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Camila Mendes isn’t one to shy away from her true identity. The Brazilian-American actress, best known for her breakout role in Riverdale and, most recently, as the fallen Queen Bee in Netflix’s Do Revenge, knows the value of self-acceptance, whether it’s onscreen, IRL, or “In My Tabby,” her new campaign for Coach, debuting exclusively on ELLE.com today.
A fresh take on the “what’s in my bag?” trope, the campaign explores what the Coach family (including Mendes, Lil Nas X, Kōki, and Wu Jinyan) carries, both physically and emotionally, that makes them who they are—all while toting the new Tabby, a reimagining of one of the brand’s archival styles from the ’70s. For her part, Mendes speaks about her experience coming from two different cultures and how that’s shaped her sense of self.
Below, we spoke to Mendes about what beauty product she always carries with her (hint: it’s for dry eyes), and the possibility of a Do Revenge sequel.
What’s it like being part of the Coach family?
It’s such an honor to be part of the family because it’s a brand that I’ve admired for a long time. I love how they stand for individualism and being your best self and embracing everything that makes you unique. Their approach to fashion is really creative and interesting and cool, but also accessible. I think that’s really awesome.
What was your first introduction to the brand?
It brings me back to the fifth grade. I can’t remember if it was my first day of school gift or graduation gift or birthday gift or what, but my dad got me a pink Coach shoulder bag. He gifted it to me and I have a photo that I took the second after I got it. It’s so early 2000s; I love it.
That’s a funny coincidence, because you carry a pink bag in the new campaign, too.
It was, yeah. I was so happy about that. It’s such a funny photo that really encapsulates my personality; it’s such a full circle moment.
Your part in the campaign is all about embracing your multifaceted identity of being a Brazilian-American actress. Why is that part of your story so important to highlight in this context?
Because it’s such a rare thing to find. There aren’t a lot of Brazilians in Hollywood, and it’s a part of me that I’ve never really been able to showcase before, because there aren’t that many roles being written specifically for Brazilian people. I feel like Brazilians are sort of excluded and a forgotten part of the Latin community because we’re not Spanish speakers—a lot of people don’t know that, but we’re not Hispanic. I think there’s also something to be said about the unique experience of being not just Brazilian, but Brazilian-American, which is different than being Brazilian and different than being American. It’s a middle ground where you kind of feel like you don’t fully belong to either, and you identify with both cultures. There’s something cool about celebrating the uniqueness of that.
Are there certain things you carry with you that are close to your heart?
I moved around a lot growing up, and with every city and every house or apartment that I lived in, I have a specific set of experiences that I associate with those places. I have a specific set of people that I visited in these places and times in my life. Over the years leading up to this exact moment, I’ve carried every single person or place that I’ve been.
On a more literal note, what do you carry in your bag? Anything unexpected?
One thing that people might not expect [that I carry] is eye drops, mainly because I have really dry eyes. So they’re not the red eye relief ones, but I always have those in my bag. It’s a really random fact about me, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I just love the feeling of putting eye drops in and feeling like, you know, the feeling. And this is also really random but I’m really good at putting them in, because I wore contacts for a big chunk of my life and then I got LASIK. I can put them in so good, like, so perfectly without blinking.
What was it like attending Coach’s FW23 show a few weeks ago? Your outfit was definitely a statement maker: only undergarments with an oversized jacket. What inspired that look?
I’m a pretty petite person, so when we were in the fitting, we’d originally tried it on with the bra and then with a pair of shorts. There were longer high-waisted shorts, and it looked really cute. We took the photo, and then as my stylist [Molly Dickson] was packing up all the stuff, I saw this little Coach underwear moment and I was like, “Should we try it on?” And my she was like, “Would you do that?” And then we just went for it because, again, I’ve always been really short, and it’s really easy to lose me in fabric. So we let the jacket be the statement and everything underneath is just body-ody-ody.
Were you cold? It was February!
It was really sunny day, so that was perfect. But sometimes, in these situations, the adrenaline and excitement gets your body all warmed up. You don’t really feel how cold you are. I was probably sweating.
The fans want to know: would you do a Do Revenge sequel?
I would if there were a good story to tell. To be honest, I usually leave those [movies] alone. It was such a statement in itself, and really made a splash on its own. I feel like there’s something to preserve there, and shouldn’t try to mess with it and keep it going. Let it have its moment.
What’s next for you?
I’m starring in and producing a movie called Música for Amazon, which is very specifically about being Brazilian-American and has a lot to do with that experience. Recently, I feel like I’ve had the pleasure of portraying my authentic culture for the first time. I’m really excited for people to see it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.