Diana Silvers On Ballet, Y2K Fashion, and the 'Cool Girl' Myth
In 2019’s hit movie Booksmart, Diana Silvers played the ultimate cool girl. As Hope, she was queer, confident, and chain-smoking — a teenage rebel without a cause (but with a heart of gold!) that will live on in cinema history. Yet over Zoom on a recent afternoon, the real Silvers, 23, is lamenting just how uncool she finds herself to be, all triggered by the mention of the universal 2020 uniform: sweatpants.
“In my mind, I wish I could be that cool person who pulls off sweats and sneakers, and can do the Y2K thing, but in reality, I am not cool enough to do that at all,” she says. “I went to try the Y2K look, and I felt so weird. I remember getting made fun of for a lot of these trends, because I had an older sister and would dress how she dressed, and everyone thought I was just a freak in elementary and middle school. Now my younger sister pulls it off so f*cking cool. I look like I’m going to summer camp all the time.”
Silvers says this all dressed in a decidedly uncounselor-like ensemble: a Jackie O-inspired ivory white shift dress, courtesy of Michael Kors. It’s her work clothes for the day, as she embarks on the second day of press for her latest film, Amazon’s Birds of Paradise. It’s a weird, half-virtual press junket, where she and co-star Kristine Froseth are together in Los Angeles, but conducting all interviews on video calls — oddly fitting for a film long-delayed over the course of 2020.
In the film, Silvers plays Kate, an American ballerina attending a prestigious French ballet academy competing for a contract at the local company. While the film takes place in Paris, it was filmed in Budapest, with production beginning in February 2020, halting in March, then resuming, back in Budapest, in late August. “We weren't really sure if we were going to be going back,” Silvers says. “When I first got home, I actually was still trying to keep up my ballet, doing it every day still. But then at a certain point, they were just like, ‘We actually don’t know when you’re coming back, or if.’ And I was like, ‘That’s OK.’ I think my body really needed a break. I slipped a rib on set and then I dislocated it fully [at home]. Then I fell down the stairs and I had to get a boot the day before we ended up flying back to Budapest. I was finally getting back into ballet, and then I injured myself because my dog peed, and I slipped and fell down the stairs. It’s funny [now] because I’m OK. But it’s honestly a miracle we even finished the film.”
In addition to rigorous physical training, Silvers also worked to get into the mindset of a competitive dancer, researching the schedule of what an actual day of a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School would be like, and shadowing her stylist, a former dancer, around the city to shop for leotards and meet with other dancers. “There’s just something very mysterious about it, and when you’re not a dancer, it’s so foreign, so I think that’s what’s so interesting about [ballet],” Silvers says. “The discipline and the passion to be a dancer is just insane, and it’s so beautiful. There’s so much pain involved in this art form ... and they make it look so effortless, and I think that’s what’s so fascinating.”
In between filming the two stretches of Birds of Paradise, Silvers also managed to wrap on Season 2 of Space Force, the Netflix series on which she plays Steve Carell’s daughter, navigating a lifestyle perhaps even more mysterious than ballet: space travel. “We ended up getting really close as a cast because we were on location [in Vancouver], and we only had each other in this little bubble,” she recalls. “I think for a show like that, it was really important and needed, and it helped the chemistry on the show. This season, there’s a lot more group interactions and stuff, so it was really fun for me to get to interact with everybody and learn from these just comedic geniuses and fantastic actors.”
Silvers commemorated the wrap in true summer 2021 fashion: a photo dump on Instagram, where it exists on her grid among Taylor Swift memes, film-shot self-portraits, and the cover of Italian Vogue’s September Issue, for which she posed, as well as shot an inside spread. “The creative director, Ferdinando [Verderi], is really supportive of my artistic endeavors and gave me an opportunity to shoot a beauty series in that issue,” she says. It’s something she’s interested in exploring further. “Self-portraits are fun and all, but they get boring because I’m just like, how many times can I take a photo of my face? I get bored of myself very easily, so it’s really fun to get to take photos of other people, especially if there’s fun and interesting clothes, and hair and makeup. Then it really becomes this creative, collaborative process.”
While home, Silvers relied heavily on finding a creative outlet while stuck inside. She started playing the cello again (“You appreciate it differently when it’s not your parents telling you to practice the cello, and you’re sitting there and you’re like, ‘It’s amazing that this piece of wood and these metal strings are making these beautiful sounds.’”) and cooking with her roommate (eggplant Parmesan was a specialty). As our interview wraps, so does her press for the film, meaning she’s about ready to take off her work clothes and return to her home cocoon. “I’m going to go retreat back into my cave and no one will hear from me again,” she says. Or, at least until early next year, or whenever her next project drops. “Then I’ll be like, ‘Hey, again.’”
Photographer: Pavielle Garcia