ALEXANDRA SHIPP IN NEW YORK, JANUARY 2016. SUIT: GUCCI. TOPS: VINTAGE. EAR CUFF: LADY GREY. SHOES: MARC JACOBS. STYLING: MICHELLE CAMERON. COSMETICS: DIOR, INCLUDING DIORSHOW MASCARA AND DIORSHOW MONO EYESHADOW. HAIR: ROLANDO BEAUCHAMP FOR BUMBLE AND BUMBLE/THE WALL GROUP. MAKEUP: KRISTI MATAMOROS FOR DIOR ADDICT/FRANK REPS. MANICURE: ERI HANDA FOR DIOR VERNIS/MAM-NYC.
In 2014, Alexandra Shipp landed the title role of the Lifetime Channel movie Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B. In 2015, she played Ice Cube‘s wife, Kimberly Woodruff, in the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton. And this year, the 24-year-old Phoenix-raised actress completes an impressive pop-cultural trifecta when she takes the screen as a younger version of Storm, the weather-controlling mutant (previously played by Halle Berry) in the latest installment of the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse. Director Bryan Singer’s interpretation of Storm’s origin takes cues from her punk makeover in a 1983 issue of the comic book and delivers her to the X-Men by way of the film’s central villain, Apocalypse, who discovers her living on the streets of Cairo. “Sometimes you look around at your situation and think, ‘I’m so much better than this. I’m a fucking weather goddess,'” Shipp says, laughing. “I wanted to hold that angst in and give that character a Fiona Apple moment.”
Shipp can appear as much like Storm out of character as she does in costume. The day we meet, for instance, she wears a vintage faux-fur jacket that was a wrap gift from her Aaliyah wardrobe, velvet leggings, and biker boots. She also sports a knit beanie from Dude, the indie comedy she just finished shooting (“It’s like a female Superbad,” she says). The beanie covers her short crop of hair that has grown out since she shaved her head to accommodate Storm’s signature mohawk.
Shipp moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting at age 17, after her first big break in 2009’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. She followed that up with a role in the mystical Nickelodeon boarding-school soap House of Anubis and the lead in the 2014 VH1 movie Drumline: A New Beat. Shipp also happens to be a dedicated musician, writing and recording what she describes as “R&B kirtan.” “I’ve been called crazy for adding a mantra to a trap hip-hop beat, but it’s where I’m at right now,” she says. “My mom is a Kundalini yoga teacher, my uncle is a Vedic astrologer, and I grew up speaking Sanskrit, meditating, and doing morning Sat Nams. That’s on the white side. On the black side, I was baptized Southern Baptist, and that’s all Funkadelic, George Duke, and all that jazz. My music is a representation of me because I’m not just one thing.”