It’s Sadie Sink’s Time to Shine

The 20-year-old actress is entering a new phase of her career—and life—with open arms.

Cover Story
It’s Sadie Sink’s Time to Shine
Josefina Santos
Molly Dickson
Tommy Buckett
Quinn Murphy
Dave Russo

When she’s not gracing the couture runways, befriending actor Woody Harrelson, or starring in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things, Sadie Sink spends her spare time doing nothing.

Well, not nothing. The 20-year-old reads (correction: is trying to read more). She plays with her five-month-old puppy. And, like many late adolescents, she peruses TikTok. During a recent scroll, Sink figured she’d fallen into some niche algorithmic vortex. Despite persistent swiping, clip after clip was soundtracked by the same song: “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God),” a 1985 British pop ballad that arms Sink’s character, Max Mayfield, against the supernatural.

It had to be a coincidence. Although there are many accounts that exist claiming to be Sink—some with tens of thousands of fans—the star’s legitimate profile is anonymous (in Zoomer slang: a “finsta”). TikTok couldn’t know it was really her behind the screen. Within the same week, the Kate Bush track would hit number one on iTunes—40 years after its release—thanks to the show.

“I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to listen to ‘Running Up That Hill,’” says Sink. “I knew the show had a giant fanbase, but I didn’t know how big until I was in it.”

The resurrection of “Running Up That Hill” has parallels to Sink’s ascension to stardom. As if portraying one of the most beloved characters on Netflix’s most-watched English-language series wasn’t enough, the Sink-led Stranger Things episode “Dear Billy” will make Emmy history if it wins in all seven categories it's been submitted for. Winona Ryder identified Sink as the next Meryl Streep. Then, of course, there are her leagues of fans (an eye-watering 20 million on Instagram alone) obsessively ingesting any scrap of content she provides—from press appearances to behind-the-scenes insight.

“I was introduced to the [Hollywood] side of things so late,” she explains. “Coming from theater, it’s such a smaller world with fewer bells and whistles. I never really got the chance to process what was happening. I didn’t really think that this [kind of fame] was going to come with everything.”

Fame does indeed come with its benefits, especially in the fashion world. Executing seven outfits for seven occasions in a recent Vogue video, Sink dons designers en masse: her short suit, Miu Miu; jeans, Acne Studios. Even her bucket hat—the key accessory she “can’t get enough of”—can be credited to Jacquemus. In fact, she seems to have become the industry’s favorite new face. The actress’s relationship with Chanel began even before her Stranger Things debut at the ripe age of 15 when the brand reached out to dress her in a midcentury-inspired monochromatic cocktail dress for the season two premiere (Sink made her debut appearance on season two). Within the year, the then-teen would contend with a flurry of requests: a Miu Miu campaign alongside Elle Fanning, a Nike partnership tied to their Epic Fly Knit sneaker, then a Paris Fashion Week runway debut, opening Undercover’s FW18 show. Since then, modeling has become something of an off-duty past-time. You might have seen the star traveling with Chanel in Aspen, appearing in the Prada show at Milan Fashion Week, or starring in a Givenchy beauty campaign.

Dress: Rodarte; Blazer: ROKH; Boots: McQueen; Underpinning: Wolford

For a “theater kid” from small-town Texas, it’s a robust resume—one to which she can now also add “expert sartorialist.” While style isn’t always top of mind during Sink’s puppy-playing days off at her parents’ home in Summit, New Jersey, her post-modernist style (often showcased on the press circuit) still graces many mood boards. The founder of one popular fan page created a Sink-dedicated feed, @stylesofsadie, and accrued a 10,000-strong followership by chronicling the actress’s outfits.

“As I got older, I started to figure out what I actually liked and what I felt most confident in,” Sink shares of her style trajectory. “When I do press and red carpets, that’s when I get to have more fun and my real style gets to show through.”

It makes sense that Sink has already amassed such dedicated disciples—on paper, it appears she’s been working since the womb. Her IMDB page is littered with pop culture canon, with roles spanning The Americans (2013), Chuck (2016), and Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021). It might come as a surprise to some that after relocating to Jersey to play the titular role in Annie (2013) and later Queen Elizabeth II (2015) on Broadway, Sink’s acting career stalled. Too old to play a child and too young for adult roles, the “in-between” actress returned to school as an eighth grader. Until then, the stage was her classroom—“as cheesy as that sounds,” she says.

