Demi Singleton Wants Your Clams

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images, Everett Collection, Retailers

While most high-schoolers are plotting their family spring-break trips to Maui or Orlando’s Disney World, Demi Singleton is staving off Paris Fashion Week traffic from the back of a town car. Fresh off the front row of Miu Miu’s latest show, the 17-year-old seems rather unfazed by the opulence of it all, as she’s transported from the presence of Miuccia Prada to a central Parisian hotel and later, to an after-party crowded with fellow Miu Miu girls like The Crown’s Emma Corrin and Priscilla breakout star Cailee Spaeny.

After the brand debuted its fall collection earlier this week, Prada noted to press, “Every single morning, I have to decide if I am a 15-year-old girl or a lady near to death.” In Singleton, it seems, Prada has found her emblem of a teenage self, imperfectly toeing the line of mature elegance and unmoored youth.

The King Richard actress, whose turn as a young Serena Williams catapulted her onto the map, is straddling multiple industries. Having signed with WME in 2022, Singleton founded and runs her own Black Girl Covers Book Club, had conquered Broadway by the age of 10, and already has a decisive olfactory palate for floral fragrances — far from sugary confections like Viva La Juicy that enchanted girls of a different generation. But in many ways, the Miu Miu brand ambassador is still just that: a girl. She likes Disney princesses and schoolgirl uniforms; The Nutcracker and French fries. She watches zombie movies with her mom and likes to hang out with her friends during lunch.

As the Paris traffic persists, Singleton apologizes profusely for having to conduct an interview on the move. But the serendipity of the backdrop offers a taste of what it’s like to be a 17-year-old runway model who, in less than 36 hours, will be twiddling her pencil in an air-conditioned room trying to make sense of precalc.

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Miu Miu

You just had your 17th birthday last week! That means you’re a Pisces. Do you identify with the Pisces persona, or not really?

I do. Pisces are known for being very fluid people, very go-with-the-flow, and I am definitely that. I would also say that I’m very artistic, so for sure, yes.

I’m a Pisces, too. We are certainly dreamers with our heads in the clouds. Speaking of dreamy, tell me what your day was like getting ready for the Miu Miu show? 

Typically, I’ll wake up and then get into glam. I’ll be in hair and makeup, and the entire time I’m almost anticipating the show, getting really excited for it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Miu Miu show where I didn’t love the collection. But generally, it’s always really chill. I’m surrounded by amazing people and an amazing team. I’ve never felt overwhelmed or nervous or anxious. And I love that because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all of the things going on and being in a different country.

Are you the sort of person who’s chugging coffee or chugging Celsius, or you are zen on the day of a show? 

I’m usually zen. If I’m chugging anything, though, it would be an iced matcha latte. I prefer iced, but I’ve noticed that in Paris, it’s more common for people to be walking around with a hot drink. So when I’m here, it’s a hot matcha latte, but in everyday life, I prefer iced.

Unlike New Yorkers who would take an iced coffee even if it’s 20 degrees outside. So, let’s say you’re about to hit the runway. What hype song are you putting on?

Probably “Heated,” by Beyoncé. That’s been stuck in my head for so long. I love the entire Renaissance album, but that song in particular is definitely my go-to hype song.

I know you’ve been working with Miu Miu for a couple of years now, but what about this collection in particular excited you?

The theme for this collection was memories, and I definitely was able to see that portrayed within each garment. It explored fashion throughout the life span, so there were some youthful pieces, but also some older, mature pieces. And it was beautiful to see it all at once — to display the trajectory of maturing and one’s life through fashion. Of course, I love all the collections, but the fall collections are always my favorite to look at just because I love that season. I love to get bundled up and put on knitwear.

Did you have a favorite look that went down the runway?

The final three looks. They were these three black dresses. They were so simple, but so sleek. One had cutouts that hit in all the right places with the perfect amount of skin showing to the point where it really elevated what would normally be seen as just a simple black dress. I loved the sophistication of those pieces. There were also a lot of really colorful pieces, as well, and I typically don’t wear a lot of color, but it was done so beautifully that I can envision myself in those outfits.

For the look you wore during the show, was there a particular memory that you drew upon to evoke the feeling of the garment? 

The look I wore was very schoolgirl. It was this long, black pleated skirt with a cardigan and a button-down shirt underneath. It reminded me of my school uniform, so that was one parallel between myself and the outfit. I’m still in high school. I’m still wearing a school uniform with a pleated skirt and button-down shirts and loafers and socks. I was able to be myself in that look because I wear things like that all the time.

Do you have any cool-girl Paris recs for us? A restaurant or hotel lobby that you always have to visit?

My favorite hotel here is Le Bristol. I think it’s so chic. When I moved to L.A. from New York, I modeled my bedroom after one of the hotel rooms that I stayed in here because I loved it so much. It was this pastel-washed blue with beautiful prints. It was like the Paris hotel room. And my favorite color is blue. So I love that hotel. So chic and so darling.

