In certain circles, Gillian Zinser is best known for her role as Ivy Sullivan in the recent spin-off of Darren Star’s “90210”. But to us, Zinser is a photographic storyteller whose dream like images move us out of the ordinary and into the surreal. Shooting primarily with a 35mm Yashica T5, and mostly on the road, Zinser divides her time between LA and Brooklyn – and beyond. The photos featured in this issue are from a series called PSYCHOGENIC FUGUE, from a road trip Zinser took around Iceland in the summer of 2015. The artist spoke to AWT about her process, the importance of escapism and the 30-year-path into female friendship.
AWT: You’re a contemporary storyteller. You share your process with the viewer, and it seems as if you’re not trying to be perfect with your work. Tell us about your artistic style.
Gillian Zinser: I’m not sure what my style is, or if I even have one yet. It feels like it’s a lot about seeking. A sort of romantic… placelessness? Escapism. “The blessed unrest” that Martha Graham talks about. A reminder to press pause. I don’t know – I’m just waxing poetic here. Really I just take photographs to try and capture feelings and moments I wouldn’t know how to recall or share through words. To try and transform simple, mundane pieces of my life into something memorable and tender.
AWT: Legs are a recurring theme in your photos. You’ve dedicated an entire series called “Escape Routes” – what’s the story behind it?
GZ: A lot of my photos are about escapism – running – not necessarily away from anything, just… the act of seeking, exposing, disappearing. “The Escape Routes” series is a visual play on the idea of falling into portals, finding secret ways out. It’s just a silly little series about disappearing acts… the desperation and curiosity to venture out of our realities and into the unknown.
AWT: You’re a traveler, a photographer and an actress. From afar, it looks like you’re doing everything you want to. Which decisions allowed you to live your life in a way that many people are too afraid of trying?
GZ: For me, it was about not being afraid to let go of the comfort, safety and stability of routine jobs and income. Choosing the wild, uncomfortable and unknown over the easy and expected. Not being afraid of being broke for a second. Or lost. Or having to start over again. To make it a priority to invest in experience, knowing that adventuring outside of your little bubble can only make you a richer creative, or better at whatever your day-to-day work is. I’m lucky enough to be able to travel for work now. But even before I was acting, when I was working boring, shitty jobs in college, I would work to save up enough money to buy a plane ticket somewhere new, or spend my time off on a roadtrip with a friend, or take the train somewhere for a day by myself and just wander. It doesn’t work for me to sit still and do ONE thing. There’s too much to see. Feel. Learn. I travel to keep myself awake. To keep curious. To learn about people and cultures to better understand the human experience, to take me out of my ego and into the bigger picture. All of which only makes me a better creative, performer and human. We all need an outlet outside of our day-to-day to refuel, calibrate, inspire and keep us reaching. That’s what travel is for me. Without it, my other work would suffer.
AWT: You’re supporting a non-profit with your print sales. Tell us about my friendsplace.org
GZ: My Friend’s Place is an amazing homeless youth shelter in Hollywood that serves over half of the kids living on the streets of LA, helping them build self-sufficient lives. I started a street photography program there with a bunch of kids and have been so inspired by their work so far.
AWT: Women are often the subject of your photography. Can you describe your relationship with the women in your life or the women you meet?
GZ: It’s taken me a long time to find steady, inspiring, supportive, healthy female friendships. Girls weren’t always nice to me growing up, especially in high school: there was so much shit-talking, backstabbing, manipulation, competition. It always just felt easier to hang out with the guys. Less drama. Now, however, the tables have turned, and I have the most amazing tribe of women in my life and far fewer male friendships. I think the female friendships I’ve found in my later 20s age stronger because we’re all so much more comfortable in our skins and can therefore honestly support and uplift one another instead of feeling pitted against each other. I love using my girlfriends as studies and finding ways to celebrate and capture their beauty.
x300 | SHORT STORIES by GZ
x5 | AWT – The Rejection Issue
InStyle: Your mother is from New York, your father from Berlin. Do you speak German?
Gillian: (In German) Yes, of course! I’m half German. But I have a lot to learn.
