Photos of Actress Bailey Bass

Bailey Bass Is Unapologetically Honest

The 19-year-old actress from "Avatar: The Way of the Water" opens up about holding her breath for six minutes, acne positivity, and not having TikTok.

Bailey Bass was 12 years old when she auditioned for Avatar: The Way of the Water, the highly anticipated second installment of the film series that debuted in theaters back in 2009. She didn't put much thought into going after her role of Tsireya, a young Na'vi from the Metkayina clan, at the time. "They said there's an audition for Avatar, and you just go," she tells Shape over Zoom.

Now 19, Bass describes herself as "more independent" and "much more brutally honest" than she was when she was first attached to the massive project. It's something she attributes to her "unapologetic family," specifically pointing to her grandma's "dance like nobody's watching" mentality and literal practice. "I'm a New Yorker," she explains. "I don't tend to hold back when I have something to say."

Beginning around the age of 13, Bass was doing parkour (aka jumping, running, and climbing over obstacles from point A to point B) and working out in the gym for the physically demanding film. "That's [a time] when you're very uncomfortable with your body," she notes. "And I'm put in a room with the rest of the cast who's all teenage boys who don't care if they, like, break their arm by doing a flip."

However, "the most nerve-wracking" part of training for Bass initially was freediving, which involves swimming in deep waters without breathing equipment (ICYMI, much of the film was shot underwater). "It started out being my least favorite thing to do in training," she explains. "And I ended up excelling more than most of the cast members, which I say kindly and proudly, because to be so nervous, to take forever to put a wet suit on, to be so out of your body, to then, at the end of filming, have that be your favorite thing to do, shows tremendous growth," she says.

There's that unapologetic honestly Bass prides herself on so much. Ahead, read more of her unfiltered thoughts on preparing to be in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time and simply navigating adolescence like the rest of her peers.

Thriving Outside of Her Comfort Zone

Bailey Bass Hiking with Her Dog
Courtesy of Bailey Bass.

Going into the Avatar audition, Bass' background with swimming was "nonexistent." In fact, her mom took her to a local swimming center for three lessons in one week to prepare her for the process, which would include swimming, treading water, and holding her breath. At the audition, Bass ended up being the only girl in her group. "I think that really challenged me because I had to keep up with them [the boys]," she says. "I was not going to back down."

Once she got the role, she dove head first into training. In addition to doing parkour and hitting the gym, Bass and her castmates were certified in freediving and scuba diving. They even learned sign language to communicate underwater.

With a background in rhythmic gymnastics, ballet, and dance, moving underwater came naturally to the actress. "Looking back, I realized that even with the swimming, me pointing my toes was always in the back of my mind," she explains. And in case you were wondering, her record for holding her breath underwater for the movie was six and a half minutes.

Bailey Bass on endurance

Keeping your body moving when it wants to say no needs a lot of discipline, and I love doing that.

— Bailey Bass on endurance

Whether she's getting into character or not, Bass considers working out holistically. "I want to always implement fitness just to prevent anxiety and [keep] my digestive system the best it possibly can be," she says, adding that she's competitive by nature.

"My mom was a D1 athlete [in tennis]," explains Bass. "That's what paid for her scholarships...She's from Belarus and that's what got her to this country. That's what helped create me," she continues. "And because of that, I have grown up in a competitive family."

A fan of endurance training, she typically does high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Her goal? "I really want to be good at running," says the Interview with The Vampire star.

"I think endurance is the biggest test to the mind," she explains. "Like, yes, I can weightlift, I can do all those things. And yes, it can be mind over matter. But keeping your body moving when it wants to say no needs a lot of discipline, and I love doing that. So my goal, just like my life goal, is to be really good at running," she continues.

When she's not doing a HIIT workout or pushing herself toward her running goals, you might find Bass soaking up the west coast sunshine on a hike. "I love hiking," she says. "Filming in California, being in Manhattan Beach, being exposed to all that nature, it was so refreshing for me [compared to] growing up in the city [New York]." She enjoys the outdoor activity so much that she went to Arizona, which is known for its mountainous terrain, for her 18th birthday.

She's also quite the thrill seeker. "I want to jump out of a plane," explains Bass. "I want to go hiking in 100-degree heat...I'm an adrenaline junkie to the max."

Embracing All Kinds of Self Care

Photos of Bailey Bass
Courtesy of Bailey Bass.

Bass clearly knows how to push herself to her limits and try new things, but she's also learning what makes her feel good when she struggling with her mental health. "I listen to worship music that is aligning with my faith, going back to my roots, going back to, like, what my purpose [is and] why I'm here," she says. "I listen to my playlist and like in the span of 5 minutes, everything gets knocked out."

Taking care of herself also means taking care of her skin. "Skin care is, like, number one," says Bass. "I love reading about the science. I read the ingredients. I can talk about skin care all day." Her favorite products are from the Rodan and Fields line, though she's likely partial to the fact that her mom sells the brand's products.

Bailey Bass on acne

[Acne is] natural, it's so natural, and literally almost everyone has it, and yet it's shunned so much.

— Bailey Bass on acne

Bass has also found success clearing her skin with a red light tool, but she's quick to point out that there's nothing wrong with acne. "It's natural, it's so natural, and literally almost everyone has it, and yet it's shunned so much."

What's more, the young actress has a powerful support system to help her through life's challenges. "I have been blessed with a team of strong women," says Bass, naming her mom, publicist, agent, and acting coach. "They always tell me to consistently be myself all the time," she continues.

"Women sometimes want to close down because we need to be put in a box, so we need to speak a certain way," she explains. "They [my support system] have consistently told me to not do that and really own myself." Thus, her knack for keeping it real.

Finding a Community Online and IRL

Bailey Bass
Courtesy of Bailey Bass.

Unlike many of her Gen Z peers, Bass doesn't have TikTok. "I only have Instagram because that's part of me protecting my mental health," explains the 19-year-old. "I care so much about creating content, and I want it to be a safe space. I also don't want to sacrifice my mental health, and that's why I need to create that distance."

Bass has worked hard to create a safe space online through the cooking videos she creates for her virtual following. "I love cooking," she says, visibly lighting up when the topic arises. "I'm becoming that person, that if I eat a restaurant and eat something, I'm like, I can make this better."

Knowing she wanted to bring people happiness while sharing the story of her career and getting better in the kitchen, creating cooking videos was a natural part of Bass' social media presence. The actress started out by baking (it's her dream to be that mom who makes the best cookies for her kids one day) and she soon found cooking.

Bailey Bass on social media

I only have Instagram because that's part of me protecting my mental health.

— Bailey Bass on social media

Her go-to dishes include tomato soup and vegan pasta. "I'm the vegan that loves meat," she says while bragging about how good her vegan pasta with asparagus and Beyond Meat tastes. "Food is something no matter what language you speak, it connects us all," she continues.

Another thing that seemingly connects everyone? Reality TV. "I love watching reality TV with my mom and my brothers," she says. "That is something that's me going back to my roots every time I come home. That's what I look forward to doing." They stick to the classics, including MTV's The Challenge and Bravo's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. "I'm really invested."

So, yes, Bass kicked off her acting career by casually landing a role in an Avatar film, but like most people her age, she enjoys the basics. As she puts it: "Two of my favorite things are food and sleeping."

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