Emma Roberts | Because The Gold Standard Is Whatever You Damn Well Make Of It

Via Issue 193, The Gold Standard Issue

Photographed by

Damian Foxe

Styled by

Elad Bitton

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SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO stole, cardigan, top, skirt, shoes, and earrings and TAG HEUER Carrera Date watch.

Emma Roberts reads. Like, really reads. It’s Rory Gilmore reading. Anne of Green Gables reading. J-Lo’s Boy Next Door character receiving a first edition of The Iliad reading. Emma Roberts reads so voraciously Condé Nast and Hearst both have her to thank for keeping print media afloat. She has even read my work (in fact, she has an old article clipped to her corkboard). She will probably read this.

It’s not pretension that fuels the 33-year-old’s ceaseless education, but what seems to be a chronic insatiability for storytelling. From the moment she landed her first feature film—Blow, alongside little-known actors Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz—Emma Roberts has been on a treadmill of her design, forever braced for the inevitable What are you working on right now? For over two decades, the actor has always had an answer prepared.

“I feel like I’ve been working since I was nine, but you’re constantly wondering, What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?” She remembers. “Between having a baby, COVID, and the strike, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and slow down. I’m like, ‘Wow. I guess maybe I have done a lot. Maybe I should have a break that’s not imposed upon me by outside variables. Maybe I should just decide to take some time to myself.”’

RICK OWENS bodysuit and boots.

In her earlier career, Roberts’ driving force was rejection. She lost out on the role of Wendy in 2003’s Peter Pan (“One of the biggest heartbreaks—I did the British accent”), and the lead role in the film adaptation of her then favorite book, Bridge to Terabithia, went to Anna Sophia Robb. Told she wasn’t the first choice for the role of amateur sleuth Nancy Drew, the actor showed up to the screen test in an argyle sweater from Gap.

When the Wild Child script called for a bratty, Malibu Barbie mean girl, Emma Roberts was considered “too nice” for the part. Arriving at the audition in full, misunderstood rich kid-cosplay, she was cast the same day. “[When I started] I remember my mom being like, ‘You don’t have to do this. There’s no reason for you to keep doing this if you’re not feeling it.’ And I was like, ‘I want to have my own show on Nickelodeon. That is my dream.’”

Many millennials’ first introduction to Emma Roberts was Unfabulous—a teen-centric sitcom that ran on Nickelodeon alongside the likes of Drake & Josh. The show ran for three years, starring Roberts as an earnest middle schooler whose adolescence is a montage of embarrassing moments. While Unfabulous was created by a female showrunner (Angela Anaconda’s Sue Rose), Roberts was still subjected to her mother’s “annoying” on-set helicoptering. In the wake of the harrowing Nickelodeon docuseries, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, she’s thankful. “It’s inexcusable,” she says of the sexual harassment and assault at the network. “Kids need to be protected, adults need to be protected. I have been lucky with the family I have and the people that I’ve worked with. I try to keep doing my job and keep my head down.”


It’s this attitude, and her steadfast support system, that Roberts likely credits for her career’s longevity. Naysayers might cite different reasons, such as the cultural cache of her namesake. The star’s parents, actors Eric Roberts and Kelly Cunningham, split shortly after her birth—Cunningham raising her young daughter in Rhinebeck, a town in Upstate New York where the population is still yet to eclipse 10,000. Roberts counts beloved acting coach Betty Lou Bredemus as her paternal grandmother and remains close to her aunt, Julia Roberts, who she visited on set growing up. Nonetheless, Emma Roberts was excluded by New York Magazine amid their explosive “Nepo Baby” discourse.

“Should I be offended?” She laughs. “It was a cheap shot to put all the celebrity kids on the cover of a magazine on babies’ bodies. It’s like maybe the ‘Nepo Baby’ conversation would’ve been a more interesting article written intelligently in Vanity Fair with nuance, but instead, it was kind of this viral hating-on-people thing.” So are there no professional benefits from famous family ties? “I’ve lost more jobs than I’ve gained from being in the business,” Roberts says. “People have opinions and sometimes maybe they’re not good opinions of people in your family. I’ve never gotten a job because of it, I know I definitely have lost a couple of jobs because of it.”

SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO top, skirt, belt, bag, and earrings and TAG HEUER Carrera Date watch.

Today, Roberts couldn’t feel further removed from Hollywood. She’s living with her mom outside New York City, apologizing occasionally for the audible rumblings of her three-year-old son, whom she shares with actor-musician Garrett Hedlund (the pair split in 2022). Midway through our conversation Roberts’ new, unnamed beau interrupts, inquiring off-camera as to whether Roberts will join him for yoga. She won’t share much about Unnamed Beau, only that he is entertainment industry-adjacent—not an actor, as her dating history might suggest.

“One day the veil was lifted and I didn’t want to date actors anymore,” she explains when asked about the nuances of sharing a profession with a partner. “It’s hard, I think, for two actors to be together. I’m trying to think if I’ve seen it done successfully. Also, the actors I’ve been with border on method actors, and that is something that I think is extremely difficult to be in a relationship with—at least for me, especially the characters that they were playing.”

Unlike her exes, Unnamed Beau is not “online”—an attribute that brings Roberts unexpected joy (“If you want to send a girl crazy, don’t have Instagram,” she advises bachelors). Meanwhile, her relationship with social media remains complicated. Growing up before the advent of Facebook, Roberts’ fame was only measurable by being recognized at the mall.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN BY SEÁN MCGIRR cardigan, top, and skirt.

“I feel like, in a way I got to hang on to some innocence longer [than usual],” she says. “I know everyone has a different take on how [modern] celebrities or people should be online and how serious they should be. My social media is for fun, it’s for reading, it’s for fashion, but if you want to get really deep with me or know what I think about things, you’re not going to see it posted on my social media.”

For fans hoping for a peek behind the curtain, Roberts’ book club, Belletrist, is the easiest way in. The brainchild of the actor and editorial director Karah Preiss, Belletrist has been connecting Roberts with a community of book lovers since 2017. Now, Belletrist has grown into a full-scale production company, specializing in literary adaptations much like Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.

Their credits include the Netflix series, First Kill and Tell Me Lies on Hulu, which was renewed for a second season. Mostly, it’s validated Emma Roberts’ reading habits as productive. “I’m never going to be a snob about what someone’s reading,” she says. “I love The Great Gatsby, I also love Confessions of a Shopaholic. I can love both, and it says something about me other than the fact I just like to read different stuff.”


This duality seems to be a throughline in Roberts’ life. On-screen, she oscillates seamlessly between the bitch and the sweetheart. She demonstrates both learned wisdom and innate innocence—mutually the mentor, and ingeńue. More recently, she’s stepped into the role of digital darling du jour; entertaining online audiences with everything from candidly uncandid videos frolicking on the beach to an expansive collection of vintage dolls. Despite the latter’s regularly reinforced rep as agents of evil, Roberts positions her dolls as pets: “I just love them.”

“I have some very, very ugly dolls that needed a home, so I had to have them,” she says of her doll selection process. “Don’t get me wrong, there are some dolls that I’ve come across that I’m like, the vibe is off and this one’s not for me. Some dolls, something’s wrong. Scary. I’m very particular about which dolls can live on the shelf.”

DOLCE & GABBANA coat, bra, and underwear, WOLFORD tights, and SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO shoes.

Considering her catalog, it’s surprising to hear anything in the supernatural realm phases Emma Roberts. Roberts has appeared in six seasons of American Horror Story in addition to a run on Scream Queens. Her turn as Madison Montgomery, a telekinetic egomaniac, was supposed to last three episodes. “Ryan just saw something in me that no one else saw, and I don’t even think I knew I had her in me. I really admire him, and I love him. He trusts his actors and especially his ladies—I think that that is super rare with any director or showrunner and especially somebody at his level.”

Each leading role only reaffirms Roberts as creator Ryan Murphy’s primary muse. In the most recent season of American Horror Story, “Delicate,” Roberts is back in the driver’s seat—with an unexpected passenger. Cast as Roberts’ character’s publicist, Kim Kardashian featured Emma Roberts on season four of her reality show reboot, The Kardashians. “Kim is an icon,” Roberts says. “I literally don’t know how she does it. Business woman-turned-producer- turned actress, and let me tell you, one of the most prepared actresses I’ve ever worked with. She’s also been a great friend. Anytime I text her, she responds right away. Just seeing her inspires me. I’m like, How do you do all of that and also look perfect?

