It has been three months since Taylor Swift launched her record-breaking insomnia-inducing album album midnight, That promised to comply with “the tales of 13 sleepless nights” all her life. However even now, Swift is working laborious to ensure the remainder of us do not sleep too. On Thursday, she introduced she can be dropping the extremely anticipated music video for the album’s opening observe “Lavender Haze” at — you guessed it — midnight. The Easter egg-filled video reveals Swift misplaced in a “sultry, sleepless ’70s [sic] fever dream,” dancing via purple mist and floating in a lavender lake, all as a result of she’s fallen laborious for her scorching, half-naked music video lover: Laith Ashley, who hasn’t slept a wink both.
“I can hardly sleep,” Ashley tells ELLE.com, hours after the video was launched. “I used to be on my telephone going loopy over the video. I’m nonetheless in shock.”
Ashley is a trans mannequin and actor it’s possible you’ll acknowledge from his many journal appearances, from the pit crew RuPaul’s Drag Race, or his visitor star Angle. Since Swift teased this music video again in October, followers and advocates have lauded the casting, particularly at a time when trans rights are underneath assault throughout the nation. On Instagram, Ashley wrote, “Thanks @taylorswift for letting me play a small half in your story.” He continued, “Thanks for being an ally. Illustration is necessary.”
Beneath, Ashley shares how he first came upon in regards to the venture, the dance transfer that made it to the ultimate lower, and why he in the end sees this video as a celebration.
Let’s begin originally. How did you first get in contact with Taylor about this venture?
After I heard about this chance, I believed it was a joke. I believed somebody was making an attempt to play a prank on me. I used to be like, you’re joking. She does not know who I’m. Why would she select me to star in her music video? My supervisor was like no, that is actual, that is severe. I used to be like, holy shit, okay, cool. I used to be so nervous. In fact I do not know what to anticipate with one thing like this. I informed myself I’ve to be prepared, my pores and skin needs to be okay.
So that you knew this was for brand new music, however you did not get a lot else.
At first I believed it was about her redoing a few of her previous music. Later I heard that it is a new album with new music. Anyway, I might have been excited, however I used to be like, that is new stuff, that is going to be superior. Her storytelling abilities are simply unbelievable. She has the flexibility to attach with everybody via her music and lyrics, after which when she comes out with these photographs which are so considerate – I do know the Swifties go loopy over all of the little Easter eggs and attempt to put all of the symbolism within the photographs, it makes it enjoyable.
Did you speak to her earlier than you got here on set? How was the method?
I don’t have. After I bought on set, I knew she was tall, so I believed, will she tower over me? [laughs] As you noticed within the video, I am in mattress just about on a regular basis, and one of many first adverts was like, that is most likely the simplest gig you’ve got ever had, you get to sleep all day. [laughs] As we lay in mattress ready for motion to come back, she informed me what my position can be. She made me really feel like I belonged, as did everybody else who was a part of the occasion scene. As you’ll be able to see within the image she posted on her Instagram, we had been all sitting collectively, and he or she had the monitor in her hand, and he or she was actually exhibiting us what we regarded like. It was wonderful. I’ve executed different music movies earlier than, and for those who’re a expertise for another person’s music video, and so they have full management over it, they have a look at the screens. You’re there as a mannequin. You’ve got been solid to be a part of the video, but it surely’s their music video, so you do not have to see the monitor. However she was very sort to take the monitor and produce it to all of us and provides us a preview of what it might appear like. She was so candy.
Did you ever learn the way she considered you for the video?
No, and I wished to ask, however I did not wish to cross any boundaries. I used to be like, you recognize what, if she needs to inform me later, she is going to. Apparently, I watched her once more with different love pursuits in earlier movies, and I used to be simply so scared to the touch her. [laughs] Like I do know we’re appearing, however I all the time say it is the trans male urge to be overly thoughtful of a girl’s physique and her boundaries. So I used to be nervous and clumsy and smiling on a regular basis as a result of I used to be so nervous.
