Exclusive Interview

Clara McGregor Is Charting Her Own Course

She takes Bustle behind the scenes of Chanel’s 2023 Cruise show.

Clara Mathilde McGregor, who stars in 'AHS,' talks to Bustle ahead of Chanel's 2023 Cruise show.

Clara McGregor is Zooming from a friend’s loft in Chicago, and like any good post-pandemic pet parent, she needs to introduce her puppy, Lloyd. He’s a sweet, scrappy little rescue of unknown heritage. She recently did a 23andMe-type DNA analysis for her other dog, Murphy, and actually connected with his sister, who lives in Washington, D.C. We muse about how a K-9 family reunion could go viral. She laughs, and looks at Lloyd. “Do we want to go viral? Probably not, right Lloyd? Too much work.”

These days, the Brooklyn-based actor usually only posts to promote a project, like her current run on Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology series, FX’s American Horror Story (“I’m one-third of a lesbian gang with Sandra Bernhard”), whose 11th season is set in New York City. “The older I get, the more I value privacy,” she says, “but I don’t think I was always like that.”

Although her parents — production designer Eve Mavrakis and actor Ewan McGregor — created a firewall between their Hollywood and home lives, Clara ultimately had to reestablish that boundary for herself as an adult. In the past, she’s been outspoken about her personal life. Now, she’s more inclined to keep her guard up for self-protection.

“I loved this look,” says Clara. “It has a ’70s feel, in the perfect Miami Beach colors. It was a fun outfit to dance in, too.”

That protective instinct also extends to her four younger siblings, with whom she’s exceptionally close. “I hope they can grow up in a world where they don’t feel like they need to look a certain way or be anything that doesn’t feel natural to them,” says Clara, who was raised in London before the family moved to LA, where she attended the illustrious Crossroads High School.

Over the last few years, she’s been intentional about identifying her own interests and values — a difficult task for any young adult, but perhaps particularly so within the funhouse of celebrity culture. She first modeled for Fendi in 2018, for example, and has since worked with brands like Bulgari and now Chanel. On Friday she attended a Miami presentation of Chanel’s 2022-2023 cruise collection, alongside guests like Marion Cotillard and Lily-Rose Depp.

“The room had such a gorgeous view. It was lovely getting ready in such a beautiful space,” says Clara.
“My go-to mascara has been Chanel’s Noir Allure for a while now. It gives me a full dark lash.”
1 / 2

In terms of her own personal style? “I’ve just started figuring it out,” says the actor, who loves a Diane Keaton-esque suit and loathes a stiletto. She looks to her mom and younger sister Esther for cues. “She’s always had this innate comfort in being different,” she says of the latter. “It’s taken me a bit longer.”

Her acting trajectory has followed a similar gradual progression. She loved being in school plays but “took a back seat” after moving to LA and initially majored in photography at NYU. (She graduated in 2018 with a degree in cinema studies.) “I didn’t yet understand how I could build my own path within the same career as my dad. I felt like I needed more of a difference, so I decided to be behind the camera,” she says. “But at the end of the day, his work was an inspiration for me — as much as I want to do it in my own way now.”

For viewers, that means she’s both behind the scenes and stealing them. During the pandemic’s early days, she co-founded a production company, Deux Dames Entertainment, with the intention of telling women-centric stories featuring characters who are “holding their own.” The first project is close to her heart: the semi-autobiographical drama You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder, which she conceived, and in which she and Ewan star as a father-daughter duo en route to rehab. It’s due out next year, as is the slasher flick Alone at Night, co-starring Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, and G-Eazy, directed by Clara’s longtime partner, Lolawolf’s Jimmy Giannopoulos. She’s mum about her role, but says she won’t be watching it alone or at night (“I’m skittish!”).

“The show itself had to be one of my favorite Chanel collections ever,” says Clara, “and the setting on the beach was unreal.”

Does working with a parent or partner unearth yearning for approval or tricky power dynamics? “It all happens,” she says. “But that can be a good thing. It can push me to want to do my best work. That’s motivating.”

At 26, she’s finding ways to tell stories on her terms. “I was so in my head [growing up]. I cared about so many little things, mainly about what other people thought, and it’s a cliché, but I really felt that shift getting into my later 20s,” she says. “I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin. Finding inner confidence is the biggest gift, because no one can take that away from you.”

“Getting my hair and makeup done is always special,” she says, “and helped me feel even better in the outfit.”
“I left the two things at the hotel I was told not to forget... my ID and the invite to the party. Classic.”
1 / 2

Image Credits: Chanel clothing and accessories

Photographer: Simbarashe Cha

SVP of Fashion: Tiffany Reid