For ELLE’s October Personal Style Issue, and Lorde’s first major fashion magazine cover, ELLE and photographer Thomas Whiteside took over an East London rooftop to capture the ultratalented teenager’s distinctive style. With her haunting voice, and beyond-her-17-years wisdom, Lorde is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, and has been since last year, when her song “Royals”—written at age 15 in her native New Zealand—became a kind of post-financial-crisis anthem, earning her numerous accolades, including two Grammys.
For this month’s cover story, writer Jessica Pressler met up with her on the road to learn what makes the real Lorde (Ella Yelich-O’Connor) tick, and find out what it’s actually like to be a preternaturally talented and keenly self-aware 17-year-old with the entire world watching.
The full interview and fashion feature can be found exclusively in ELLE’s October issue, available digitally and on newsstands in select cities starting September 16th, and nationwide on September 23rd.
Here’s a sneak preview of what Lorde had to say…
Lorde on standing up for herself and maintaining authenticity in the music business:
“A lot of times when people meet me, they’ll definitely try to make me feel young or inexperienced. Like, ‘It’s all taken care of’. Teenagers are such a discerning group of people. They’ll immediately sniff out anything that feels contrived. I’m, like, constantly scanning myself to see if I’m some corporate executive version of a teenager. I’ve developed something of a fearsome reputation. People know that if you talk down to me, I will roll my eyes or whatever.”
On self-constructing her persona:
“It’s something people my age have grown up with. You can go on the Tumblr of any young person in the world and see people marketing themselves. Everyone my age is like that now. We’re all hyperaware of how we’re being seen.”
On the upside of being known for expressing her opinions:
“People have told me that I’ve helped them feel confident, like they can say things they want to say. They can talk about feminism in class without people calling them a lesbian. That’s so amazing that I can make someone feel like that.”
On figuring out how to navigate career, fame, the media, and being a teenager all at once:
“It’s very specific. I have definitely learned how to be flexible. Before, I would just be like, ‘Fuck it.’ I have such a strong idea of what is cool and great for me. If I think something is shit, I express that. But now the circle of people I work with all the time is huge and spans continents, and you have to be quite conscientious. So it’s, like, learning not to hurt people’s feelings. Obviously, I am hanging out with more people now who are not teenage; I’m in different circles. But I am a teenager. My brain is, like, a certain age. Everyone is talking about you. You have to learn not to care as much.”