For Dua Lipa, just being a pop star isn’t enough

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For Dua Lipa, just being a pop star isn’t enough

She never says the last part; she probably never would. She also doesn’t say what I think is the real answer, which is this: Anyone who works in the media can tell you that there’s no better way to have the conversation without ever having to talk about yourself. While Lipa’s editorial initiative may seem like an act of self-exposure, it’s actually an act of self-preservation—allowing her to regularly connect with her audience by sharing her favorite Spanish wine, the public art installations she enjoyed visiting in rural Japan, the causes, activists or artists he cares about. However, sharing a lifestyle is different from sharing a life.

On the rare occasion that she needs to address something more intimate, her own outlets are the perfect way to get the message out. After DaBaby, a rapper featured on a remix of her song “Levitating,” was caught on video making homophobic comments at a 2021 music festival, Lipa wrote a statement on Instagram, where she has 88.6 million followers, disavowing him and encouraged his fans to fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. That kind of direct communication “was something artists hadn’t had before,” she says. “Whatever was said about you in the press, it was: It’s you.”

In 2021, an organization founded by American Orthodox rabbi Shmuli Botich ran a full-page ad in The New York Times accusing Lipa of anti-Semitism after she defended Palestinian human rights. Her representatives asked the newspaper’s management to apologize, but they did not. For more than two years, Lipa turned down any opportunities to be covered by The Times. She then convinced Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s former executive editor, to appear on her podcast last December. When she raised the issue, he had little to say about the company’s decisions (he still works here), explaining the church-state divisions between the editorial and advertising departments. For her, the conversation went as expected: “It was enough for me to tell the person above” and then she could move on from something that had been bothering her for years.

All these decisions are hers, of course – she owes society no more and no less than she chooses. Still, it’s interesting, even unusual, to watch a celebrity make a brand out of it own interests and obsessions instead of allowing her personal life to become an interest and obsession for others. Since the dawn of Madonna, we’ve expected pop stars (and indeed everything female artists) to bare all—mention their mental health issues (Lady Gaga) or their partners’ cheating scandals (Beyoncé)—only to be judged and punished for it. Lipa refuses to commit at that level. Her music also avoids the odd dissonance of other artists (Taylor Swift; Adele) who have found success by revealing everyday secrets and sorrows, only to find themselves stuck in those same narratives now that their lives aren’t so connected. Lipa won’t sing about those kinds of Easter eggs: “I think it’s a marketing tool: How confessional can you be?” she says. “I also don’t dedicate so much of my life to people digging into music in this weird, analytical way.”

The next album will be “more personal,” she suggests, but that’s not why she’s doing it. Two days before we met for sushi, Lipa rewatched How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, the 2020 documentary about the Bee Gees, “it just washed my eyes out,” she says, with her boyfriend Romain Gavras, 42- annual Franco-Greek film director. (Significantly, her relationship with Gavras is the one thing her publicist asked me not to mention.) In the film, someone talks about “music that just makes your body feel good,” she explains. “These are the songs I get attached to – It is the feeling I want to convey.” But as she continues to talk, I notice that the simple gesture of recommending a movie I haven’t seen also makes her feel good. “You should definitely watch it,” she says, interrupting her thoughts on her own music. “It’s amazing. I cry every time.”

Hair by Rio Sreedharan. Makeup by Samantha Lau. Scenography by Afra Zamara for Second Name. Production: Farage Projects. Manicurist: Michelle Humphrey for LMC Worldwide. Photo assistants: Daniel Rodríguez Serrato, Enzo Farrugia, Hermine Werner. Assistant scenographers: Tatiana Rutherston, Viola Vitali, Walid Boudrar. Tailor: Sabrina Gomis Valli. Stylist Assistants: Marty Serra, Alexis Landolfi, Anna Castellano

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