Lyja in the Cloud

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Lyja Roberts was born in the Canadian Prairies and is currently living in Vancouver. She also happens to be my favourite model in the universe. Although the nature of reality and the universe itself psych her out a bit. And mirrors. "I’ve never understood how they can reflect things from outside their field of vision," she tells me. (Now that I think about it, me neither!) Reflecting on life during walks in the park is more Lyja's style.

I've been familiar with Lyja's internet presence for nearly a decade now, through various forums. She finds Jenny Slate hilarious. "I could not even begin to explain my sense of humour if I tried," she laughs. “Slightly absurdist, a little bit millennial. I’ll leave it at that. " I often see Lyja commenting on the what does it mean Facebook group, which has been known to make me cackle.

Preternaturally beautiful, the twenty one year old does not lack insight either. "One time I went to a protest against pipelines and a photo of me yelling at Justin Trudeau made it into the local paper, that was cool," she says. Politics are something she's extremely passionate about and I look forward to seeing how that will manifest itself in her future work. ///

RS: You have one of the best grids of anyone I know. What is the role of Instagram to you?
LR: I do put effort into maintaining an attractive feed but this is largely because I strive for cohesive visuals in my personal life anyway. For me, Instagram is just a way of sharing myself with people. It’s my way of presenting myself to the world through a medium that I can control, if that makes sense. I struggle at creating “content” though; it’s mostly just little stuff I think looks pretty.

RS: Totally. Let's talk about modelling, which is all about sharing your image with people.
LR: Modelling is definitely a big part of my life, but not all of it, so when people ask me what I “do” it’s not typically the answer that I spring to. I did theatre for eight years and was initially interested in pursuing acting but quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. When I was scouted by a modelling agent when I was fifteen, I tried my hand at that instead. I find that opportunities to embarrass yourself are far less abundant in the modelling world, though if you’re as talented as I am you’ll find a way somehow.

RS: It's funny you say that. What would you recommend to anyone looking to be a model?
LR: You should know that any reputable agency will not make you pay some sort of weird upfront cost for a modelling training camp - your agency will get you that experience through bookings and shoots with time. I would also say that you should have a strong head on your shoulders and a deep sense of self-love and appreciation. It’s hard not to feel discouraged sometimes in an industry that places so much value on your external appearance.

RS: What are your most-visited websites that aren't social media?
LR: Probably conspiracy websites about ancient aliens and the Polly Pocket Wacky Wardrobe game.

RS: I used to love my Polly Pockets. What's going on with that game?
LR: You get to dress Polly Pocket and the wardrobe selections are incredible. Plus she’s ecstatic no matter what you pick, so it’s a wonderful source of validation. I need someone in my life that pumped to be dressed by me.

RS: What's a day in your life like?
LR: My schedule is too irregular to really have an answer, but just know it involves a rigorous skincare routine and probably too much iced coffee. Sometimes there will be castings and shoots I need to attend, sometimes I’ll lay in bed for eight hours.

RS: What are you putting on your skin?
LR: Drunk Elephant. I tried the Lala Retro moisturizer and was underwhelmed but I’m using the Protini right now and am very impressed.

RS: Do you consider yourself an artist?
LR: I’m a very visual person and would definitely consider myself an artist, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself sitting down to create things less and less frequently, which is something I’m trying to change. When I was young I was drawing constantly, but I’m a perfectionist so I would end up frustrated with whatever I created.

RS: How so?
LR: I had a very clear idea in my mind of what I wanted to create but once it was on paper it rarely felt accurate and I would become discouraged. Writing was different for me in that I found it easier to portray an image through words; albeit not quite as satisfying to me as if I were able to communicate my thoughts visually.

RS: You've been working on a fantasy story?
LR: It’s been a great creative outlet for me. I hesitate to call it a book because that’s a big word but it’s something that I’m working on. It’s progressing very slowly; I’m trying to take my time with it so I can be as satisfied as possible with the result. I also don’t even know if it will be something I end up deciding to share - time will tell. As far as writing goes, the main challenge for me is not over-analyzing my work and learning to be satisfied with what I’ve written.

