“I’m obsessed with Jack Nicholson,” says Alana O’Herlihy. “Everyone knows it. It’s not a secret, I talk about it all the time.”
If she’s not talking about Nicholson, who she loves for his “intense” roles like in films “The Shining” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” O’Herlihy is posting about him on Instagram, where she’s known as Lil Mami Lani. Her page reads like a mood board for a Seventies thriller. She shares throwbacks of Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Madonna just as much as she shares angsty self-portraits with camera — and selfies. In one particular post, she holds a lit cigarette between her teeth, her neon yellow hair pulled back in a ponytail. In another, she poses in a floral blazer, her hair — this time bright pink — looking wild and unkempt.
There are also the occasional pictures of longtime friends Bella and Gigi Hadid. O’Herlihy lensed Gigi for her Gigi x Maybelline campaign and even got a lipstick shade out of it. The model named a reddish-pink shade Lani in O’Herlihy’s honor.
A Los Angeles native, O’Herlihy came to New York about four years ago. She had been attending community college in L.A., stopped going and decided with her boyfriend at the time to move to New York. She applied to Parsons School of Design, got in and packed her bags for the East Coast.
It was at Parsons that O’Herlihy discovered her love of dressing up. “I had some assignment and I was like, I don’t really want to shoot anyone else and it’s always easier to shoot myself and I used to do acting classes and I’m not afraid to be in front of the camera, you know, at all,” she says over the phone in her stream of consciousness way. “So I dressed up as Jack Nicholson and I did a Jack Nicholson self-portrait series.” She eventually dropped out of Parsons, but her assignment was a hit.
O’Herlihy has a “massive list of characters” she wants to play. On the list are Frida Kahlo and Patti Smith, both of whom inspired her WWD self-portrait series. “It’s like if they had a baby,” she says of the photos. “‘Just Kids’ [by Patti Smith] is one of my favorite books ever.…And then Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait series, her paintings, are some of my favorites, so I thought I’d do a self-portrait, but with a camera inspired by her and then mix the two. They’re both powerful women who changed the world in some sort of way.”
The budding photographer says her typical day is hectic, filled with meetings and Uber rides. “I’m either running around town picking up film or going to a doctor’s appointment ’cause I just recently broke my hand,” she says.
When asked what happened to her hand, she replies, “Long story. Long, long, long story. Yeah, I’ve been sitting in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices editing a lot. It’s a lot of e-mails, a lot of editing, phone [issues] and now I’m just trying to fit in time to make my art, which is the one thing that I need. I would never want to stop doing that.”
She takes baths to relax — “probably two baths a day” — and tries to surround herself with people she loves come nighttime. And when she’s not editing photos, you can find her vintage shopping.
“I’ve always shopped at thrift stores since I was a kid because of, like, money, one, and two, because I just like it better,” O’Herlihy says. “I feel like when you buy pieces that other people have worn, they have this whole life that they’ve lived and their own story. I get a kick out of it. So that’s usually where I shop. I love designer clothes. Right now my favorite [brands] are probably Louis Vuitton and Prada and Gucci. But I don’t spend my money on that.”
Instead, she spends her money on Amazon buying vitamins. “I don’t know if [vitamins] really work, I’m just obsessed with the idea of [them],” she says. “I take 20 vitamins a day.”
She recently shot behind-the-scenes footage for Gigi and Tommy Hilfiger’s latest campaign and lately she’s been working on starting a business with her friend, Australian model Jordan Barrett. What kind of business, you ask?
“That’s a surprise,” she says. “You’ll see. It’s Heavily Sedated on Instagram.”