INTERVIEW: STEPHIE KEY, ARTIST AND FIRST DAUGHTER

12.12.15

It’s pretty cool that my final interview for 2015 was also my favourite. While I’m sure all of you will recognize her name, and most of you will be familiar with her fiery red hair and provocative artwork, don’t think for a minute that you know the real Stephie Key. This wildly intelligent, and incredibly shy, young woman moved to Europe when she was 17 year’s old in search of her own identity and has since changed her name, mastered a couple of languages and plans on being a critically-acclaimed film director by the end of her twenties. Take my word for it- she is one to watch.


Hi Stephie! While many people will recognize your name, you have chosen to live most of your life away from the public eye. For those who don’t know you, explain why you are now living in Paris and what you have been working on for the past few years?

Hey Maddy! Basically, I left home just after I turned 17 and moved to France. I don’t really know why. I didn’t speak a word of French and wasn’t exactly a Francophile. I am also an extremely shy person by nature and I found it difficult being in New Zealand with all the sudden interest in me- I didn’t do anything to deserve it! But I had a feeling that for whatever reason, I needed to be in Europe.

I started living with a French host family in a little town called Angers, and enrolled in high school etc. It didn’t work out with that family so after three months I moved in with a friend at a temporary home in the middle of nowhere and worked on their family’s goat farm for two months- something I never saw myself doing! After that I left and went to live in Geneva, Switzerland with another family where I finished high school. From there I moved to Germany for a year and learned how to speak German, I worked in nightclubs at night and studied during the day- it was a crazy time. From there, I ended up enrolling in an art school in Paris, Parsons School (Parsons has it’s main campus in New York). I was accepted and started studying there in 2012 doing a degree in photography. After two years of that I couldn’t stand just focusing on photos so I switched my major to Fine Arts, and now I’m in my final year!

Was your decision to move to Paris and change your name a way to separate yourself from the connotations associated with being New Zealand’s ‘First Daughter’, or was it purely for artistic purposes?

It was 80% to separate myself from the connotations associated with being John Key’s daughter, and 20% for “art reasons”. I have always been far too driven and I want to make my own name in the world. Starting from scratch felt like the cleanest way. However, Cherry Lazar is both of my grandmothers’ maiden names put together (maternal and paternal).

Aside from the obvious, what is it about Paris that inspires your art?

This city is all about love. Love of a good glass of wine, a meal, art and each other. The French are so free with their bodies- and I don’t just mean sex- but you see tits on billboards here and it doesn’t raise everybrows. This is all a major part of my work because having the freedom to love your body, to expose your body if you choose to (especially without criticism), and to love each other freely is so important, and also frowned upon in most places. As long as you’re not hurting anybody I think it is a wonderful expression.

What are your goals and aspirations for the rest of your twenties, on both a personal and professional level?

My main work aspiration is to be a film director, I’m actually more interested in the film world than the art world, but I’m going to let the universe decide where I end up. I want to have at least one film in cinemas by the end of my twenties (perhaps that’s a little ambitious). For personal goals, I want to take a few more trains without looking where they are going and try to learn a few more languages, love a lot of people, invent a permanent pink hair dye and then probably go to some yoga retreat up a mountain. I’m trying to learn how to balance my chakras at the moment.

What is the biggest difference between Parisian twenty-something’s and Kiwi twenty-something’s?

Probably the amount of cigarettes they smoke.

And lastly…If you could give one piece of advice to your nineteen-year-old self for surviving this decade, what would it be?

Please learn to cook now. Also, don’t let your credit card get in debt ever, and make the most of all the time you have with your family- especially your parents.


Header image via Stephie Key