InStyle: So I guess you’ve been to Germany a lot?
Gillian: Oh yes! Berlin is my absolute favorite city in the world. My younger brother Max only just moved back to the States from Berlin. We used to go there a lot. Nowadays I unfortunately don’t have the time to go.
InStyle: You grew up in New York.
Gillian: Yes. But I see Berlin today, as I imagine a New York back in the 70ties and 80ties. The art scene there is unbelievably inspiring. Everyone seems to enjoy expressing themselves in their very own, unique way. I wish to have a small apartment in Berlin one day, just so I can spend more time there.
InStyle: On 90210 you play surfer girl Ivy. Were you a fan of the original series?
Gillian: Oh yes, totally! Even though my parents forbid me to watch it. I was a little bit too young.
InStyle: Do you have any impact on the outfits you wear on the show?
Gillian:Yes , a lot actually! We have a great costume designer, Kime Buzzelli. She is the one who organizes the most amazing clothes you could ever imagine – but never afford. From her selection of clothes I can create the outfits myself.
InStyle: It’s mostly your private style that is being copied worldwide.
Gillian: I always feel very honored that I’m getting that much positive feedback. My style is just me expressing my personality. There is no concept behind it. But that’s part of the fun. Many women are taking their styling too seriously and putting too much effort in it, just to fit in the image society expects from them.
InStyle: You like to wear no-name labels just as designers and vintage.
Gillian: Yes, but I have to say my passion is second hand fashion. I like the idea of recycling fashion. I used to always go through my mum’s closet. I use these basics and worn clothes to create looks which I combine with stuff I have to invest in. They last forever.
InStyle: What do you think you have to invest in?
Gillian: In a perfectly fitting leather jacket. You have it you’re entire life.
InStyle: You seem to be able to always look sexy but never cheap or fake . What’s your secret?
Gillian: You can only be sexy if you beat to the rhythm of your own drum. Or it always seems fake. Mostly, people dress sexy to impress others. I dress just for myself. And I only wear what I feel comfortable in. If I’m going to a red carpet event and I’m wearing a long, elegant dress I normally break it with something completely opposite, e.g. my grandfather’s bowler hat. If I’m wearing a tight, short dress I combine it with biker boots. For me, elegance and sex appeal don’t work without confidence. Even if that means biker boots and Converse on the red carpet.
InStyle: …Or a hat that you seem to wear quite often at events.
Gillian: Hats are somewhat of protection for me. They’re like a security blanket. If I’m on the red carpet, it is still not a normal or totally comfortable situation for me. Even though it is a lot of fun. I then normally put on one of my vintage hats , or, my grand-dad’s and I feel safe. Just like being all cuddled up in a blanket.
InStyle: What is that one piece in your closet that you cannot spare?
Gillian: My Doc Martens from the nineties. They’ll never be out of style for me. I’ve got quite a few pairs but my favorite are the ones with flower print and in dark green. Doc Martens are forever cool.
InStyle: Coachella is almost here. What are you bringing?
Gillian: Definitely old, worn jeans shorts, an old band shirt, bright red lipstick, Ray Bans and my Polaroid cam.
InStyle: Who is accompanying you?
Gillian: Just my boyfriend ( Luke Grimes) and my brother. I’m a light traveler. (laughs)
InStyle: You three in a camping bus?
Gillian: If I’d be going all privately I would. I’m living with them at the moment, too, so we’re used to do almost everything together. But at Coachella I’m hosting a party with ‘Planet Blue’ and ‘Foam’ magazine. And they kindly booked a hotel for us.
InStyle: Camping isn’t for everyone, I guess.
Gillian: I love it! My boyfriend has an Airstream, you know, this silver trailer and we spend the weekends with it in Topanga Canyon. The Airstream is only 18 ft long and like 9 ft wide and you could think it’s hell on wheels. But the truth is, it’s the exact opposite. It’s incredibly liberating. And it makes you realize how little space and comfort you actually need.
InStyle: Where have you met Luke?
Gillian:In L.A. at a red light and crazy traffic. That was true fate. Our first date was in the desert.
