SoKo, the French actor, singer, and fashion icon, knows what it is to devote yourself completely, obsessively, to your art.

Caught at her L.A. home amid the final frenzy of finishing her third album, the upbeat artist reveals she even decided to go celibate for the past year and a half to concentrate on her darkly confessional pop.

“I’ve been recording every fucking day,” says SoKo, whose last very public relationship was with Twilight’s Kristen Stewart. “I couldn’t even imagine being intimate with someone while I’m making this music, being so deeply emotional. I don’t know how to do anything else.

“My life is very much the life of a hermit!” she adds with a laugh.

That kind of single-minded drive prepared her well for taking on the role of Loïe Fuller in the film The Dancer (La Danseuse), opening Friday (December 1). The 19th-century icon pushed herself to the brink of physical destruction for her Serpentine Dance, a dazzling whirl of heavy fabric and projected coloured lights.

“I think any artist who’s a true artist has to be completely devoted,” says SoKo, who adds that—of course—she had to give up her music to throw herself into the role.

She had met director Stéphanie Di Giusto almost a decade before making The Dancer, when the music-video and commercials director promised she would create a role for her in her first feature film.

The actor decided early on that she wanted to plunge full force into the part of “La Loïe” when Di Giusto finally offered it to her. “I said, ‘There’s no fucking way I’m gonna have a body double,’ so I worked my ass off,” SoKo proudly tells the Straight. Referring to the fact that Fuller’s avant-garde style was relentlessly copied throughout her lifetime, she adds: “I didn’t want to be another pale imitator of her art, either. I wanted to know what the dress smells like after you’ve danced in it for seven hours!”

Training for the role was gruelling. Choreographer Jody Sperling, who’s spent the last 15 years specializing in Fuller’s style, began working with SoKo. “Every morning I would do two hours of training, running and then weights, and then I would come in and have five hours of dance training,” she says. “I had all these bruises, and you wake up and you’re so stiff you can’t even put your socks on.”

Aside from that, the whirling dervish–like art form poses perils of its own. “I’m stepping up onto a three-metre platform in the dark and praying that I don’t die!” she says, laughing. And dizziness? “I don’t think I ever overcame it. In the movie, after every dance, she falls to the ground and can barely breathe, and that’s what it was like for me.”

Dedication to her art isn’t SoKo’s only similarity to Fuller. Both dabble in multiple art forms, Fuller in painting, costume-making, and lighting, SoKo in her music videos and art. Both came to Paris from the countryside, Fuller from the American Midwest, SoKo from the Bordeaux region. And both share a definite thing for clothes.

“I love fashion and clothes!” declares SoKo, a front-row standout at Paris Fashion Week and a muse for everyone from Chanel and Gucci to Miu Miu. “Becoming a character and making movies is also a lot about the clothes; I don’t really know a character until I’m wearing their clothes.

“Also, I love dressing the mood I want to be in every day! For instance, I have to wear red shoes or a whole red outfit in the [recording] studio. My favourite movie is The Red Shoes—I made Stéphanie watch it too. It’s influenced me so much.”

And that makes total sense. Like the magical red slippers in the movie, something is driving SoKo with an almost superhuman force—and it should be fun watching where it propels her next.

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