25 December 2018
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When Hailee Steinfeld took to the stage at the MTV Music awards 2018 last month, it was natural placement for the 22-year-old. The actress, songstress and host for the night commandeered the stage with an unmistakable demeanour — the kind of striking presence embodied only by great showmen.

As Steinfeld’s mini dress, entirely encrusted in glitter caught the light — and along with it, the audience’s attention — her ineffable personality shone brighter, engaging viewers in her every word. On the same night, she returned onstage to perform her single “Back to life”. The earworm, which features in the soundtrack of what also happens to be the latest of her filmography: hollywood blockbuster “Bumblebee” — a spin-off of the “Transformers” series.

Every bit a seasoned performer, Steinfeld enthralled the crowd as she manoeuvered the sprawling stage all while nailing dance choreography without missing a beat. Every move in her performance is a reminder of her immaculate talent, equally impactful when stripped down from a showy production to an unadulterated silver screen role.

At just 22 years old, the Los Angeles native counts more than a decade of experience in the entertainment business. Her accolades, too, go way beyond her years.

“I watched ‘Paper Moon’ when I was eight and started acting shortly after. My parents felt it was important for me to study so they challenged me to commit to classes for a year. We made a deal that if I was still passionate about acting at the end of the year, we could explore getting an agent,” says Steinfeld in an e-mail interview with T Singapore.

The fire in her belly burnt stronger with time. When Steinfeld was 14 years old, she became an Oscar-nominated actress for her role in Amercian revisionist film “True Grit” (2010), later earned herself a Golden Globe award nomination for the coming-of-age classic, “The Edge of Seventeen” (2016), and along the way established herself as an identifiable figure in tinseltown through her role in the widely popular installments of “Pitch Perfect” amongst other films.

In a seemingly natural evolution succeeding her performance in “Pitch Perfect 2” (2015) and “Pitch Perfect 3” (2017), Steinfeld dabbled further into music with a self-empowering debut single titled “Love Myself” in 2015, closely followed by the release of an extended play, “Haiz” (2015) and a slew of other singles in the following years.

Steinfeld has only picked up speed as the years have gone by, simultaneously paving a career trajectory in acting and singing since her adolescent years. She barely has had time to stop for breath since the early days of her career, and apportioning the sacred “me time” has been no easy feat for the overachiever either.

“Learning to take time for yourself is really hard when you’re devoted to your career,” she says.

Yet, as she arrived on the set of T Singapore’s cover shoot in New York, with her baggage in tow (packed with her neccessities for another shoot scheduled later that day), Steinfeld displayed no hints of exhaustion — not from the red-eye, much less, years of relentless hustle. Her almond-shaped dark brown eyes were fresh with unbridled enthusiasm as she exchanged greetings with the team before sauntering over to get her hair and makeup done.

“I have always had high expectations for myself and i could never have dreamed that my life would turn out the way it has thus far,” she says.

Neck-deep in a cultural zeitgeist that ties child artists to an almost unavoidable downward spiral in the later years, Steinfeld leads the way of a new generation of well-rounded young stars who have grown up and into the limelight. At its core, fame steers the young and famous from a life path of normalcy into an isolated realm of celebrity. Albeit a difficult pill to swallow, and mature beyond her years, Steinfeld takes it all in her stride.

“Because I started acting at such a young age, I have no comparison (of how else life would have been). But I love the path I’m on and wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. In the madness that is the business of Hollywood, the fast-rising star has filtered the noise, honing in on a purpose deeper than mindless entertainment. “I hope I can be an example for people that setting goals, working hard and staying focused can pay off. If you’re passionate about something, be relentlessly [so],” she says.

Exemplary of the messages she preaches, Steinfeld is every bit the mover and shaker, unflinchingly willing to get the job done even if it meant putting herself in the back burner. On set at the cover shoot, she opted to work through lunch to make the shots, rather than exercising what could be considered the birth right of every pop star — cutting the shoot short.

Her music too doubles as a platform for expression; just take a look at the lyrics of her singles, where a common theme of female empowerment and self-love riffs through her melodies. A woman with a voice and a message who counts a burgeoning following on Instagram (10.9 million followers as of press time), she has risen in the ranks as a leader of her own cadre.

What is deemed a weighty responsibility is but the normality for Steinfeld, who has spent most part of her childhood charting career milestones and maintaining accountability to a vastly impressionable fan base.

“My fans are incredibly loving and supporting and i’m so thankful for them,” says Steinfeld.

As her latest film, “Bumblebee” opens in cinemas this month, Steinfeld’s schedule is already brimming with projects for the months ahead.

“I’ve been spending my days playing Emily Dickinson for Apple. The show, ‘Dickinson’, will be out next year. She’s been an amazing character to play but the corsets have been a challenge!” she says. Also in the pipelines is a studio album she is said to be in the midst of wrapping up.

Charged with the fervour of youth and undying desire for greatness, Steinfeld is on the fast track to becoming an icon of her time. “I work very hard but I also feel very lucky,” she says. With her feet planted firmly on the ground, she continues to aim for the stars.

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