InStyle: Red lights, rendezvous in the desert – sounds very Hollywood.
Gillian: L.A. is such a surreal, artificial city, so I figured the desert is the perfect place to get to know someone. You have no choice than to expose yourself. You just shake off the business and all clichés. Especially with my job it is great to get to know someone away from the industry, in all loneliness. Then there’s no one there except for that person and yourself.
InStyle: Is it more difficult to find real friend in a city like L.A.?
Gillian: I have a very small but close group of friends, they’re very grounded, wonderful people. In Los Angeles, everything is so far apart and so insanely focused on the business that you have to value the little free time you get. That is why you are basically being forced to look closer at who you want to spend this time with and who not. I spend a lot of time on set, so I enjoy just being by myself when I’m off. Or of course my boyfriend, my close friends or my brother.
InStyle: Is your brother an actor, too?
Gillian: No, he’s an interior designer. He’s an absolute phenomenon! And of everyone else my favorite person in the world. He might be two years younger than me but mentally he’s much older. He protects me.
InStyle: And your friends, are they also in the business?
Gillian: Jessica Stroup just moved in across from me. She’s the only cast member I see a lot off set. The rest of my friends are mostly artists.
InStyle: Years ago, there were talks about Young Hollywood , a clique including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie and Mischa Barton. You seem to live a completely different private life.
Gillian: Oh yes, I’m far away from that. I’m just no Hollywood kid. I purposely chose to live by the beach in Venice. I don’t really go out a lot and go crazy. I enjoy my small, peaceful neighborhood. It is a very simple, chilled lifestyle, very quiet. I am by the beach, I go swimming. You run errands by bike or just walk. The social scene is way less crazy than the one in Hollywood, which I definitely prefer.
InStyle: Do you sometimes get homesick for NYC?
Gillian: I miss the beat of the city. New York has its very own pulse that you’re never going to find anywhere else. The energy, the people – everything is just really rough and in constant motion. Every time I go back I still find it very refreshing and inspiring, but right now , for me, I’m finding my life here in L.A. way healthier. New York is like an ex-boyfriend that you visit from time to time and share some nice moments with. But the next day you’re glad to have left him because everything is just better without him.
InStyle: Speaking of healthy life style: Especially in Hollywood everyone is focusing on being skinny. You recently told People Mag that you would like to put on a few pounds. How does that fit?
Gillian: That’s what they wrote? (laughs) Well, I’ve always been kind of thin. But more and more I’m coming to the point where I learn to appreciate my feminine charms. It would be nice to put on a little weight and be more chill in general. I definitely don’t think that being skinny equals being sexy.
InStyle: Still it is size zero that reigns over Hollywood.
Gillian: Yeah, probably. But I just don’t think that actors have to look like runway models. Models have to look like models, you put clothes on them. For us actors, it is more important to look like normal human beings, because who and what we play should be relatable for normal people.
InStyle: And they rarely have the ideal body.
Gillian: It’s probably human nature to want what you can’t have. But at the end of the day I feel quite comfortable in my skin.
InStyle: And what helps if you don’t?
Gillian: Bright red lip stick and my worn-out Converse. And my lucky charms.
InStyle: And those are…
Gillian: A necklace with a pendant from my boyfriend and my parents’ wedding ring.
InStyle: YOU are wearing your parents’ wedding ring?
Gillian: They bought many small rings in Bali back then which they use as wedding rings. When I moved away, they gave me on of them. It’s my mojo, I never take it off.
Thanks a lot to Sway for magazine scans & firstname.lastname@example.org for translated interview!
Gallery Link: x8 | InStyle Germany – May 2012
Gillian Zinser shows her amazing street style in new photoshoot for ELLE Girl Japan May issue, check it out!
Gallery Link: x2 | Elle Girl Japan – May 2012
Institute: Do you remember the first time you realised you wanted to become an actress?
