Things—is now a shaggy bob accentuated with golden highlights. Sitting down for our interview ahead of her BAZAAR shoot, I am not entirely sure what to expect. Despite her age, Brown has already attracted her fair share of controversy. There’s the social media trolls who accuse her of dressing beyond her years, the infamous homophobic meme that led to her shutting down her Twitter account, her fiercely criticized relationship with Canadian rapper Drake who is twice her age, and now the mounting rumours she is dating Romeo Beckham.
Brown, who speaks in an English/American hybrid accent, as it turns out is warm, friendly, and even a little excitable. Upon discovering I am Australian, she quips enthusiastically, “I just came back from there. I bought an Akubra [a wide brimmed fur hat worn by bushmen], it’s my favourite.” Incidentally, it was in Australia that Brown met Drake backstage after attending his concert in 2017. The pair became instant BFFs, sparking a backlash from the public who branded the relationship “creepy” and “inappropriate”. “I believe a friendship is a friendship. It’s very upsetting people view things in such a negative way. He’s a great artist and I am super lucky to have him and many friends guide me along on this journey.” Quite the journey it has been. Born in Marbella, Spain, the third child of four to English parents, Brown’s family moved to Bournemouth in their native Britain when Brown was four, relocating later to Orlando, Florida so that the precocious eight-year-old could pursue her love of acting. Minor roles in NCIS, Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy followed before Stranger Things came knocking, catapulting the then 12-year-old into super-stardom.
“Godzilla is my first film and I’m super overwhelmed. It’s such an iconic monster titan movie and a cool legacy to carry on. I cried at the end when I saw my name pop up on the credits. On Stranger Things, I get a shared card with Finn. This time I have my own, it’s insane.” Also hard to believe for her were the budgets on the juggernaut Hollywood franchise. “I was like, whoa, look at this set!” she shares about her first impressions. But other takeaways were more valuable. “I grew so much from the experience, especially working with such seasoned actors.” Did anyone play the role of mentor? “No, I just listened to what the director and actors said. On set, I’d be like, ‘What do you do, what’s your story, why did he give that note?”
NOT FAR OFF FROM CHILDHOOD
Beyond her Emmy-nominated success, Brown is blazing a trail in modelling. She is signed with IMG Models—the agency that represents Karlie Kloss and supermodel sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid—and has fronted campaigns for Calvin Klein. “I love modelling, I look up to models like Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss and how they use their platform to promote positivity and the freedom to wear whatever they want.”
Brown has also emerged as an unsuspecting style icon. “I don’t think clothing makes you who you are, but it definitely adds to your beauty and character. In season three of Stranger Things, my character’s style has really evolved and so has my own. I don’t like to describe it as something specific as that puts a limit on what you can wear. I hate shopping. My mum shops for me.” And there it is. The reality check. For all her stardom, it’s easy to forget Brown is still a teenager who lives with her parents and is completing high school. Home, she says, “is wherever my pets are”. Which for now is Atlanta, Georgia, where Stranger Things is shot. For the record, Brown has three English mastiffs and a Persian cat called Hermione—named after the Harry Potter character—and she sees a bird in her future. Although this poses something of a dilemma. “I don’t believe birds should be held in a cage. They have wings, they’re meant to fly.”
As many a child actor will attest, fame can have its downside but for the most part, Brown feels blessed by the experience. “I’m really lucky my childhood gets to be captured on camera. Even though my first kiss was on camera, it was still my first kiss and my kids get to watch that when they’re older.” While her work “is obviously very important”, Brown admits her education is the number one priority. “I am home schooled and I love the one-on-one experience and the flexibility. When I come home from work and can’t sleep, I stay up until midnight and finish what I need to do that day.”
THINGS THAT MATTER—AND THOSE THAT DON’T
If juggling a burgeoning career and the pressures of high school isn’t enough, how does she deal with life under the glare of the social media spotlight? “People are quick to bash social media, but it’s important because it spreads messages, both negative and positive. I’ve had my fair share of negative. I’ve never actually looked through the comments because that’s a death trap. Twitter is not a healthy place for me to be. There are certain, ahem, people that definitely shouldn’t be on there.” As for preserving her privacy and dealing with the haters? “I definitely had to learn that. I’m a fighter, and in the past when people said stuff about me I always wanted to bite back. We’ve been given a heart, and hearts symbolise love, right? But what in our body has given us hate? I’m lucky to be doing what I do and have the opportunity to spread messages of love and kindness, which is so neglected.”
Her personal mission to “make the world a kinder place” has landed her two coveted appointments. Brown is a Sims 4 Ambassador and her Sim is the event coordinator for The Positivity Challenge. “I’m a huge fan of Sims and I love that it’s kid-friendly and that I get to send five- and six-year-olds a positive message.” And in November, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appointed Brown as a Goodwill Ambassador—their youngest ever. It seems to be a good fit as children’s rights and female education are the causes close to her heart. “Every girl deserves an education and children have equal rights to women and men. We have dreams, we have passions, and we should have the opportunity to fulfill them. I can’t wait to go into the field and hear their dreams. My message: Keep dreaming.”
As for Brown’s dreams for the future? “In ten years, hopefully I’ll be directing and still going on trips with UNICEF and spreading the same message. I’d also love a farm in the south of France.” Does her future involve dating the son of a certain soccer player? “Do you mean Romeo? No. I am not dating him. We have been friends a long time, he’s a great person but it’s so weird and random people think that.” “Dating is not on my bucket list,” she declares. “Though I would like to marry [costar] Sadie Sink!”
Editor-in-chief: Kenneth Goh
Photographer: Yu Tsai
Stylist: Windy Aulia
Makeup: Kelsey Deenihan/The Wall Group
Hair: Christian Wood/The Wall Group
Manicure: Julie Kandelec/Bryan Bantry
Producer: Trever Swearingen/88 Phases
Photography assistants: Nick Parisse, Drake Patton
Styling assistant: Andrew Franco