Simone Ashley: “I Don’t Want To Be Put In A Certain Box. I Want To Be In The Driver’s Seat”

When she was a teenager, Simone Ashley would often spend New Year’s Eve alone, writing letters to herself.

I was a bit of a rebel. I went to a predominantly white all-girls school. I didn’t fit in, there was bullying, and I was wishing my life away. I would tell myself, ‘You’ll move away from this place, you’ll find your people and you’ll do whatever you want.’

Now, more than a decade later, that steely resolve is still visible in the assured, if decidedly less angsty, 27-year-old in front of me. It’s the tail end of the August heatwave and she is barefoot, sprawled across a blue velvet sofa in her sunny West London loft, wearing Levi’s cut-offs and a silk tank with the insouciance of someone who is entirely comfortable in their body.

Her cocker spaniel, Myla, is curled up at her feet, her nose against the tattoo of a sphinx cat on Ashley’s ankle (one she cavalierly drew and then tattooed on herself during the first lockdown). Dangling from her fingers is a vape, which she puffs on absent-mindedly, letting her natural curls fall down her back as she gazes up at a wall lined with prints – a Basquiat, a poster of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, a vintage map of India.

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