Billie Eilish music on a phone screen

Billie Eilish's Vogue Cover

A sell-out or a symbol of female empowerment?

Current issues
By VoiceBox ·

Lily

Lily is a recent graduate from University College London, where she read German and Spanish. Having discovered her passion for journalism at university, Lily is hoping to pursue a career in the industry, writing about social and political issues from around the world.

Billie Eilish: ‘High Priestess of Generation Z’

Since the release of her first single ‘Ocean Eyes’ in 2015, the world has been watching Billie Eilish closely, apprehensively waiting for the release of her next album, or the announcement of tour dates, or the next Instagram post. In Spring 2021, Eilish was once again observed and liked by millions of people. Firstly, Eilish revealed her new hairstyle (who knew that this is all it takes to break the internet?). Then, Eilish released her new single ‘Your Power’, which is on its way to reaching 50 millions listens on Spotify. Finally, British Vogue released images of Eilish as their cover star for their June 2021 issue. 

The interview with Vogue magazine’s Laura Snapes, which accompanies these delectable images, has been devoured by millions of readers, all lapping up the confidence and positivity that Eilish embodies. When Billie Eilish revealed her new hair to her adoring fans, the image of her new buttery-blonde bob became the fastest post to reach a million likes (it took just six minutes), and within two days, it was the third most-liked photo ever on Instagram. Clearly, the power of a fresh dye-job should not be underestimated. Almost palpable when reading the interview is Eilish’s relief, inner strength, and resolve. In front of the eyes of the public and the cameras of the media, this generation-defining pop star is transforming from girl into woman. 

Dressed in nude tones, silks, latex and dripping with jewellery, the images for the June 2021 British Vogue issue unveiled a new Billie Eilish, as yet unseen by the general public. In the accompanying interview the star asserts, ‘Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you.’ For years, Eilish has been known for her signature baggy clothing, but few, until now, knew the reasons behind this choice. As Eilish explains, her body was the initial reason for her depression when she was younger, only exacerbated when she was forced to quit dancing at 13 as a result of an injury. Now and, importantly, on her own terms, Eilish feels comfortable to explore and embrace a classic, Hollywood “pin-up” look, inspired by Betty Brosmer. 

In April 2021, Eilish also released her new single, ‘Your Power’. The song documents how some, unnamed, individuals abuse their power, and her own struggle with fame, singing that ‘havin’ it’s so strange’. When discussing the single in her interview with Snapes, Eilish commented that she doesn’t know ‘one girl or woman who hasn’t had a weird experience, or a really bad experience.’ It is revealed in the Vogue interview that Eilish herself suffered some form of abuse when she was young, although (rightly) no details are shared. In an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac in April 2021, to mark the release of her new single, Billie Eilish explained that the subject of the song, namely abuse, is ‘everywhere you look … and everyone is someone or knows someone who’s been taken advantage of.’

The British Vogue photoshoot is the teenager exhibiting her maturity. Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele told Snapes that Eilish ‘is a continuously evolving artist with a new vision and interpretation of herself in terms of femininity.’ The British Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Edward Enninful, described Billie Eilish as a ‘boundary -breaking musician, high priestess of Generation Z, and an artist who has redefined her industry like no other.’ But Eilish has done more than just reinvigorate the music industry. The global popstar has also defined what it means to have autonomy over one’s own image, refusing to dress to suit others. When the British tabloid, the Daily Mail, ran an article with the title ‘Proof that money can make you change your values and sell out’ in reference to the British Vogue cover shoot, Eilish responded. She did so by sharing an edited image of the headline, that instead read ‘Proof that women can change their minds and reclaim autonomy over their own bodies.’

To quote the singer, ‘It’s all about what makes you feel good. If you want to get surgery, go get surgery. If you want to wear a dress that somebody thinks that you look too big wearing, f**k it – if you feel like you look good, you look good.’ These messages of body positivity and confidence will undoubtedly resonate with millions, as well as Eilish’s commanding autonomy over her own body and identity.

Suggested Articles

  • Cruella movie poster - photo credit Disney
    Cruella: Sympathy for the She-devil

    Cruella: Sympathy for the She-devil

    A review of Disney's new movie: Cruella

  • VoiceBox
    Why we want YOU to get involved

    Why we want YOU to get involved

    How to stay up to date on all the ways you can get involved with VoiceBox

  • sign reading "lockdown"
    The Covid rut

    The Covid rut

    Why has it affected young people so much?