Renee Olstead is heading into 2014 with a vengeance and a stunning new look, starting with going back to bombshell red! You’ll know Olstead from her long-running show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, her incredible jazz career or her drop-dead sexy modeling. The world is her oyster in 2014 and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.
Renee Olstead: She’s such a sweetheart and so stunning. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to Playboy Radio, but it was the first time I got to go into the studio. I used to have the Sirius XM on Playboy all of the time, you guys are a good time!
Playboy.com: I hear that you recently got to go to the Playboy Mansion. What did you think?!
Olstead: I performed at the Playboy Mansion for the New Year’s Eve party. It’s incredible there. Everything that you’d ever imagine it would be! It’s beautiful, decadent and there were a lot of really interesting people to meet. After performing, my fiancé and I got to live it up on the dance floor with all of the beautiful painted ladies. It was insane and we had a blast.
Playboy.com: Your fiancé, Tommy King, had the awesome opportunity to play with HAIM late last year. Did you get to catch any of his shows?
Olstead: Yeah, I did. He’s actually still on tour with them in Japan! I’m really excited they’re going to be back in L.A. in not too long to do Coachella, so I’m definitely going to be at that one. I’m flying to Norway to visit, see a few shows and hang out for a week before I head back to L.A.
Playboy.com: You met your fiancé around 10 years ago, didn’t you?
Olstead: Yes! We didn’t get together 10 years ago, but just over five years ago. I’ve known him for a really long time. I met him while he was in my band. He was my very sexy, off-limits, older keyboard player [laughs] that I finally got together with later!
Olstead: It hasn’t been green-lit yet, so it’s still in the waiting phase. But I am going on tour in March to Southeast Asia. I haven’t done a lot of concerts out there, but I’m really excited to get out there, especially to the Philippines!
Playboy.com: You’ve traveled to a lot of great places with your music career. What’s been your favorite memory from the road?
Olstead: I toured with B.B. King, which was incredible. Doing Oprah was amazing because, of course, meeting Oprah is like meeting Jesus. [laughs] Yeah, I’ve been really lucky, I’ve met a lot of really wonderful people. I was fortunate enough to have David Foster produce my first two records. He is just a legend and total musical genius. He’s also just a super nice guy; the man taught me how to drive! It’s so funny that he’s now on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and stuff like that. I don’t watch the show, but it’s just so crazy to me. I look back on that a lot. Oh, and fun fact! One of my first performances was at the Playboy Jazz Festival. I played another year with the Bill Cosby orchestra, which was awesome! So I feel this affinity for Playboy since it’s had this role in my life. I’ve been really lucky so far and I just love music. There’s something so special about jazz, it’s so emotional. It’s something that’s missed a lot in modern pop music. There’s something really unique and special about it.
Playboy.com: I did a lot of jazz combo stuff when I was younger so I totally feel the sentiment! You have such an iconic singing voice and just seem very true to jazz. What do you draw inspiration from?
Olstead: I draw the majority of my inspiration from the 1940s to the 1960s. I feel like that’s the reason why my fiancé and I get along so well, it’s so nice to meet someone that’s my age that likes to sit down and listen to a Duke Ellington record or Miles Davis or Coltrane. It’s nice to be different. I don’t mind being different. It’s okay. I respect pop music, I think Beyoncé is awesome, but for when I really want to connect with something I usually pull out the vinyl.
Playboy.com: I am so jealous that you got to model for Pinup Girl Clothing! It’s my favorite brand. What got you into modeling?
Olstead: I adore them; I love every one of them. Micheline Pitt is such a genius. She’s one of the designers. She and Laura [Byrnes] are the brains behind the company. She is the hair and makeup artist, every detail is so perfect. It’s really amazing to be around her. I do really love that line and it’s fun! I love dress-up, I feel like there’s some sort of fantasy that happens there when you get to be a bombshell sex symbol from the ’50s or ’60s, which I think are particularly some of the sexiest eras. Actually, my room is decorated with ’60s Playboys that I framed. It’s just so iconic, I love that look!
Playboy.com: You’re a very active member of PETA. Why is veganism important to you?
Olstead: I love animals! When I was really young I made the decision to become a vegetarian because I was uncomfortable with eating an animal. I understand that it’s not for everyone, I’m not one of those people who shove it down people’s throats, and it’s just something that works for me. I love animals and that’s one way that I know that I can contribute. I do like PETA, l love everyone that works there. My experience is nobody is crazy! [laughs] They do pull a lot of publicity stunts but their hearts are in the right place and they really do try to keep suffering to as little as possible.
Playboy.com: You’re very close with your Secret Life of the American Teenager costar Camille Winbush. Now that the show’s over, do you guys still have time to hang out?
Olstead: Absolutely! Camille is going to be my maid of honor! She’s been my best friend since we were about 12, actually, and we really lucked out that we got to work on the same project together. I remember her coming over to my house the night that she booked an untitled project and I booked an untitled project and we put it together and realized it was the same project and we were going to be playing best friends. Which was very serendipitous—the best situation ever. I think she’s brilliant, and she’s also one of the most giving and charitable people I have ever met. I really admire that about her.
Playboy.com: So apart from touring, what’s in store for you in 2014?
Olstead: I have no idea! I’m really excited about touring and making more music. I’m also excited to reinvent myself. I’m only in my 20s and I’ve spent the last 10 years or so playing a high school student and I feel like now I finally get to be a grown-up. I am really excited about that.
Playboy.com: What’s your…
Favorite food: Veggie burgers!
Favorite drink: Right now I’m really into green juice.
Worst pickup line: Baby, can I take you shopping?
Most embarrassing moment: There was one time when I completely forgot my lyrics onstage. But the good thing with jazz is that it’s a little looser, so I just improvised.
First memory of Playboy: When I was young and when I started to get into vintage clothing I would go to flea markets and see these big bins of Playboy magazines from the ’60s and ’70s. I think it’s awesome now that I’m a grown-up with my own place I’ve got them up on my walls! The other day when I was ready to go out, I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a really good look!” and I looked over my shoulder and I realized that I was dressed exactly like the Playboy model on my wall. So I guess you could say I take a lot of inspiration from the magazine.