The rising star of screen and stage talks about her journey from YouTube fame to worldwide recognition.
Photography by Bartek Szmigulski
Styling by Jessica Gardener
Words by Ryan Cahill
It’s 2005. I’m 11 years old and bouncing around my bedroom lip-syncing to “Kiss Kiss” by Holly Valance while my cousin records me via a plug-in webcam. We’ve just discovered a new social media site called Bebo and, like everyone else at the time, we’re obsessed. We think we’re destined to be the next stars of social media – and my flamboyant “Kiss Kiss” rendition is the key to all our success.
Sadly (or thankfully) our dreams of internet stardom were never realised, but for Tanya Burr (albeit a LOT more talented), her climb to internet iconicity was pretty much plain sailing – and she definitely didn’t need Holly Valance to help her make it. Her lifestyle videos thrust her to worldwide fame, and after a 10-year reign at the top of the YouTube game, she’s amassed over three million followers on all of her social media outlets, whilst also studying drama and pursuing her career as an actor. This year sees the rising star become a fully-fledged thespian as she takes on the screen and stage in a string of diverse roles. “I was really obsessed with writing plays, starring in them and directing them and bossing [around] all of my friends. I was basically obsessed with performing.” Burr tells me when we jump on a call a couple of days after her shoot. Her interest in performance started back in her youth when her mum encouraged her to take ballet lessons. “She was like ‘if I have a daughter, she’s going to ballet class! That’s something that I always wanted to do and never did.’” Following this was the ARTS school in Norfolk, where Burr was given the opportunity to study tap dancing and disco, as well as drama. Despite studying performing arts in school, her lack of confidence and omnipresent social anxiety stopped her from excelling. “When it came to my A-levels, I didn’t choose drama, which was the biggest regret of mine!” Burr explains, “I think if I had chosen drama and just got rid of that anxious feeling, then I would have been acting sooner than the age that I am now.” In January 2015 she decided to take up acting lessons to make up for what she’d missed, and if her ever-burgeoning CV is anything to go by, we’re guessing she didn’t regret it. “I was really passionate about it and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I was just super dedicated.” She explains. Her next on-screen appearance will be in Sky1’s new crime drama, Bulletproof, alongside Noel Clarke and Ashley Walker. The mini-series will follow two police officers as they take on hardened criminals of East London, which she tells me she’s “really excited” about.
She’s also about to make her major debut on-stage as the lead role in Judy Upton’s Confidence by Boundless Theatre in May. “I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be such a cool play. It’s [set in the] 90s, think VHS crop-tops, chokers, disposable cameras! It’s a real kind of 90s play.” She tells me with an inflection of excitement. The story focuses around her character Ella, who is desperate to escape the summer season on a British seafront. “She doesn’t get along with her parents, she has a bit of a rubbish life and so, she has a no-nonsense attitude. She plans on making her fortune in the hills of Hollywood. She’s not afraid to embrace her femininity.” She says of her character.
Playing strong female characters will undoubtedly come easily to Burr; she’s an active feminist in her real life and, although she’s not keen to admit it, a role-model for young women internationally. She recently took to Downing Street to campaign against period poverty and is highly active when it comes to speaking out for Women’s Rights. “I think that it’s so important right now. It’s an exciting time because of campaigns like #MeToo and Time’s Up. They are empowering women to use their voices more.” She explains. I ask her whether she feels like, having such a huge online audience, she has a responsibility to speak out about social injustices. “I feel like it’s all our responsibility. I think that I’m a good person and I try to do good things. Just for myself and my own life and I think that’s reflected in my public persona.”
As we round up our phone-call, it’s clear to see that acting is very much where she’s destined to be. She tells me that her next goal is to star in a feature film because she’s yet to do one, whilst continuing to connect with her loyal social media following, who it’s evident mean a lot to her. Despite just starting to make her move in the world of acting, she’s already got her sights set on an even bigger role – the biggest she’ll ever have. “I want to have children in a few years, after I’ve got a couple of films under my belt. I definitely want to start a family and enjoy life, whilst also continuing to work. That’s my goal!” And it’s a role in which we’re sure she’ll excel.
Hair NATSUMI EBIKO using LORE ORIGINALS, makeup AMY CONLEY at STELLA CREATIVE ARTISTS using CHANEL. With thanks to the ALBANY HOTEL.