Living In Style: Allison Williams
We fell in love with Allison Williams on the HBO hit Girls, but with projects like Get Out, the Peter Pan live special and her most reason cause, she has proved that she is nothing like Marnie Michaels. The Yale graduate talked to TZR's editorial director about everything from philanthropy to style to the mantra she lives by.
Nicky Deam: You entered the spotlight with your role as Marnie on Girls but have since taken on projects like a live musical and a big-screen thriller. Many people would call those choices ballsy. Do you have any advice for people who want to take a risk in their career?
Allison Williams: It would be very easy for me to say trust your gut, because I'm in a position to be able to take risks ... I've saved up some money—if something were to fail spectacularly I would be okay. But if I'm looking at someone who really has no backstop and is living paycheck to paycheck but has dreams of doing something, I guess I would urge them to try to do both at once, if you can: Continue supporting yourself and having a stable life while also pursuing your dream at the same time, and then when it's time to jump, you'll know it, and you might free-fall for a second but hopefully with enough planning and with a really good idea and good execution you might be able to find your footing again.
"take little risks all day rather than take a big risk all at once"
But I always think that when people say "take a risk" or "jump at the opportunity," they're kind of negating all of the factors that may not be affecting them anymore if you're in a position to tell someone to take a risk. But if you're looking at someone who is really struggling and they were to take said risk, I think that the wiser, practical but less uplifting thing to say is take little risks all day rather than take a big risk all at once.
ND: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
AW: My mom always encouraged me to be independent in all ways, and I think that continues to be a really important piece of advice.
ND: How do you define feminism?
AW: To me, it's just the belief in our inherent equality and the demand for the world to treat us as such.
ND: What are three things people would be surprised to know about you?
AW: I'm left-handed, which might surprise people, but I guess that's pretty lame. I'm not at all germaphobic; people seem to assume that I am. And I wear glasses.
ND: What is your favorite workout?
AW: Pilates! Pilates! Pilates!
ND: Favorite, number one, can't-live-without beauty product?
AW: My toothbrush.
ND: Which fashion brand are you most excited about right now?
AW: Paravel. I love it so much. I have to disclose that I'm actually an investor, but I wholeheartedly believe in every single one of their pieces, and they just launched their new pieces in black.
ND: What causes are most dear to you, and how did you get involved?
AW: I'm very involved with Horizons National, a summer enrichment program that counteracts what is called the "summer slide." Kids from low-income families with the same levels of intelligence and parents with the same level of dedication are unfortunately more likely to fall behind their wealthier counterparts who are able to go to summer camps, [take] museum trips and travel. When they return to school they are behind, whereas the wealthier kids are ahead, and it's cumulative, so by the time they are in fifth grade these kids are about three years behind in reading and math, which is a huge issue because if that trend continues into high school, graduation becomes less and less likely. Horizons National fills their summers with schooling, activities like swimming [and] playing so that when they go back to school they return confident and a little bit ahead academically.
ND: Tell us about your initiative.
AW: Our family got involved because my grandmother became a teacher at the school that hosted the first Horizons program in New Canaan, Connecticut. My mom and her siblings were able to go on scholarship and so she grew up at a school that had a student Horizons program, and then a couple short decades later I went to that same school that still had a student Horizons program; at that point, Horizons had expanded a little bit and it was growing throughout the United States, but my mom has been on the board and it was just part of the everyday fabric of that school. There were students in my class who were Horizons students during the summer and went to the school on scholarship and then I found that I was always kind of around campus during the summer because of my mom, so I’d see Horizons in action. Cut to a few years later, my mom ran the board, my brother became a counselor there, I continued to be involved in an unofficial capacity, and then once I established myself as an actress I felt justified in asking for an official role. So now I'm the ambassador, and from their perspective that means I'm constantly bugging them with new places I want them to launch programs, which always involves money, which is why I started the 10 Days of Giving: so that I could make demands about expansion while also having a little bit of money to show for it. It's our second year doing it, and I could not be more thrilled.
ND: How has social media helped your career?
AW: I often find myself almost stifled by all the things that are happening in the world and feeling less and less like it's appropriate to post a selfie or something trivial, and so I end up posting nothing at all. The most natural thing for me has always felt to post about my work and what I'm doing. I look at it as like a work account, basically, but it's getting harder and harder. I've always been shooting Girls during the summer, so my Instagram during the summer has always been filled with photos of me with the girls at work, and I guess I need to figure out what my rhythm is for me as an unemployed person. Probably by the time I master that, I'll be back at work again, so we will see, but I think [social media] can be immensely powerful and this 10 Days of Giving initiative is a great example of that. I launch each item with a little video, and the idea behind those videos (which NowThis helps me make) is that people might share them regardless of the fact that it's a fundraising effort. We try to make them funny and cute enough so that people might tag each other in them without necessarily thinking of it as a fundraising thing that they’re passing along to their friends. So [social media] can definitely be used for good, but it can also be used for bad, and I try to remain firmly in the former category.