The two-time Grammy nominee headlines the Bluestar Alliance-managed label’s fall campaign that was created by Creative Playground. Her images are meant to relay inclusivity through digital, print and outdoor advertising. She will also greet fans at Macy’s New York flagship on Nov. 7.
The interest was not a newfound thing. Before she became a two-time Grammy-nominated musician, her teenage self often passed by the Bebe store in the Staten Island Mall in New York. “I loved the T-shirts that said ‘Bebe’ in crystals. It was the coolest thing to wear. I don’t know how many I had in my wardobe. I just loved my shirt,” she said.
Outspoken about body positivity, the curvaceous performer said in talks with other clothing brands, “You hear things about your weight and your image. I think Bebe knows what I stand for and who I am. I’m very vocal about that. I love the fact that they were willing to ask a girl like me with curves who is natural. They are being inclusive. No matter what your body type is — skinny, small, thick — whatever you are, guy, girl, I think all body types are beautiful.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and raised in Staten Island, she will be on the road for the Jonas Brothers’ “Happiness Begins” tour starting Aug. 7. Jordan McGraw will also be in the lineup for the next five months.
Encouraged that more artists, celebrities and models are posting images of themselves without any makeup on, Rexha noted that apologies often accompany those posts. “I do that sometimes, too, because I know people are going to say something. We’re definitely making headway, though. It feels really good,” she said.
Rexha said she is encouraged that underweight models no longer serve as automatic role models. More importantly, moderation and self-love are becoming bigger issues. “I don’t want to give up all my happiness. I love food, going out with people, having a good time and having a drink once in a while. What I have found is that balance is key. I always thought that I had to look like the girls in the magazines. The only girls I ever saw in the magazines or on TV were super-super skinny. I always thought there was something wrong with me,” she said. “We learn to be nice to others in school as little kids. Treat everyone the way that you want to be treated but we never learned how to love ourselves. I never had a teacher in school say, ‘Let’s say something nice about ourselves today.’ We as a society have never been taught how to love ourselves.”
Unlike in the past, when musicians could shape up to shoot a music video, take a couple of weeks off and get back on track before a tour, social media never sleeps, she said. “Maybe there was paparazzi, but now people want 24-7 pictures live. You can’t be perfect 24-7. That’s just not normal or healthy. I don’t walk around all day with makeup on and heels. That’s not real. That’s why you see the Lizzos and the Cardi Bs of the world resonating. They’re just being their real honest selves. Sam Smith has always been successful and his latest music is just so him, so wonderful and exciting. People just love that.”
Conceding that social media often leads users to present highly stylized versions of themselves, Rexha said, “At the end of the day, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves and represent something. I love getting all dressed up with a corset on, Spanx and being all sucked in — tons of glam, makeup and extensions — posting a picture of myself. If I post a picture like that compared to one of me with my hair a mess and no makeup on, the difference of how people react is insane. People go crazy.”
Describing the Jonas Brothers as “just awesome, cool, normal guys,” Rexha implied how that is not the norm. “Being in music, I know that sometimes people come around you because they want something from you. It kind of makes you shut down as a human being and a person. I am 29. I can only imagine how it would be if I was a child on a Disney show that was so massive. They’re really delightful to be around. That’s really cool because a lot of times that has not been the case.”
The singer is “very excited” to meet their wives. “That’s my goal of the tour to be best friends with Sophie Turner and Priyanka [Chopra] — and share fashion tips with them,” she said.
Along with No Doubt’s music, Gwen Stefani’s onstage style inspired Rexha when she was growing up. “I loved how Gwen always dressed kind of quirky. I love kind of punk style, but I don’t mean black eye shadow and black lipstick. Punk to me is a feeling. I am very inspired by Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood’s vintage corsets and old Chanel. I like mixing classics with a little bit of grunge punk. I’m the girl who will wear jeans with a black tank top and a leather jacket — super basic.”
Finishing her album and shooting a few videos are on her check list. And she will release the song “Not 20 Any More” on her 30th birthday on Aug. 30. As luck would have it for the New York native, the tour stop that night will be Madison Square Garden.
Speaking openly about suffering from bipolar disorder has also funneled in a different kind of interest. Noting how the stigmas associated with depression and anxiety have dissipated, that is not the case with other mental illnesses. “I’m unapologetic. There is nothing for me to hide. It is what it is. I’m not embarrassed to talk about that. For me, the most important thing is to be super-transparent with the fans,” Rexha said.
Licensed driver is the latest title that she has added. “The road test was very terrifying. I did it in Santa Monica. The guy, who was testing me, said, ‘You need to relax. You are so tense right now. It looks like you are holding onto the wheel for dear life.’ I said, ‘I’m nervous. I don’t know what to say. He asked, ‘Are you nervous with what you do every day in your regular life?’ I said, ‘No.’ So he asked, ‘Why are you nervous here?” I was terrified but I did it. I am a pretty good driver. I did a lot of driving lessons. I just wanted to be able to drive safely.”