There’s a changing of the guard in fashion and culture. Gen Z creators are pushing the conversation forward in ways both awe-inspiring and audacious. Our latest project, Youthquake, invites you to discover how these artists, musicians, actors, designers, and models are radically reimagining the future.
Allison Ponthier is a master of transformation. From one day to the next, the 25-year-old country-pop singer and TikTok sensation is cosplaying a groovy alien at home in her Bushwick, Brooklyn, apartment—a slime green complexion punctuated by a stamp of red lipstick and a set of matching stiletto claws—or in full drag as a mustached man named Al Bones for her “Harshest Critic” music video. “You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like,” wrote Ponthier in the caption of an Instagram portrait of her as Bones, her interpretation of a ’50s-era talk-show host of the Lawrence Welk variety. Slipping into one of her fictional, idiosyncratic characters with such ease is quite a feat considering that with her natural flame red shag, ice blue eyes, and high cheekbones, she’s far from a blank canvas. “You should always get dressed—and dress up!—for yourself,” insists Ponthier. “Taking it to an extreme by doing a costume can be a really powerful thing.”
In August, Ponthier dropped her first EP, Faking My Own Death. Its debut single, “Cowboy,” telegraphs her journey leaving her conservative hometown in Texas at 20 for greener pastures, where she would ultimately come out. “It took New York to make me a cowboy,” she sings on the ballad’s opening lyric. In the music video, Ponthier (whose visual references for the short ran the gamut from Troll 2 to Death Becomes Her) shapeshifts from a rhinestone cowgirl with fanned-out waves and ruby red lips into a guitar-strumming extraterrestrial wearing a sleek bob and canary-yellow-colored contacts. In the video for “Harshest Critic,” her song airing feelings of self-doubt, she plays another array of characters, from the aforementioned Al Bones to a glamorous country singer oozing Dolly Parton levels of glamour with big hair and powder blue lids. And then there’s “Faking My Own Death,” where she introduces Buzz Newton, an androgynous character she describes as “Elvis–meets–Evel Knievel” outfitted in silver glitter eyeshadow and a retro, star-spangled jumpsuit. “I love playing with masculinity and femininity,” she explains. “It’s one of the ways that I felt more free after coming out and kind of exploring my own personal style.”
In terms of mood-boarding for music videos and performances, Ponthier, who enjoys every facet of the creative-direction process, often muses on pop culture and decades past but never with pretension. “One thing that’s really important to me is making dressing in costumes or having references from movies not be intimidating,” says Ponthier, who is especially fond of horror and campy 1960s sci-fi films like Barbarella. “All of the things that I’m obsessed with are things that I just saw from movies or magazines,” she continues. “I’m not an expert, and I would actually feel really funny if anyone did call me a fashion or makeup expert because it’s literally just trial and error.”
Whether she’s oscillating between extremes in one of her music videos or just at home experimenting with beauty—from drawing on butterfly-winged eyeliner in exhaustive detail to donning a set of crimson hair horns (a look she helped go viral on TikTok)—it’s abundantly clear that Ponthier never tires of visual exploration. “In a weird way, changing my avatar, changing what I look like in my body, but knowing that I’m still me inside makes me feel better about my personality,” explains Ponthier, who admits she can be “painfully shy.” “There’s power in letting go of what you look like physically, having fun with it, and knowing that at the end of the day, who you are on the inside doesn’t change.” Needless to say, Halloween is and has always been a big deal to Ponthier, who dressed up as Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body last year with waist-skimming raver hair, dark arched brows, and bloodred lips. “Putting on a costume and being all these different versions of yourself gives you an element of control that I find really, really cathartic,” she says of how the holiday has stoked her self-expression through the years. “I grew up watching RuPaul’s Drag Race since I was, like, 14, so drag has always been something that’s really important to me. The confidence that I saw watching people totally transform themselves and bring out their inner personality was so inspiring to me.”