Long before Nikki Reed first appeared in Twilight as Rosalie Hale, her career started with a jolt when she was barely a teenager. Her debut role had her starring in 2003’s poignant goodkid-gone-astray film Thirteen, a movie she had co-written based partly on her own life, and that depicted sex, drugs, petty crime, cutting, and teenagers (all in the same memorable scenes). It was a parent’s worst nightmare, and caused a media maelstrom with Reed right in the eye.
“It was a feeding frenzy, and I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t have any media training—I didn’t have anybody but myself,” she says. “I was a very sensitive kid who then had to condition myself to desensitize. Now I feel like my journey is to try to do the opposite, and find that connection with my own sensitivity again.”
For Reed, a big part of that connection is music, and on the day that we speak, she’s just released her first single, “Fly With You,” on iTunes. Though she previously made music with her ex-husband, American Idol’s Paul McDonald, this is her first solo venture and, she says, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this vulnerable and personal.”
“Fly With You” is make-out music—the song starts with delicate piano and Reed’s sultry vocals before building to an I-wantyou-now dance-pop crescendo—and it’s a departure from everything she’s done in the past. “There was something so beautiful and honest about what Paul and I created, but there’s no denying that it had a very different feel from this,” she says. “It’s just as real and as raw, but I connected with this music in a totally different way. It’s a new chapter for me.”
Reed is an impassioned person, and as personal as the release of the song was for her, she also took it as an opportunity to promote something other than just herself: She is donating a portion of the proceeds from the song to the Wildlife Waystation, a Los Angeles animal sanctuary.
This won’t surprise her fans or followers, who are used to Reed touting the Fusion Rise Up Conference, talking about human trafficking, or pleading for someone to adopt a dog (often in extended, fiery captions on her Instagram). “It’s taken me a while to figure out who I feel comfortable being on social media, because for the longest time, it was just a place to promote, promote, promote,” she says. “I wanted to talk about what I felt excited to talk about and maybe that didn’t have anything to do with projects.”
Now, for someone who never really expected to be in the spotlight, she’s making the most of the glare. “It’s been a journey to figure out what kind of contribution I want to make,” she says, “and what kind of person I want to be on this planet.”
stylist: sean knight. hair: amber duarte at one represents using aveda. makeup: amy strozzi at tmg-la using chanel rouge coco.