She's well-known for roles in Chasing Life and Stan drama, The Bold Type. But Australian actor Aisha Dee's latest role is a departure from her usual upbeat, bubbly on-screen persona.
As the lead star in new horror movie Sissy, the 29-year-old portrays Cecelia, a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman. With over 200k followers, she firmly holds onto her influence, strategically positioning herself online as a 'mental health advocate' while concealing her real-life trauma and loneliness.
As expected of the film genre, a darker storyline eventually emerges — in this instance, it's when Cecelia runs into her childhood best friend Emma for the first time in over a decade.
After being invited by Emma to her hens weekend at a remote cabin, Cecelia faces maid of honour Alex, who used to bully Cecelia when they were younger. When Alex strives to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell, there's only so much she can take, until she snaps.
But as Dee explains, this movie is about more than just an explosive feud between two women. The film is ultimately a satirical look at millennial self-victimisation in the social media age, questioning how far we are willing to go to maintain a facade when confronted by our own pasts that we refuse to accept.
"Social media has become a huge part of our culture and who we are as people. It's almost like our third eye or another arm," Dee tells Refinery29 Australia over Zoom.
Rather than providing a solution, she says the film interrogates the function of social platforms and prompts the audience to "reexamine and look deeper when it comes to our relationship with social media."
Dee's personal relationship with social media is complicated. She shares candid selfies, promo snaps and singing clips with her 620k Instagram followers, but also struggles with feeling "the pressure, all the time" of people expecting her to speak up online about social issues as a public figure.
"I feel like an old lady, really, because I don't post that much. But that's mainly because I'm like, 'Well, who cares?'" she laughs.
"But sometimes I get a lot of anxiety when I'm on social media. I feel a really deep sense of responsibility when it comes to what I'm posting," the actor explains.
"I want to make sure that I'm putting good things in the world and also celebrating the right things, being able to celebrate my life and the people I love, but also keeping some things private for myself. I have a really complicated relationship with social media."
Dee says that filming Sissy has taught her the power of real-life actions making a greater impact, as opposed to posting about something on social media.
"Something I'm realising is that it's more important to think about how you're moving in the real world," she reflects. "You know, if the floods are happening in Queensland, it's like, 'What am I doing to help people in Queensland?' not, 'What am I doing to post the thing on my Instagram Story about what's happening?'
"Sometimes it can be really beautiful to speak up and share resources via social media, but I don't want to just be another voice in the echo chamber. If I'm going to say something, I want it to matter."
Meanwhile, taking on a very different role meant somewhat of a physical change for Dee in this film — which is undeniably noticeable thanks to her pastel pink hair on the screen. While the concept of transformation is evident through her character's journey, Dee says that embracing her hair and its versatility was culturally empowering and transformative personally as well.
"The entire story of Sissy is about Cecilia's journey towards finding her voice and stepping into her power and becoming this new woman," she explains. "And you know what they say, change your hair, change your life.
"Especially for Black women, but I also think for anyone, your hair and the way that you wear it really affects you on a cellular level. It changes how you move, and it changes how you dress, and it changes how you feel."
Sissy is now screening in Australian cinemas.