Romy Mars on New Music & Viral TikTok: "I Had a Learning Lesson"


On the day of the recent earthquake in New York City, Romy Mars was posing for W in a tiny house in Queens. The ceiling cracked slightly when the room shook, but Mars, who is 17, was mostly concentrating on being herself in front of the camera. “The photos should reflect my music,” she said, as she sat on a vintage couch in an oversize Celine striped sweater. “I don’t want to feel awkward.” Mars’s music, some of which she has already released on Spotify, has the urgency and romantic angst of a very personal diary. The lyrics are about complicated relationships that usually end in reprisal: “I want to tell you what you did wrong / but we’ll just break up / and I’ll put your bullshit into a song,” goes “From a Distance.” The songs have a hypnotic quality that is quite sophisticated. “I swore on purpose,” Mars told me, while the hairdresser Orlando Pita poufed her long blonde hair. “I wanted there to be a parental advisory sticker on my music. Explicit content within!”

Mars has an innate sense of what will attract an audience. Last year, she defied her parents, Thomas Mars, the lead singer of the Grammy-winning band Phoenix, and Sofia Coppola, the Academy Award–winning filmmaker, who had forbidden her to have any public-facing social media. Mars posted a video on TikTok telling the world that she was grounded for using her father’s credit card to charter a helicopter to visit a friend for dinner in Maryland, and was struggling to make pasta for dinner because she didn’t know the difference between onions and garlic. The video struck a chord because Mars, who is strikingly pretty and the child of two famous people—hence, a nepo baby—seemed simultaneously charming and unapologetically bratty. The post went viral almost immediately, but, at first, Mars wasn’t aware of its notoriety. “My peers thought it was dumb,” she said. “It wasn’t a big deal among my friends. Then my phone went ding-ding-ding-ding. It was crazy! I didn’t think it was going to blow up.” The response was overwhelming: Someone even did a short tutorial with drawings to illustrate the difference between onions and garlic. The New York Times wrote a piece about the video, using it as a starting point to discuss the extreme interest in nepo babies. “I had a learning lesson,” said Mars. “It’s nice when people put me in my place a little.”

Celine by Hedi Slimane dress and shoes.

Celine by Hedi Slimane sweater; her own sweatpants.

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Well before she became an online sensation, Mars was writing songs. “I started when I was 12,” she said. “I hadn’t had much life experience then, but I listened to music and studied what other people wrote about.” Greatly influenced by her father, she was also fascinated by how sounds relate to imagery. “I want you to see my songs, almost like they are little movies.” By ninth grade, when she was around 15, she was fully committed to music. “I’d be taking a test and would be thinking of a lyric. One time, I wrote at the bottom of the test: ‘My floor can’t feel your clothes.’ I’m not sure my teacher understood why it was there.”

Through family friend Jack Antonoff, the Grammy Award–winning producer of Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and others, Mars was introduced to Claud, a 25-year-old singer/songwriter who uses they/them pronouns. “I was looking for someone to produce,” they said, “and Romy was looking for a safe person to show her songs. When I heard them for the first time, they reminded me of my voice memos at 15.” Mars and Claud have been working together at a studio in Brooklyn for a year. “What Romy does is, in my mind, confessional pop,” said Claud. “She is a true songwriter—and she’s so fast. She’ll say, ‘Here are four songs that I’ve written in the past two weeks,’ and they’ll all be great. She was born to be a storyteller.” Although she is still in her junior year of high school in Manhattan, Mars definitely has her sights on the bigger world. She recently scored a role in a TV show that is still a secret. “I can only say that it’s a comedy,” she confided. “And I even liked auditioning. It’s nice to play someone who’s not you.”

Back at the shoot, Mars had changed into a striped bandeau top and a narrow skirt. She sat on the edge of a patterned chair and stretched her long legs. “This feels right,” she said to no one in particular. “Maybe this could be my album cover!”

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Celine by Hedi Slimane sweater.

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Gucci jacket, tank top, skirt, socks, and shoes.

Hair by Orlando Pita for Orlando Pita Play at Home Agency; makeup by Francelle Daly for Love+Craft+Beauty at Home Agency; manicure by Eri Handa for Chanel at Home Agency. Set design by Griffin Stoddard at Streeters.

Producer: Gracey Connelly; first photo assistant: Shri Prasham Parameshwaran; photo assistants: Tony Jarum, Alexander Johnstone; digital technician: Tadaaki Shibuya; retouching: Gloss Studio; fashion assistants: Bianca Parisotto, Audrey Kavanagh-Dowsett; makeup assistant: Madrona Redhawk; tailor: Nino Sanaya at 7th Bone Tailoring; location: Prop Haus NYC Time Capsule.



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