Dree Hemingway’s Next Chapter
The actor, model, and literary legacy takes on the role of a lifetime: motherhood.
Six weeks after giving birth to her first baby, Luce Byra Delli Santi, Dree Hemingway attended the star-studded Chanel Cruise fashion show at LA’s Paramount Studios. But after about two hours, she was ready to cruise on home. “Last night was a bit more overwhelming than I expected,” says the actor-model-“milk beast” — a compliment bestowed by her daughter’s pediatrician — on the phone the next day. “I went to the show and then I went home immediately and was like, ‘Give me that baby on my boob!’”
Despite missing Snoop Dogg’s performance, she didn’t feel any FOMO. “I’m proud I went out! And I was honored to be there,” she says. “But it was definitely a new experience, where I was like, ‘OK, I haven’t done this in a while.’ My body looks how it should six weeks after giving birth. It was like playing a character that I don’t really know yet in the fashion industry — getting dressed up and having big boobs and being a lot rounder and being OK with that.”
It’s not that the critically-acclaimed actor, Vogue mainstay, and face of Paco Rabanne and Chloe fragrances finds it easy to shed her former identity in favor of breast pumps and burp cloths. It’s just that it’s worth it. Eventually, the plan is to do more movies (she next stars in the art-world thriller The Kill Room opposite Uma Thurman and Maya Hawke), but for now, the center of the new Dree’s universe is the “baby lion” snoring audibly as she nurses. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just a cow for milking purposes,” she says. “But I’m so in love. It’s wild.”
Her daughter’s name, translated from Italian, means light of the saints. “She’s a really f*cking holy child,” says Hemingway, laughing. Luce’s dad is Hemingway’s fiancé, Nick Delli Santi, who works in real estate and fashion PR. The pair met at a friend’s barbecue, six months after mutually refusing to be set up with each other. “He thought I was too cool because I had a buzzed head. They said, ‘He’s Italian and kind of wild.’ And I was like, ‘No. Not for me.’ I was just being judgy for no reason. But then I walked in and I was like, ‘Who is this person?’ And I just hovered around him embarrassingly.” (For the record, she hovered wisely: “I have an amazing partner who will listen to me talk about sh*t until the cows come home,” she says.)
Luce is also descended, of course, from the patron saint of American literature: Dree’s maternal great-grandfather, Ernest Hemingway. Dree’s mother is Mariel Hemingway, who made her indelible mark on cinema when, at just 16, she captivated the world in Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
But the Hemingways’ history is also marked by staggering pain and tragedy. Multiple generations have suffered from substance abuse, mental illness, and suicide. Mariel unflinchingly confronted her family secrets in her 2013 documentary, Running from Crazy. The true star of that film, though, is her glamorous older sister Margaux, who was once the world’s highest-paid supermodel. The day before the 35th anniversary of Ernest’s death, she, too, took her own life. Dree remembers her fondly.
“My body looks how it should six weeks after giving birth. It was like playing a character that I don’t really know yet in the fashion industry — getting dressed up and having big boobs and being a lot rounder and being OK with that.”
“I feel a huge connection to Margaux,” Hemingway says. “She’s just a stunner. I almost named my daughter Margaux, but in some weird way I was like, it’s not time for that.” On camera, as in life, the surviving Hemingway women (Dree, her sister Langley, an artist, and their mother) face it all with quiet empathy and steel spines. “I think because I grew up with the awareness of the depression, and the tendencies for alcoholism and addiction, that has kept me grounded,” she says. “My parents never tried to sugarcoat anything for me. With my daughter, I think I’ll be open in the same way.”
Hemingway may have been raised in Ketchum, Idaho, in the shadow of all this, but it’s her lightness that makes her so compelling. Preferring slightly androgynous red carpet looks, “I feel more glamorous if I haven’t tried so hard,” she says. “I also think people are so beautiful, why cake yourself in makeup? I think women need to be nicer to themselves.”
Below, she reflects on her muses, her coping mechanisms, and the “Hemingway curse.”
You’ve been working with Chanel for some time. What draws you to their aesthetic and ethos, and what made you want to attend the show?
Chanel was, I think, the second show I ever walked when I started modeling, which was really cool. Maybe not the second show, but it was in the very early days of when I started. And I felt really grateful and shocked to be invited to do that.
It’s one of those brands that’s stayed very true to its aesthetic throughout the years. They’re very supportive of artists. Obviously I wasn’t in New York for the Met [Gala], but it felt like a nice thing to be a part of, to go to a Chanel show after all the buzz around Chanel and that.
Is that your baby I hear in the background?
