Taryn Manning Does It All
Taryn Manning is exhausted. Consider the slew of film auditions, big time fashion shows in support of her Williamsburg-friendly line Born Uniqorn, getting her party on with the likes of, you know, Paris Hilton and company, and now, the March 10 release of her electro pop funk of an LP A Million Trillion Stars. As the distinctive voice fronting brother/sister duo Boomkat, Taryn’s proving that the whole actress/singer/fashion designer thing doesn’t always have to conjure up J.Lo (and we’re thankful for that, as JLO jeans still haunt us). You’ve likely come across Manning’s fearless acting chops as the no-bullshit prostitute who rocked Bo Derek cornrows in Hustle & Flow. With all of Manning’s film roles, even as Britney Spear’s knocked-up BFF in the chic-flick Crossroads, Manning keeps it real, and equally as real in life–whether it’s on the silver screen, as heard through her throaty, soulful pipes, or through an e-mail. No publicist or puppet strings of any kind hold Manning back; she’s the all around real deal in the unfortunate Taylor Swift/Katy Perry world in which we live. We talked about her Large Marge nightmares, Lynne Spears requesting her MySpace friendship, and her regrets for turning down make-out sessions with Charlize Theron.
You have a whole lot going on. Who were you when you woke up this morning? Today I woke up and my hair and makeup girl came over and she did it for the day because I have two big auditions — not a cattle call, but parts that are, you know, really awesome. But it’s really competitive so when I go into these auditions I’m seeing other actors that are my contemporaries that I really admire. I take a lot of pride in my work so I always get my hair and makeup done. But right now, I’m with my music manager. The official release for A Million Trillion Stars is coming soon so I’m just working on all of that stuff. So today I’m more of the actress-singer but I’m very tired because I just did two amazing runway shows for my clothing line. One in Vegas was for the huge trade show, “Magic.” It’s just a time when everyone goes and everyone has a booth — all of the buyers come from all over the world to see all the lines at one time. I also had a huge fashion show at Tao. And I had a big, big, giant dinner that I hosted with my partner, Tara Jane. So, I went to Vegas, then the next morning at the crack of dawn, flew home for this amazing Elle magazine runway show that had my line and Russell Simmons’. Paris Hilton and Queen Latifah are good friends of mine and they came so it drew lot of press as you can imagine. But, today I’m the singer actress. I’m really tired today. Do you believe in R&R? I told my mom: “Mom, I don’t understand. I’m sleeping 8 hours but everyday I’m not feeling that good” and she actually said “Your adrenal glands are drained.” Having to be so on and up, like “Hey, how you doing? I’m Taryn!” to buyers who only speak Japanese or French and you’re trying so hard to have a conversation with them and it’s tough. But things are really good. I’m really happy with my life, and I’m really enjoying all of the endeavors. I remember seeing you rocking stars on your face for your first album, Boomkatalog One, and now your latest LP is called A Million Trillion Stars … coincidence, or do you have a big time penchant for stars? Yeah, I still do that when I play with Boomkat — I still love to put a star on my face. It’s just something I started doing when I was really young — I don’t know, but I’m definitely like Rainbow Brite and my friends call me Rainbow Brite. My clothing line is called Born Uniqorn, I have a unicorn tattoo, I have a tattoo of a ghetto blaster on me. I wear stars around my eyes. I’ve always just been kind of funky. It’s funny now seeing Lady Gaga wearing all of that space stuff. It’s cool, it’s on another level. I just like having that trademark to separate the actress Taryn from the singer Taryn. Now I’m in music mode because sometimes there’s the actor-turned-musician and musician-turned-actor. I’m not turned anything. I am a musician, I’ve been one my entire life. Me and my brother are, my father was, and I’m an actor. I’ve studied acting really hard, and went to a lot of schools for acting. So I believe I’m legitimately an all around little entertainer.
