The understanding that a celebrity profile will be about that celebrity is usually an unspoken one. But Aliana Lohan—you might remember her as Ali—is a specific case. It makes sense that the Lohan sister’s team felt the need to clarify prior to our meetup that, “It is Aliana’s moment and it is important for her career that this interview is only about her.”
In her former life as a tween singer, reality TV star and tabloid fixture, Aliana Lohan was best known as Lindsay’s younger sister. Her projects from that time, the 2006 album Lohan Holiday and the short-lived 2008 docuseries Living Lohan, both fell under the larger Lohan brand. Now, at 24, it follows that Aliana Lohan might be struggling to distance herself from that pre-teen output, and show that she is more than just a Lohan. I came in to our sit-down with a set of preconceived notions about who Aliana Lohan might be—a talented young singer with a brand new single, who is constantly beset with questions about her infamous older sister and forced to reminisce on the Christmas album she recorded when she was all of 10 years old. But if Aliana sees herself this way—if she is anxious to differentiate herself from her sister, or at all insecure about her aughts ubiquity—she doesn’t show it. Aliana Lohan is, in her own words, fearless.
Lohan brings up her A-List sibling easily and often, like a non-famous person would. “I grew up really normal,” Lohan insists at one point, and she seems to sincerely believe it.
It’s worth mentioning that this has been Lohan’s official line for just about a decade. When she was 14 and promoting Living Lohan, a docuseries about launching her music career with momager Dina Lohan, Lohan told David Letterman, “We’re just a normal family.” Then she talked about hanging out on the Parent Trap set when she was 3 years old, and correcting tabloids that call her relatives crazy.
Ten years later, I am extremely aware that I am sitting across from a woman who was media trained on a reality TV show—meta layers of image manipulation, and the kind of mega scrutiny that could only leave scars. But Aliana is both incredibly kind and courteous and completely resistant to any sort of imposed narrative. She elegantly sidesteps insinuations that she may have been too young to star on a reality TV show, and politely declines invitations to elaborate on the darker sides of the various industries she’s worked in, which include music, film and modeling. The aspiring musician’s PR team has nothing to worry about—Aliana Lohan is a 24-year-old seasoned pro.
I find Lohan in a back booth at the Tick Tock Diner, where she’s eating a solo meal in between interviews. At a 24/7 diner often described as “standard” and “near Penn Station,” her black suit and red statement lips stand out. Lohan is promoting her new single, “Long Way Down,” and says that there will be an album to look forward to in the New Year. “I had been working on the album for a while,” she explains. “I’ve written a lot of songs, so we’re just figuring out which ones will go and which direction we’ll go in.”
Her current creative project is a far cry from her first album, Lohan Holiday. According to a 2016 Cosmopolitan profile, “[Lohan’s] first break in music came at the hands of a producer named Chris Christian, who ran into Dina Lohan, whom he knew through his friend Robert Kardashian (yes), at the Four Seasons swimming pool in Beverly Hills in 2006. Chris was hoping Lindsay, who was at the peak of her record career at the time, would cut a holiday album for his new media company. Her schedule was packed with movie obligations, but Dina told him that 10-year-old Aliana, who was swimming in the pool nearby, could sing, and asked if he wanted to work with her instead.”
Lohan is less specific, recalling, “Somebody had approached me and he was like, how do you feel about doing a Christmas album-type thing? And I was like, yes, that sounds amazing. That’s such a cool opportunity.” Opportunity is one of Aliana’s favorite words. “I learned a lot at a young age, you know, and it happened really fast and I was lucky enough that I had an older sister. I learned so much from her.”
She was raised on Long Island by a “single mom,” and her mother’s parents helped to raise Lohan and her siblings. “If we were staying there, there was always music,” she remembers. “My grandfather loves Frank Sinatra, so that was always on the record player at home.” She would dance around her room to Cher and The Eagles, Nina Simone. Asked about this second phase of her music career, Lohan beatifically announces, “It’s always been inevitable.”
“It was always bound to happen; I knew it, ever since I was like, 7. I knew it inside myself. We just have go through life, and when the time’s right, you know? Now that I’m on my path, I’m so grateful.”
