If you have any interest in fashion, you are likely familiar with Mallory Merk, whether you know it or not. The 16-year-old Louisiana native has been featured in the likes of Teen Vogue and Refinery29, with an Instagram presence deserving of that kind of attention. Raking in 35 thousand followers as of Wednesday, she has accumulated a photo repertoire like no other, featuring everything from bold street-style snaps to candids with her bud, A$AP Rocky. A unique middle ground between dainty redhead and groundbreaking tomboy, it would appear that Merk’s outward appearance is what propelled her into ubiquity.
There is more to every story than meets the eye, though. In the case of Miss Mallory Merk, music is what bubbles between the lines.
“I first started making music when I got my first family computer,” she said in an interview. “I was probably about 10. I used to make voice memos on my phone and edit them in GarageBand.”
I know what you may be thinking, and the answer is no. Merk is not another pretty face with a platform and a hobby. She released her debut EP, MM & HH, this past August at the age of 15. Produced by Dallas band Herrick & Hooley, each song’s bluesy undertones and quippy, youthful lyrics feel practically hypnotic. The entire project possesses a depth that one would never expect from a member of today’s supposedly scatterbrained youth.
“My inspiration for MM & HH came from all over my life, coming of age,” Merk said. “ ‘Puppy Love’ was all about literal puppy love. ‘Gold’ was about my questioning if I’m ready or even worthy of what I’ve been given in this life. I always think, why me? MM & HH was about trusting myself and my art. Hunter Lewis from Herrick & Hooley told me once that without Alabama Shakes and Bryson Tiller there would be no MM & HH. I thought that was pretty funny, but it’s really true. I also draw a lot of inspiration from Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean and ’90s R&B. ”
There is still an elephant in the room: under what genre, if any, does MM & HH fit?
“I have a term for my music I’m trying to coin,” she said, laughing. “It’s Trazz. Trap-Jazz music.”
All elements of this narrative point to one conclusion: Merk means business. The model and songstress is not old enough to buy lottery tickets, yet her resume is unparalleled.
“My modeling career really kicked off after I modeled for Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 2 zine when I had just turned 14,” Merk said. “I was so happy to be launched into the fashion world in such a beautiful way. My favorite memory as a model was probably having my face done by Pat McGrath and her team for the first time. It was really a dream come true. She’s a queen and an amazing artist and soul.”
It may be difficult to imagine a teenager juggling one career of such brevity (read: Kanye West and Pat McGrath) while trying to kickstart another. According to Merk, however, her two passions live hand-in-hand.
“Modeling has played a huge role in my music career,” she said. “When I do a shoot or editorial I like to push for the client to write about my music or to plug my talent and true passion in one way or another. Also, modeling was the original way that my face got out there and so popular, so I have my looks and ability to put my whole heart into everything I do to thank for the success of my music.”
Now, wait just a minute. What about school? Do kids still do that in 2016? Apparently, the answer is yes. Though we may never know how, Merk confirms that she finds time to attend an ordinary public high school.
“Balancing high school with studio time and everything else is really challenging,” she said. “To be honest, it’s almost impossible. If I can get real for a second, something is always lost, whether that be relationships, friendships, family time, schoolwork or a creative outlet. Lately, I’ve been feeling my friends slip away, my real friends. I miss them. I miss my family. I feel like I don’t talk to them enough.”
How, then, does our fiery-haired protagonist find the strength to move forward?
“Balancing isn’t the word,” she said, “It’s a pendulum. Swinging back and forth from being mentally healthy and making music, modeling, doing schoolwork and seeing family to the opposite. Every day is a balancing act for me, it’s very tiring. That’s why I meditate, pray and align my chakras to keep my head in the right place.”
Merk is certainly cut from a special cloth — a “Jane” of many trades, if you will. If she has come this far already, one can only imagine what she will be capable of later in life.
“In the future, you can expect the unexpected. Expect something you’ve never heard before. Expect my whole heart through my music. Expect my whole personality through my modeling. And always expect great things, so you can be happy upon receiving art that’s better than great.”
The story of Mallory Merk has only just begun.