The Billie Eilish Anomaly
Maybe, these annual interviews are exactly what we need to be seeing.
I think Vanity Fair are really onto something with their time capsule Billie Eilish interviews. If you haven't seen them, for the past 4 years, VF have interviewed the young singer with questions reflecting on her life, career, personal life etc, all rather holistic and general questions. I would strongly advise you give them a watch not only for this blog post but because they are genuinely interesting and Billie is a pleasure to watch.
A social experiment. Of sorts...
I've watched these interviews every year, enjoyed them and moved on. So, maybe it was the suddenly evolved feeling of this years interview, of both Billie and her answers which made me sit up a bit. I felt that I wasn't just watching another YouTube interview but I was actually observing what's unintentionally become a social experiment. Of sorts. I mean there's nothing scientific about it or psychological about what I have to say but Vanity Fair have hit a niche in this forthcoming tradition. Billie is a rarity of someone who has had such accelerated fame, success and idolisation from a very young age but more so, is someone just growing up in the world as we see it. Both a product and cog of the culture of social media, technology and environmental, social political unrest. In other words, Billie Eilish is a signifier of the times.
And this is clear in the interviews of how she's developing as a person, as a woman, her mental health, her physical health and how all of these factors are impacting the person she's becoming. I think this set up is so effective because there's no interviewer or host interpolating or ushering her to answer these questions for a specific outcome. It's a very solo interview which, especially with American press, seems increasingly rare. I struggle through American interviews because most of the time it's someone talking at the interviewee (or awkwardly interrupting them). So this format of letting Billie engage with her own answers, independently makes the outcome of it so engaging and revealing.
I don't think I am the only person who is always surprised when they relearn just how young Billie is. She is only 18 and started these interviews when she was 14. Even back then, she was highly successful and whilst some of her answers are telling of her age, when I watch the last two interviews in particular, you have to give credit to Billie's maturity, wisdom and social engagement. When talking about the pandemic, it wasn't a whinge about not being able to go out with friends as I myself and so many others I know have done. I'm sure she might have had these moments too, she's only human, but her understanding of the pandemic is reminiscent of the fear we all had at the beginning of it. The days when our highest priority and concern was our families and their safety. Perhaps this is a reflection of the damming situation of Covid in the states but also, I can't help but want to believe this is Billie's maturity. Or at least the understanding of her influential opinion that triggers her answer to be so mindful, rather than complacent.
'that's how they best see her with disregard to how she best feels'
I found it particularly interesting in the latest interview when she mentioned like feeling like a 'version' of Billie Eilish, almost like she was impersonating herself. And understandably when she has one of the most striking looks and faces. But it leads me to question what made her feel that way? She later answers how she is very much still developing and discovering her image, it won't stay like that forever. What's sad is I can see people having a problem with that. People wanting her to stay as she is because that's how they best see her with disregard to how she best feels. I'm actually excited to see how Billie chooses to express herself, change and develop.
willingness to reflect
I think that these interviews also give us an insight into the impact of the social factors of Billies life. The rapid intake of social media in the life of someone who is so intrinsically bound by the public eye. Puberty is hard enough for some without it being microscopically judged. I think her willingness to reflect on her growth and allow that to be publicised is so admirable. Whether it's in her skin which is 'glowing now' or how her interests jumped from celebrity pregnancies to Greta Thunberg and social justice protests. Or even more, how easily she dismisses a rumour of her having put on weight over lockdown when actually, as she states, it was just something the public had never seen before. This confidence, however put on it is, is something some adults take decades to develop. Even when talking about pretty dangerous incidences with fans, her reaction is to be understanding of the intention of that person and how it most likely comes from love rather than intended danger. And couldn't we all do with a little more empathy?
Perhaps it's the thickening of a skin from her circumstances, but I think there's all a thing we could learn from Billie on love, respect and honesty.