It’s early summer in Stockholm. The trees are in bloom and the streets are filled with recently graduates. In the middle of the city lies Nobis Hotel – their lounge is an oasis for escaping the big city noise and catching a breath. Cecilia Forss leans back in one of their arm chairs. Ten years ago she was the graduate, leaving her life in a small northern city and starting a new one in the capital – betting it all. “There weren’t any options, simple as that,” she says. “I didn’t know much about this industry, but I was open and positive, maybe naive. I was on some kind of roll, the jobs kept coming.”
In between acting jobs, she was a fit model for Acne Studios. “A friend of mine worked there and they needed someone. Since I was paid in clothes I could build up a good wardrobe. I went there once a week, tried on clothes and there was a lot of standing still, for hours. One time they told me “You’re impressive, you’re the only one who hasn’t fainted.”
Cissi, as most of us know her, calls herself an esthete not a fashionista, but she’s noticed how the interest grows in accordance with her career – it goes hand in hand. “Thanks to living in such a small country, it’s easy to get in contact with designers. I see them at Fashion Week, and whenever I do a fashion shoot I get to choose what I want to wear. They obviously want their clothes to be worn by people in the spotlight, so naturally I’ve had the opportunity to wear their clothing, which is great.”
What is it about the fashion industry that makes it so easy to make fun of? “I like fashion and I like visiting Fashion Week, but it’s just funny how so many people take fashion so serious, sitting front row looking very grave. Fashion is a huge business, it’s something that a lot of people make money on and it is to be taken seriously. But looking at it from the outside sometimes makes it funny.” She says her wardrobe is in constant flux. Cissi cleans out her closet often giving garments to family and friends.
Well, I can tell people think of me as a beautiful woman
Sometimes she brings stuff to the popular designer vintage shop Judits, in Stockholm, but she often returns home with a bag just as big. She’s wearing a red and blue striped top which was purchased there. “What’s the brand… APC! I really love stripes.” Her shoes are Carin Wester and they’re very comfortable, just like the cigarette pants from J. Lindeberg she’s donning. “I’ve been wearing them all weekend in Gothenburg, me and my boyfriend went to see Håkan Hellström’s concert.”
In one of her most recent roles she played Trude Von Essen in the film “Medicinen” by Colin Nutley. Trude is an upper class fashion blogger who works at a magazine.
This was the first time Cissi worked with director Colin Nutley, who’s known for developing female characters, especially female leads. “Colin almost exclusively works with improvising,” she says. “And when you’re improvising in a group you need to listen and be responsive, I think women are good at that. In a group of men, it can be hard to get the spotlight.” Helena Bergström, the film’s lead actress, has previously worked with Cissi in the play, V.D. “Helena is such a professional, she’s been educated but she’s not afraid to step outside of the box or make a mistake. She’s very rock ‘n’ roll, there’s a lot of fire in her.”
You’ve said before being beautiful has an advantage as it’s easier to get away with things? “Yes, it is great.”
There aren’t many people who would admit to being considered good looking, just like many wouldn’t admit that they’re smart? “Well, I can tell people think of me as a beautiful woman.”
When did you realize this? “In my teenage years. I’ve never felt like the pretty girl, more like a crazy clown. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a problem with saying it out loud, my identity has nothing to do with the pretty girl.”
Do you think there are a lot of preconceptions that come with being beautiful? “I’m sure there are. As a child, I was quite popular, but I learned you’ll come a far way by being nice. When new people came into my class I saw them as my responsibility. I had some sort of mandate and people listened to me.”
The video clips she created with Nour El-Refai became a huge sensation– especially after Nour was reported to the police for flashing her breasts at a man in a Stockholm park. They would later go on tour with their show, Cissi and Nour – Almost like boys. Their set took a serious look at gender through the comedic lens, of course. Since then, it’s been nonstop for Cissi. She’s scored several roles on film and stage along with a part in the most successful Swedish television commercial, for ICA Supermarkets. She played a main character in the ICA ads for six years before she decided to say good bye. “That actually hurt. I was working with some of my best friends, we had so much fun. But sometimes you have to close one door to open another."
Do you find it difficult to say goodbye? “I have long relationships, I take things very seriously and I invest in my relationships. I like safety, I like visiting the same places. But I’ll know when the time has come, there is something inside me that lets me know. My inner voice is very strong and I trust it. I rarely debate things or ask people for advice, I do what I have to do. I’m not sure how that’s happened, it’s quite drastic but it’s how I do things.” In addition to her work in front of the camera, Cissi has contributed behind the scenes as well. For example, she's written material with actress Maria Kilberg and producer Hordokht Moravejzadeh. “We call each other Hubris, and we’ve become great friends. We can sit together for days and dwell and build things.”
Another day she’ll sit together with Greg Poehler (of Welcome to Sweden) writing a movie script. “I’m good with ideas and not so good with actually making it happen.” It’s almost as if jantelagen never really touched Cecilia Forss. I can’t decide whether she’s acting ironically when she shamelessly talks about something she’s good at. She’s definitely not shy; there is no bullshit.
When she was six years old she knew she wanted to be an actress and since then there hasn’t been any other alternative. She tells me she never excelled in school, but sports were her thing. She had great promises, but lacked the competitive personality you need to succeed. “I never shared my dream of becoming an actress with anyone. I went to a theatre program in high school, but no one wanted to succeed as much as me. This was my lane. I can be fascinated when I think about myself in my younger years, back then, everything was possible.”
She sits in front of the mirror eating cherries that STYLEBY’s fashion director, Columbine Smille, brought to set the previous morning. It’s the day of STYLEBY’s fashion shoot - and Cecilia’s birthday. Tomorrow, she’s auditioning and has an entire script, in English, to study. When I ask about Hollywood, her “no” comes almost as a surprise. “But I love L.A., and when you hear about people you know that succeed over there you think about whether or not to give it a try. But it’s hard to just go there, without having a specific plan.”
She gets her hair and makeup done, things are all familiar. At thirteen years old, she signed a modeling contract and started travelling to Stockholm for different assignments. “It wasn’t my thing. Today, I’d do pretty much everything, but back then I couldn’t get into it. When you’re thirteen, looking seventeen, from a small town in Sweden, and you’re at a photoshoot where the photographer tells you to look sexy and you’ve never even kissed anyone, it can be difficult. It wasn’t a good feeling.”
The hair stylist and makeup artist mention they’ve heard her radio show from Sommar i P1 where she recalls being molested by a forty-year-old actor, at thirteen. Of how she sat next to her dad at the morgue for a week after he died – crying, laughing, talking. And Ingrid, her guardian angel who gives her advice. “When I did that, I felt I had so much to tell the world – now I’m a bit sick of myself,” she says, pausing between cherries. She’d rather talk about her profession, “but I know that’s what journalists are the least interested in.” When we talk about work her intuition always comes up, or could it be the angel, Ingrid? “Some things I just cannot do, it’s just a feeling that says no, ”stop”. It can be amazing opportunities and people around me will wonder why, but it’s something I can’t explain.”
As I leave I can faintly hear her discuss clothes with the stylist. I can’t tell exactly what she saying, just that she sounds decisive, but kind. She’s definitely not a fit model anymore.