23-year-old Hailee Steinfeld is an artist of ambidexterity, showcasing supremacy across an impressive repertoire of on-screen roles in film and television, most notably in the award-winning movies True Grit and The Edge of Seventeen, while also boasting a long-standing discography in pop-leaning music. Currently executive producing and starring in Alena Smith’s historical drama series Dickinson as the trailblazing female poet of the 1850s Emily Dickinson and simultaneously riding the success of her newly released EP Half Written Story, Steinfeld is no stranger to balancing a multitude of highly-acclaimed, creative roles.
Garnering an Academy nomination at just 14 years old for her supporting role in True Grit, Steinfeld’s adolescent growth largely occurred in the spotlight, and a majority of her learned virtues stem from her various character embodiments. “There are characters that I’ve played that have taught me so much about who I am,” she says. “Even though I’m not necessarily going through exactly what these characters are going through as I play them out in my real life, I still get to grow through those experiences and learn about myself every step of the way.” For Steinfeld, acting provides an exploratory insight into her own identity as she enters different mindscapes in pursuit of perfecting her entertainment abilities.
On the essence of her fearless, history-based character in Apple TV+’s Dickinson, Steinfeld recognizes the importance of both upholding the statutes of the path-forging poet’s society-shifting work and the modernization of her narrative for today’s world, citing the role as a contemporary reflection of issues in the 21st century. “One thing I love so much about this show is that it is in no way putting anyone in a box,” she says. “I think that we are moving closer and closer to that in our world today. What’s so wild about this show is that it takes place hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and yet we’re still dealing with some of the issues that they were then. Our show looks at that time through a modern lens.”
On music’s terrain, Steinfeld is continuously discovering her sound with each studio session she traverses, and her latest project, Half Written Story, is certainly one of her most eye-opening bodies of work to-date. “I find that I’m in this constant experimental process when it comes to music,” she explains. “With [Half Written Story], I really just wanted to make songs that sounded the way I felt when I was going through what it is I’m talking about in each song, and I feel like I accomplished that.”
Seeking inspiration entirely from her personal experiences and aspiring to instill an unwavering sense of confidence in her listeners, Steinfeld harmonizes the lessons she’s learned from heartbreak, specifically on her chart-topping track “I Love You’s.” She expounds, “The ultimate message behind that song is realizing the importance of making a decision for yourself and sticking with it. I think when we experience pain or heartbreak we’ll look for something to distract us from that. I mean, I have in the past, anyways. I finally got to a point where I was like, I just need to regain my sense of self here.” Hoping to share that epiphany with the world, Steinfeld’s musical prowess is one of melodic self-growth and good-natured, lyrical wisdom.
At a safe distance, photographer Connor Franta captured Hailee Steinfeld in tranquil, self-isloation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, below. Leaving V with a final word of advice in these times of uncertainty, Steinfeld soothingly states, “Do your best to maintain a positive attitude and, most importantly, breathe.”