Gillian: My mum took me to see ‘The Fantastiks’ off broadway when I was a kid and the opening scene was a girl my age praying at the foot of her bed pleading “Please God, PLEASE! Please don’t let me be normal!” I was an awkward kid trying to figure out where I fit in, and watching that character in that moment was so comforting and inspiring at that age where I felt so much pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ but didn’t really want to or know how to. The relief and inspiration that that one simple scene gave me was probably the first time I realized how powerful, effective, and inspirational performance could be.
Institute: Could you single out an actor or performance that has had a profound impact on you in the last five years?
Gillian: I dont know about five years, but some of the most influential performances in my lifetime have been…Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of a spotless mind Audrey Tattou in Amèlie Diane Keaton in Annie Hall Annette Bennington in Running with Scissors Juliette Binoche in Lovers on a Bridge Ryan Gosling in Lars and The Real Girl
Institute: What can you reveal about Liars All?
Gillian: Obsession. Ego. Lust. Revenge. Murder.
Institute: You play Missy, can you tell us about the character?
Gillian: Missy was a hard character to understand let alone empathize with in order to play her. She’s a dark creature, a wilted flower suffering from manic depression.
Institute: Do you like to do a lot of research into your roles?
Gillian: Yes. Although I’ve yet to work a role that requires the depth of research I’m eager to challenge myself with.
Institute: Do you ever become emotionally involved with your characters?
Institute: What was the most valuable lesson you learnt from being on set?
Gillian: Technicality, professionalism, and the importance of being a team player. I find there’s just absolutely no room for ego in this business.
Institute: What do you look for in a character or film?
Gillian: Meat. Dimension. A la ck of comfort. Something I’ve yet to fully explore within myself.
Institute: What are your thoughts on fashion today?
Gillian: I wouldn’t say I take fashion very seriously. I just look at it as another daily form of self expression to have fun with. I find inspiration in my moods and throw on what makes me feel good.
Institute: As an actress do you feel more aware of the way you dress?
Gillian: Perhaps less so. I get so used to people dressing me for the characters i play that when its time to take the costumes off and slip back into my own skin, i’m only left with the energy to be as comfortably myself as possible.
Institute: Where do you think trends are created?
Gillian: Through the infectious confidence of those unafraid to beat to their own drum.
Institute: Do you have a favourite fashion designer?
Gillian: Balmain. Zac Posen. Chloe. Kimberly Ovitz. Rick Owens.
Institute: Top five fashion essentials?
Gillian: Chuck Taylors. Leather biker jacket. Red lipstick. Old Levis . White Hanes t-shirts from Target.
Gallery Link: x3 | Institute Magazine – 2012
Somewhere in Palm Springs, Gillian Zinser causes a heatwave
For the first time ever, Coachella will take over Indio for two weekends in a row. We trekked into the Palm Springs desert with festival darling Gillian Zinser and Planet Blue to tune out and get ready for the biggest encore in the biz.
See the full spread in the May 2012 issue! magazine hits stands on March 13
Gallery Link: x51 | Magazine Scans > Foam – April/May 2012
Gillian Zinser featured in Genlux magazine winter 2011 issue. I have added in the gallery magazine scan and high quality picture of photoshoot. Huge thanks to Melanie Doutey Web for heads up!
THAT’s GILLIAN WITH A ‘G’
Some girls have all the luck. Take Gillian Zinser: equal parts talent, charm, quirkiness and smarts. The beautiful, young, and successful actor, who recently graduated from NYU, has places in both New York and Los Angeles. Gillian plays Ivy, a carefree, Bohemian-spirited California girl on television’s 90210. Here, she gives us a few morsels that define her personal fashion style.
How would you describe your personal style?
Cowgirl meets Pirate.
What’s your favorite item in your closet?
My grandfather’s vintage bowler hat.
What’s always in your purse?
A plethora of Chapsticks, a good book, Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses, and my Polaroid camera.
What’s your weekend look?
Jeans, an old t-shirt, and red lipstick.
If you could wear only one designer from head to toe, who would it be?
I don’t know if I could choose just one – I’m too addicted to clash! I’d say Chloe, Acne, The Row, Kimberly Ovitz or Alexand Wang.
What’s your favorite low-price secret weapon store?
