For Dua Lipa, Just Being a Pop Star Isn’t Enough

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She chooses not to mention that last part; she probably never will. She also doesn’t reveal what I believe to be the true answer, which is this: Any individual who works in the media industry can attest that there is no better way to lead a conversation without ever having to speak about oneself. Although Lipa’s editorial initiative may appear as an act of self-exposure, it is actually an act of self-protection — it enables her to regularly connect with her audience by sharing details of her lifestyle, such as her favorite Spanish wine, the public art installations she enjoyed visiting in rural Japan, or the causes, activists, or artists she cares about. However, sharing a lifestyle is different from sharing one’s personal life.

On rare occasions when she has to address something more personal, Lipa’s own media outlets are the perfect platforms to disseminate her messages. An incident occurred when DaBaby, a rapper featured on a remix of her song “Levitating,” was recorded making homophobic comments at a music festival in 2021. In response, Lipa wrote a statement on Instagram, where she has 88.6 million followers, denouncing his remarks and encouraging her fans to combat the stigma surrounding H.I.V./AIDS. Such direct communication “was something artists didn’t have before,” she acknowledges. In the past, whatever was published in the press determined one’s image.

In 2021, Lipa faced a controversy when an organization founded by American Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a full-page ad in The New York Times accusing her of antisemitism due to her defense of Palestinian human rights. Her representatives requested an apology from the newspaper’s leaders, which was not granted. Consequently, Lipa has declined coverage opportunities in The Times for over two years. However, she managed to invite Dean Baquet, the former executive editor of the newspaper, to appear on her podcast in December. When she raised the controversy during their conversation, Baquet had little to say about the company’s decisions, attributing it to the separation between the editorial and advertising departments. For Lipa, the exchange went as expected: “It was enough for me to voice it to the guy at the top,” allowing her to finally move on from something that had bothered her for years.

Ultimately, all these decisions are Lipa’s to make. She owes the public no more or no less than what she chooses to share. Nevertheless, it is intriguing and even groundbreaking to witness a celebrity building a brand based on her own interests and passions, rather than allowing her private life to become a subject of public interest and obsession. Throughout history, we have expected pop stars (especially female artists) to reveal all — to discuss their mental health struggles (like Lady Gaga) or their partners’ infidelity scandals (like Beyoncé), only to then judge and criticize them for doing so. Lipa refuses to engage on that level. Her music also avoids the dissonance present in the works of other female artists (such as Taylor Swift or Adele) who attained success by exposing their everyday secrets and sorrows, only to find themselves confined to those same narratives now that their lives are no longer relatable. Lipa chooses not to sing about such “Easter eggs,” stating, “I think it’s a marketing tool: How confessional can you be?” She also emphasizes that she does not put her personal life out there for people to analyze her music in a strange and analytical manner.

She mentions that her next album will be “more personal,” but not because she wants it to be. Just two days prior to our sushi meeting, Lipa watched the 2020 documentary “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” about the Bee Gees, accompanied by her boyfriend Romain Gavras, a 42-year-old French Greek film director. Interestingly, her publicist requested that I refrain from bringing up their relationship. In the film, someone discusses “music that just makes your body feel good,” which resonated with Lipa. “Those are the songs I get attached to — that’s the kind of feeling I want to convey,” she explains. She has already proven her talent in delivering such sensations through her singing. However, as we continue to converse, I notice that even a simple recommendation of a movie she enjoyed but I haven’t seen brings her joy. “You should definitely watch it,” she suggests, momentarily digressing from her thoughts about her own music. “It’s amazing. I cry every time.”

In conclusion, Lipa’s approach to protecting her personal life is an intriguing departure from the norms established by previous female artists. She chooses to share glimpses of her lifestyle and interests, maintaining control over what she reveals to the public. As she continues to navigate the music industry, Lipa remains committed to providing her audience with music that elicits positive emotions and resonates with them on a visceral level.

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