LORDE IN AUSTRALIA, JANUARY 2014. PHOTO: © STEPHEN BOOTH/THE HELL GATE/CORBIS.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor, who records under the name Lorde, has had quite a year: The chart-topping single “Royals” (from her debut album, Pure Heroine) won two Grammy Awards, and in May she launched a collaboration with MAC Cosmetics. Karl Lagerfeld also happens to be a fan. For her next trick, the 17-year-old musician, who cites David Bowie and Grace Jones as inspirations, is curating the soundtrack and releasing the lead single for the latest installment in The Hunger Games films, Mockingjay Part 1, out next month. During a break from her North American tour, Harry Brant caught up with Lorde by phone to talk dark glamour and teenage rebellion.
LORDE: Hi, how are you? It’s good to meet you over the phone.
HARRY BRANT: It’s such a great way to meet someone. I need a slow introduction.
LORDE: That’s very true. I’m really bad at immediate face-to-face. Have you been doing fashion week stuff? I basically miss everything because I’m on tour.
BRANT: Where are you right now?
LORDE: I am at my hotel in New York. I’m playing this party for my record company, and then I shoot a music video the next day. Just doing the typical stuff you do in New York. [laughs]
BRANT: So, I wanted to ask you: What was your earliest memory of beauty or makeup?
LORDE: I’m the worst with anything beauty-related because I don’t really wear makeup outside of work. I just started moisturizing this year, in the past six months. [Brant laughs] Now I love it.
BRANT: I have problem skin so it’s always been a kind of battle for me.
LORDE: You do not. I follow you on Instagram—you have the skin of a porcelain angel! My earliest beauty memory … Ugh, I don’t know. People always ask those questions.
BRANT: There’s nothing worse than when people ask, “When was your first moment when you realized that you love fashion?”
LORDE: Exactly! The funny one is “When did you first realize that you were going to be a star?”
BRANT: You almost want to make up a story where it’s just you, sitting alone in a hotel in Paris having a glass of champagne.
LORDE: [laughs] What’s that Kanye quote? “My life is dope and I do dope shit.”
BRANT: You made a collection with MAC, right?
LORDE: I was a little worried about doing a makeup thing because I’ve never really done anything before, but they were just like, “Do anything you want. Do your thing. It’s cool.” [laughs] It’s a good vibe. I’m doing this thing with a movie franchise where I’m curating the soundtrack and writing a bunch of the music on it and stuff, and I’m like, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Letting me run your music department for this film?” It’s crazy. It’s so awesome.
BRANT: Speaking of your MAC line, I feel like you rock a bit of modern grunge but much chicer. What gave you the idea to start doing the dark cat-eye and the dark lips? I also wear a ton of black and I love it. I’m very partial to a dark lip. The black lipstick, the deep purple—I think it’s the hottest thing in the whole world.
LORDE: The dark lips I’ve been doing since I was probably 13 or 14. I was drawn to it and it suited my face. I would buy these smudgy, really awful dollar-store lipsticks, and then I graduated to MAC and Chanel, stuff that was super expensive that I would really covet. I started pairing that with this heavy cat-eye. I’ve phased that out a little bit and have made it more about really shimmery skin. Once you do the eye and lip, it gets intense.
BRANT: It becomes a bit drag.
LORDE: Yeah. I don’t really want to be called a drag queen by Joan Rivers. Rest in peace, Joan Rivers.
BRANT: Have you ever heard of Madina’s Chic & Shine Stick? Pat McGrath uses it backstage at all the shows to create highlights. Any backstage show that Pat’s doing, you’ll hear her being like, “Put more shiny stick on the bow!”
LORDE: I’ve been looking for one that’s like a crayon. I had really bad skin my whole life, so I don’t want to look like I’m super caked. I really just want to look natural. Fresh, glowy. That’s my big priority. That’s the holy grail.
BRANT: Every once in a while I google a way to fix acne because there has to be some special machine that just fixes it.
LORDE: You need to find the good dudes. Find a good dermatologist who has good products that will treat it, but nothing that will make it worse. I actually only went to one. It’s a really stressful experience. I remember Instagramming a photo; they put this paper sheet on the chair, and my feet ripped the paper sheet because I was really stressed out and kicking the chair. I was like, “Ah, I’m never doing this again.” They’re touching your face and pinching you. It’s so weird.
BRANT: When they do cleanings on your face, it’s awful. You always leave looking worse.
LORDE: I started eating super healthy and drinking a lot of water and using really good moisturizer. My skin has gotten way better so I’m lucky. People are surprisingly sympathetic. People have been there and it sucks. It’s hard enough being 16, 17 and having to do things in the world and conduct yourself.
BRANT: Did you wear all the makeup in high school?
LORDE: No. In New Zealand, you have to wear uniforms and no makeup—no jewelry or anything. I had to keep it pretty chill for school. I was always putting black gems on my face, and my teachers were like, “Okay. Take that off.”
BRANT: I love a sticker on a cheekbone.
LORDE: I was all about that, as a sassy 13-year-old, in my Doc Martens, trying to pass them off as school shoes. I use to wear Buffalo shoes, the big, big chunky sneaker.
BRANT: I used to go to an all-boys school. We had to wear suits every day. We always had to wear uniforms. In elementary school, I used to wear one of my mom’s Alaïa T-shirts with a pair of jean overalls. I was dancing to the beat of my own drum.
LORDE: I’m trying to think of my beauty essentials right now. I was reading this model’s off-duty makeup thing online and it was all the same stuff that I use: Bioderma, Embryolisse, the blue-and-white moisturizer. I get all those products from the drugstores in Paris—it’s so cool, the cheap products there. In New Zealand it’s like, “Oh, we don’t have this, but we do have ChapStick.” You guys have CVS, which is crazy to me. You can get tequila and you can get a flu shot behind the counter and you can get Halloween decorations and any food. So insane. There’s so much shit in one place!
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