ART feature - Below Her Mouth
In Conversation with Below Her Mouth's Erika Linder
Known for exploring gender fluidity - having modelled for both men's and women's collections - is the Swedish model, actor and creative Erika Linder. The twenty-seven year old who once posed as Leonardo Dicaprio for Candy Magazine, is what we here at PIBE would describe as a powerful influencer within the media; sending out strong messages to women and men to challenge societal norms, which she voices wonderfully through her modelling art work and film.
Newly released contemporary film Below Her Mouth, directed by April Mullen, sees an affair unfold between characters Dallas and Jasmine - depicted by Erika and co-star Natalie Krill - and deals with themes of repressed sexual orientation and the realities of same sex relationships in current society. Set in Toronto, Canada, Below Her Mouth gives us an intimate look into the steamy journey that develops between Dallas and Jasmine, containing explicit and raunchy content that sells the complex tale to the audience.
In tune with the upcoming UK release of Below Her Mouth, PIBE catches up with Erika about her thoughts on the impact of the modelling industry and her transcendence into film.
First of all, what propelled you into the modelling industry?
I was fourteen years old when I got asked to be a model. I wasn't interested at the time so I ended up not doing it until I was twenty-one. I'd finished high school and completed one year at Stockholm university, and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to travel the world and explore - like most people that age. So, I reached out to the agency in Stockholm that had scouted me and it all went from there.
You've been renowned for possessing a 'gender fluid' aesthetic as a model. How important is it for the modelling industry to challenge gender norms?
I definitely think it's important. The fashion industry has such a huge impact on our society. Everybody wants to "belong" in whatever way they can and I think challenging the gender norms helps to inspire people.
Taking your own 'identity' into account, how would you describe it?
When I first started doing men's fashion, I wanted to do something that was different to what people were doing at the time, but to me personally, it felt very natural and comfortable. I like to play around with different characters that I have within me, but it needs to be authentic. So, my identity in the fashion world and my personal life kind of go hand in hand. I've always been the same and plan on staying that way. I dress in whatever makes me feel comfortable and I feel inspired on a daily basis.
I've seen that you are transcending into the film industry, what made you choose that route?
Like I mentioned before, I wanted to take my career to a whole new level but didn't know how or what to do. I always wanted to do music at some point. I never planned on becoming an actor, I sort of fell into it more or less. The film team had reached out to my modelling agency about me coming in for an audition, so I did. I had no experience and I hadn't auditioned before, and I went in for what I believe was around seven auditions. I got the part after three months - it was crazy.
It's been said that people who choose to act have hang ups about who they are as a person, can you comment on that?
Yes, especially in the beginning. My career has changed drastically in the last year and it makes you think a lot about what you do and who you are. It's not pleasant, more of a downer to be honest.
"It's never too late to find yourself"
Below Her Mouth tells the story of a young woman who has an affair with someone (yourself) of the same sex and realises more about her sexual orientation than she had imagined. Can you tell us if you think this is an issue for women/men in society today?
I don't think it's an issue for anyone ever to realise and figure out who they are, no matter how young or old. It's never too late to find yourself.
Do you think people feel oppressed by set guidelines on who we should romantically involve ourselves with?
I think it's all individual and it depends on your beliefs. I can just speak for myself, and I have never felt oppressed by any set guidelines.
Love is the greatest mystery of all. How do you describe it?
Love is something that needs to find you. You can't look for it because you won't find it. Love is something you really can't explain; it comes and it goes without warning.
Do you think by labelling ourselves we are closer to finding who we are, or do you think it sets us further off track?
I don't like labelling. Again, I think it's individual and whatever people prefer but we want to move on from labelling. It shouldn't matter [about what we are] and I think everyone should celebrate their lives whichever way they choose to live it, [providing] if you're not harming anyone.
"There was something electric and special about our chemistry that the two of us didn't even notice"
How did the casting for Below Her Mouth come around? And what made you want to star in it?
The director found a video of me on YouTube and basically said that she wanted me to do it, but I had to convince the rest too. Pleasing the producers is the toughest task. I went in to read with Yesi Ramirez - the casting director - in LA and after that I personally met with the director, screenwriter and producers for the film. I then went in for chemistry reads and auditions in LA and Toronto. I read with at least five potential Jasmines in Toronto and that's how they casted Natalie [Krill] as Jasmine. There was something electric and special about our chemistry that the two of us didn't even notice.
I wanted to star in it because I wanted to take my career to another level. The script and story was solid, raw and authentic. Dallas and Jasmine are so relatable to real life and I wanted to do the character justice - I knew I could do it. It was a risk because of the explicit content and it scared me to a certain extent but I am not interested in doing things that don't scare me or that I don't believe in.
Lastly, in tune with our theme 'ENIGMA', do you think each and every one of us is enigmatic?
I think that each and every one of us has their own life story that could be mysterious and interesting in its own right. It shapes who you are and that [in itself] is enigmatic. Some stories are more interesting than others but it's all individual.
Words / JESSIE PINK