Actress, beauty boss, film producer, UNICEF ambassador – Millie Bobby Brown is the multi-hyphenate poster girl for Gen-Z and beyond. For her second GLAMOUR UK cover – shot at home by her brother, Charlie – Josh Smith finds out there is one thing she can’t do when he Zooms into the home of the 16-year-old… and that’s control her dog.
It’s an early Thursday morning in Millie Bobby Brown’s Atlanta home and it’s carnage. “Luna, calm down,” Millie yells to the newest member of the Brown gang (which extends beyond the four members of her actual family), a brown mini poodle who is her mum Kelly’s “most prized possession”.
“She’s doing laps around my bedroom,” Millie laughs before taking our Zoom call to the kitchen to escape, dressed in an oversized New York Yankees striped hoodie and bare-faced morning skin, having just recently woken up.
“I have the two mini poodles that drive me insane,” she shares, listing the inhabitants of the MBB ‘petting zoo’, which also includes two tortoises. “The other one is Winnie, who is sat on the table right now – she is Posh Spice to the max – she knows her angles. I have six dogs in total. We have a mini cavapoo who lives in London called Nora, a mini goldendoodle called Leo and then we have, Ronnie and Reggie – two English mastiffs, they’re huge – who are named after the Kray twins because we think that they’re like English gangsters. We thought they were going to be the guard dogs, but they freak out at thunder – they are wimps.”
“I do have a lot of faith in myself. As a young person and as a young girl I was very listened to… but listen, I came out of the womb having a voice!”
Last time I spoke to Millie, in 2019BC (that’s Before Corona) she was desperate to get a micro pig for her forthcoming 16th birthday. Did she get her wish? “I don’t think anyone is going to willingly go get me a pig – so I need to go get one myself,” she jokes.
This kind of conversation reminds you that you are actually speaking to a teenager, but Millie is wise and successful beyond her years. And in case you need a crash course on the rise of MBB, buckle up for quite the debrief. Millie left her home in Dorset, England for Florida with her family to pursue acting at the tender age of eight, landing guest roles in Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy before she shot to fame on Netflix’s Stranger Things aged 12. She has since received two Emmy Award Nominations for her role as Eleven, the troubled girl with otherworldly powers, became UNICEF’s youngest ever Goodwill ambassador aged 14, delivered two powerful speeches on the rights of children at the UN, launched her own clean beauty range, Florence by Mills aged 15, and now at 16 she is not only starring in her second movie but producing (for the first time), Enola Holmes. Oh, and this is her second time as a GLAMOUR UK cover star. Anyone else need to lie down after reading that?
In her new Netflix movie, a period drama with high kicks, Enola Holmes, she plays the title character and the sister of the great Sherlock Holmes. Like Millie, Enola is determined in her plight to be seen and heard in a world awash with adult voices, continually coming up against mansplaining, sexism and reverse ageism as she attempts to track down her missing mother, an early suffragette, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Sherlock is played by Henry Cavill, who takes a supporting role in a true 2020 twist.
“The broader message is touching on female empowerment,” she says, beaming about her second feature film after last year’s Godzilla. “But we also show that, hey, it’s OK to be a young girl and really not know what you’re doing or what your purpose is in life. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have one. It means that you just have to find it.”
Noting her own faith in herself that saw her family uproot from the UK to America to pursue Millie’s acting dream, she continues, “I’ve been really lucky to know that I want to be an actor. This is what I wanted to do my whole life. Filming this film made me realise Eleven doesn’t speak very much in Stranger Things and here I was learning paragraphs and monologues every day. I was surprising myself that I wasn’t messing up!”
Millie wasn’t only contending with a few extra lines; she joined the project as a producer. This meant she brought a new sense of responsibility on set with her, having a say on everything from casting to the construction of scenes. “I was very nervous. I’m not going to lie,” she admits. “I’ve never done that before so to be honest I wasn’t coming onto set like, ‘I have authority.’ I came on set like, ‘Should I say this? Should I say that?’ It was always nerve-racking because I’ve just never done that before. But as soon as I walked on to set, I didn’t even have those thoughts come into my head. I just said, ‘Oh, should we try this, or should we try that?’ It just naturally came to me; it was such an amazing opportunity for me to learn and grow. I love putting my input in and have it been appreciated and listened to.”
In a world where the voices of young people are sidelined in favour of adults, having her views heard and respected is not only important to Millie but she sees it as vital for all of our futures. In a powerful speech at the UN last year, Millie proclaimed, “young people don’t want to be talked about. We want to do the talking,” and becoming a producer has given her a new-found faith in her voice, too.
“I struggle with anxiety and in some ways, this has hindered it. When I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling very anxious, some things like when people say, ‘Oh, you looked bad at this award show because you looked like this or you looked like that,’ make me a little bit more anxious.”
“On Stranger Things, too, I’ve always been very lucky to voice my opinion – the Duffer Brothers (creators of Stranger Things) have always given me that freedom,” Millie tells me, pulling her hair back. “On Enola Holmes I was given free rein to explore my character and Enola is added to my resume for empowering myself. I do have a lot of faith in myself. As a young person and as a young girl I was very listened to so I’m very lucky that I get to tell my story of that experience. But listen, I came out of the womb having a voice. My mom was like, ‘Mill, you need to shut up.’ I’ve always had something to say!”
Having this level of authority doesn’t stop people talking down to her because of her age, however. “Some people don’t realise that they’re doing it,” she says. “I am a young person. I think that we as a young generation should join the conversation because it’s our conversation to be had. We are the next generation. We are going to have to deal with what you guys have left behind. I always found that really, really important to me. I would always say to my friends, ‘Why don’t you just say? Why don’t you just tell the principal that this is how you feel?’
