Alexis Ren. Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
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You may know Alexis Ren as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie, or from her fourth-place stint on Dancing with the Stars. You may even be one of her 16.5 million followers on Instagram. What you may not know about the social media star is that she’s so much more. Ren is transitioning her career from model to budding actress and officially retiring the title of “influencer” — and she couldn’t be more inspired.

Despite making it her “mission to do anything but acting” early on in her career, the 25-year-old (who got her start in modeling) says she caught the acting bug about three years ago when it “felt more aligned” with who she was. Still, she’s fully aware of the skepticism and shade often thrown at those who attempt the tricky influencer-to-actress transition.

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose MCM shirt, $590, bucket hat, $370, us.mcmworldwide.com

“That was something that I was scared of for a while, ‘Am I worthy of having a real career? Do I deserve something like that?’” Ren tells GRAZIA Gazette: Hamptons. “I know that triggers people sometimes — when people with followings step into a field and then immediately get more opportunities than people who have been there for 10 years. I wanted to be very careful with how I position myself in acting.”

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
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Ren got to work, and between 2017 and 2020 she studied, worked with different teachers, and took acting classes to hone her craft. “I wanted to know if this was something I truly wanted to do,” she explains, “versus ‘Well this just seems like the most obviously next step so let’s just go there.'”

Her dedication was worth it. Ren landed two roles: one in the upcoming film, The Enforcer, with Antonio Banderas and Kate Bosworth, and she just wrapped filming the series Second Chance alongside AnnaLynne McCord.

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
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Ren auditioned for The Enforcer without knowing who else was signed on for the film but calls it “a dream” to work with her fellow castmates. “I was like a sponge on set,” she says. “I would just be sitting around in the trailer listening to Antonio and my other castmates, Mojean Aria, talk about their scenes and learn from them. And I was very fortunate — they were really supportive of me and how new I was and how fresh. They were really proud of me too.”

It was a similar story on the set of her next project, Second Act. “I leaned heavily on my castmates. AnnaLynne McCord was my rock during that time,” Ren recalls. “I don’t want to spoil too much, but [our characters] have a very close-knit relationship in the show. Before we started shooting, I reached out to her, we got to know each other and became friends. The chemistry was really beautiful for that show.”

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose.
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For Ren, filming both projects was a cathartic experience. “I realized, I actually love acting because I get to release such deep parts of myself, and I feel so good after, and I feel so light. It’s like therapy,” she shares.

In acting, Ren has found a way to express a new and more vulnerable side of herself with fans without sharing the day-to-day details of her own life. “I think that’s also why acting makes sense to me, because growing up in this social media age, it felt exhausting having to continually film my life story and continue to get people to be interested in me. It felt very unnatural and tiring and draining. I’m definitely at the point in my life where I don’t want to show everything on social media. I don’t want to share who I’m dating. I want to have my own life. My relationship with it is a lot healthier.”

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
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Now, she thinks of social media as a “tool” in her life. “I would consider social media closer to a bicycle, a tool that I can get from one place to another, as opposed to a career,” Ren says. “I understand that it’s always going to be a part of my job. It’s going to be a part of everyone’s job. You’re not ever going to not use social media because it’s a marketing tool. You need that when you are an actor or you’re selling a product. You need a platform in order to showcase that with people and that’s not toxic, but what is toxic is this black hole that’s created when you feel like you have to top yourself every time. And I think a lot of girls relate to that.”

Instead of looking to social media as a career itself, she urges the next generation to see it as a way to showcase other things they’re doing in life. “I just hope that these kids behind me, even a year behind me, can realize that you have to find something that you want to do and do it well and discover long-term mastery and then utilize social media as a tool to broadcast the mastery that you’re building, as opposed to just wanting fame.”

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose MCM jacket, us.mcmworldwide.com
Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
MCM jacket, us.mcmworldwide.com

She’s doing her part in helping fans and the next generation expand what they know thanks to the female-driven online community she created called We Are Warriors. What started out as a workout program amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has become a wellness education community, where teachers of different disciplines, from investing and finance to breath work yoga, inform participants on a slew of different topics.

“Finding these educational communities I think is the new wave of the education system,” Ren, who was homeschooled, shares. “The old format of social media is all about ‘follow me, join me, look at my page,’ it’s a very disconnected version of connection, and with communities, it is the exact opposite because it’s not even about me anymore, who started the community. It’s about the girls.”

Photographed by Angelo Sgambati. Styled by Santa Bevacqua. Hair/Makeup by Ashlee Rose
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As she enters a new phase in her career, she’s keeping an open mind about where she’s heading next. “The world is changing so fast now that it’s hard to have a long-term realistic goal,” she says. “It’s not even a negative perspective, I genuinely think being curious and open is going to get me farther than having this idea of a ‘goal.’ I think now to create the most security in your life, your adaptability to new scenarios is your safety.”

Spoken like someone who’s going places.

thoughts?