Nicely, the nervousness does not translate on display. I wish to ask extra in regards to the occasion scene, and this one dance transfer the place you arch her again. I used to be like, wow, tthe coordination that occurs right here.
[laughs] I really requested if I may try this. We danced collectively and twirled, and I requested: am i able to carry you? And he or she stated, Sure after all, and he or she jumped on me. I requested, am i able to transfer you? She was like, go for it. And I dipped her again after which again up once more, and we did that a number of instances, and he or she had a good time. I used to be like, nice that is nice i hope it seems to be nice on digital camera. And so they ended up utilizing that half.
You are the weatherman, aren’t you?
Yeah yeah. When she informed me I used to be going to try this, I used to be excited. I stood in entrance of this clean display and so they informed me they had been going to overlay the map of america. They had been like, it should rain so much. So inform us the way it’s gonna rain. I am like, okay, so it is gonna rain from California to New York! Precipitation in our nation, girls and gents. Remember to deliver your umbrellas. It’ll rain cats and canine. I simply say all these items and make all these strikes and gestures, after which they had been like, oh we do not report sound. [laughs]
Wwhat did you assume whenever you lastly heard the music and the album got here out?
When the album got here out, “Lavender Haze” and “Midnight Rain” had been the 2 songs that stood out to me probably the most, and with what we had been doing within the video, I assumed it was going to be a type of two songs. Both “Lavender Haze”, due to the lavender mist in all places, or “Midnight Rain”, as a result of I used to be the weatherman speaking in regards to the rain. These had been additionally my favorites – and “Anti-Hero” – from my first hear.
There was a lot debate about your position and the illustration of transgender folks on this video, particularly in distinction to the anti-LGBTQ legal guidelines we’re seeing throughout the nation. What do you hope folks take away from this video?
I all the time say I do not wish to be placed on some type of pedestal or be the one individual representing a whole group as a result of the group is so large and numerous in itself. To say I characterize all the LGBT group can be unfair to the LGBT group. However when it comes to transgender visibility, that is large, and it is so necessary. Even on Instagram I’ve gotten hundreds of messages from younger trans folks and trans folks of all ages saying how necessary and the way large it’s that somebody with the platform that Taylor Swift has, particularly within the instances we stay in now, used a trans man as her love curiosity . And he or she had a number of transgenders within the occasion scene. There have been folks of all completely different backgrounds, sexualities and identities.
By way of laws, if we have a look at what’s taking place now, for instance, the final legislation in Oklahoma, which bans gender-affirming care till the age of 26, there was the rhetoric that every one this anti-trans laws was actually about defending the youngsters . However banning care till they’re 26 years previous proves that it was by no means about youngsters. The horrible issues folks say about transgender folks – and these are individuals who maintain political energy – have real-life penalties. That is our life.
When you simply have a look at the rise in violence in opposition to the LGBT group, particularly trans and non-binary folks, it has exploded over the previous two years due to this anti-trans rhetoric. It is January and 124 anti-LGBT legal guidelines have already been launched. This simply proves that it is about criminalizing our existence and never wanting us to exist, however we exist regardless of all this propaganda. We’re solely human. We wish entry to freedoms and liberties identical to everybody else. And we deserve them. We’re right here and taking away our entry to well being care, housing and work is not going to make us disappear.
What would a video like this have meant to you rising up?
I might have seen myself profitable as myself. After I was rising up, there was principally no portrayal of transgender folks on tv or within the media. If that’s the case, they had been typically mocked or humiliated or ridiculed or brushed apart, which might make you’re feeling that you just oh, you are not purported to be this, that is mistaken I’ve to cover. This one is a celebration of range, of acceptance, of liberty and freedom. And we have to see extra of that.
This interview has been edited and shortened for readability.
Madison is a senior author/editor at ELLE.com, overlaying information, politics and tradition. When she’s not on the web, you’ll be able to most likely take her for a nap or eat banana bread.