“It’s funny, adolescence is already the worst time in your life and when you stop working it’s like the worst thing that could ever happen—you’re like, ‘I’ll never work again,’ Sink remembers. “I started to pick up on the differences between what I had experienced and where everyone else was in their lives. I found it really nice to let go of the responsibilities and just go to school.”

Top, bra, skirt, ear cuff: Givenchy; Shoes: Jimmy Choo

As the years went by, the fact that Sink had appeared on Broadway at all began to hold less and less weight with her peers. Sink's career similarly never assumed center stage in her family (she's one of five highly-successful children). By the time Stranger Things arrived, the teen was removed enough from the industry that the chance to move to Atlanta and learn to skateboard felt like a lottery win. Still, as the perpetual “new kid” on set, “comfort in the limelight” didn't come easy.

“It’s really scary out there,” she says. “The older you get you become more aware of the many different sides of this industry, so it could be easy to get caught up in everything. I was kind of in awe of the kids on the show—flying to awards shows on weekends so casually. I was just like, I am terrified by all this. There are certain things I am more used to at this point, but it’s taken a while.”

Although, there’s still no getting used to some perks. Recently, Sink’s team received a request for the actress’s cell phone number. Taylor Swift was undertaking her directorial debut—a short film to accompany her re-recorded fan favorite “All Too Well”—and hoped to tap Sink as its star. The following day, Swift texted the young actress personally.

“I really thought it was just this elaborate scheme to get my information,” Sink says. “Then I met her and Dylan [O’Brien] and a month later we shot the short film. I would scream the lyrics to this song even though I couldn’t relate to them in the slightest—to find out I could help bring it to life, I couldn’t believe it.”

Each of the top five comments on the song’s YouTube video reference Sink’s skills. “Sadie Sink is not just an actress,” a recent entry reads. “She is A FEELING, A MOMENT, A MASTERPIECE of [a] human being.”

They’re not the only one to think so. Recently, Sink was tapped by director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) for his upcoming film, The Whale. The casting came hot on the heels of Sink’s appearances in The Glass Castle (2019), alongside Woody Harrelson, with whom she remains close. She credits veterans like Harrelson and Helen Mirren (her The Audience co-star) as her “role models” in handling Hollywood with grace.

“Working with these people, there was this awareness that they’d all had these incredible careers doing exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. “I looked up to every single one of them. But Helen and Woody, it’s like, not only are they that talented, but they also have such kind hearts—so professional on and off screen. But we’re all theater dorks—those annoying theater dorks.”

Blazer: ROKH

As a pre-teen backstage in said theater, Sink would write screenplays that she would then cast and direct with her fellow actors to pass the time. Broaching the fifth and final season of Stranger Things, Sink can imagine retrying her hand at writing. Then again, there’s a lot that appeals. She wouldn’t mind exploring formal acting training (her brother is currently studying musical theater). Still, the top priority remains returning to her first love: the stage.

“It feels like a graduation of sorts,” she says. “We’ve all been on [Stranger Things] long enough that we’ve developed these individual career paths, but the show is a home base. I’m not going to lie, losing that is going to be heartbreaking, but I think we’re all in a good place to do so.”

“Good” is a definitive understatement. When Sink’s Google hits aren’t dominated by songs the actress claims might save her from Stranger Things’ villain Vecna (Billboard got it right when they alleged Taylor Swift’s “August”), they chronicle her slew of magazine covers or unending luxury fashion campaigns (read: Kate Spade, Sandro, and Chopard). Sink says it’s either “everything at once or nothing at all”—the party line of overachievers everywhere. Any well-trained theater kid like Sink will readily run up hill after hill, but Sink doesn’t even break a sweat.

“I’m just trusting my gut and rolling with the punches. It feels like a lot of space is opening, and [I’m so] excited to see what comes my way.”

Photo Asst: Albert Font Garcia / Stylist Assistant: Jenna Filingeri / Stylist Assistant: Marlee Loiben
Video Editor: Matthew DelBaggio / Sound: Max Cooke / Gaffer: Dan Wills
Production Director: Jess Sisco / Creative Director: Phuong Nguyen / Associate Producer: Claire Flanagan

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