Conversing with Emma Brooks is like talking to a hometown friend who has somehow managed to eek out quadruple the hours in a day that you have. This is to say–the actor, model, and content creator is at once incredibly energetic and amiable, yet humble: throughout the conversation, her attention is yours. The gravitational core of whatever place you’re speaking from is held between the two of you, talking about anything, talking about everything.
Brooks has had a busy couple of months. Years, really. The 21-year-old, who has collaborated on clothing capsules and been featured on a number of podcasts discussing mental health, sexuality, creativity, and Los Angeles, is vivifying that glossy dream massaged into the pliable minds of the American public by the Hollywood machine.
The formula you may ask? Win a home state pageant (Miss Louisiana Teen). Move to Hollywood as an intern. Become so well known in Los Angeles that you don’t have to intern anymore. Become a jet-setting model. Live with your best friends. On the way, amass a fanbase of millions that hunger for your every post. Easy, right? Brooks doesn’t shy away from the fortuitous element of her success. In fact, she seems terrified that someone might accuse her of taking it all for granted. She gushes about how lucky she’s been to do the things she’s done, but at the same time, she expresses that the life she leads is not one without humility.
Brooks, who has opened up about her bipolar and depression diagnoses in the past, is still grappling with the death of fellow creator and close friend, Cooper Noriega. This June marked the one-year anniversary of Noriega’s passing. Brooks was traveling around the world at the time, experiencing overwhelming grief while expressing enormous gratitude. Of course, it’s difficult to balance the crushing weight of sadness amidst a thoroughly busy travel schedule, all the while maintaining a pleasant outward facade, one that seems to deliver the mild message: I’m sad, but I’m still grateful! Thank you! There’s a good and bad side to every situation!
Such is the reality of the lifestyle: to express oneself as an entity online is to expose oneself to the capricious sentiments of the digital masses, who are looking for just the right time to say, ‘Hey, I don’t think she’s grateful enough for our attention. I think she’s taking advantage of her position.’ Brooks seems well aware of this potential response and reality, and admits that while she likes to be honest about her life, she’s well aware that her career has only begun. She’s not keen on obstructing her own success by misrepresenting herself to an audience of millions. Hence, while she speaks of her own personal tragedies, she wants to make it clear that she still feels very, very blessed to lead the life she does.
While being successful online presents its challenges, Brooks has done a great job of prioritizing her time spent outside of the internet. We speak of the boundaries she sets in her relationships with her equally well-known friends and boyfriend, as well as the things she does with her life when she’s offline (primarily, we talk about the books that have moved her in the past year.)
Emma Brooks is one of those rare, lovely people who allow you to exit the conversation you’ve just had, free from anxiety about the state of the world. She’s a 21st-century woman acutely aware of her privileges and her weaknesses. She’s great at chatting. She’s driven to stay afloat in the treacherous waters of the international fashion scene, and has made it to (and stayed at!) the top of the vast, oversaturated sea of TikTok microtrends. Here, we chat travel, personal growth, and tending the internal flame.
How has your summer been? What have you been up to?
I’ve been doing well. The past summer has gone by really fast, actually. I did a lot of traveling. I went to Capri with Dolce & Gabbana. And then I came home. I did the Saint-Tropez trip with Gucci. Then I went to Florence for the Fendi show. Then I went to Milan for men’s [fashion week]. Then I went to Rome for two days. I came back, and then it was Paris. I’ve been home for the past three weeks. I had my sister come into town, and I’ve just been enjoying time at home; honestly, just trying to get back into the groove of things.
I think the summertime is really hard, emotionally and personally. There’s a lot that happened the past few months. June is hard. It holds the anniversary of one of my good friends who passed away last summer—it’s the month that he passed, and it’s the month of his birthday.
That seems like so much to have to deal with. I’m glad that you’re home for a couple of weeks at least.
Yeah, I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful to travel. I’m really grateful to be in that position. It’s been great. You know, more of the mental and emotional [aspects] get you. Just life sometimes.
I know you really like to read. Have you been reading something interesting or moving recently?
I do love to read, and I’ve been reading a lot. The way that I escape is with fiction. I read The Song of Achilles because I’ve heard that it makes people emotional. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. But it truly made me cry happy tears. It was such a beautiful story. It made me emotionally a wreck.
