The patriarchy doesn’t pause for movie stars, and Jodie Turner-Smith knows it.
The actress is a face of Gucci’s Chime for Change initiative for global gender equality, and for her—like most of us—the subject is painfully personal. “I think when you’re a girl on the playground, it’s pretty obvious that you’re treated differently from the moment you enter society,” she says. “But then, as an adult, you really see the madness of it…like, how are we still getting less money and respect for more work?! I’m determined to help stop that cycle before my daughter has to face it.”
Turner-Smith may be a singular force, but she isn’t alone when it comes to speaking out. This year’s Chime for Change campaign includes a new video series with Salma Hayek Pinault, Serena Williams, The Julias (Roberts and Garner), and longtime Gucci face Florence Welch, all discussing the very real need for continued gender equity. The IMDb VIPs are joined by activists like Amanda Nguyen and Diandra Marizet Esparza, and—because this is Gucci, after all—comes with some cute and cool memes to plaster across one’s social feed of choice.
Still, it’s undeniable that Turner-Smith is a highlight of the campaign. Maybe it’s the way she speaks softly but carries a big look—a sequin tiger-print jacket, gold collar chain, and a black straw pillbox hat that’s half Jackie O. and half military general. Maybe it’s because she acknowledges that “men and women are different” with a smile that implies she finds “guy stuff” a bit boring. Or maybe it’s simply that Turner-Smith is a fast-rising talent who’s married to our middle school crush (sorry Dawson, Pacey Witter forever) and we still don’t know a ton about her.
ELLE.com sat down with the British red carpet slayer to help change that with a few key questions…and a minor debate about boobs, because: fashion.
Gender equality is a universal issue, but it’s also a personal one. When did it become something you wanted to fight for?
I’m an ’80s baby, and seeing the way boys and girls were treated differently—especially as a little Black girl—that began pretty early on. For me, one of the things that always made me really burn was that seemingly “normal” idea that, “Oh, if a boy is bullying you, it’s because he likes you.” Really?! To be treated badly isn’t a compliment. It’s not a mark of desire. And now I think I’m learning this again because, as a parent, I’m sharing stories with my daughter. You know, she loves stories, and she loves Disney. But you’re watching Sleeping Beauty as an adult, and they talk about how Aurora is betrothed to be married at 16. And I’m watching this going, “Sorry, wait, what are you talking about?! That’s child marriage!” We just saw The Little Mermaid, so some of that came up again.
Did you have a talk with your daughter about how you don’t give up your voice for a boy?
Oh, there’s a lot of different things I would say! I love that in this retelling, Ariel’s a bit older—she’s not this clueless teenager. And Triton even says to Ariel, “You shouldn’t have to give up your voice in order to be heard.” It definitely feels less bleak and a lot more empowering. But yeah, I’m definitely always sneaking in little lessons to my daughter when I hear her listening to stories that are a little bit backwards.
Star Wars is veiled in secrecy, but can you tell us anything about the new Acolyte show, and how female roles are explored there?
I think that we had a unique opportunity with having such an amazing powerful woman as a showrunner, Leslye Headland. And because of that, I feel like the older female characters in this [Star Wars] universe really treated us like thoughtful, strong, empowered, and complicated women, which felt amazing. There’s such a range that we don’t always get, and it’s a bit part of this world!
According to your Wikipedia, you initially wanted to write movies. Is that true?
No way, something is right on my Wikipedia? That’s great. There’s been a lot of shit on there that’s just not real.
So you do want to write in the future?
Yeah! I don’t think I ever really stopped writing. It’s always been something that’s in my heart. And I feel like, you know, at my essence, I am figuring out all the ways in which I want to express myself as an artist, because I truly do love making art. When Gucci let me write and direct a short film with Dazed, Jackie, it really solidified it. By working as an actress, I’ve been basically putting myself through [film] school, just trying to learn from all the amazing and talented writers that I’ve had the chance to meet and work with, and directors…eventually, there’s definitely going to be something that comes out of that experience.
You’ve also starred in music videos for MGMT, Rita Ora, and Zayn. Did you learn anything from being on set with rock stars?
Yeah, that music videos are very hard! [Laughs.] They’re insanely long days. But because you’re up-close with the directors, again, there’s just a little tiny bit more room to observe everything that’s going on. Sometimes, the best way to succeed is to be willing to learn just by being there.
I heard you were the most fun person at the Met Gala this year.
Okay, yes, fair.
Going to a big party like that—or any party, really—can sometimes be a bit anxiety-inducing. What’s your best advice for using fashion to get motivated?
Oh, if you don’t want to go to a party, you should definitely wear something that’s black and flowy and shit. Because you know what makes everyone happy, including myself? Nipples. You know what is always going to make you feel better? Freeing the nipples, when in doubt.
What if you’re shy?
The thing is, if I’m feeling sad or like depressed, that’s when I put on an amazing outfit. That’s something that I really got from my mother, which is like, “If your spirit is feeling low, then you can reverse-engineer feeling good inside by making your outside feel great.” I mean, if you can look in the mirror and say, “I’m pretty as hell,” as Megan Thee Stallion says, then that’s amazing. Most of my outfits are all about finding ways that clothes can energize you. And when you feel low, one of the best colors to wear is pink. It’s scientifically proven that pink can put you in a better mood.
Would you like to correct any lies about you on Wikipedia?
Well, if my Wikipedia still says that my daughter’s name is Janie? Fucking get that out of here. I’ve been screaming about it for three years now. Please.
So your family is not Joshua, Jodie, and Janie.
Noooo. [Laughs.] I really like that people don’t know what her name is, because that belongs to her. But I was absolutely incensed when it was reported, as fact, that her name is Janie. No offense to anyone named Janie; that’s great, that’s lovely. It’s just not what we would name our daughter! It’s not Janie!
Editor at Large, ELLE.com
“Her beauty and her brain go not together.” —William Shakespeare