Kat Graham is an actress, singer, dancer, and producer who is currently starring with Ryan Phillippe and Jim Gaffigan in the thriller Collide. Graham can also now be seen in Netflix’s Love in the Villa, opposite Tom Hopper. In June 2022, Kat partnered with GLAAD and released her new album, Long Hot Summer, as well as a global Pride tour to help raise money for the organization. In September 2021, Graham released the visual EP Toro Gato under the name Toro Gato, her reinvented persona, exclusively as an NFT. Graham was recently seen in the thriller Heatwave, Netflixʼs Operation: Christmas Drop, with Alexander Ludwig and in the RZA-directed Cut Throat City, opposite Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard and Eiza Gonzalez. Previously she starred in Netflixʼs How It Ends, opposite Forest Whitaker and Theo James. Graham made history lending her voice to Nickelodeonʼs animated television show Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the first African-American April OʼNeil. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Graham speaks four languages – English, Spanish, French and Hebrew, and in December 2020, Graham was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR, only the 33rd in the world to hold the esteemed title. She is also a council member for GLAAD, Ambassador for Rotary International and has worked with Empower 54 and The Water Project, helping fund wells for clean water to be built for villages and schools throughout Africa, for which she was crowned African Princess of Mai-Ndombe. Her PSA short film for Black Lives Matter landed her an Emmy nomination for best PSA short. In September 2021, she launched her new business venture, a wellness company – Modern Nirvana – together with her co-founders Frank Elaridi and Bryant Wood, with the support of Deepak Chopra. (Image by Arnold Jerocki, courtesy Kat Graham.)
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current release in theaters and on demand of Collide, the taut thriller starring Ryan Phillippe, Kat Graham and Jim Gaffigan, actress and singer Graham shared some of the things that give meaning to her life. — N.D.
If you travel as much as I do then I don’t need to tell you the importance of having your own personal fuzzy socks at the ready. I’ve become a total sock snob. From cashmere socks, to grip socks, to super fuzzy sloth socks, nothing is more comforting to me when in a random hotel room in a random country at a random time than wearing my favorite fuzzy socks. Being on a world tour for my newest album, Long Hot Summer, has truly taught me the appreciation of my fuzzy friends. I love love love performing, but I hate touring. It is so hard on the body. It’s difficult to have a regular diet, have a regular sleep schedule, and overall stay healthy. I know it sounds weird, but when I put on socks, I fall asleep immediately, so it definitely helps with my jetlag. I consider myself well-traveled. I’ve gone to most places in the world, starting from Europe at age six, flying by myself to go visit my father, who lived overseas at the time. (Yes, my parents couldn’t stand each other that much, they put me on the plane back and forth to Europe by myself!)
From tube socks that I would wear with my velcro Reeboks to dance class, to silly avocado socks I buy at Walgreens, my sock game has come a long way. The best socks for the plane are cashmere socks. They keep you super warm. So, in case you’re on a flight and they try to freeze you out (which most planes do), you are ready. If I’m freezing on an airplane, and want to snuggle up and fall asleep, I put on my favorite pair and pass out. My suggestion is to keep a pair in your travel bag at all times. I travel constantly, which means I never really unpack, I just swap out things. If you are somebody who might not travel a lot but is constantly in different environments, comfy socks can quickly bring you that feeling of home.
I’ve always been into surrealist art, from Hieronymus Bosch to M.C. Ecsher, but nothing quite holds my focus like a Dalí painting. I have a ton of Salvador Dalí posters, art, coffee table books and even a cookbook from my favorite artist. In fact, one of my latest projects, the visual album Toro Gato, is deeply inspired by this iconic creator. My fiancé, director Darren Genet, and I pulled a bunch of references, everything from Alejandro Jodorowsky, to Salvador Dalí, to Frida Kahlo, to Tarsem …. I really love artists that capture a darker yet whimsical undertone. I really love films by Guillermo Del Toro, who blends both worlds on film whimsically. But all of those worlds I am now into started from a Salvador Dalí painting. He was the first artist that made me begin to put philosophy to time and question how the world and our perception is structured. That led me into a deeper way of thinking. That led me into poetry from Pablo Neruda to studying Quantum Physics for Dummies.
When my parents divorced, my mom moved us into my grandmother’s house in West Los Angeles. My grandmother had very traditional art, all copies of famous paintings, but everything in the house was exactly how it appears in the real world. Growing up, I was never exposed to anything that looked or felt different than you’d expect in a traditional Jewish home, even though growing up biracial in Jewish school, speaking Hebrew, is probably not the norm to begin with. My mom and I moved out when I was around 13 and were living in tiny one-bedroom apartments in not the best part of town. At one point, art was all I had to escape our difficult living situations. As I got more into dance and music, I also got more into the art that usually accompanies it. The more I got into art, the more I got into emotions, while simultaneously trying to process my own. What triggers art? What effect can it have on someone? Does being in love help? Does desperation help? I was feeling what felt like an immeasurable leap to get to where I wanted to be versus the room of poverty in which I was standing. Leaping to fame and success from nothing meant I had to have the imagination and the courage to believe I could be someone that didn’t yet exist. I became my own surrealist painting without boundaries and outside of creative laws. A Dalí painting reminds me that we create our worlds, and that we are truly limitless if we have enough balls to bend our own clock.
The Modern Nirvana Summit
Not to toot my own horn, but I’m obsessed with our wellness company. We (Frank Elaridi, Bryant Wood and I) do everything from breathwork and meditation to fitness and biohacking, and we have some of the most incredible minds in wellness. Last year, we honored Deepak Chopra and this year we are honoring Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Toni Garrn. We have the most incredible panelists and vendors selling everything from products that challenge your quantum reality, to vitamins that hack your cell reprogramming. It is the most far-out, fun, expansive wellness summit you will go to!
The summit started out as a fluke. I asked Frankie to record himself meditating with a few friends, six at the most, because I needed B-roll for a podcast I was doing with Deepak Chopra in which they were having a conversation about the next generation of thought leaders. The conversations around consciousness, people’s understanding of it and how it relates to them, is complex enough, so I was looking for something that showed the simplicity of people looking to find their best selves, to find their truth. Frankie and Bryant sat on a couch and decided to invite some vendors and some friends. Frankie came up with the name Modern Nirvana and fully put together this incredible summit. Next thing I know, I’m walking into a 500-person wellness summit that ended with Shaman Durek dancing in a sea of hundreds of excited young people.
When COVID hit, I was sitting in meditation for hours every day. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the world. We had started this wellness summit and then the world got hit with the pandemic, needing these tools more than ever. I realized it was more than a summit, it was a company. I wanted us to be hosts in wellness. Explorers. Three young people who wanted to bring the public tools, tricks and hacks to become their best selves, mind, body and soul. All of it. Frankie, Bryant and I are three people who know no bounds when it comes to finding our own best selves. We will stop at nothing if it means getting a glimpse at our peak potentiality. We’ve done everything from go to a rage room and destroying things that meant the most to us, to me hopping on Sadhguru’s motorcycle, to hosting meditations on yachts, to chanting with shamans in the jungle. Every day, every month, every year, we find the best of the best minds to help educate the world on how we can grow into our best versions.
Featured image shows Kat Graham and Ryan Phillippe in Collide.