When Loren Gray watched her new Snapchat reality series Honestly Loren back for the first time, she noticed a juxtaposition she found particularly interesting. “In one episode, you can see me being a kid and having fun, playing soccer with my friends, and in the next episode I’m trying to decide if I’m going to release a song about my sexual assault,” she tells Refinery29 over the phone.
This persistent tension has existed at the centre of the 19-year-old’s life ever since her viral lip-synching videos on Musical.ly catapulted her into social media fame at the age of 13. Since then, Gray has amassed 53 million followers on TikTok (among the top 10 on the platform), 20 million on Instagram, and has entered a “new era” in her music career. But all the while, Gray has dealt with the pressure that comes with being a teenager forced to grow up fast.
Honestly Loren, out August 7 and consisting of ten episodes released every other day, explores Gray’s career as she navigates her not-so-normal daily life. As one of the most watched teens in the world, Gray’s app-based reality series will dive deep into her highs and her lows. “I hope people can just get to know me,” she says.
In the trailer, which is premiering exclusively on Refinery29, we see Gray on the go, getting ready for glamorous shoots and glossing herself up for the camera. But the star sheds a few tears as she talks to friends about the anxiety that comes with her unique lifestyle. “I come across as someone who has got it all together, people have this idea of me, but I feel like if I’m not meeting their expectations, I’m letting everyone down,” she says in the clip. However, she continues to find ways to break outside her comfort zone, from learning archery and bonding with a giant snake, to addressing the traumas that shaped her young life. “I’m still a work in progress,” she says. “I have to just be ok with being me.”
Refinery29: As a social media star, you have full control over what people see. What was it like giving that up?
Loren Gray: “It was really interesting because I've only ever recorded myself and put out what I want to put out. The Snapchat team and ITV Sirens were very responsive to what I wanted and what I wanted people to know about me. It was really great that it wasn't just a camera in my face, and then someone else had to put it together and create drama.”
One of your motivations to do this show was to show a different side of yourself. What do you mean when you say that?
“There were a lot of things that I opened up about that I haven't really done before — like being in college, living with my boyfriend, and some of my past traumas like my sexual assault and eating disorder. These are my organic conversations and reactions to things, which I didn't have the chance to edit and perfect. It was a really great experience for me because a lot of the time it's so easy to filter those things out. But those are the things that people need to hear.”
What motivated you to open up about these difficult topics?
“I have a lot of young fans. When I was 13, I was going through so much that I shouldn't have had to go through. I was afraid to talk about things and open up for fear of judgment, but I was really looking for someone to talk about the things that I was struggling with so I could feel less alone. Obviously, I'm not the first person to speak about these difficult issues, but hopefully if my fans watch the show or other people who don't even know who I am watch it, it can open doors for more productive conversations.”
I feel like people take one look at me and assume that there's nothing going on up there. It's really easy to be pretty on the internet — It's not easy to be intelligent and get that across to people.
Honestly Loren sees you struggling with your identity — balancing a persona and your authentic self. How has that affected you?
“Having that constant pressure of an audience, pleasing people, and making sure that I'm being the best version of me that people want to watch so I can keep a roof over my head has been the story of my life for the past six years that I’ve been on the internet. It's really difficult to have a really solid sense of self when you're constantly surrounded by opinion. And it's a lot of pressure, but it's definitely also grounded me.”
How do you maintain that balance in your life?
“It's really difficult. I keep it by having a really great relationship with my parents and keeping a really tight circle of people that I know have my best interests at heart, who love me and support me. Especially living in LA at such a young age, it's really easy to get caught up in the wrong things.”
What is a common misconception about you?
“That I'm not smart. I feel like people take one look at me and assume that there's nothing going on up there. It's really easy to be pretty on the internet — It's not easy to be intelligent and get that across to people. That's something else that I hope comes with the series, that people would see that there's more to me than what you see on Instagram and whatever other platforms.”
People tend to underestimate young women, as well as the legitimacy of social media stars.
“I'm basically facing the same issues that I would have faced as a young woman growing up, just on a completely different scale. I'm actually really grateful that I started so young because I feel like I adapted and adjusted well, and [it] happened gradually. I didn't just wake up one day with 10 million followers. I had to work for it, so I'm able to take the bad with the good.”
What do you ultimately want fans and viewers to get out of Honestly, Lauren?
“I'm a normal person. All the people that you watch and idolize, whether it be on TV or social media, are normal people with the same struggles and same issues [as you]. It's important for people to see that and relate to it. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.