BENEE on Pinterest, Pets, and Weed Pens
Since her sad-girl anthem “Supalonely” went viral on TikTok in the early days of the pandemic, Stella Rose Bennett a.k.a. BENEE has seen her star continue to rise. In the midst of uncertainty, she catapulted into a vacuum of isolated fame. Her song—“I’m a sad girl, in this big world. It’s a mad world,” SHE sings over an infectious beat—resonated with millions of people around the world. By 20, she had won Single of the Year, Best Solo Artist, and Best Pop Artist at the New Zealand Music Awards. Now, at just 23 years old, the Auckland native is one of Gen Z’s leading rockstars, with over 6 million Spotify monthly listeners and an iconic two-tone hairstyle that’s been adopted by TikTokers and it-girls alike. When it comes to music, BENEE has kept her fans fed, releasing an EP titled Lychee in 2022 and collaborating with Lily Allen, Flo Milli, and Grimes. Shortly after taking the stage at Coachella—“a pretty surreal experience,” she says— BENEE called us from her new apartment in Los Angeles to talk festival fashion, being labeled a “pop star,” and why sustainability is integral to her personal style.
ERNESTO MACIAS: Hey, how’s it going?
BENEE: Oh, hey. I’m good. How are you?
MACIAS: I’m fabulous. Thank you for making the time to speak with me today.
BENEE: Of course. Oh my god. My hair.
MACIAS: Where are you calling me from today?
BENEE: I am calling you from my apartment in L.A. Oh my god. My foster dog just vomited on me.
BENEE: My foster dog just vomited on me!
MACIAS: Oh my god. Do you need a minute?
BENEE: Bro, what’s wrong? Ew. Okay. Wait, wait, wait. Don’t do that again. Don’t do that again. Okay. Oh my god. Oh my god. Are you okay, Ro? Oh my god. Come here. Come here. Oh, girl. Sorry about that.
MACIAS: No, that’s fine.
BENEE: Go ahead. That wasn’t that bad.
MACIAS: So you’re in L.A. with your dog who just threw up. What did you have for lunch today?
BENEE: I haven’t had lunch today, but I will be having something after this because I have a session this afternoon and I need food.
MACIAS: What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done or said to you?
BENEE: Probably there’s this one girl, Charlie, who’s from Australia, and she has come to so many shows. She has traveled all around Australia and some of those flights are not that short. She came to Coachella to see us. Some people just go that extra mile to come and see you, which is really nice.
MACIAS: Speaking of Coachella, how did you decide what to wear for your debut?
BENEE: Ooh. There was some planning that went into it. I just wanted something really cute. I wanted it to be denim, and I wanted it to be a matching set. So I worked with this stylist, Harper Slate. Her name’s Ellie, and she’s really great. We kind of just came up with those outfits. She sent me these ideas, and I was like, “Oh my God, I love this.” Some of it was tweaking color. There were some things that we kind of altered a little bit, but it was nice to have time and lots of planning that went into it. I was just stoked with the final product on the day.
MACIAS: How was the experience for you, being at Coachella as a performer?
BENEE: It was so cool. I love Coachella. I’ve only been once before. I went last year as a punter, and it was great. It’s just the mother of all festivals, so I was beyond excited to be playing it. I mean, it was a pretty surreal experience. It probably would’ve been the biggest festival we’ve played because we just don’t have festivals of that size in New Zealand or in Australia. It was awesome. Sitting beside those other artists on the lineup was pretty exciting because I was fangirling for a couple of them.
MACIAS: Did you catch any of the other shows?
BENEE: Yeah, La Rosalía. I caught her show and I love her.
MACIAS: Oh, I watched it from my couch in Brooklyn and it was equally exciting.
BENEE: The live streams were so on point as well. All the camera angles—those people filming on stage deserve a gold medal because they were doing some seriously good work.
MACIAS: Shout out to them. What do you carry in your festival bag?
BENEE: Ooh, that’s a good question. Sunglasses. That’s definitely essential. I usually just have makeup to top up. There’s always some hay fever medication in there and, I don’t know, a card so I can buy myself food. I’m trying to think of what else was in my bag. That was it.
MACIAS: Have you ever tried to sneak anything into a festival?
BENEE: Yes, I tried to sneak in my weed vape, actually. I think I got it in but last year I got two weed vapes confiscated from me because I didn’t realize that you couldn’t have them there.
MACIAS: What are your summer plans?
BENEE: Well, I guess I don’t know. I’ve moved to L.A. now, so I feel like hopefully I’ll be catching some rays and going to the beach. I’m in album mode at the moment, so I’ll be doing a lot of music-making throughout the summer. I’m actually also going to Australia and New Zealand to do a bunch of festivals.