“And they’re like, ‘Um. Um.’ I’m like, ‘No. You have to. Why not? It’s your school. It’s the school you’re going to. If you don’t feel loved or if you feel like something’s going on, you have to be open and honest about that.’ I always say use your voice in every situation, in every aspect of your life, because how are we going to change the world if everyone’s just going to stay silent? We have to talk about these things,” she insists.
“I think Enola Holmes also taught me that being with yourself, being your own biggest critic, being your own biggest support team is so important… Everyone has to empower themselves.”
Having this much faith in herself is remarkable considering she was so badly bullied while at school in England that she was forced to move schools. Is she more in tune with her voice now because people actively tried to take it away from her and make her feel small?
“I think when you’re being bullied, your instinct is to say, ‘Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. Maybe they’re just having a bad day.’ I was definitely one of those people,” she reflects. “I didn’t want to say I was being bullied and in those moments you kind of deny the fact that you are. Now when I reflect, I’m like, ‘Oh, I definitely was. That’s not something you say to anyone. That’s not normal.’ I think I found my ability to speak out when I started my job, and I found my platform and what I wanted to talk about. For me, it was cyberbullying because I’ve received a lot of that in my life and it’s horrible.”
Millie is now finding it easier to deal with this new form of bullying, which at one point saw her quit Twitter altogether. “I can deal with it. I think maybe I’ve grown thicker skin and I just realised it’s OK, they might be going through something, they might be really upset or hurting. I choose to love. I don’t like hating on people. It’s exhausting and horrible. So, I’ve dealt with that by saying, ‘I’m turning it around. Come on my Instagram page. If you really do want to hate on me. I am just trying to spread love and positivity.”
I wonder how growing up in the public eye has helped and hindered Millie? “I keep most things private in my life,” she replies. “Personally, I struggle with anxiety and in some ways, this has hindered it. When I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling very anxious, some things like when people say, ‘Oh, you looked bad at this award show because you looked like this or you looked like that,’ those things make me a little bit more anxious and that hinders me a little bit more.”
Millie does reveal however that her relationship with anxiety has been a long-lasting one and that her lockdown hobbies of Beyoncé dance classes and getting her driving license have helped her. “I get really anxious when I feel like I don’t have a creative outlet,” Millie shares. “I’ll be like, ‘Oh, maybe I need to write a song,’ or maybe, ‘I need to think of an idea.’ I found out I’m nonstop just as a person. I don’t really like to sit still. I have learned to manage it in ways that a lot of people learn to manage things like breathing exercises or distracting your mind and my hobbies help distract me from being anxious. Driving takes my anxiety away, actually. I thought it would heighten it. I just don’t think about anything.”
Millie is definitely her own ally in this abnormal life she finds herself in and the struggles she comes up against. “I think over quarantine I’ve learnt that,” she remarks. “I think Enola Holmes also taught me that being with yourself, being your own biggest critic, being your own biggest support team is so important, too. I rely on myself to give myself self-love, because that’s just literally the only way I can. I tell myself, ‘Wow. I did good in that,’ and I have to give myself love because that’s important. Everyone has to empower themselves.”
“…she loves Mike – I want them to get married. That’s what I need. I need a wedding scene for Stranger Things, period!”
Millie may be her own ally, but her family unit of her mum, Kelly, dad, Robert, older siblings, Charlie and Paige and younger sister, Ava keep her grounded both at home and at work. Paige is co-producing a new Netflix film project, A Time Lost with her, and her brother Charlie photographed her for her second GLAMOUR UK cover. “I moved into my house here in Atlanta with my family and then moved for filming to Hawaii then Australia, then England,” Millie says. “So, I did not get time to live in my house and now I’m finally here. It’s really nice to think, ‘Wow. I can actually decorate my room.’ Genuinely I love hanging out with my family, they are just the coolest people, they’re like my friends. I always thought to myself, ‘I’m losing out on friendships and school.’ But do you know what? I’m not, because I love my family. I love being home-schooled because it gets me to be like having that job that I’ve always wanted. So, it’s definitely made me appreciate things more and especially with everything going on, it’s definitely humbled me,” she lovingly says.
One thing Millie can’t wait to get back to is filming Stranger Things after, “I was literally getting my costume on and was told to take it off,” before heading into lockdown. What are her hopes for Eleven who she has grown up with going into the fourth season of the show? “Oh my god, she’s been through so much, I just hope she’s happy,” she immediately answers.
“I always say to the Duffers, ‘Can she just not smile like in one take?’ I would love her story to be rounded off by like a good ending. I trust the Duffer brothers so much that it’s going to be beautiful and I’m going to love it no matter what it is. But I’d love for her to get her powers back because she is a hero, she is like a super woman in a way. And she loves Mike – I want them to get married. That’s what I need. I need a wedding scene for Stranger Things, period.” Eleven in a wedding dress and her going, “Sorry, my nose is bleeding. It’s a white dress.” Doesn’t it just seem like it would fit,” she gestures, comedically faking a nose bleed.
WATCH: Millie Bobby Brown, “As a girl & a young person its scary to express myself.”
Well one thing is for certain Millie is a hero in her own right, but her superpowers today revolve around the simpler task of helping her Mum out around the house. “When my mum comes back, she’ll say, ‘All right, have you done your interview? Have you fed the baby, my sister, Ava? Have you fed the dog?’ I’m like, ‘Oh. No!’ So here I am being the adult 16-year-old I am – I have to go feed everyone now!” And off she goes to live her very normal life, in abnormal times.
Enola Holmes will be available on Netflix from 23 September