There are few women on the internet as interesting as Alexandra Marzella. In the new-ish age of influencer culture, there’s a distinct divide on apps like Instagram between users who, often annoyingly, overshare every aspect of their lives, and on the other side of the spectrum, people who over-curate them, leaving most of us lost and left trying to figure out what, if anything, online is still authentic. But not Marzella.
Though she does share many aspects of her life on the internet, she does it in a way that feels messy, uncontrived — like sometimes she might even regret posting, but because she’s so effortless and unapologetic, she wouldn’t even think to delete things the way the rest of us would. The Brooklyn-based artist-slash-model who first caught our attention on Instagram, and then via shoots (back in 2014, and again just a couple of years ago) with Oyster, also shared that kind of unflinching honest with us when she penned an essay about abuse and trauma for Oyster #113: The ‘Yes’ Issue. But before that, we watched her online, being as painfully open in her posts — and her art — as she was in that personal essay.
Whether sharing videos of herself with no makeup and in tears, or naked and unfiltered, the 30-year-old’s social media is her art, and both her body and experiences are her medium. It made sense then, when we started seeing her on the runway for brands like Eckhaus Latta and Collina Strada — labels that stand out in a sea of derivative designers and fast fashion companies, for their genuine approach to making clothes and focus on a social conscious.
Now, with the recent birth of her daughter, Earth Temper Lee Marzella — who Ally believes will be the greatest work she’s ever created — she is even more intent on using her experience as part of her practice. We’ve followed along as she shared the kind of characteristically genuine thoughts throughout her pregnancy and early days of motherhood — feelings of depression and uncertainty, her labour, and even captioning the arrival of Earth with #MyVaginaHurts — that we’ve come to expect from the artist.
And when we caught up with Ally just days before she gave birth — in the height of social isolation back in April — she shared her thoughts on preparing for motherhood in the same way she would (and has) online: honestly. Nearly three months later, we’re excited to finally share the conversation and images — check them out, below.
Hi Ally! How are you feeling right now?
Right now, this moment, I feel good because I’m getting some fresh air. It’s been a few days since I’ve gone for a walk, which I’ve been trying to do every day, lately.
Do you feel ready for the baby to arrive?
No, yes and no, but mainly no. I’ll go with no. I really want her to come on her due date or like very close to it. So, I’m ready in that sense. But I also wish that maybe it was like still March-something, so I had a bit more time to do stuff and catch up. I haven’t done my taxes, you know, just like, regular shit. I know a lot of people often feel behind, but I always feel behind, and I always have organizational tasks to do… I just want to feel more settled than I do right now. So, I have a week or so.
Do you have a name picked out already?
When I first got pregnant, I was like, ‘I’m going to name them Pickle,’ because I didn’t know the gender. My roommates thought that was silly, but then they got really used to it, and they all started calling her Pickle. Then my cousin was like, ‘You can’t name your kid Pickle. That’s my dog’s name,’ and I felt like that was valid for some reason. So, I went back to the drawing board. I have a new name in mind, but I don’t know if I totally believe in picking a name prior. I don’t know, I’d just like to, like, see her face and hold her… and maybe once she comes out, I’ll feel like, ‘This name is great, let’s go for it.’ But there are really a lot of words and combinations of words for a hoarder slash artist to just pick one!
Totally. But can you share the one you have in mind?
The last few months, the only name that’s really stood out to me consistently is Earth. Some people say it’s a hippie name and other people are like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I would name my daughter if I ever had one!’ Then two of my good friends, who are both climate change activists, were like, ‘Her due date is the day after Earth Day,’ and I’m also a Taurus, which is an Earth sign, and she’s supposed to be a Taurus, too. So yeah, I like it. It’s simple. I don’t really care if people think it’s hippy-ish — it doesn’t feel hippy-ish to me. But also, the planet’s pretty important and, you know, it seems to take a lot for people in our day and age to recognize just how important she is. So, it’s kind of a reminder.
Did you ever plan on becoming a mom?
Yes. I mean, there were plenty of stages throughout my growth where I was like, ‘I’ll never have kids, I’ll only adopt, it makes no sense to have children.’ Then there were other times where I felt like I wouldn’t have kids because I would care more about my career. Then I wanted to be a young mom, and an older mom, and now here I am, kind of an average aged mom… But yeah, it wasn’t planned, and I did not think that I would be doing this so soon. I still feel, like, pretty infantile myself sometimes.
Obviously, things are crazy right now — I can’t imagine how you must be feeling being pregnant, and with so much of the future so uncertain at the moment, I’m wondering… have you started any sort of new routine since being in quarantine?
I never really had a routine, to begin with. I am a very inconsistent person who definitely wants more routine and feels that that would implement more balance in my life. After I got pregnant, I started going to Food Box every Saturday with my best friend and roommate. It’s a government subsidised program, essentially, and it makes me feel very wholesome — which isn’t something I’ve always been associated with or have associated myself with. But I feel like it’s good to do that a bit more as you’re becoming a mom. So, over the past nine months, I’ve slowly started trying to do that in other areas of my life. Like, I pretty consistently make a giant fruit and vegetable smoothie in the mornings — it’s one way that I feel like I can actually take care of myself. It’s simple, it’s fairly painless. Most recently — once the pandemic set in and everyone started doing virtual everything — a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of hers who was doing online donation-based yoga classes. The girl ended up being a doula in training, as well as a certified yoga teacher and prenatal yoga teacher, so I’ve been working with her like every week.