What can we expect from A Million Trillion Stars? The title came from a dream. Our first album was called Boomkatalog One because me and my brother have so many songs, so obviously we were gonna call the next albums Boomkatalog 2 and 3. But I didn’t always love that. I just didn’t know what to name it. It’s so eclectic and it’s been so long since I put out of a record and all of a sudden I had a dream. Do you know Large Marge from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? She drove a truck and when Pee-Wee got in, they were talking and she looked over and her eyes would bug out of her head and she kind of turned demonic. So in my dream, she was giving me a ride in her semi. I was like, “I just don’t know what to name my record.” All of a sudden, she turned her head like in The Exorcist and her eyes bugged out of her head and she said “It’s called A Million Trillion Stars and if don’t name it that, I’ll kill you!” And I was like, “Yes, ma’am!” So I woke up, and that’s what I named it. It’s super cool and it speaks to me. So thanks Large Marge! But I never had a dream do that before where I’ve actually taken a lesson from it and used it. Do you find it a lot easier collaborating with your bro? We both respect each other and what we bring to the table. It can be hard sometimes hanging with your brother so often but we’re pretty close and he’s a really funny guy. And we’re the exact opposite, the Yin and the Yang. We’re two completely different breeds of humans which is good because I’m sort of the social kind of front person and he definitely goes home right after work and makes music — that whole mysterious artist sort of thing. So it’s a good match.
You were in will.i.am’s celeb-filled, pro-Obama “Yes We Can” video — how was being apart of something like that? That was really cool. Actually, I didn’t realize quite the impact it was gonna have at all. My friend is a really big club promoter in LA. She became very active when Obama became a candidate. She’s friends with will.i.am and she called all of her celebrity friends and I kinda just went and did it. It was really cool, there were awesome celebs in the studio. But I didn’t really know the impact it would have actually. It won an Emmy for I think best web something … some sort of award. But will.i.am is so intelligent. I believe that the video is another reason why Obama was elected. I really do.
Have any musical dream collabs? It’d be cool if Prince would write me a song. I love Prince. I’d love to work with Timbaland one day. I think he’s pretty cool. I love the way he like collaborates with offbeat artists like Nelly Furtado and Chris Cornell and sort of recreates an awesome sound for them. But Prince was my first concert when I was like five. He’s definitely a big influence for me.
Does it piss you off when other actors take a stab at singing who really aren’t that good or aren’t successful? Like Scarlett Johansson attempt at covering Tom Waits. Or do you think people are getting over that? Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him are pretty legit. It doesn’t piss me off. I’m definitely a supporter of any artist being an artist. I’m not someone who judges or is like “Oh gosh, here’s another actress trying to sing” because I get that sometimes and I don’t like the way it makes me feel. And you never know, a lot of these actors that are singing could have been singing before their acting. Or now having money or getting tired of the same outlet, they go on and explore their singing abilities. Not everyone has to have an amazing voice to be a singer. I’m not Whitney Houston by any respect but I love to sing, I love to write music. And I believe I have a lot to offer. Yeah, acting happened first but no one knows my history and upbringing and I don’t really care what people think. I decided lately that I’m gonna do it because I love it. I have fans and they like it. I definitely dream of it going to a bigger higher level so I can tour the world and reach further. You mentioned Scarlett. She’s got a pretty good voice … kind of dark and indie but that’s what she’s into. I mean, Joaquin Phoenix played Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, so he obviously has a musical side to him. He’s definitely a great actor too. I love him.
