Alexis Ren | Light the Fire and Watch the Wave Pass

Via Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue!

Photographed by


Styled by

Marc Eram

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BCBGMAXAZRIA dress and shoes and stylist’s own tights and leg warmers.

Throughout our lives we face moments in which we confront, for better or worse, the fact that parts of ourselves have gone missing or been forgotten. Just as a flame eats the very source that gives it life, we find different reasons for living, different people to love, and different perspectives of what it means to be. When we stumble upon these realizations, we epiphanize over the human experience, recounting each milestone and mistake and revisiting each tragedy that ended up being okay. This unfolding results in a dopamine-fueled sensation of inner freedom and hope, and we feel we have been offered a secret to the meaning of life. For actor, model, and entrepreneur Alexis Ren, the meaning of life is in her morning coffee, it’s in her dog’s eyes, in the daily sunset. “When we were kids,” she remarks, “We already experienced the fullness of life. We just forgot.”

BCBGMAXAZRIA dress and shoes and stylist’s own tights and leg warmers.

Ren was born in Santa Monica to a generation too young to be considered millennial and too old to be Gen Z. At 26, she has amassed a soaring online following of 18 million, launched a women’s mentorship organization and clothing line, and wowed fans on the 27th season of Dancing with the Stars. Active internet users over the last decade might recall that Ren was part of a group of creators who pioneered a style of content YouTube comedian Cody Ko would later teasingly dub “Blue Ass Water.” The moniker was ascribed to content where beautiful people (before they were called ‘influencers’) documented their travels from tropical beaches and lush mountains, mixing enticing video cuts atop trending dance tracks. The 2010’s were an Instagrammable digital Wild West, funded by sponsored posts and grand exaggerations of happiness.

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But the Internet and its culture have evolved, and followers want more connection. Maybe it’s our collective, progressive-leaning politics that trickle down into everyday interactions, or the societal reassessment of values that took place over the pandemic, or maybe it’s the rise of parasocial relationships within the national loneliness epidemic?

Regardless of what’s driving this evolution, Ren and other influencers are now relating to their audiences more earnestly. Ren’s focus is on speaking to women and girls, opening up about mental health and body image, empowerment, and coming back to your true identity.

BCBGMAXAZRIA dress and corset, stylist’s own arm warmers, and VERSACE earrings.

“I was programmed for so long to just sell, sell, sell,” Ren shares. “Whether it was a lifestyle or a look or clothing. But it’s still a part of myself, I still love it.” Having been home-schooled, Ren found creativity and freedom being in front of the camera, a hobby that’s translated into her current career. “Instagram is for the 12-year-old version of Alexis enjoying her time, taking photos with her little sister, and loving her little outfits. That pureness is what I’m inserting into it. In other ways, it’s just going back to that little child.” Ren became interested in spirituality and wellness from an early age. Her late mother prioritized life lessons in her schooling, something her peers largely missed out on in a more traditional school setting.

BCBGMAXAZRIA dress, corset, and shoes, stylist’s own arm warmers, and  VERSACE earrings.

Although, these spiritual affinities Ren cites seem paradoxical. She further shares that she loves the writer and comedian Duncan Trussell, host of the namesake The Duncan Trussell Family Hour Podcast, known for broadcasting ideas that philosophize humanity. Trussell and his crew speak frequently about spirituality and ego death, topics that seem far removed, if not contradictory, to the impression-dependent, follower-obsessed, self-extortionist nature of the Internet. “I struggle,” she says. “I’m still navigating [the Internet] because it’s really weird to be in this paradox...my interests are so different from what social media is. I also don’t rely on social media the way I used to. I don’t look at it as an outlet for the ‘me’ that I know, for the ‘me’ that you’re talking to. I almost want to say it’s impossible to be organic on social media anymore. It’s hard to be nuanced, and I like being this paradoxical girl.”

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Ren continues this dichotomy in her own digital footprint. “I fucking love clothes, and I love fashion, and I love skincare, and I love all of it. But at the same time, I’m over here watching Gaia with Gregg Braden and Duncan who are talking about the breaking-edge science and historical findings of what’s going on, because I’m very curious as to why we’re here. So I think that duality is really beautiful inside of me and instead of trying to hush down that vanity version of me, they’re now best friends.”

One of the reasons Ren loves creators like Trussell or Jay Shetty is their emphasis on slow-form content such as podcasts. Rather than the short attention span that the Internet is often associated with, the rise of long-form content allows creators and guests a chance to share life’s different layers. “I see myself going into those slower formats over time,” she says. “When I went on Jay’s (Shetty) podcast, I felt at home. I didn’t feel like I was going into this thinking like, ‘Oh, I can only do this one thing on social media.’ I appreciate being able to be the nuanced version of myself, and I think podcast interviews are the place where I can finally be that.”

BCBGMAXAZRIA dress and shoes and stylist’s own tights and leg warmers.

Ren has plans to start her own podcast with the goal of launching the project later this year. She’ll bring her godsister, Allie Michelle, on as a co-host, who she describes as a “sister-friend” that she “just kind of shares a brain with.” The two will take deep dives into different topics and interview other creators. The episodes will align with similar subjects to those discussed in We Are Warriors, an interactive mentorship program created by the pair with the intention of making a positive impact on young women through fitness and wellness. Founded in 2020, the two speak with their members once a week, and offer digital exercise courses, along with expert-led seminars on topics from nervous system regulation to personal finance.

