Rainsford | From This Fantasy to That, That Fantasy to This
Rainsford | all images by Low-Field |FASHION CREDITS: STUDIO NEBO jacket and L’AGENCE bodysuit.
When rosé runs out, Veuve Clicquot is poured into plastic. No clinking. Bottoms up. A proper cheers to celebrate the approaching end of The Ten Hour Photo Shoot is transacted by the enthusiastic gyrations of distressed-leather-clad sharp shooters and stylists to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” A shy-ish Rainey Qualley, better known as Rainsford, her musical alias, meanders through the rooms of her full house, magically sporting a new look each time she turns the corner. The place is a veritable bestiary of fantastic creatures: a wooden serpent on a coffee table spits plumes of incense smoke into the air, framed pictures of unicorns hang stacked on top of each other. Books, her dog, roams around while an unseen creature—presumably a cat, but unconfirmed— meows outside. She concedes the center of attention to the Spotify playlist and an increasingly high-decibel discussion of the latest LA hypochondriac’s obsession (hiatal hernias), but someone as magnetic as Rainsford can’t evade notice for long.
She was always going to be seen. As the eldest daughter of Andie MacDowell, from whom she inherited her focused smolder and movie-star knockout looks, and with the pipes and innate creative sense that leads to idiosyncratic indie-pop singles like July, 2017’s “Rendezvous,” it was only a matter of time. The first encounter with the actress for most audiences was her scene-stealing appearance in Mad Men’s psychedelic 7th season, where she appeared as a nervous young model named Cindy. She dons a foxy fur coat and little else for the carefully surveying eyes of Don Draper, channeling glitz and glamour as his Mannequin Of The Moment. It’s a sexy opening salvo for a promising on-screen career. But right now the dry martini is returned to the prop shelf in exchange for a microphone; the script swapped for a page of self-penned lyrics. Rainsford is stepping out with a new EP up her sleeve and her sights set on the charts.
Rainsford began releasing tracks to Soundcloud under in 2016. Her voice is the first thing you notice. It’s soulful and rich, bearing traces of her many roamings—a touch of twang from her ancestral home- state of North Carolina, a glimmer of New York crooner where she Beatnik-ed for a year, and finally an ethereal coo that nods to sunny LA, where she is currently creatively embedded. Ghosts of the past are not a cliché here. Rainsford appreciates the nomadic aspect of her family’s American diaspora story. “I do love the South. I’m into ghosts and stuff, and there are lots of ghost stories and history there. I miss the place that I grew up, the friends that were there, but I don’t look back...it’s not the same anymore.”
L’AGENCE shorts and jacket and CHANEL boots.
Her usual partner-in-crime is sister Margaret Qualley, another innately talented MacDowell offspring seen via an HBO sub as the tenacious Jill Garvey in The Leftovers. Rehashing a trippy time spent in Tokyo with her sister, Rainsford reveals a deeply held fantasy: being able to “disappear” into a place where no one knows her— across international datelines, condensed into bento box-sized hotels, inked discretely onto a piece of paper, keyed into a subtle melody. She ends the anecdote with a sarcastic question asked of friends and family when they called to interrupt her disappearing act, a punchline picked up from the jarring time difference that put her nearly a day ahead of her would-be stalkers: “What do you, dear friends, family, and lovers, want to know about the future?”
The talented sister act took a DIY approach to co- directing the video for “Rendezvous,” a crisp, dancy summer jam. “We had to go to all these different production places, put up all the lights and sand bags and get different poles. And then we didn’t have insurance for it to be in a certain place overnight. Then there’s unpacking it all and setting up all the shots. It’s a lot,” she tells me, laughing. The kinky, voyeuristic video concept, which shows a decidedly mature couple engaging in a lusty tryst at a park while Rainsford watches with interest through a pair of binoculars, was created in collaboration with best friend and writing partner Nick Dungo. During a break at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, they became the audience to “two old people making out and rolling around in the grass.” Then they decided to fan the flames: “We started singing Marvin Gaye!”
The video for “Rendezvous” portrays a play-by-play of the anecdote, and the hilarity of Rainsford playing peeping siren behind the lovesick geriatric couple is both sweet and strange. Speaking of love, is there any in the cards for Rainsford? “He’s in the kitchen,” she says matter-of- factly, and it is only then that I realize that the sharply dressed gentleman I saw kicking back in the kitchen during the shoot is Rainsford’s current crush and creative partner, musician and producer Twin Shadow. No further interrogation necessary. Finding love in Lost Angeles can seem a fantastical prospect. With that taken care of, what else could be possible in this modern fairy-tale?
“In my fantasy world, you would be able to stop and start time. Like in a movie. If you were in a really nice moment, you could stay there for a while until you want to move on,” she tells me. “If you’re bored on the treadmill, just fast forward through that part.” Then she rounds out her superpowers with a few classics: teleportation and an invisibility cloak. There’s a common thread of evasion here, and Rainsford admits to sometimes struggling to open up to the world.
It’s a fantasy shared by an increasing number of us—in our hyper-connected culture, getting away from it all becomes more difficult and more attractive. Her personal remedy is the freedom of the creative process. “Writing helps me figure out how I feel about things I wouldn’t be able to say,” she tells me. “I’m shy, but I think I get to know people pretty easily because my comfortable state is just letting someone talk to me, and asking who they are. It’s a little harder for me to talk about myself.”
With an EP on the way and a rapidly expanding fan base, Rainsford will be speaking to the world from her largest platform yet. But with her loyal team of friends, family, and her lover close by her side, she needn’t fear the challenges that come with achieving your goals. It’s only up from here.
Written by Kara Powell.
Photographer: Low-Field at Weiss Artists.
Stylist: Olga Yanul at Jay Creative Management Group.
Hair: Abreea Loren.
Makeup: Paul Blanch using Dior Diorskin at Opus Beauty.
Producer: Carling French at French Productions.
Photography Assistant: Ryan Pavlovich.