You’ve worked with two of the biggest music superstars – -Britney Spears and Eminem — who both had pretty public downfalls and now subsequent comebacks. Did you learn anything from them behind the scenes, and did they offer you any advice about super stardom? Are you afraid of becoming too big after seeing what happened to them? Eminem’s a very, very private person. You know, he doesn’t go places where you can be with him. After the 8 Mile premiere, he went home and didn’t wanna go to the after party. I don’t know much about him except he’s really nice, a big goofball — really funny. And every chance he had, he was writing lyrics in his notebook. To me, he represents a true artist that had all this inner dialogue that he wanted to get out on paper. Who knows? He could have been writing the soundtrack or a hit record. I mean, all his records were hits. It was very cool to be in that completely and cool of him to watch tapes of actresses and have a part in choosing me to play that role. Same with Britney — she saw the tapes too and chose me. And it makes me feel I’m on that level of talent. But I also think that I learned so much since I was young that I don’t think I would have any kind of public downfall. I don’t see that happening with me in particular. Britney’s been doing it since she was like 13. It’s kind of fair that she had a little bit of a meltdown. I mean, she’s been through a lot. I think she’s gonna be alright now. She’s an intelligent girl. But it was pretty incredible to work with them … definitely a highlight of career… so far. I’ll admit, I heart Crossroads and totes shed a tear (or two) after your character lost her baby … That’s funny you said that because Crossroads was on TV last night and my mom and my brother were watching it and I was like “Why are you watching that?!” But it got such a bad rap but it’s actually a sweet, little movie. And then I woke up to Britney’s mom requesting my friendship on MySpace … So, Crossroads was on last night and I woke up to “Lynne Spears wants to be your friend!” Tell me about you and your BFF’s line, Born Uniqorn. I hear LiLo’s a fan. Can us little people and recessionistas afford it? It’s very price-conscious right now. We’re keeping prices lower these days. It’s just cute and really for any girl. We try to make something for everyone to be honest. The more cleaner cut and the more simple bodies sell more than when we were trying to do something that’s kind of edgy. We really learned how to streamline our clothing line. What people wear on the East Coast can be kind of traditional; California is kind of funky. And Middle America is looking both East and West. We really had to perfect to make our sales continue to be big. We had to really sort of not style, not make the clothing for ourselves but make it for the masses. The spelling is not the traditional unicorn, it’s uniqorn — like “born unique.” It’s been a lot of fun and was just a hobby I did on my down time with my best friend of 17 years. It just kind of turned into something that got a little bit more serious and became another business of mine. I enjoy it thoroughly but it’s hard, hard work. I really hope that we can sustain it and make it happen for a long time. Should we expect to see you at the tents … er, at Lincoln Center, in the spring? We were asked to last year but we weren’t quite ready. Now we’ve done a couple so we feel like we can take on a New York Fashion Week. We’ve come a long way, but we feel like we’re really ready to keep going.
Who are your fashion icons? I definitely respect Kate Moss’ fashion sense. I think she always has the coolest outfits on–not trying too hard but always looks great. Nicole Richie’s whole … whatever happened to her was pretty amazing. I look for her for fashion ideas. I know a lot of it has to do with Rachel Zoe, but Nicole has a great frame to wear some of the things she wears. As for the classier kind of actresses — Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, and Cate Blanchett look great as far as the red carpet. But for more funky, Nicole Ritchie, Kate Moss, and also, I love Gwen Stefani. I wouldn’t dress like her but she wears whatever she wants, kind of out there, but I love it. I look up to her because of her music and her clothing line and she’s an actress–we have a lot in common.
And where do you like to head after a busy day for some grub? For breakfast, I like Hugo’s, and for lunch, La La’s. Some of my favorites for dinner are Ago, Madeo, and El Compadre. You’re making me hungry … Where do you go to get your music fix? Spaceland, Viper Room, Largo, and the Roxy.
Are there any film roles you would have died to play? There’s two roles I auditioned for that I wish I would have done. I sort of passed the one part to be in Monster to play Charlize Theron’s girlfriend, Christina Ricci’s part. But I didn’t want to play gay at the time. I don’t know why, I just was very ignorant and I didn’t know. But I would have done anything to play that role. I could care less now. But at the time, I was like 22 and I was scared. And I also auditioned for Million Dollar Baby and remember wanting that so bad. I know that’s kind of the role that I could do really well. Acting wise, every thing’s going well. I have a couple offers but they’re all pending. I don’t want to say what they are but I’m really excited about the record coming out and traveling a bit for that. What’s your take on trashy celeb blogs? I’ve read some stuff about myself that’s been hard to read — judging my looks or whatever, saying mean things about me like I’m not their type or they don’t like the way I talk or the way I sing. But there’s also been some really kind things that I appreciate. It’s a double edged sword. But it’s fine. You gotta be liked and disliked — that’s what makes the world go ’round; that’s what makes a superstar. You’ve gotta be controversial but you can’t be perfect. A lot of times, it’s just insecure people that just wish they were different people in their own lives who blog and spend time being negative. It’s pretty sad when people just sit on their computers and be negative. It’s a pretty sad quality of life but if that’s what floats their boat then so be it.