RS: What do you think young artists need? Anything you wish you were exposed to at a younger age?
LR: Money!

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RS: Why are you such a visual person?
LR: This is largely due to my synesthesia, my status as an astrological air sign, and most importantly my lifelong obsession with the air faeries from Neopets. When I was young I didn’t have many friends, so most of my time was spent on Neopets, and the air faeries on that website were always my favourite. This is so weird, but they’ve been a huge source of inspiration for me. A friend told me recently that I looked like a cloud and it was the best compliment I have ever received. I have a tattoo for the alchemical symbol of air as well. It’s like when you’re a kid going swimming and pretending you’re a mermaid; that’s me every day in my adult life, but pretending to be a fairy from a kids website created by scientologists.

RS: Hahaha. What else do you like to look at?
LR: My favourite film for six years has been My Neighbour Totoro. I love The Neon Demon because it includes three of my favourite things: fashion, pretentious gore, and Abbey Lee. Lost in Translation is another fave of mine as well. Leonora Carrington is my favourite visual artist; I like feminist surrealism. Charli XCX is my favourite musical artist, who makes avant pop music. A large part of the appeal for both of these artists for me, as different as they are, is the way that they push(ed) the boundaries of their respective mediums.

RS: How does Charli XCX push the boundaries? 
LR: Production-wise she’s exploring a very progressive sound, more so than other pop artists in her field. I also think it’s been a creative risk, but the music she’s released in recent years in collaboration with PC artists has been really influential for me and a lot of other people as well.

RS: How does your synesthesia manifest itself? Can you explain that a little bit?
LR: The experience of a seeing a colour, for example, is for me like tasting something - I either like the flavour of a colour or I don’t. Sensory things affect me a lot, particularly sound and colour. I interpret colours emotionally, and as a result I’m very affected by visuals. It’s why I wear as much white as I do - to me it represents comfort and simplicity. And clouds.

RS: What scents do you like?
LR: Chlorine. I scour the internet semi-regularly for pool-scented candles.

RS: You're making me want to go to la piscine! You also have a taste for nice fragrances. I remember you were into Beige by Chanel at one point? What's your favourite right now?  
LR: Ginsberg is God by Bella Freud. Astier de Villatte makes candles and the Rue Saint-Honoré one is probably the best smelling thing since chlorine itself, though you should be advised they smell absolutely nothing alike. Byredo makes awesome fragrances as well; Mojave Ghost was the one I was wearing for a bit but I prefer Blanche these days. Their Ambre Japonais candle is amazing too.

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RS: How are you liking Vancouver?
LR: I’ve always been a big-city type of girl but Vancouver is great because nature is very accessible, and in recent years I’ve been developing a growing appreciation for it.

RS: What does nature represent to you?
LR: Nature to me reflects the universe… what the galaxy gave us, and not what humans have curated. Cosmic energy if you will. Maybe it’s like a quarter-life crisis thing but I feel a spiritual connection to the universe lately. I would consider myself an indoor person though, there’s too many bugs out there.

RS: What are your favourite locations in Canada?
LR: Kelowna or my family’s cabin in Manitoba. I’ve had limited opportunities for travel so there’s much of the world I have yet to see. Of the few places I have visited, Mexico was my favourite; I’d love to see more of that country.

RS: What do you do in Kelowna?
LR: They have a kangaroo sanctuary just outside of town that is probably my favourite thing within Canadian borders.

RS: You went to China by yourself when you were eighteen?
LR: I had never travelled overseas before, let alone by myself to the opposite side of the planet for a period of three months. I had potentially one of the worst panic attacks of my life on the flight over, but the trip as a whole was relatively less terrifying than I was anticipating. I did a lot of growing in those three months.

RS: What is your personal philosophy in life?
LR: I’m just trying to remember that I shouldn’t be living my life trying to please other people, whether they be my closest friends or strangers. Anxiety causes me to overthink everything and constantly doubt myself, but I’m no less human than anyone else on this earth. I am allowed to live for myself and create my own experiences.

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