Nikki Reed is an animal lover, plain and simple. The 27-year-old actress has spent many years fostering, rescuing and rehabilitating animals while working with organizations like The Humane Society of the United States and Freedom of Animals, along with Heifer International, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. The newlywed (she married “Vampire Diaries” star Ian Somerhalder last July) also works very closely with her husband’s Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) as a board member and as the organization’s director. Here, Reed discusses her passion for animals, her philanthropic goals for 2016, her latest role—playing Betsy Ross in the FOX series “Sleepy Hollow”—and the things she values most.
How did you get involved with Heifer International?
Heifer is an amazing organization, and one that has been lingering in my periphery for quite some, time because of [its] ability to create sustainable change within a community by actually bringing that community together.
What is it about Heifer International’s Mission that is important to you?
More often than not, you find organizations that are competing with each other because they don’t understand that at the end of the day, it’s all the same. Fighting for the earth is also fighting for ending poverty, just like fighting for women’s rights is also fighting for education. When we fight for our oceans, we are fighting for our rhinos and elephants that are being brutally murdered and poached daily. They are all [inter]connected.
What are your philanthropic goals for 2016?
As a board member and director at ISF, I can tell you personally that we have some really exciting stuff happening! We are going to continue to support and expand the emergency medical grant program for animals—so far, we’ve given out over 300 grants—[and] we are developing two new grant programs in our youth and environment divisions, encouraging kids to make grassroots changes.
What new projects are you working on, and why are you excited about them?
I just launched my cruelty-free and U.S.-made bag line [which you can purchase at FreedomOfAnimals.com], I am working on a screen play—we just formed our production company—and I remain very focused on supporting ThriveMartket.com, an online marketplace that offers non-perishable and GMO-free foods.
What attracted you to playing Betsy Ross in Sleepy Hollow?
The ‘Betsy’ I play is definitely not what I envisioned when I initially thought about the woman who stitched the first American flag. Betsy has a kind of confidence and fearlessness that makes her very fun to play, because I feel she gives me a little bit of that to take home with me.
Your character oozes sex appeal. What do you do that makes you feel sexy?
I believe a woman is her sexiest when she is educated. I am still a student, currently taking college courses online. I also have a tutor, who puts together lessons for me every couple of weeks.
How would you describe yourself in a few words or in a phrase?
I am a creature of habit, I enjoy routine. I am loyal, and I am a lover of all furry things. Sunflowers make me happy, and I could spend my life on a farm growing vegetables, as long as there was a guitar, good wine and my human.
Is how you see yourself different from how others view you?
When you are in the public eye, connecting those two becomes more of a priority than it should be. I think you feel a certain responsibility to share your perspective in the hopes of inspiring people, or connecting people, but there must be a balance, because you don’t want the world living in your home with you. Only as I truly began to discover who I was did I feel more comfortable sharing parts of myself with the world. I have also found that people have a hard time separating you from the characters you play. I realized this fully after noticing the shift in the fan reaction to me, once my character, Rosalie in the Twilight films, became more likable due to her connection with Bella and her baby. Suddenly, people viewed me as maternal, and as the character was liked more, so was I.
What to you is the greatest luxury in life?
Privacy and tranquility are two things I value greatly. I have found that as I get older, I appreciate quiet moments more and more, the intimate gatherings and the understanding that some of the most powerful experiences I have had were in moments where words weren’t needed.