Lorde's Message About Her Role Model Label Should Finally Silence the Haters
It's not easy being a teen sensation. As if celebrity on its own isn't already enough pressure, add to it the perceived glory of success during youth, and the sheer weirdness of what we expect from public figures, and Lorde entered into stardom with a deck stacked slightly in her favor, but predestined to be against her. Which is why what Lorde said about her "role model" status and her youth in a recent interview with Elle is so fascinating, and so on point.
On people calling her a role model
I definitely think about the imprint I’m leaving on people my age. Particularly girls. I’m sensitive to how women are portrayed because sometimes it kind of sucks. So it’s like, "If I ever had that voice I’d want to do it this way." But being a role model is crazy because I’m probably going to screw up at some point. Probably soon. And people are going to be like, "You’re not a good role model." But I figure, I’m 17 and I’m very much imperfect. I dunno. I’m just figuring this out as well and I think people are aware of that.
Though she already has her detractors, Lorde has, for the most part, done what many culturally and politically aware people of her ilk yearn to do but lack the platforms for: She's spoken up about the things that bug her in the media. This has made her an interesting figure in that media because she's taking part in that circus of a world while simultaneously critiquing it, and she's calling out the double standards and the expectations, and the call's coming from inside the house.
The term "role model" is often applied to young famous women and then ripped away the second they do something some segment of the population disagrees with — ask Taylor Swift, or Miley Cyrus, or Vanessa Hudgens: All had that title thrown at them the second they rose to fame, all have had moments in that fame where it's questioned due to a) having/talking about "too many" boyfriends, b) taking shirtless pictures for Vanity Fair (and everything that happened after that), or c) the leaking of nude pictures entrusted to someone apparently untrustworthy. The system is rigged, and no one wins from assuming perfection's the end goal. Lorde, for her part, is speaking up about understanding that it's not a zero-sum game.
She also said something else pretty interesting:
On the shininess of her youth
A lot of thoughts I have on age are about the physical ticking down. I think a lot about mortality and I just get way too in my head about it. Since I started making music a lot was made of how old I was and it made me think about, "What happens when I’m 25? Will people still like what I'm doing? Is it still important if I’m not this hyper-youthful being?" It’s stupid. I know I’m being silly. But I can’t help it. It’s just one of those things. I’ll get over it.
When Lorde first burst onto the mainstream music scene there was a loud, resounding chorus of "she's only 17?!" This happens from time to time; just ask Tavi Gevinson, who years ago first attracted people's attention when they realized her quality fashion blogging was coming from someone residing in the body of a thirteen year old girl. Now she's a senior in high school, the editor-in-chief of a website, and a budding actress, and people's jaws still hang slack at the thought of her age.
That must be such a strange, warped world in which to live. What's practically magic about people like Lorde and Gevinson, though, isn't the fact that they are so young — it's the fact that they are so talented, and that they've got the sort of heads on their shoulders that has so far allowed them to navigate that world with aplomb, humor, and integrity. That's something people of any age struggle with.
So is Lorde a role model? If you ask me, the answer is a resounding "yes."