I’ve read things like Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune, who also wrote Every Summer After. It’s an uplifting romance based in Canada. It’s a cute summertime read. What I’m currently reading is a fantasy series, which I love—probably one of my top genres of things to read—just because it’s so out of your mind. You’re focused on the world-building and the characters involved in it. The fiction envelops you. Before that, I read Lessons in Chemistry, which is a great read. I think everyone should read Lessons in Chemistry. It’s set in the 60s. It talks about feminism and sexism and goes over misogyny. It’s a really beautiful, loving story. It made me cry, and it made me laugh.
You moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles, and you’ve been here for three years. Los Angeles can get a bad rap. Do you like it? Are you going to move away one day? Are you homesick?
I actually have come to love Los Angeles so much. I’ve built a home here that I didn’t have in Louisiana, the way that some people dream of. I have this stability here. I have friends here. I think that you can make L.A. what you want out of it. It’s such a big place. And it is toxic. There are reasons why it gets a bad rap. It’s not a perfect place. You can protect your peace, and you can make the most out of it, as scary as it may be to come to such a big city. I mean, I got warned too. I have experienced the bad side of L.A., and I try to stay as far away as possible from it. You just gotta keep your wits about you. Gotta read the room.
I really think that I’ll come back to Los Angeles. I’m really grateful for the people that I have found, because where I came from—what it was like to be in Louisiana and what I went through there—it was something that I really just wanted to leave behind. Louisiana is a different place. I never felt like I fit in there, and it didn’t feel right to be there. I never felt comfortable. I was never my best self, so I moved away as soon as I could. I don’t think I do it any different way.
What would you be doing today, if you hadn’t blown up online?
I think about that all the time. I moved to Los Angeles, and I had a year out here. My plan: I had one year to create something in any capacity. If I didn’t, I was going to go back to Louisiana. I was going to go to LSU. My major was going to be mass communications with a minor in journalism. Honestly, I think about what I would be doing right now, and I don’t know. I probably would have done real estate. Who knows? I would love to work at a library.
It must have been divine timing that you came to succeed in Los Angeles and that’s exactly what happened.
What I’m so grateful for is the fact that what I’m doing now is what I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a kid. I moved out to Los Angeles to become a part of the film and the fashion industry. I just wanted to be a part of this creative force. I would say not music because I can’t sing for the life of me, but everything else.
It’s been in my head since I was 14. I flew to New York and I signed to my first agency and took test shots, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I need to do this.’ I have always wanted it, so sometimes it’s just hard to think about what I would be doing outside of this because I put so much effort into making it happen. I have things I hope I’d be doing in another universe. I’m like a National Geographic photographer, like sitting in a tree taking photos of birds or something.
You’ve spoken about your mental health struggles on various podcasts. How does the possession of a large platform like yours affect the way that you speak on those topics? Do you think that you’re able to be completely honest about that?
I really do think it’s so important [to talk honestly]. I’ve been talking about mental health since I did pageants, and it’s always been an important platform for me. I try to do it as honestly as possible. Especially with what I’ve been through. I’m just starting to feel comfortable talking about things that have happened in the past. I think it’s beneficial to others to hear about what I’ve been through so we can relate to one another because I think the biggest message is that you’re not alone. We will all get through it. I think it’s important, to be honest, I don’t think lying gets anyone anywhere.
What’s your hottest take? De-influence something for me?
I think that a beat-up pair of shoes looks better than put-together shoes. Like I’m wearing these boots, right? [Gestures to boots off-camera] My favorite pair. And they’re beat up... They’re tearing, but I think that they look so cool. The same feeling about Converse as well.
That’s what shoes are for. You shouldn’t be just constantly buying new things if the old things already work.
Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.
As an influencer, you have a say in the things that people think. Should we care about these topics?
High School Algebra
The male gaze
Clean Girl Aesthetic
The Recent Alien/UFO Sightings
Yes. Okay. Yeah. Okay.
[takes a beat] Yes. [takes a beat] Awesome. Some self-love? Like, my immediate reaction is to say, ‘No.’
Photographed by Andi Elloway
Styled by Justice Jackson
Written by Annie Bush
Makeup: Ashley Simmons
Flaunt Film: Alexander Moura