Millie Bobby Brown is the ultimate teen game-changer: bold, outspoken, and defying gender beauty norms. Ignore her at your peril!
In many ways, Millie Bobby Brown is like every other 15-year-old. Her phone is a constant attachment (it was tucked under her legs during our interview), onesies are her favourite clothing, and she spends free time chilling with her sister, Ava, aged seven, watching Disney’s The Lion King and Matilda. But Millie has quite a few qualities that set her apart from the majority of teens, too. Most strikingly, of course, she’s a Hollywood megastar. Netflix smash Stranger Things made her a household name when she was just 11, and in the next year she’ll star in Godzilla vs. Kong and take the title role in Enola Holmes, playing Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister. She has more than 28 million followers on Instagram… did we mention that she’s only 15?!
And it’s not just on the big screen that she’s making waves. Millie – or Mills, as she’s called by friends and family – wants to use her platform to do good, joining the ranks of teenage activists and disrupters who’ve become a force for positive change in recent years (the mass school walkouts over climate change being a case in point). Having recently been appointed UNICEF’s youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador, she plans to use her voice to raise awareness of issues that affect young people: lack of education, safe places to play and learn and the impact of violence, bullying and poverty.
So it comes as no surprise that she has a strong work ethic: ‘One job isn’t enough for me. I’m a prime multi-tasker. I’m also proactive. As soon as I have an idea, I’ve got to try and fulfil it as soon as possible,’ she says. Her latest venture? Launching her own skincare and beauty range, florence by mills, exclusively in Boots. Naturally, for this Gen-Z crusader, it’s cruelty-free, inclusive, and gives back. We sat down with Millie in her family home to talk about the range, gender-neutral beauty and the rise of the teenage game-changer.
Millie on… entrepreneurship
‘I came up with the idea for my beauty range when my dad and I were on a plane from Atlanta to Argentina. I was practising applying make-up – I’m a bit of a fanatic – and while I looked great, I didn’t feel great. I told my dad I felt there was a gap in the market for skincare and make-up aimed solely at young people. I knew I could create something that sat in the middle and “spoke” to people like me and my friends. Something that’s healthy and good for your skin, but also fun and still represents youth. As soon as we landed, I phoned everyone and said I had to do something of my own.’ Fast-forward two years and Millie has created a range of 15 products, including skincare and cosmetics. It has chic, matte purple packaging – her favourite colour – and a fragrance that’s a mix of lavender, rose and cucumber, her favourite scents. ‘As a young person and entrepreneur, I wanted to be taken seriously. And it’s been hard, these past six years, working non-stop to prove to myself and to society that young people deserve a seat at the table.’ The range is named after her great-grandmother, who passed away before Millie was born, ‘I’m like her. She was loud, opinionated and didn’t stop talking. She loved people and she loved the world. And that’s me.’
Millie on… ethical beauty
Making sure florence by mills was vegan and cruelty-free was essential to Millie’s vision. ‘I love animals: I have two tortoises, three dogs and a cat. My favourite animal is the orca whale, and my little sister and I are always in the garden saving insects. I knew the brand had to be cruelty-free. It was a no-brainer.’ The brand also gives back through their support of the Olivia Hope Foundation*, a US charity to fund childhood cancer research, in memory of her friend Olivia, who died from a rare and aggressive form of the disease.
Millie on… gender stereotypes
When it came to shaving her head for her role as Eleven in Stranger Things, Millie didn’t give it a second thought. ‘I wanted to work and had no problem with getting rid of my hair, which was long at the time. I told my mum, “It’s just hair; it doesn’t define me as a girl.” She said, “You’ll be bullied and called names.” And that’s what happened. I was called names in the street. But instead of bringing me down, it gave me the light I needed to be humble and to understand that not everyone’s life is easy. As a society, we’re conditioned to see girls with long hair and boys with short hair, but I’ve always wanted to go against that. In this respect, I’m not very good at following the rules. It was a liberating experience, and I’d do it again.’
Millie on… online bullying
Using her fame to speak out about and tackle issues that are close to her, starting with cyber-bullying, is important to Millie. ‘I get bullied online a lot by older people. It can be hurtful. I’m lucky that I’m the type of person who can brush it off. I’ll often respond to a comment with something like: “I’m so sorry you live a life that’s filled with so much hate, because I live my life with so much love.” My parents have taught me to love and not to dislike and hate people.’
Millie on… teenage game-changers
‘The phrase “children should be seen and not heard”: that’s never been who I am. My parents have never said that; they’ve always encouraged and motivated me to speak up and to never stop.’ And now, as a UNICEF ambassador, she has an official capacity to do just that. ‘To have the title is such an honour. It’s an exciting time to be young, because now my voice is being heard and I can try to spark a voice in other young people. It’s amazing to be part of an organisation that gives a voice to every child.’
And she knows she has an army of teens on her side. ‘It’s not just me out there. Malala Yousafzai is one of the most inspirational young women I know. She stands up for something I feel passionate about: that every young person deserves an education. In different cultures and places, young girls don’t get the education they deserve, and I think it’s one of my biggest challenges and missions. Look at Greta Thunberg. I watched her speech to the EU, and it had me smiling all day. We’ve come a long way, but still there are those who believe young people aren’t as important. However, we’re slowly forming a generation that will be heard.’
Millie on… being a role model
Take a quick scroll through Millie’s Instagram feed and you find posts that are funny, silly and full of joy. ‘My social media represents positivity. You go there to laugh and see a real human being. I don’t like posting things that don’t feel like me.’ I ask if her mum checks what she’s putting up. ‘She trusts me. She’s not on Instagram, but she’ll take a photo of me and say, “This is who you are – put that up.” She helps me stay true to who I am.’ Her parting advice to fellow teens? ‘It doesn’t matter how young you are, you still have your own voice and your opinion. And you can stand up for yourself.’ If only there were more adults who thought like Millie Bobby Brown.