Mademoiselle Moody // Australian born dancer, model & actress Gala Moody celebrates her Independent Spirit Award with TPP
It is 8am and the morning of the Independent Spirit Awards. The sky is full of opportunity as we make our way to the Viceroy in Santa Monica where our very talented friend Gala Moody is already expecting us with four orders of the best American pancakes.
For those of you who don’t know, Gala is an acclaimed Australian dancer, occasional model and, as of February 23rd, award-winning actress. She has been living and working in Europe for the past decade and recently made her on screen debut alongside Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz in Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, Suspiria. Together with her riveting co-stars, genius director, and worldly casting directors Avy Kaufman and Stella Savino, Gala is to receive the Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble Cast. Unlike all other categories the Robert Altman Award is the only category where the nominees/winners are made known to the public prior to the award ceremony. Despite the early call time and long day ahead, it is safe to say our spirits are high.
Piled with garment bags of borrowed clothing, we make our way towards the elevator and up to the third floor. Gala welcomes us warmly, her enviable and always glowing skin showing no signs of the twelve-hour transatlantic flight. We discuss outfits, seating arrangements and the thoroughly detailed, jam-packed itinerary Amazon’s press team has sent over. Lost in the excitement of it all, the knock on the door tells us that our 9 o’clock appointment has arrived. Enter make-up and hair stylist extraordinaire, Olaf Derling. Whilst Gala succumbs to the skilled hands of Olaf, we (our photographer Elena included) shamelessly inhale the maple syrup infused pancakes, not sure when we’ll next have the chance to eat.
Gala tell us that she always knew she wanted to be a professional dancer. She had intense schooling throughout her teens, ballet and then contemporary dance a little later, before going on to study dance at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts. After her residency at a festival in Vienna – during her stay she had five weeks of intense training, access to all the festival performances and one on one mentoring with an artistic coach – the move to Europe was a logical progression. By coincidence Gala ended up with a friend in Brussels and, shortly after, got offered a job in one of Belgium’s biggest dance companies. After five years of working in one of Australia’s biggest dance companies, Gala's professional career as a dancer in Europe had officially begun. “The definition of dance is much broader in Europe than in Australia which is why I stayed much longer than initially planned” she tells us. With family and friends being so far way, eight time zones to be exact, it continues to be a constant struggle for Gala to remain in the lives of those she loves so far way, “and how to carry on relationships at home in Brussels whilst I’m away,” Gala adds on. Although she is very well aware that these are all “privileged questions,” the answers “remain a work in progress.”
At nineteen Gala spent a few months in New York City and got headhunted by modelling agencies on every corner – I mean, how could she not? Even without trying, Gala oozes that model citizen vibe, making even the most mundane of activities seem other-worldly. “I absolutely didn’t want to be a model back then, I was very anti-consumerism,” Gala explains. It wasn’t until a photoshoot on the set of Suspiria with Alessio Bolzani that Gala realised it could actually be something she’s interested in. Since then, Gala has started saying yes to a few, very select modelling jobs and considers it “a thing she does from time to time.” One of the reasons Gala has never been too concerned with how she looks is because as a dancer you don’t work with mirrors. “Any care for the aesthetic or the way you look is therefore taken by the director,” she tells us. Nonetheless, a vital part of her job requires her to be judged by others on her looks and physical body. Gala has always understood this to be a very prescribed judgement:
“I fit somewhat into a certain physical blueprint as a model so therefore I am accepted by the people who care about that. It’s very strange in a way because it has nothing to do with actual beauty.”
Gala created ENGAGEMENT, an artist run initiative to stop sexual harassment in the arts in Belgium. Together with her co-founders and colleagues she “visits institutions and schools on a structural level against sexism, inequality, bullying, sexual harassment and much more.” The global #metoo movement picked up momentum shortly after the launch of Engagement which helped tremendously. “It has been a very positive way to give back to the community and is something very important to me.”
It wasn’t until about six years ago, when Gala started researching and creating movement and performativity-based performances together with a fellow dancer, that she felt she had fully arrived in her profession. “For me this was pivotal work, some of the most challenging of my career and also a moment of becoming realised as a performer,” Gala explains. She goes on to tell us that the more outwardly, successful work came after but that the real arrival was the research she and her friend did together.
One sunny afternoon, when Gala was somewhere in the mountains close to Nice, she received a text from choreographer Damien Jalet asking, “do you want to be in a Tilda Swinton film?” Two months later, she found herself on set in Varese, ready to start her job as a part of the cast dancers in the film. Little did she know that Luca Guadagnino and Stella Savino had bigger plans for her. Upon her arrival in Italy she was asked to audition for one of the supporting roles and, overnight, moved up in the cast list from dancer to actress and dancer, CAROLINE (10D).
Gala explains that “performance art, be it dancing, modelling or acting, requires a certain level of awareness and vulnerability.”
Gala recalls a very special moment on set, the last day of filming to be exact, when she got to play David Bowie live in concert. “It was a beautiful, surprising, life affirming experience to head a band of real musicians in front of a huge crowd of extras,” Gala explains. Being a huge David Bowie fan herself, she wanted to get the physicality of him just right. “Unfortunately,” Gala explains, “the scene did not make it into the final edit, but it remains a wonderful memory.”
Cut back to Los Angeles: the car is nearing the Film Independent tent that has been assembled on the beach, just steps away from the iconic Santa Monica pier. The driver moves along the temporary lanes, carefully pushing past the overly-excited fans. Together with the fellow Suspiria nominees (all of which are women!!!!) we disembark the van and make our way through the airport-like security. From the corner of our eyes we can already see the intimidatingly long blue carpet that awaits us. Photographers are calling out names aggressively, desperate to get that million-dollar shot of all the ‘witches’ together. Gala makes her way along the step and repeat like she’s never done anything else: effortless, elegant, confident. We accompany Gala and the women to the tent before finding our position with the other publicists in the holding area backstage. When Armie Hammer calls all our winners on stage a shimmer of pride crosses our face. We are filled with gratitude over the exceptional group of women we are fortunate enough to call our clients, colleagues and friends. The star that shines brightest, however, goes by the name Gala Moody.
Q&A PART I
What time do you wake up?
Exactly 8 hours after I fall asleep!
What is your wake-up ritual?
Coffee while I stare out a window, physical practice, cold shower, breakfast.
How do you mentally prepare for the day?
I like to remind myself to go with the flow.
Favorite work out?
What is the last book you read?
The cost of living - Deborah Levy
Who is the last person that texted you?
When you are not dancing/modelling/acting you are?
Mostly very boring
Q&A PART II
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Five things you always take with you when you travel for work?