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One of young Hollywood’s triple threats, actress-singer-fashion designer Taryn Manning is back on the casting radar in a big way, thanks to her turn as a hooker in “Hustle & Flow.” The Indie pimp-and-ho drama made history at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, when Paramount Pictures and MTV Films forked out $9 million for it — the biggest payday in the film festival’s history.

Like most of the characters she’s played — in “White Oleander,” “Crazy/Beautiful,” “8 Mile,” and “Cold Mountain” — Manning, 26, is a bit of a maverick, preferring to play her career her own way. The tactic has been good for her cult status — the Japanese love her edgy fashion line, Born Uniqorn, and her band, Boomkat — but it hasn’t quite made her a household name…yet.

Manning took some time out between film auditions, rehearsals with her new band (simply called Taryn Manning) and design meetings over patterns and fabrics, to talk to WWD about her hectic life in Hollywood.

On “Hustle & Flow”:

“I lucked out getting the role. I never fathomed that it would make history at Sundance. I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but my hopes are definitely up.”
“Right now, I have a lot of auditions. I’ve had a couple of offers come in for some films. One of them I’m negotiating, if they can work out a deal. There’s two parts I really want, but there’s a couple of actresses also in the fight, which is always the case. But, hopefully, I can slip in there.”

On singing and acting:

“Life takes crazy turns. My singing with my band is a big passion of mine. It’s hard for people to believe in me because of the acting. Sometimes I don’t even like talking about it. But they’re both a priority.

“There’s some people doing very well out there acting and singing. It’s a challenge, though, because you get brutalized by the press for trying both.”

This story first appeared in the February 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On her band:

“I put together a new band: New keyboard player, new drummer, new guitar player. Same DJ. My brother, Kellin, is still in the band, too; he plays bass. And I have all new songs. I really enjoy playing live. I love listening to music, but when you’re also making it, it’s really fulfilling.

“When my brother and I collaborate, well, we’re two peas in a pod. We grew up in Tucson, Ariz., with my mom, then with my dad in New York, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island. He was a traveling musician.

“My brother introduced me to making music, and I totally credit him for making me a singer. He said, ‘You can do it.’ So I wrote a song called ‘Wasting My Time.” Eminem heard it and it ended up on the ‘8 Mile’ soundtrack.”

“I don’t have a release date yet on my new record, but I’m working on it feverishly. We had a show the other night at Spaceland [in Silverlake]. I’m just starting to practice and get back out there.

“I was on DreamWorks, and now I’m free again, without a label. I’m hoping the new record will take me to Japan like the first one did [with Boomkat]. I love Japan — the people, the architecture, the fashion first and foremost.”

On developing a reality show:

“It’s something that’s in development right now. The director, Cline Mayo, has been documenting my life for the last three months — my rehearsals, filming a movie I did, my everyday life. She’s a really talented up-and-coming filmmaker, so I hired her to do it. It’s something we’re creating ourselves and we’re going to shop it around. My plan is to release it with my new record. Each episode will feature one of my tracks. It’s a tool to launch my music career. The photos [on these pages] are a little extra, to mix the stills with the video in the episodes.”

On life in Los Angeles:

“I live in L.A. full time. A typical week is full of auditions, band rehearsals and meetings with my partner, Tara Jane, on my clothing line, Born Uniqorn.

 “I have a little toy yorkie called Speakers. I’m really devoted to him. He’s like my child.

“At night, I like little bars where I can talk to my friends. My friend works for Bolthouse Productions, so sometimes I go to those clubs, which are awesome. On the weekends I visit my mom and grandma in Long Beach. I go shopping at thrift stores, and get my nails done.”

On being a designer:

“I design with my best friend, Tara Jane. We’ve been best friends since we were 13. We’ve always been the funkiest dressers, even to the point of being made fun of. When we were 21, we decided to start our own little line. We’re not trying to be like Dolce & Gabbana. We’re just having fun.

“We’re hustling it. I think people expect because I got a name for myself that’s why I’m doing a fashion line. But it’s just us. We don’t have investors. We’re falling and picking ourselves back up and doing this on a small scale. But I would love for it to grow into something bigger eventually.”

On Hollywood’s Fickleness:

“It is really hard to do my singing, my acting and my clothing line. But I don’t like to just sit around waiting for another film. I prefer to think of myself as an entrepreneur. I have a lot of ambition. People like to make fun and say ‘Oh, Taryn’s got another gimmick.’ But it’s not a gimmick. It keeps me busy, and that’s what makes me happy.

“What is considered young? Twenty-five and under? Look, with age, you gain wisdom. So I’m very happy being 26. I wear a ring on on my right hand that says ‘1978’ in diamonds — and I wear it proudly.

“What I absolutely hate are the rumors that become news. The other day I was in New York at a club at a table full of actors. Tori Spelling came, and they moved us to seat her. It didn’t faze me because Tori has been around so long, she’s earned her place. But in Page 6, they’re making fun that I got kicked out for Tori Spelling. The thing they didn’t report is that she invited us to stay.

 “Sometimes I feel like people make fun of me just because of the way I am. My friend says it’s because I do what I want. And so the press likes to ridicule that.”