Aliana Lohan’s journey, as she describes it, is at once a happy accident and preordained—effortless and inevitable. She became a model “organically”: “I signed to Ford when I was really little and that’s something that I just wandered on, on my sister’s set. I think one of the other kids had been crying and I was just so happy and playing and they’re like, put her on. Same for my sister, actually—same thing happened for her. She was on my mom’s set, and they said the same thing. So it was like, all super-organic.”
Lohan only has good things to say about her early acting, singing, and reality-TV experiences: “No regrets.” When I ask about the critics who denounced Living Lohan as exploitative, believing that Aliana was far too young for that level of scrutiny, Lohan concedes that, “I was young,” before continuing, “I was in a studio working with amazing people and that’s how I saw it. How other people perceive things, you know, that’s their own projection. That’s their reality.”
For the record, Lohan is open to returning to reality TV, and offers a coy “maybe” to the prospect of appearing on the upcoming Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club. “I’m so excited,” Lohan gushes about her sister’s new show. “She showed me some of the episodes… It’s incredible.” She continues, “My sister, ever since forever, is a boss lady. She’s crushing it. She’s doing so well, and she’s just such an honest, genuine soul who works really hard and yeah, she’s the best. I love her. I can’t wait.”
If there was one downside to “living [her] dream” at such a young age, it was how Aliana was treated by her peers. “I’m an advocate against bullying, and I went through that in school a lot,” Lohan says. She eventually switched to homeschooling, but maintains that weathering criticism and building a thick skin “made me who I am today.” Still, Lohan’s biography suggests that, at a certain point, she decided to turn away from all of those amazing opportunities. Discussing Living Lohan, she explains, “We ended up doing just a short period and I was very OK with taking a step back and being like, I’m going to go and write things in my journal more and figure me out more.”
At 17, a recent homeschool graduate, Lohan moved to South Korea to model. “The [other models] were so nice. Couldn’t be nicer, and they were such hard workers too. You know, they’d been working since they were 14, 15, traveling the world, and some of them were single mothers. I come from a single mother—a strong, independent woman—and I could just relate to them.”
Lohan asked the agency to just use her first name, “because I wanted people to get to know me for me.”
“When I got there though, the girls were like, we know who you are,” Lohan laughs. “I was like, you don’t know me yet, though! Let’s get to know each other first.” She jokes about how, at first, the agency didn’t want her to move into the model house until they fixed a broken washing machine. “Are you kidding me?” she remembers thinking. “Like, I’ve dealt with that at my mom’s house, it’s fine. I do my own laundry.”
At this point, I bring up that Lohan has effectively changed her name twice, seemingly in an effort to distance herself professionally from her family and her pre-teen fame. I ask her how she balances this desire to rebrand, to literally make a name for herself, with her obvious love and respect for Lindsay and the rest of her family. Lohan’s response begins with “I love fashion” and ends with an enthusiastic overview of how she and her team are working with “augmented reality” cameras, and how excited she is to see what that develops into. She concludes, “I’m not sure I answered that question.”
Lohan is similarly evasive when I ask about Wikipedia’s assertion that she has converted to Buddhism. “I’m open to all, any form of love that brings somebody joy, and if they’re doing it in a loving way that’s positive, then that’s beautiful. If somebody could feel better about themselves through something, I think that’s really cool.” Later, she elaborates, “Once I got back from my trip when I was away for the year, I met some people, and they taught me meditation and just to calm my mind. Mind, body and soul, that’s what I connected with deeply. And that changed my life.”
Mindfulness is “very important” to her, as is positivity. Lohan’s social media is chock full of feelgood aphorisms and Instagram-friendly poetry fragments—Rupi Kaur next to photo captions like, “I want you all to know that life is precious and so are you.” Lohan is a non-stop source of good vibes; when our waitress passes by and gruffly asks if we’re ordering anything, Lohan grins, “She’s the sweetest.” The diner is “amazing”—and so, for that matter, is this interview. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” she announces, “that we can talk and I can explain to more people what I’ve been through.”