“Hollywood can be very stereotypical,” she tells People CHICA. “They want you to come in with a heavy-ass Spanish accent.”
“I’ve just never been one to give up,” says Alexa Demie, breakout star of HBO’s Euphoria. That’s a bit of an understatement — at just 24, she’s already founded her own eyewear line, appeared in Vogue México, posed for a Rodarte lookbook, designed costumes for Nicki Minaj, and recorded a single. She’s finally becoming a household name thanks to Euphoria, the runaway hit show about teens behaving badly that’s already been renewed for a second season. Demie plays Maddy Perez, the confident but emotionally complex bad girl known as much for her attitude as her awe-inspiring makeup looks.
Though Demie favors similarly outré fashion and beauty in real life, the connection to her Euphoria character stops there. “I’m a very private person,” the L.A. native tells People CHICA. “I think you can even see in my Instagram. You don’t really get to know too much of my personality.” Where many of her peers use social media as a way to document their every move, Demie looks at it as a digital mood board. “I just use it to create characters,” she says. “I like my space.”
Her interest in fashion and beauty is almost genetic. Her mother, a makeup artist, left issues of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar lying around the house, and young Alexa loved to read them. “She would put them in my room, in the bathroom,” she recalls. “I remember sitting on the floor and going through every magazine.” As she got older, she started using the internet for inspiration, using Tumblr to look at pictures of ’90s supermodels and work by specific photographers. Though this didn’t immediately translate to her experimenting with fashion and beauty — “I never wore a lot of colors,” she says — her appreciation had led to imitation by the time she scored a role on Euphoria. “[Sam Levinson], the creator of the show, loves makeup and he was like, ‘My dream is that all the girls recreate Maddy’s looks,” she says. “It’s crazy because that’s exactly what’s happening.” Levinson allowed Demie to bring her own mood boards to set, to show her ideas to the show’s makeup artists. “I got to dictate most of my looks, so that was really cool.”
Her creativity played a huge role when she first started searching for gigs. Due to a rocky relationship with her stepfather, Demie left her house at a young age and had to look for jobs to support herself. “When I left home, I was sleeping on friends’ couches and living in an acting studio at one point.” Throughout the hardships, though, a single thought kept her motivated: “I’m going to either keep doing this, or I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life if I give up.”
Assuming the role of curator came to her organically. “I was always just making stuff,” she says. She once flipped $20 dollars into an eyewear brand that eventually earned her investors and support from Jennifer Lopez. Then she started assisting Nicki Minaj’s stylist, which led to the opportunity to design costumes for the rapper’s earlier videos.
Now that she’s finally making a name of herself in movies and TV, Demie is determined to apply her resourcefulness to changing Latina stereotypes in the industry. “They want you to come in with a heavy-ass Spanish accent,” she says. The actress speaks Spanish fluently and feels connected to her mother’s Mexican heritage, but notes that she knows little of her father’s ancestry. “People are confused by me in Hollywood,” explains Demie, who’s not interested in stereotypically “spicy Latina” roles. “I had a huge talk with my team about that,” she says. “I’m being very selective and picky now, because I’m ready to do a different role.”
While Maddy does occasionally veer into stereotypical territory, Demie is grateful that the Euphoria writers also gave her a deeper storyline, which dealt with emotional trauma from her family and her relationship. “I was really giving everything I had to fulfill this character,” she says. “I had to constantly be fighting with Nate [Jacob Elordi], and doing the physically abusive stuff was extremely challenging and draining.” She ultimately wants to see Maddy’s character to continue to grow in season two. “I think toward the end of the season she started becoming more self-aware of the situation that she was in, in the relationship she was in.” Still, she’s ready for something a little lighter. “If anyone could give me a comedy movie, I would love to do a comedy.”
Euphoria aside, Demie has plenty to keep her busy in the coming months. She’s promoting the movie Waves, out in November and co-starring Sterling K. Brown and Lucas Hedges, and she’s prepping an EP. “Right now I’m just working on my music and trying to dedicate a lot of time to myself,” she says. “I’m also a writer, and I want to write and direct more.” She’s not sleeping in a studio anymore, but her creative hustle remains as fierce as ever.