By Phebe Wahl By Phebe Wahl | April 12, 2023 | People Lifestyle Feature
With a profound performance in her recent film Reality and a flurry of upcoming projects, screen queen Sydney Sweeney proves that this stunning starlet is all substance.
If you don’t follow her TikTok, @syds_garage, you might be missing the true essence of Sydney Sweeney’s magnetic moxie. There, the double Emmy-nominated star of Euphoria and The White Lotus chronicles her passion for restoring her vintage Ford Bronco—offering Auto 101 tutorials on everything from how to check tire pressure to jumping a dead battery. The feed is classic Sweeney. Behind that perfect pout; big, expressive eyes; and petite frame, she is deceptively strong in every sense of the word. Not to be underestimated, the girl’s got grit.
It is this unflinching tenacity that enables Sweeney to fully transform for the titular role in the spellbinding film Reality. The critically acclaimed, HBO-acquired docudrama unravels the story of Reality Winner, a former American intelligence specialist convicted for the unauthorized leak of government information to the media about Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Based on the FBI interrogation transcript, Sweeney’s portrayal of Winner is perfectly paced. We imagine the final crescendo will be an Emmy nod. Few female actors of today could make the deadlifting, CrossFit-loving, multilingual character feel believable, but my money is on Sweeney actually being able to go toe-to-toe with the real-life Winner. Trained in mixed martial arts, there is so much more than meets the eye.
“Reality is such a fascinating character because of how complex she is. She embodies all sorts of interesting contradictions that defy easy assumptions,” offers Sweeney. “One of the unique things about this movie, and why I was so intrigued to play Reality, was that it truly was a snapshot of a woman’s life at such an extraordinary moment. You have all the dialogue that comes from the actual transcript, a tangible record of this interrogation, and different people can look at this and see entirely different things,” she explains. “It was a compelling and complex story and character I wanted to explore.”
Raised in Spokane, Wash., Sweeney has been open about the circumstances of her upbringing. “My family’s financial struggles definitely impacted my decisions as I became an adult, but I grew, and I learned a lot not just from my childhood but in this industry as well,” Sweeney shares. “My parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me, and I’ve always been motivated to want to be able to take care of my family and people dear to me.”
Worlds away from how she grew up, Sweeney now shares her success with her close family. “They all watch different projects, but I do know that my mom and grandmas watch everything,” she says. “They are very proud of me. They have seen how hard I’ve worked and are so excited for all the opportunities and experiences I get to have. It’s definitely a different dynamic and a world that is so far from how or where I grew up. But I try to share it with them, and I hope to inspire my cousins to want to dream big and explore the world.”
At the mere age of 11, Sweeney famously presented a five-year business plan to convince her family it made sense for her to audition for Zombies of Mass Destruction. Her drive has been in high gear ever since, with a decidedly real take on what powers this drive. “Myself. My mom. My future. My haters. My lovers. I’m driven by all the forces that want me to succeed, but also those who don’t,” she shares. “I think it’s important to love what you do. If you love something, I don’t think you’ll feel like burning out, because you want to keep pushing yourself to work hard and do more. I find I thrive and excel the most when my schedule becomes hectic. But, I also have a great team and home that keeps me levelheaded. I am very fortunate to have such an incredible circle of people in my life who love me, and I love them.”
Only 25 years old, with the wild success of Euphoria and The White Lotus catapulting her to superstardom, Sweeney is learning to navigate the blinding glare of fame—balancing success with her own social anxiety. “It’s a step-by-step process,” she says. “No one really tells you or prepares you for how any of this goes. I’m quite a homebody, but learning how to feel confident and freer these days.” An icon for her generation, she also recognizes the platform she has to help others feel more at ease in their own skin. “There is no box, no limit and no rules when it comes to expressing yourself through fashion or makeup. Don’t let anyone dim your light,” she says. “I wish I could tell my younger self to take the risks she was too afraid to take.”
Now a face for brands ranging from Ford and Bai to Frankies Bikinis, Armani Beauty and Laneige, Sweeney is one busy bee indeed. While she has become a top-tier style and beauty star, Sweeney’s authentic transparency is certainly part of the appeal. “My own personal beauty routine has always been minimalistic,” she says. “Because I go from set to photo shoots and carpets where I’m usually wearing a lot of makeup, it’s nice to give my skin a breather when I’m not working. I’ve always loved a good blush and mascara (concealer when I need to cover up any unwanted friends), but other than that, it’s always been cleaner. My skincare has been a journey, but for the last two years, I’ve been using Laneige. The brand has changed not only my complexion without makeup, but when I am wearing makeup, it does not separate on my face anymore.”
She is quick to note it is not all glitz and glamour. “I think being in the public eye, there’s bound to be misconceptions because the public only sees a piece of one’s life. And, usually, it’s the most glamorous part, like at a premiere or a photo shoot. There’s a lot of hard work to even get to those moments, and then they’re as fast as the flash of the camera,” she says. “I started auditioning when I was 12 years old; it didn’t happen overnight for me. I think people forget that.”
An exceptional combination of tenacious and talented, Sweeney’s star is simply unstoppable. “I think everybody must fight and work hard to be taken seriously, especially as a female,” she says. “Women face a lot of obstacles, but I’ve always liked to prove people wrong.”
Photography by: Photographed by Elias Tahan; Stylist: Molly Dickson; Hair by Bobby Eliot; Makeup by Melissa Hernandez; Nail Artist: Zola Ganzorigt