From her record-breaking music to her unique style, Dua Lipa has a strong sense of self. She speaks exclusively to Stylist about her remarkable rise to the top.
Dua Lipa is a master of the fashion statement.
From flounce and feathers, to structured hardware, to oversized denim, she is fearless at playing with fashion – and beauty – and in harnessing its power to make her feel… however she wants that day.
The Dua I am meeting today is dressed in a tailored black suit. She looks chic, very Parisian, very YSL from Le Smoking era. Everything, including her slicked back hair, eyeshadow and nails – which are usually long, brightly painted and adorned with nail art – is black.
“I like to play around with different styles,” Lipa says. “If I like it, I’ll wear it. Fashion should be accessible. For me, that’s about experimenting and finding things that aren’t going to be super-creased, because I live out of my suitcase.”
Isn’t it the dream when you get something out and it doesn’t need ironing, I ask? “That never fucking happens to me. It’s like things crease on purpose and I’m always like, ‘What the fuck?’”
Lipa, who turned 24 last month, might be the sort of famous that means one song can get over a billion streams (2017’s New Rules, which made her the youngest female artist in history to surpass one billion views on YouTube). She might be the sort of famous whose trophy spoils include three Brits (she’s the first female artist to be nominated for five in one year) and two Grammys (where she also threw shade at the comment that female artists need to “step up” in her acceptance speech).
She might be the sort of famous that means more than 33 million people follow her on Instagram. But I’m just as impressed that her wardrobe choices are frequently dictated by what she can get away with not ironing. How many other record-breaking artists would you hear say something like that?
Our interview is happening on a hot and sunny day in central Paris – which perhaps inspired today’s look. Lipa (her real name – her first name, Dua, means ‘love’ in Albanian) has just landed her first fragrance campaign with YSL Beauty.
She is articulate and there’s a soothing gravelly tone to her voice. I detect a slight London accent, too, but only really notice it because it contrasts with my northern one.
When I ask her how she’d describe the new scent in three words, instead of literally doing as I ask, she gives me an extended, considered response: “Strong, playful and fluid. I want to say fluid because [YSL] scents aren’t traditionally for women. They’re for men and women. It has always been a brand that’s given women the opportunity to wear things like suits, which in the 1960s were predominantly worn by men. It’s a brand that’s about breaking boundaries.”
We move onto skincare and considering she’s always on the go, her routine is commendable. “I’m quite methodical. I wash my make-up off every night with a rosehip cleansing oil by Pai, then use a cream cleanser and apply a probiotic serum and face cream by Esse,” she reveals.
“In the mornings, I use the cream cleanser again followed by a niacinamide serum from a dermatological brand called Synergy, then moisturiser and SPF,” she says.
I’m impressed, and tell her the added SPF really pleases the beauty editor in me. “I used to use it but never every day. I get the importance of it when I’m in the sun, but now I’m trying to take care of my skin so I wear it all the time. And Samantha [Lau, a make-up artist], who I worked with on this campaign, introduced me to these incredible electrolyte sachets from Whole Foods. They’re blue and white and basically contain all the electrolytes you need. When I’m travelling I make sure I have one and it instantly makes me feel rejuvenated.”
Like 98% of the Stylist office, Lipa is also an aficionado of a certain New York brand that comes in pink bubblewrap packaging. “I love Glossier’s Birthday Balm Dotcom, it just smells so good,” she tells me. “And YSL mascara is my favourite. It’s so thickening and makes me feel like I’ve done this crazy make-up look when all I’ve really done is put mascara on.”
STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
Lipa’s move to London is well documented – she was born here in August 1995, before the family moved back to Kosovo when she was 11. It was during this time that Lipa’s music taste started to develop.
Her father was a famous rockstar in Kosovo who was always playing David Bowie and Radiohead, and it was also then that she discovered her love of rap. One of the first artists she saw live was Snoop Dogg, and after that she’d spend time in her bedroom mixing her favourite songs by Pink, Nelly Furtado and Christina Aguilera with the rap music she liked.
