How 'Orange is the New Black' Star Alysia Reiner Gives Back
The actress couldn't be more different than the greedy prison admin she plays on the Netflix original series—except when it comes to shoes.
Although she oversees countless convicts at Litchfield Penitentiary, Natalie Figueroa (or Fig) is arguably the real "bad guy" (well, girl, especially considering we're referring to a women's prison) on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Rather than using her power for good, Fig swindles government funds meant for the inmates and facility programs for her own personal luxuries.
While we can’t wait to see what ridiculous (sometimes even hilarious) schemes she has in store for season two, which premieres on Netflix tomorrow, we weren't sure what to expect when speaking to the actress who executes her evil-doing so flawlessly. Luckily, Alysia Reiner could not be further from the character she plays. Recognized for her other roles in films ranging from the award-winning drama Sideways to the more recent comedy That Awkward Moment, Reiner also has many generous endeavors close to her heart that have landed her a rightful place in our own.
How would you describe your personal style? "I would say it’s very eclectic and based on my mood. First of all, I love fashion; I find it to be an art form. My grandma was incredible about collecting pieces of clothing from all over the world and showing me the embroidery and the beadwork and what made amazing curving, and she saved spectacular things for me, so I have an amazing vintage collection. I love designers, from eco-designer Daniel Silverstein to Veronica Beard."
You lead a very green lifestyle. What made you so passionate about sustainability? "It’s so funny because I get asked that so much, and I don’t have an answer. Quite frankly, I’m always surprised more people are not interested in it. For me, it’s so natural; our world is finite, and I’m surprised people are not more aware of it. In the next 20 years, water is going to become a commodity as precious as gold. And I don’t think people truly believe that yet, but it’s going to happen. Whether you believe in global warming or not, it’s going to happen. I’m a woman who believes, do whatever you can in whatever way you can—however you can make the world a better place, it’s a good choice."
What tips do you have for our readers about being more eco-conscious? "I think there are so many things you can do on a daily basis. Be aware of the products you use, be it makeup, skincare, clothing, cleaning supplies for the house—and of course our food is a huge thing—and then talking about it and sharing it. I think there’s a real myth that being eco-friendly means it’s expensive, and it’s totally not true. First of all, one of the best things you can do fashion-wise is wear vintage. There’s fantastic, secondhand places where you can find these great little dresses for [next to nothing]. After giving one a good, healthy wash, you have a cute outfit, and it’s eco-friendly because you’re not wasting, you’re reusing. [For beauty,] I just started using a fantastic new product line called Sircuit, and it's hard for me to leave the house without my RMF 'un' cover-up organic concealer ($36). At my daughter’s school [even], I started a green community, and it’s amazing; the whole school is composting now, and we've decreased the school’s garbage by 90 percent just between composting and recycling. It’s all about, 'What can you do wherever you can.'"
Can you see any similarities between Fig’s wardrobe and your own? "No [laughs]. There’s certain pairs of shoes—she’s a shoe hoe, and I’m a shoe hoe, so there’s our similarity. I will do anything for a great pair of shoes, and I think she’s the same."
How much input do you get on your costume choices? "Jenn [Rogien] is hands down the best costume designer I have ever worked with in my entire life—no offense to anyone I’ve ever worked with before—but I feel so lucky to work with her. She has a sense of character and thinks about the character almost as much as I do and how to express that in clothes. She comes in with fantastic ideas, and we have so much fun dressing and creating this person visually."
What can we expect to see from your character this season? "You get to see a lot more fashion from her; [Jenn and I] got to have a little bit more fun this year as we saw more in her story. And, obviously I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say you definitely go deeper with the character. You get to see what makes her tick and why she makes the choices she makes. It’s my hope that by the end of the season, you have a little compassion for her as well. I hope by the end, you’re like, ‘Aw poor baby,’ but that’s my dream, we’ll see. I don't know, it’s a tough character to get that from, but we’ll see if I’ve done my job."
What made you want to get involved with the Women's Prison Association (WPA)? “Fig is such a bitch. I mean, god bless her, she is a strong woman. I feel like every character teaches you something, and she’s really taught me to sort of hang on to my strengths. However, if I were a warden of a prison, I hope that my whole life would be about rehabilitating women, about giving them opportunity to change and grow and get education and see how we can actually create the best members of society that we can. Because Fig doesn’t necessarily feel that way, I was like, ‘Well, what can I do, and how can I use this platform to really help women?’"
What was the inspiration behind the charitable locket you helped design for the organization? "I wanted it to be a locket because I wanted people who are missing someone in prison to be able to keep their picture with them always. When my sister moved to Australia, she made my mom, herself and I matching necklaces that say, ‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always’ [from the children’s book] with our three initials, and they were the inspiration. A hundred percent of proceeds benefit the organization, and I’m so proud because we’ve already raised a ton of money."
Purchase the socially-conscious necklace here: Kira Kira x Alysia Reiner WPA Limited Edition Locket, $98, at kirakira.com. Plus, see more of our favorite antagonist tomorrow, when Orange is the New Black returns to Netflix for its second season.