How has that been for you, as someone who’s not really used to consistency like that?
It’s been awesome, actually, and not too consistent. Like, we don’t do the same thing every day, but we do try to check in almost every day and do a session. It’s really helpful, and it makes me feel more grounded, which is something that I was lacking.
What about work? Have you been feeling more or less creative?
As far as, like, making work, I have not actively been more creative. I’ve been pretty preoccupied and overwhelmed with trying to just like be okay mentally as well as physically, and there’s been a lot of ups and downs and back and forth… I mean, I’ve essentially been out of work for like, seven months as my modelling agents didn’t really know what to do with a pregnant person. But as for my art… I don’t know, I’ve been preoccupied and caught up. But I suppose I am making the most significant work of art, in the form of a human. So, that’s pretty cool. Yeah. I feel like I can cut myself some slack in the art department because I’m doing that!
You mentioned you’ve been feeling more wholesome lately, which is something you previously had never associated yourself with. I wonder if that’s a kind of internalized reaction because you’ve been so open with your sexuality. I guess it’s hard to know for sure, but have you thought at all how that might change once you have a child?
Yes and no. It was important to me to shoot while I still had my maternity body because mothers are so often viewed as these sacred, virtuous beings that are to some extent not meant to be sexual. Still, at the same time, mothers are extremely sexualised and always have been. It’s just a really interesting thing, and I know plenty of mothers who are empowered by their sexuality, and plenty of mothers who want to be but aren’t, or feel like they have to wait until the children get to a certain age. It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, but it’s not something I want to lose. And it’s not something I want to stop considering in my work. But I guess we’ll see. I’ve been such a highly sexual person my whole life that I wonder if it will get milder over time or if it will just continue to be like a re-emerging theme in my life. I would like to think that as somebody who really cares about continuing to find balance, as I mentioned earlier, that I should be able to actually make it better for me to implement a healthy dose of sexuality in my practice and my work, and also be more responsible and considerate. There’s always been, like, a kind of beauty and attraction to my spontaneity and kind of like, a lack of awareness sometimes, as far as what I do with my work, and how I live my life, and how I put it all on the internet. But I think that this is going to kind of raise the bar for me in a professional way, but also in a personal way, which is exciting.
What are some of the other things you’re excited about when it comes to motherhood?
I’ve always felt very in touch with motherhood. I’ve always had a strong connection with my own mother, and I’ve always been aware of community in general and been really grateful for it. And now, I’m kind of like, being initiated into literal motherhood and the role that it’s bringing, and I’m excited to just keep connecting with that. So many moms have stepped up and reached out to me — it’s been extremely supportive, extremely kind. And it’s amazing how like, any mother essentially, when they find out you’re becoming one, is immediately connected to you and wants to extend their help. I know this is a very gendered concept, but I just feel like men don’t get that. There is a brotherhood, I know, but there’s just something so unique about moms and women coming together in that way.
Speaking of moms, what would yours say was your best trait?
And your worst?
Back to your art — as someone whose body has been such a big part of your practice, what was it like to see and feel your body change so much over these last nine months?
That’s been really interesting. I mean, I’ve had it so lucky in terms of the physical stress of pregnancy on your body. I was also very late to show. It got to the point where I was six months pregnant, and no one knew or was asking me if I want to sit down and subway. I was wearing tight clothes and unzipping my layers as I walked on! But yeah, as somebody who’s been, yes, utilizing my body as kind of tool, it has been hard — not because my body was an issue, but because I wish I was in a better space emotionally. Also, with the pandemic and everything, it’s been hard to document the process as much as I would’ve wanted to. I’m definitely interested to see how I feel after pregnancy, and how I cope with that, as well.
Right now, what’s your favourite thing about yourself physically?
That I can grow humans.
What about your personality?
What do you see for your art — and yourself — going forward?
Do you know Cyrus Dunham? I read their book not that long ago, and in it, they write about how their mom said to them, ‘You and your sister are the greatest work of art I ever created,’ and that was the one thing I underlined in the book. It was towards the beginning of my pregnancy and I don’t know if I had even decided to keep it yet, but that just really stuck with me. Reading about other artists or creatives’ own experiences with motherhood — it’s kind of clear that you can’t top it, because it’s not something we’re making from our own minds or our own feelings. It’s just something a lot bigger than us. I mean, I guess people could say that about their art as well, and that’s valid — a lot of people would say their art, or their businesses, are their babies. But for me, especially it being unplanned and unexpected, I’m kind of still in disbelief that I’m having a baby. I know people do it all the time, but it’s totally insane to me that anybody has babies! So, I just feel like it’s the ultimate challenge, which is just like any artistic practice. As an artist, it’s a challenge to make something you love and are proud of. With a child, not only are you challenged to properly nourish the baby throughout pregnancy, and then infancy, but you have an entire lifetime of being a parent, which is a whole different practice… I just don’t see anything greater than that as far as creative work goes.
photography BLOSSOM BERKOFSKY
styling and creative direction LAUREN BOCKOW
make-up REGINA HARRIS
hair SIRSA PONCIANO
casting TASHA TONGPREECHA
retouching FEATHER CREATIVE
model ALEXANDR MARZELLA @ NONI AGENCY