And then I’m always visiting Hotel Costes when I’m here. They have the best cheesecake. I always meet up with friends there.

What classes are you in right now?

I’m taking modern world history, precalculus, honors English — whatever 11th-graders are learning, I think British lit is the focus this year. I’m taking photography, a class called “Engineering and Invention for Impact,” which is like entrepreneurship and engineering together in one class. I’m taking a digital art class, like graphic design, which is fun. Oh, and AP environmental science and AP English language, as well.

That’s a lot! And you also used to do classical ballet, as well? Do you have a favorite ballet that you like to see?

Oh, that’s a good question. I know this might sound basic, but The Nutcracker. I loved dancing in The Nutcracker when I was younger, and I love watching The Nutcracker. It’s something that everyone loves and enjoys, and it really gets me in the holiday spirit.

What role did you play when you performed in The Nutcracker?

My company had these little characters called plumlets that would dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy. We had these cute little dresses and had our hair in ringlets. And then as I got older, I played one of the sheep.

You are also a trained cellist, and I heard you learned the Suzuki method at a young age. What was that like?

I do have a very well-trained ear. The only downside with that method is that you can’t always put a name to specific notes to identify what you’re playing. That’s something I’d have to learn how to do over time.

Do you ever whip your cello out and start playing for your friends?

No. I stopped playing cello when I was 12 or 13. Usually, you get sized for the instrument, so they give it to you based on your height and your size. If I were to play the cello that I still have now, it would be too small. But I think about it all the time, and as an actress, I’d love to be in a role where I was playing cello. That would be so fun.

Obviously, you were cast in a career-defining role playing a young Serena Williams in King Richard and did a lot of training to mimic Serena’s game. Are you still playing tennis?

For fun sometimes, occasionally. I have found it difficult to find time to go and play the sport. But it is a lot of fun, and it makes you feel very accomplished afterwards because it is such an intense workout. And I didn’t realize that until I started playing, because the pros make it look so easy and seamless. My school has tennis courts, so when I have free time during lunch, sometimes my friends and I will go on the tennis court and pick up the racquets that they have there.

And is Serena Williams the GOAT? Yes or yes.

Yes. Capital Y, capital E, capital S. Serena Williams is the GOAT, and that’s that.

I also heard that you’re into zombies. How did that start?

Well, my mom is a true-crime fanatic, and growing up she also watched The Walking Dead. I’d watch it with her, and I became obsessed with zombies. I was terrified of them, but I couldn’t look away. And my favorite movie for the longest time was World War Z. I think I like watching people turn into some other creature. I’m sure that has something to do with the fact that I’m creative, and I like to envision myself in these dystopian, otherworldly situations — and not just zombies, I’m not insane. I’ve always been fascinated with fairy tales and things that don’t exist in real life.

Since you brought up fairy tales, do you have a favorite Disney character?

Absolutely. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Anyone will tell you that that is my comfort movie. At 17 years old, I still watch The Princess and the Frog in my room by myself at least once a week. She’s my favorite Disney princess literally ever. Since I was 3, I’ve always admired Tiana because she worked really, really hard for everything that she had and never sold herself short. She knew that she deserved the best, so she worked for the best, which I keep with me daily.

Okay, let’s say you’re at a dinner party, and they’re passing around finger foods. What are you diving for and what are you avoiding?

I’m diving for French fries. Or potatoes in any form. I love potatoes. I also love the little shrimp. Every time I’ve ever been to a little dinner party, they’ve always had tiny shrimp. I like seafood in general. Oysters, clams, mussels, love it all. I’m avoiding any dairy products because I’m lactose. I love dairy, but I’m not supposed to eat it. I just take Lactaid when I eat ice cream and cheese.

What album changed your brain chemistry?

If not Renaissance, Blonde by Frank Ocean. I’m almost as obsessed with Frank Ocean as I am with Beyoncé. Something about his music is so life-changing. His music sounds ethereal, and everything he sings about is raw and organic.

Favorite track off that album? 

“Seigfried.” “Pink + White” is also a classic. And I love “Godspeed.”

If we were looking at your vanity right now, what perfumes would we see?

Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel. Jardin d’Amalfi by Creed comes in this gorgeous, gold-plated bottle. And then this Byredo fragrance called Gypsy Water. I just love a fresh floral scent. I try to stay away from anything that smells a little old or too musky because I am 17 years old, and I think that scents can age somebody.

Last but not least: If you had a dinner party in New York, and you had to invite five “It” girls, who’s coming? 

Zendaya. Beyoncé. Anok Yai, the model. Bella Hadid, I love her. Zaya Wade; she’s a doll. And my friend Ever Anderson; she’s a Miu Miu girl, as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Demi Singleton Wants Your Clams