Artist and photographer Alana O’Herlihy is accustomed to being on the periphery of fame with best friends like Bella Hadid and Jordan Barrett, but that doesn’t mean she wants any part of it. “I call fame ‘the F word,’“ she mentions as a matter of fact. “If that doesn’t explain it, what will? I think fame is something people decided to label people in the entertainment business that are really good at their jobs, and that’s pretty much it. Once you put the F word on someone, and label them that, it becomes like an episode of Black Mirror. Everyone’s filming them all the time. It’s not for me.”

Still, the 22-year-old LA native is getting plenty of attention, whether she likes it or not. Her work and her affiliations have garned her a bevy of loyal internet fans (visit @lilmami_lani for a good time) and it all began when she became a college drop out. O’Herlihy majored in film and media at a community college before moving to New York City five years ago to study photography at Parsons School of Design. Even though she was seemingly living the millenial dream, her education started getting in the way of her career. She remembers, “It got to the point where I was working, and Parsons has this rule where you fail if you miss more than three classes. I had to choose between school and work, and I chose work.”

The risky move was a smart choice–her client list now includes VogueHarper’s BazaarV Magazine, and high-profile brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline. She’s also a creative consultant for a few companies she prefers not to name, and she balances that with personal projects. “The commerce part of my art is just as important as my art, so I need to split that 50/50, because I work for myself, and I have to put my work out there,” she says.“I’ve also learned that it’s important for me to keep shooting just for me and make art, just to put on my website or Instagram or sell or do whatever with, because if you’re constantly shooting commercial jobs and then you don’t, you know, create something for yourself or do an editorial in between, you kind of lose it a little bit, creatively.”

As an artist, O’Herlihy draws inspiration from her personal experiences, and traveling in celebrity circles means some of those experiences are pretty wild. Things got especially crazy when she was with Jordan Barrett at the Cannes Film Festival. After the AMFAR party, they wanted to get back to the boat where they were staying so they could go to sleep—but first, they had to catch a little boat that would carry them out to it. She says, “They wouldn’t let us get on the boat, and we were like, ‘Well, we’re stranded then.’ These security officers were screaming at us. We’d already been there for two hours, and we ended up having to pull like, a 007 mission, run past all of these security guards, through the back, jump over a fence. I was wearing Manolos that I borrowed from a friend, and he was like, ‘Run, run, run!’ We literally jumped onto a moving boat, just to get to where we were sleeping–and I got my 007 tattoo the next day.”

Her supermodel friends tend to attract the paparazzi, and O’Herlihy isn’t just along for the ride. She has no problem showing skin—in photos and in real life—and gossip sites like the Daily Mail eat it up every time she bares it all in public. “I don’t see the problem with showing boobs,” she protests. “I don’t think they should be censored on Instagram, in magazines, at all. I’m not really thinking when that stuff happens, but if it ends up happening, I think it’s funny. I don’t have a problem with it.”

At times, being close with celebrities has been good for O’Herlihy’s career–she has been hired to photograph the Hadids, for example. She says that working with friends is fun, adding, “In any shoot, it’s easier to get a good picture of someone if they’re comfortable around you, but mixing business and friendship isn’t always the best way to go about doing things. There’s positives and negatives. Mostly positives, though.”

This year, she’s planning to focus more on video, and she is turning the camera on some of the men in her life. She recently shot male model Jegor Venned for L’Officiel USA, and says, “I’m also doing a series called The Female Gaze, where I kind of turn the male gaze around and objectify men.” She adds, “A lot of people don’t even know what that means, the male gaze, which is so surprising to me.” In honor of that project, she got her latest tattoo—a Playboy bunny crying. She says, “I was drunk on New Year’s and there was a tattoo artist at the party I was at. That basically speaks for itself.”

O’Herlihy also makes mixed media collages that incorporate her photography work. That started after she did a shoot and wasn’t happy with how the photos turned out. “I was like, maybe if I combine these all together, or cut out and add these other aspects to it, it’ll look more interesting, and it did. I posted it on my website, and everyone reacted to it well, so I just started going to the Strand bookstore in Manhattan. You know the $1 and $2 books outside? I started making the collages out of those books, and now I kind of make them based off of the people around me and their lives and what they say to me. That influences a lot—my friends.”

Other influences include the Instagram account @heavilly_sedated, which she runs with Barrett, movies and “well-made TV shows.” She says, “I just finished watching this show The End of the Fucking World. So good. It’s incredible. I’m so bummed I’m done with it.” She has also been watching The Crown on Netflix, and her favorite movies include Silence of the LambsThe ShiningTrue Romance, and Natural Born Killers. She says, “I watch a lot of movies. I write down a lot of things, when I like things that are said.”

With so many creative projects, does O’Herlihy think of herself more as a photographer or an artist? She says, “It depends on the month. Right now, I would say artist.” Then she adds, “I don’t really like labels though, you know? I just kind of do what I do, and it pays the rent, and I enjoy it, and I’m really, really happy.”

By Lisa Beebe