MACIAS: So, I want to talk a little bit about your personal style now. Who are your biggest style influences?
BENEE: Ooh, that’s a good question. I don’t know if I have one person. I feel like there are so many people. I love looking at fashion and mood boards for shoots and stuff on Pinterest. I also did that for the Coachella outfit. I made a Pinterest board, and that’s how we made the outfit. And when I’m out, and you see something that makes me feel inspired.
MACIAS: Has New Zealand influenced your sense of style in any way?
BENEE: I think it must have, in a way. I think that there’s definitely quite a conscious—it’s all about recycling and buying from locals in New Zealand, and ethically sourced. So I think that definitely has influenced how I buy my clothes now. I think that I look for pieces that are unique, and not fast fashion.
MACIAS: What do you miss most about home when you’re on the road?
BENEE: Weirdly, home-cooked meals and my dog. It’s totally a first-world problem, but when you’re on tour, sometimes you are eating out a lot or getting takeaways or venue food. Sometimes you just miss home and cooking a shitty bowl of pasta with your friends. Yeah, I also miss my family, and my dog, and my cat, and my home. I have a dog in New Zealand, so she’s really far away, and I miss her when I’m on tour.
MACIAS: And what are their names, your cat and your dog?
BENEE: My cat is called Potasio, like pistachio. And my dog is called tūī, which it’s a native New Zealand bird.
MACIAS: I love those names.
BENEE: Thank you.
MACIAS: So in your album hey u x, you have a few collaborations, Grimes, Flo Milli, Lily Allen. Who is your dream collab right now?
BENEE: Right now? Ooh. Damn. There are so many people I would love to work with, but I’m probably going to say La Rosalía.
MACIAS: I love it. I love how you say her name.
BENEE: I love her name. I’m definitely saying it wrong.
MACIAS: No, you’re saying it right. So you were named “Best Pop Artist” at the New Zealand Music Awards and I was wondering if you identify with the label of “pop artist”?
BENEE: Yeah. I don’t know, I feel like pop is such a broad genre now, and I think that I used to be against it. I was like, “Not all that I make is pop.” I think sometimes it can just be kind of a lazy way of categorizing someone. But then in saying that, at the same time, I think the genre is becoming so mixed, and popular music, pop music, is a lot of things now. It’s not how it was ten years ago. So I think, fuck, if I’m pop music, it means that it’s doing well. So I’m like, “Hey, I guess that’s a perk.” But I don’t think that the genre of what I actually make is always pop. You know what I mean? I think that’s what I keep in mind. Any award, I’m just stoked that I’m being recognized for my work. I think that those awards will become harder to categorize in time because everyone’s doing a little bit of this.
MACIAS: Yes. So during the pandemic, you blew up on TikTok. What was it like dealing with that type of attention from home?
BENEE: I would say it was pretty mellow, to be honest, because I was so far away and I was in lockdown while it was happening. I think it would’ve been very different if I were in L.A., being amongst everything. But I was so isolated, so I was just in this bubble going, “Oh my God. What the fuck? My song’s going crazy. This is so weird.” It was definitely weird. I don’t know, it must have meant to happen like that. I guess it didn’t really sink in a way until after.
MACIAS: What’s your relationship with social media?
BENEE: Well, I don’t know. Instagram’s kind of dead. I kind of don’t like posting on Instagram anymore because I feel like it feels a little bit flat or something. I mean, I love posting when I’m on the road if I have a photographer that’s—my ex-boyfriend came on tour with me and would do all of my photos, so that was really fun. I’m happy to post all the time if I have a bunch of cool photos. Otherwise, I guess I go pretty quiet on social media. I guess I would say I’m pretty active in my stories. I definitely go on my phone a lot. Yeah, I’m chilling.
MACIAS: What’s one misconception you think people might have about Gen Z?
BENEE: About Gen Z? I don’t know. I guess people look down on Gen Z a little bit. But I feel that’s maybe not true. Maybe just that people think we’re a little bit stupid.
MACIAS: When was the last time you went on a date?
BENEE: On a date?
BENEE: Oh my goodness. I can’t remember the last time I went on a date. I mean, I’ve recently broken up with my ex-boyfriend. We went on lots of great dates together but I will be off the dating grid for a while, a hot minute. And I’m quite happy about that. Dating can be really fun. When it’s good, it’s really good, but there’s also a lot of anxiety in dating. Ooh, i get the heebie-jeebies at the moment if I think about it.
MACIAS: It’s a lot. But you’ll enjoy it again.
BENEE: I know. Yeah.
MACIAS: What are you doing after this phone call?
BENEE: It’s 11:54. I need to eat my lunch, take the dog for a walk, and then I go to a session with a couple guys, and we’re going to make a fucking banger.