What are your earliest fashion memories?
My addiction to overalls, Doc Martens, and the “Jem and the Lolograms” cartoon in the early 90s.
What do you sleep in?
An ex-boyfriend’s old, ratty band shirt
What kind of watch do you wear?
I don’t own a watch. Time scares me.
Who are your favorite fashion photographers?
Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.
What’s your favorite scent?
My boyfriend’s Old Spice deodorant… but I wear Chloe.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
I think I just got back from it! I spent the last week in Hanalei Bay up on the north shore of Kauai, and I’m just mad for it. It’s the most simple, rejuvenating, beautiful lifestyle I’ve experienced thus far. I’d like to build a tree house there someday.
What are your go-to boutiques?
I love The Reformation and Opening Ceremony when I’m feeling fancy, but usually I just live at flea markets.
x1 | Genlux Magazine – Winter 2011
x1 | Photoshoots: 017
I have added new-old scan from Star magazine. It was one issue from June and they chat with Gillian about her movie “The Truth Below”. Check out the scan and article below!
How well do you really know your friends? In the new made-for-MTV movie The Truth Below, college freshmen Jenna (Gillian Zinser), Ethan (Reid Ewing), Dante (Nick Thurston) and Liam (Ricky Mabe) set out for a spring break snowboarding trip but wind up in a fight for survival – from the elements and each other!
“Their car gets buried under an avalanche on the ride home,” Gillian, whom you might know as Ivy on 90210, tells Star. “As they wait to be rescued they begin to reveal secrets from their pasts – sex, violence, betrayal, lies. It gets ugly!”
Faced with the fear of not making it out alive, the crew begins unburdening themselves of the guilt they’ve held on to for years. But what start out as innocent confessions – Jenna was once expelled from school; Dante stole money from his little brother – soon turn into confessions of lurid affairs, secret crushes and murderous thoughts. Soon it’s obvious: Some of the people trapped here are pretty shady, and not everyone is getting out alive.
“This project reminded me of the importance of being honest in the moment and not looking back and regretting the things we never got to do,” says Gillian, 25. That may seem heavy for an MTV movie, but at least she walked away with some avalanche survival tips, right? ‘No!” says Gillian. “I can’t say we did anything right when it came to figuring out how to escape that vehicle!”
In MTV’s first psychological thriller, The Truth Below, four college pals get buried alive – and that’s when the fun really starts!
“She wears all sorts of masks,” says Gillian of her character, Jenna. “She’s toughened herself up to stand the pain from the past.”
The californian blond girl still can catch. The 25 years old girl, born in Washington, hit with grace in the serie 90210, the new version of Beverly Hills. She just had to guest for few episodes, but her character of the blond surfist did incredibly become all of a sudden necessary. She’s going to be on cinemas with Manson Girls, the story of young girls following the madness of Charles Manson, like the MTV productions.
How did it start for you?
I gave some theater class to some disadvantage children in Washington, where I grew up. Many came from difficult quarters, it was difficult for them to express their emotions. Thanks to imagination, they opened, they fought their fears and learnt to communicate. It’s then I realized I wanted to do this for my life: give people the will to feel the things. And I fell in love with this art that can share the experiences and tell a story.
Who did discover you?
I was on a trip in Africa, an island on the coasts of Kenya, and I met a director of casting who convinced me to move to Los Angeles. And it’s there I live and work since then.
It was a lot of pressuring to become glamour?
Of course it was. But the glamour, depends on each one to define it. For me, my ideal of sensuality, is jogging trousers and high heels.
How do you define your style?
Voluntary, impulsive and conflicting. With a touch of magic…
You were quoted by many fashion blogs…
I guess this mean mostly that people react in a good way to my expression of fashion.
What would it be your dream?
Make a french movie
Scans from Be magazine April issue also available in the gallery.
Gallery Link: x4 | Magazine Scans : BE #56 – 15 – 21 April 2011
I added in the gallery scans from Elle Girl Japan magazine June 2011 issue. Gillian looks lovely!
Gallery Link: x4 | Elle Girl Japan – June 2011