So at 15 she persuaded her parents to let her move back to London alone. Two thousand miles from her family, she knew it was where she needed to be if she wanted to make it as a popstar.
“That whole experience shaped me and helped me so much with my confidence. It made me realise I had to do everything on my own,” Lipa tells me. “My parents were far away and it taught me a lot about what I wanted, what I needed and how hard I had to work to get to where I wanted to be. Being alone helped me not be afraid to get out and talk to people and get into the rooms I wanted to be in.”
She posted videos of herself singing on YouTube and in 2015, after a brief modelling stint, released her first two singles: New Love and Be The One. Her album was released in 2017 and stayed in the charts for 115 weeks, peaking at number three. Her empowering female-focused pop was the soundtrack to a million summers and helped ease the pain of a million more heartbreaks.
But what’s the winning formula these days? How does somebody manage to become a successful artist in a saturated market?
“I think it’s about being yourself,” she muses. “Being proud of the things you put your name to, and making sure that what you put out is coming from you and isn’t for the sake of trying to get on the radio.
“We all want to be on the radio, but the things that really prevail are the things that feel raw and authentic because that’s what people latch on to the most. It’s important that I stay as true as I can stay to myself, and I do that a lot with the help of my friends and family. They always keep me grounded and make sure they bring me back to reality whenever I lose track of what I really want.”
CHANGING THE GAME
Lipa’s second album is coming this year, which she hasn’t said much about, except that a collaboration with legendary singer Nile Rodgers is happening: “I was in the studio last night with [him] and I was on the brink of tears as I saw more life being brought into these records!” she tweeted at the beginning of April.
Despite being hard at work on the as yet untitled album, she is still savvy about who else is making exciting music. “I love Tove Lo, she just released a song that I’ve had on repeat for ages. I discovered Megan Thee Stallion recently, she’s a rapper and she’s fun.”
Women who inspire her come up frequently during our conversation. “The last thing I watched was The Handmaid’s Tale. Floria Sigismondi directed two episodes [of the drama] as well as my video for Swan Song,” she says. “She’s a force of nature and I love everything she does. It’s so inspiring to see women changing the game and being able to do lots of different things.
“I need to say Brit Marling, too, because she is an incredible actor and I think she’s brilliant. I love her way of storytelling and the way she writes movies and shows. I sound like the Brit Marling fan club but I love her, I’m obsessed with her. I’ve watched a lot of Netflix recently now that I think about it – I’ve also just watched Dead To Me – it’s a little bit like Desperate Housewives, which I was very into. And Chambers, which is a dark series.”
Lipa’s reading list is a little less dystopian, but equally contemporary. “Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams is brilliant. She sent it to me when it was on final draft because it mentioned New Rules,” she reveals. “I was so thrilled and I thought it was a brilliant coming of age book. It’s so honest and so raw. I’ve also been reading a poetry book with poems by Ahmed Rami, and The Girls by Emma Cline is brilliant.”
Lipa has come up with a particularly relatable way to combine her love of literature with her hectic diary. “I recently decided to start a book club with my friends. We weren’t meeting up because we were all busy so we decided to give ourselves an excuse to have dinner together regularly,” she explains.
“So far we’ve read The Color Purple [by Alice Walker], which is really good. There are lots of classics that I had to read in school but didn’t appreciate, like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I didn’t pay much attention to them and just read them for the sake of homework.
“Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is next. It’s a memoir by the creator of Nike and it’s so inspiring, obviously now you see this monster company but you have to put a lot into your business to get a tiny bit out of it.” Which, really, is an apt metaphor for Lipa’s grounded, global-storming, all-guns-blazing approach to life.
Dua Lipa is the face of YSL Libre EDP, £78 for 50ml (yslbeauty.co.uk)
Photography: Rene Habermacher, courtesy of YSL Beauty, Rex Features