Yeah, she’s on my lap, smooshing around. She has gas.
What an incredible transition. One day you’re not a mom, and the next day you are.
It’s such a mind blow. Also, let’s be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of being pregnant. I had acid reflux the whole time. I was not feeling my sexiest. But I do love having a baby. And I completely forgot what it was like being pregnant once she came out.
How are you feeling, mind, body, and soul?
Honestly, I feel great. I think there are a lot of things that aren’t talked about with postpartum. Like the hormonal dips and the baby blues. It’s not necessarily postpartum depression, but it’s real. But I’m really happy. She latched immediately. I’ve had no boob issues. I’m lucky. I still feel exhausted, forget my sentences, have brain farts, but it’s great.
You always look fabulous. You’ve said that at a party, you’d rather be too dressed down than too dressed up: “Which one might consider rebellious, but I just consider that people are jealous that I’m dressed down.”
I do! I think there’s a way of doing luxury without being aggressively blingy. But that’s just my style. Some people do it up to the nines and look f*cking amazing. It’s just not where my confidence level goes. I love going out and dancing, but there’s nothing worse than when you are restricted by a shoe that hurts and an outfit you can’t move in. Nobody needs to be at the party thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to get home and take these shoes off and remove this dress and take off my makeup.”
I don’t wear makeup. I had a man comment on my picture the other day: “You don’t wear makeup. It’s revolting, this whole tomboy thing. I’m unfollowing you. Do your face up.” I was like, “Oh! I really like my skin. So why would I?”
And when I had my baby, I posted a picture with my cleavage. And frankly, I’m allowed to. I have big boobs right now, and they’re fantastic. I’ve never had big boobs! I also posted a picture of Luce, my daughter, who I am so in love with. That’s my prerogative. And this woman kept [commenting], being like, “Pregnancy is a private thing. Now you’re whoring your daughter around on the internet.” So I just blocked her. I was like, I don’t need to be made to feel bad for feeling happy or beautiful in my body.
“Some people do it up to the nines and look f*cking amazing. It’s just not where my confidence level goes. I love going out and dancing, but there’s nothing worse than when you are restricted by a shoe that hurts and an outfit you can’t move in.”
Your mom wrote a beautiful post about watching you with your daughter.
Yeah, that made me cry. I’m also so hormonal that most things make me cry. But everything she says is amazing. She just told me, “I’m in awe of you as a mother. You’re doing so great.” It is so nice to be encouraged. I think that’s all we need, right? To be told we’re doing a really good job.
When did you begin to understand your family history? And how has it impacted your own approach to mental health?
I grew up with the idea of taking care of your mental health and being very aware of what you’re going through. And instead of using drugs or alcohol to drown or mute the feelings, to talk things out and go outside and focus on nature and things that make you feel good, like really nourishing your body. Honestly, my parents were so open about everything. There was never any point where I felt like they were hiding things from me to protect me. So therefore, I wasn’t a hugely rebellious child.
What helps you stay balanced now?
Baths. Sitting there. Talking it out. I did this amazing thing called the Hoffman Process. It’s seven days, they take your phone away, and it’s dealing with your child self. It teaches you about your parents’ patterns, about breaking the generational anxiety, the depression, and just reprogramming yourself to not take on certain things. So it was kind of like ending the Hemingway curse, if you will. It teaches you how to deal with it, to actually sit in it and feel it. It’s not always easy to talk yourself out of anxiety when you’re in it, and be like, ‘It's fine. It’ll pass.’ Sometimes, you’ve just got to cry and be hugged. I do a lot of that.
Watching Running From Crazy, I was riveted by Margaux.
Oh, she’s amazing. I felt really connected to her as a kid. I feel like there’s a lot of similarities between me and Margaux, with the modeling and the acting. I think I’m a nice blend of both her and my mother. I’d hear stories about Margaux being this light that shone every time she came into the room. I just always wanted to emulate that. It was very inspirational, the idea of being something that lit up a room or carried this amazing energy where people just felt this infectious vibe. I was always like, “That’s an incredible thing to have.” And also, I’m sure, very taxing.
She died when you were 8?
Yeah. I have some memories with her. I always just really enjoyed her. She’s funny. She was vibrant. She had this really intense voice that was very booming. And this wild laugh.
She shot a documentary where she retraced Ernest’s steps through Spain and Cuba. Would you ever do a project like that about your family?
If it’s the right project and it’s tasteful, for sure. I find Ernest — the history — to be fascinating. I feel very connected to him, too, in the sense that I really love meeting new people, and traveling and exploring. I feel like that would be really fun. Let’s make that happen!
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Photographer: Shanelle Infante
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