Pretending with Ida Engvoll

Ida Engvoll noticed from an early age that she had a talent for pretending. Now she makes a living out of it. We met her in between shoots and #metoo.

Where did you learn to act?

I learned to pretend before I can remember. I’ve always protected grownups through pretending not to know what death is or what horror feels like. I pretended to be afraid of clowns because others did. I pretended to admire boy bands because others said they did. I think lots of others pretended too, but I think some children are more aware of it. I always knew when I did and early on understood that it was a talent and my way of protecting myself. I entertained the world through this talent, and they made me ashamed of it. Grownups had problems with me lying, but I didn’t lie, I told stories about dead grandparents and thieves. I protected myself by living in half reality, half fantasy, and I still do.

How do you memorise your lines?

I need to embody the content of the text, understand how it sticks together. This is where you’re able to separate good and bad scripts.

You have played a wide range of women, what is your favourite one so far?

I can’t pick a favourite and I don’t want to frame them like that. I’m afraid of thinking too hard and breaking something within me that feels sacred. It’s like expressing art – it’s impossible. The best women still live within me, often through melancholies of some sort. The average live in me like shame, the worst I don’t feel a thing for.

You are part of the Swedish #metoo movement #tystnadtagning, equivalent to #timesup. What does this mean to you personally?

It means so much on so many different levels. Personally I’m currently very emotionally touched by the fact that women’s life stories are validated as truth in the public eye. People are realising that these truths have been automatically questioned. Testimonies from women about their own bodies, sexuality, understanding of a room, environment, power and the right to feel around this, has up until now been considered individual cases, and not part of a structure. I don’t think we’re at the point where we can relax and take it for granted; we have to take one step further in order to cement this in our culture.

What is the craziest thing you have done for a role?

To screen test for roles is always crazy, often in a negative way.

What is your dream role?

Just like I stated above I can’t express this. But lots of the best roles are written for men, my dream includes to set free universal stories from sex.

Where do you feel freest? 

I feel free in the woods, it’s a cliché but true.

What’s your favourite city?

I visited Moscow earlier this year and it was incredible to spend time their during winter. So beautiful! So cold! I think people should go there and see a ballet or go to the opera. Pretend to lead a bourgeois life.

What’s your relationship to fashion?

To me style and fashion is a mix of identity, art and politics. One single garment can contain power, dreams, we versus them, longing and exclusion. I am born in inherited clothes, stonewashed jeans and 1980s blouses with fish vests, my aunties’ dresses and blue overalls.

I grew up like my big sister’s little brother, who always cut my own hair short, and ahead of school starts ordered clothes from mail order catalogues. It was magical to wait for the package to arrive, I think about it with love for my mother because I now realise it must have burnt a hole in her wallet.

I’m still all of this, but it has turned into politics and identity – politics because I have shifted between shame and pride about not being born in a given context. To be “the boy girl” (a complicated expression) who played football in the male team and at the same time being infected by the princess dreams of our time. I’ve gone all-in style wise to create identity and affiliation: Spikes, military coats and boots, the fila-adidas-buffalo kit and some kind of hippie, collective mess to name a few.

I like many Swedish designers but don’t want to lock me in one single expression. Casually I wear shoes from Lundhags with a pair of suit trousers and maybe a shirt. A hat or wool scarf from Wigens and a very stylish long coat from Whyred. Often without makeup.