“I grew up outside of Oslo, Norway. My mom is from Norway and my dad is American, but I grew up with my mom, mostly. I moved to London when I was 18, and then a year later I moved here to New York. I started out doing very low-key modeling to pay bills while I was trying to write music. I was writing my own songs as a way to help myself work through certain things in my life that were difficult. My song ‘IUD’ was funny because I was considering getting an IUD in like April of last year, right when Planned Parenthood was being threatened [with de-funding]. I tried to make it funny and catchy just because it can be very bleak, writing a song about something like that. I wanted the person listening to the chorus to be like, ‘Oh, that’s funny.’ I’m just trying to keep it real… [Laughs] That’s such a funny thing to talk about, but I want to be treated like a musician, a singer-songwriter who plays guitar. It’s just my own vision. My goal is for people to be like, ‘OK I’m going on a plane, I’m going to put on Okay Kaya’s music.’ It’s really mellow. Music is often stronger when you perform it. But that doesn’t stop me from having debilitating anxiety the morning of a show. As a performer I think there’s me, and then me extra—a more savage version of me.
I was kind of broke when I lived in London. Then I moved here and it’s better—two slices and a can of coke for $2.75 is my breakfast, lunch, and dinner [Laughs]. I think I just try and keep it simple, and I try to get enough sleep. I’ve been taking Epsom salt baths. The light in my bathroom is really nice. I do yoga sometimes, Vinyasa. The spot I go to is called Go Yoga, and everyone is really sweet, but I’m very sporadic with my attendance. I take classes there, and I also go to Crunch to do weights and stuff and go on the elliptical. Working out makes me happier, and I think exercise is good for the brain.
I wash my face twice a day—that’s very important, especially in this city. I clean my skin with Eve Lom Cleanser—I’m running out of it, and I need to get some more. But it really works, and it’s a nice balm. I use it with my hands, and I massage it for a long time just because it feels good. I tone with Thayers Witch Hazel, and then I put on Cap Beauty Everyday Oil. And sunscreen. Now I have an avocado mask, but I like sheet masks, I like a clay mask… I think I just like masks—the act of doing them. I guess it’s just something I’ve been obsessed with for a really long time. I also use Origins Ten Minute Miracle Mask. It’s good for when I’m breaking out.
To perform, I’ll usually put on some lipstick. [My boyfriend] Aaron got me one that’s coral-y—I think he really likes makeup containers and all of the colors and textures. He bought me this one, and it’s just Revlon in 750. It feels good to put some lipstick on sometimes! Benetint is good too. Lipstick is easy for me because I have big lips, so I don’t really have to think about it. Once I start trying to do eye stuff it’s out of control. Then I sometimes fill in or brush my brows with the Anastasia twist pencil and Benefit’s brow gel. They’re both super easy to use. I won’t wear makeup during the day, but at nighttime I’ll be like, ‘Oh I want to fill my brows in!’ I never wear mascara because I rub my face so much. I hate taking it off and I don’t like how it looks on—I like to look in the mirror and see that it’s me. Sometimes I’ll do a glitter liner just for fun when I go out. I used to have a Chanel bronzer and I loved using it, but then it broke—it smashed on the ground one day. I haven’t used it since then.
I started doing Keratin treatments a long time ago. I go every three months to this neighborhood hairdresser—I think it’s called Zoe’s. I used to have curls, but when I moved here I started to straighten my hair every day. My agent was like, ‘Just do Keratin,’ and now I can’t get my curl back. But then I got used to this look, and it’s really easy. With curls you have to put in a lot of effort, and I wasn’t raised like that. My mom would chase me around to comb my hair, so I think this is better suited to me. I just use the Whole Foods shampoo and conditioner, and It’s A 10 Leave-In. It’s really affordable and easy. You can’t fuck it up. I’ll go get manicures every now and then—ooh, sometimes I’ll just do glitter, and go like, full regression. I use the Deborah Lippmann polish—so easy to use.
This is my very favorite smell—mmm. It’s Maison Louis Marie No. 4—that’s my go-to. I’m really trying to go for meadow-moss vibes. I use Xodo Botanicals Spanish Moss sometimes, and I use this Aesop Marrakech Intense one. I’m more interested in scents than any other beauty category, I think. And then I got this CBD thing that I love—I’m going to bring it on the plane. You roll it on, or you put it on your temples if you have headaches. I like that kind of stuff for flying, because [flying] freaks me out a little bit. It’s got lavender and bergamot. I think my mom, or one of my grandparents maybe, had one of the old Chanel things, and I would use way too much of that. Sketchy stuff. [Laughs] My fragrances now don’t smell like that—they smell like my apartment. This guy who has since become my friend makes these candles—his name is Dave. I did a show for his launch of these candles, and so he gave me this gigantic candle. It’s cement—isn’t that cool? It’s handmade. I think you can get them at Opening Ceremony. It’s like a sculpture. I light incense all the time, the cheapest ones. It’s so nice.”
—as told to ITG
Okay Kaya photographed by Tom Newton on June 28, 2018.