VERSACE dress and earrings and stylist’s own arm warmers, tights, and leg warmers.
VERSACE dress, shoes, and earrings and stylist’s own arm warmers, tights, and leg warmers.

“It actually started as a workout program,” Ren recalls of We Are Warriors, “when we couldn’t really go outside or go to the classes we usually go to. I did live calls on Zoom with [the girls] to connect on their progress and help them through this part of life. It started morphing into something that genuinely—I wouldn’t even say I created, I just...assisted in a sense. The girls were like, ‘We want to call ourselves warriors,’ and ‘We want these live calls to be every week.’” This is where Ren had the idea to expand the program. “It’s like big sister energy. We bring in teachers who talk about things that I don’t think are in the regular education systems. Whether it’s knowing what credit cards to get, buying your first house, having a good relationship with food, understanding your body, or building a relationship with your intuition.” Ren mentions that she feels most energized when she’s helping people, and is able to analyze trials of her past to build into positive experiences of the present. A few years back, she opened up online about struggles with food and body image, sharing her journey with her intuition of her body’s needs.

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Reflecting on past versions of herself, and in the pursuit of learning, the growth and freedom she finds in curiosity has been hugely transformative. “I spent so much of my twenties trying to figure out life and getting to know it, trying to get to the source and finding my purpose and all this really deep work. Whereas now, I feel like the work is in getting back to the child-self of learning new things, having fun, unraveling everything that society has weighed down on us. The real evolution is knowing that you were perfect to begin with.”

MIU MIU cardigan, bottoms, and shoes and stylist’s own tights and leg warmers.

Maybe it’s another paradox, but it seems that when we dedicate ourselves to learning and “letting progress be the success in whatever it is you’re doing,” as Ren puts it, we are actively becoming more in touch with ourselves and the world around us. Naturally flourishing into the people that we otherwise put so much pressure on ourselves to become. “There was a lot of deprogramming that happened to me,” Ren recalls. “I think my programming was on a grander scale, but I don’t think it’s any different from the girl going to high school right now, being on social media. It’s still the same pressure, maybe just within a smaller group. It’s the same dynamic of going from feeling like you’re on top of the world to feeling like you’re not being talked about, or heard about, so you’re becoming irrelevant or whatever...I really am just focusing on, ‘How can I have a relationship with the moment instead of taking advantage of it?’” she explains. “We have a relationship to everything, so just being aware of what types of relationships I have with [everything around me].”


It’s worth wondering if this presence is what has kept Ren both successful and grounded over the years. Living in the digital age, the effervescent era of surveillance, we have seen the quick rise and fall of many faces, yet Ren has maintained her voice and presence in the creator ecosystem. She shares that learning to surf has been a recent remedy to the noise and pressure of working for The (digital) Man. “I think surfing is actually helping me do that,” she shares, “because it’s a constant conversation with the wave, and you’re so present. What I’m learning from surfing is that there’s always going to be another wave.” Ren continues, “It’s actually sometimes better to just chill and watch that wave pass. Watch everyone think it was a good wave and it was actually a shitty wave. Then get the wave that you were like, ‘This is actually the good wave, ‘cause my gut told me.’ So I think the programming I’ve been undoing helps me realize that social media makes time feel really fast, almost existing in this ball that you have to constantly keep up with, when there’s nothing really to keep up with at all. I would much rather let myself be in the preparation stage for a very long time.” 

HANSEN & GRETEL cardigan, ELIZABETH SHEVELEV dress, stylist’s own tutu, tights, and leg warmers, and talent’s own shoes.

Thinking back to what she loved to do as a child, such as practicing and communicating her love for life through ballet, is what keeps Ren’s spark aflame. She adds fuel to the fire by staying in touch with her intuition, keeping on very patient terms with herself. “I just learned this, actually,” she says, “80% consistently is 200%. If you try to go 100%, 100% of the time, you’re going to burn out. I don’t have to go to ballet every day. I go to ballet three times a week, and if I feel like shit, I miss a class, and go to yoga instead.”

To protect her spark, she does breath work and maintains a journal. And maybe she is drawn to the heat more than she allows us to believe, enticed by the source of the flame that so often intimidates others. “Obviously nature,” she responds when I ask what keeps her fire burning. “I know people say the sun is bad for you, but that’s fucking not true.” 

HANSEN & GRETEL cardigan, ELIZABETH SHEVELEV dress, stylist’s own tutu, tights, and leg warmers, and talent’s own shoes.

Photographed by StolenBesos

Styled by Marc Eram

Written by Franchesca Baratta 

Hair: Eduardo Méndez at A-Frame Agency

Makeup: Alex French at Forward Artists 

Flaunt Film: Isaac Dektor and Wyatt Stromer 

Flaunt Film Music: Charlie Scovill

Production Assistant: Sofia Ziman

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Alexis Ren, Flaunt Magazine, Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue, Franchesca Baratta, Stolenbesos, Marc Eram, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Versace, Miu Miu, Hansen & Gretel, WIEDERHOEFT, ELIZABETH SHEVELEV