Billie Eilish broke an Instagram record when she shared her new look for the cover of British Vogue: one million likes in six minutes. It’s remarkable, yet unsurprising for anyone who’s been following the 19-year-old pop sensation’s journey with body image and the scrutiny of being in the public eye. She’s been one of the most successful and most watched musicians since the age of 14, when her song “Ocean Eyes” exploded on Soundcloud.
In the five years since then, Eilish has been touted as a “body positive” icon for her fashion choices which often obscured her body with oversized couture, layers, hoodies, and long sleeves. Last year, the singer opened some of her pre-pandemic shows with a short video showing her removing her baggy clothes that included a powerful message about her body and the double standards of women in the music industry. In this new cover shoot, Eilish trades in her classic neon green and black hairstyle for a classic blonde look, channelling pin-ups in corsets, catsuits, and lingerie. She knew it would grab people’s attention—and she’s ready to talk about why. In the interview, Eilish talks about her relationship with her body, sexual misconduct, and her new single, “Your Power,” a soft acoustic ballad that calls out abusers who exploit underage girls.
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In the interview, Eilish breaks down her decision to go with this look for the cover shoot, along with the powerful message behind “Your Power.” The new single finds Eilish singing in her signature whisper-soft style, but without many of the unusual flourishes that she and her brother Finneas O’Connell have become famous for. It’s bare and to-the-point, and the lyrics drive Eilish’s message home. “You made me feel / like it was my fault, you were the devil / Lost your appeal / Does it keep you in control? / For you to keep her in a cage? / And you swear you didn’t know / You said you thought she was your age,” Eilish sings.
Considering the impact of this song and the more revealing style of her cover shoot, Eilish knows she’ll have her share of critics and people who don’t understand her message. “‘You’re going to complain about being taken advantage of as a minor, but then you’re going to show your boobs?’ Yes I am, motherf**ker! I’m going to because there’s no excuse,” Eilish says. She reveals that she experienced a form of sexual abuse when she was younger, but as the writer Laura Snapes explains, “The details are hers.” The point is the ubiquity of sexual misconduct and abuse, especially perpetrated by men against young girls and women—in Hollywood and beyond.
What’s Eilish’s goal? “I would like people to listen to me. And not just try to figure out who I’m talking about, because it’s not about that. It’s really not at all about one person,” the singer says. “You might think, ‘It’s because she’s in the music industry’—no, dude. It’s everywhere. I don’t know one girl or woman who hasn’t had a weird experience, or a really bad experience. And men, too—young boys are taken advantage of constantly.”
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Eilish and her brother took the pandemic year off from touring and used it to create her new album, Happier Than Ever, out July 30. The singer knows what she’s doing, and she’s never felt better. That’s her philosophy: do what makes you feel good, dress how you want to dress, and don’t let others define you (even if those voices grow louder as you gain fans all over the world). “It’s about taking that power back, showing it off and not taking advantage with it,” she says. “I’m not letting myself be owned anymore.”
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