MARC JACOBS dress, socks, and shoes.

Roberts believes Kim Kardashian has ‘It’—that indefinable quality that ascertains success. It’s this ‘It’ factor that has also sustained her own career, Roberts says, along with an unlearnable “determination and grit.” She explains, continuing, “I look back and it’s not that I was the best actress or the prettiest or the smartest,” she says. “And it never is. You kind of have [that tenacity] or you don’t. And I think that that’s kind of what makes certain people sustain. That’s just what I’ve seen, I’m open to other suggestions.

But ongoing relevance comes with a price, whether that’s a complete lack of privacy or paying off the paparazzi. Emma Roberts has managed to avoid both, but camera phones still pose a constant threat. “I never want to feel like I’m in a glass castle. But, sometimes when you leave the house there is a sense of paranoia like, Is someone taking my picture? Is someone taking a video of me? If they’re doing it, that sucks. But if they’re not doing it and I think they’re doing it, that also sucks. It’s kind of like a lose-lose.”

Perhaps unconsciously, Emma Roberts has always maintained control over how she’s perceived. Like many teen stars, a career as a recording artist seemed like an avenue worth exploring. In addition to regularly performing on Unfabulous, Roberts recorded “If I Had It My Way” for the 2005 Disney film Ice Princess, and covered Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” for the Aquamarine soundtrack. She once declared her singing career dead (“I don’t like people who become like ‘actor slash singer,” a teenaged Roberts told press, “I think people should be one or the other because usually you’re not going to be great at both.”) When she was offered a set time on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float, paralyzing stage fright outweighed any desire to make it in music.

JW ANDERSON top, shorts, and shoes and TAG HEUER Carrera Chronograph watch.

For the following decade, Roberts stuck to acting— oscillating between indie films and big-budget comedies. She never had any real aversion to being typecast, and in fact, has reprised the role of “mean girl” again and again. Giving people something they like, she says, shouldn’t be considered a creative cop-out. Overall, the opinion of critics rarely influences Roberts’ sense of self. “There are things that you bleed for and no one cares,” she says. “I feel like my heart has to be in it in the process because, at the end of the day, people are going to love it. They’re going to hate it. They’re going to love it and hate it. Maybe you’ll win an award for it, probably you won’t.”

Similarly, the actor also goes unplagued by professional envy. Roberts remembers “wasting time” bemoaning missed opportunities, discovering an antidote in turning her attention toward other avenues. Not only is she slated to produce and star in a new romantic comedy, Space Cadet, but she and Kim Kardashian will reconvene in a television adaptation of the book If You Lived Here You’d Be Famous By Now, written by then-21-year-old UCSB student, Via Bleidner. Titled Calabasas, both Kardashian and Roberts will serve as executive producers.

It’s begun to rain. Roberts has decidedly skipped yoga, but she hopes to make the evening class. Despite traveling and working more than ever before, Emma Roberts has been pretty “low-key” in the past year. With her son in school, she will likely be commuting to New York City and Los Angeles for the foreseeable future. The actor could never have predicted she would end up here: 30-something, and living with her mom. Yet, it’s a carefully cultivated sense of normalcy. She doesn’t need to be in the mix, playing the game. Why should she? Between fact and fiction, Emma Roberts has everything she needs. 

GUCCI shirt and pants, MIU MIU tights, and ALEXANDER MCQUEEN BY SEÁN MCGIRR shoes.

Photographed by Damian Foxe 

Styled by Elad Bitton 

Written by Beatrice Hazlehurst

Hair: Gonn Kinoshita at The Wall Group 

Makeup: Walter Obal at The Wall Group

Lighting & Digital: Adam Dicarlo 

Flaunt Film: Brooke James

Styling Assistants: Madison Perez and Ignacio De Tiedra 

Retouching: Love Retouch 

Location: A Room at the Beach

Special Thanks To The Maritime Hotel NYC

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 193, The Gold Standard Issue, Emma Roberts, Damian Foxe, Elad Bitton, Beatrice Hazlehurst, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, Tag Heuer, Rick Owens, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen by Seán Girr, JW Anderson, AADNEVIK, Marc Jacobs