Being a woman in the music industry still comes its share of exploitation.
In the new issue of GQ, “good 4 u” singer Olivia Rodrigo opens up about how the industry has changed and how far it still has to go since the height of Britney Spears’ stardom.
“I think, as an industry, people are getting better at not taking advantage of and manipulating and bullying young women,” the 18-year-old says. “But it’s still so apparent, and I witness that too. Not near at the level that Britney has, obviously. I think that’s an important paradigm that I hope that we’ll be able to break in the coming generations. I’ve definitely seen corporate dollars be prioritized over people’s mental health. That’s always been something that I’ve been really conscious of in my own career, and I’m really lucky I’m surrounded by people who are conscious of that and conscious of my mental health being the most important thing.”
Looking back on her own career as a young performer in Hollywood, Rodrigo admits, “It was not fun. I just remember being 14 years old and being like, “I literally have no idea who I am. I don’t know what my personal style is. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know who my true friends are. How am I expected to cultivate an image?” That was always hard for me. Even now, I have no idea. I try, but my image today is not going to be the image that I’ll probably like tomorrow.”
Crafting an online persona has also been one of the expectations foisted on Rodrigo from a young age, which has come with its own difficulties.
“As a young girl, that was really daunting to me,” she says. “I felt like if it wasn’t able to be seen by other people and it wasn’t consumable over the internet or over other mediums, then it wasn’t worthwhile. That’s increasingly more prevalent in people: the constant desire to always need to share so much of yourself. You’re not a cool person if people on the internet don’t think you’re a cool person. That was a mindset that I had to get out of, but I’m definitely out of that now.”
She added, “Something that I learned very early on is the importance of separating person versus persona,” she says. “When people who don’t know me are criticizing me, they’re criticizing my persona, not my person,” she tells me. “But that’s really difficult, though, too, because my persona is being as genuine and honest as I possibly can, so it’s this weird dichotomy.”
Of course, the solution to the problem of social media is quite simple, she explains: “It helps to not look at that s**t.”
Rodrigo says that she had a friend put a child lock on her phone which only allows her access to social media for 30 minutes each day, “Which is honestly the biggest blessing,” she says. “You’re literally not meant to know what everyone is saying about you at all times.”
Meanwhile, the young singer’s success has mostly been a positive experience.
“I’m so happy for the first time in so long, I just don’t want to f**k with it, you know what I mean?” Rodrigo says. “I just love my girlfriends and love my job and am exactly where I’ve always wanted to be. Everything else is just icing on the cake.”
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