She never says that last part; she probably never would. She also doesn’t say what I think is the real answer, which is this: Anyone who works in media can tell you that there’s no better way to lead the conversation without ever having to actually talk about yourself. While Lipa’s editorial initiative may seem like an act of self-exposure, it’s in fact one of self-protection — it allows her to connect regularly with her audience by sharing her favorite Spanish wine, the public art installations she enjoyed visiting in rural Japan, the causes or activists or artists she cares about. Sharing a lifestyle, however, is different than sharing a life.
During the rare instances when she has to address something more intimate, her own outlets are the ideal way to disseminate the message. After DaBaby, a rapper featured on a remix of her song “Levitating,” was videotaped making homophobic comments at a 2021 music festival, Lipa wrote a statement on Instagram, where she has 88.6 million followers, renouncing him and encouraging her fans to fight the stigma around H.I.V./AIDS. That sort of direct communication “was something artists didn’t have before,” she says. “Whatever was said about you in the press, that was it: That’s who you are.”
In 2021, an organization founded by the American Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a full-page ad in The New York Times accusing Lipa of antisemitism after she defended Palestinian human rights. Her representatives asked the paper’s leaders to apologize, but they didn’t. For more than two years, Lipa has turned down all coverage opportunities in The Times. Then she convinced Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s former executive editor, to come on her podcast last December. When she brought up the controversy, he had little to say about the company’s decisions (he still works here), explaining the church-and-state divisions between editorial and advertising departments. To her, the exchange went as anticipated: “It was enough for me to voice it to the guy at the top,” and she could then move on from something that had bothered her for years.
All these decisions are hers to make, of course — she owes the public no more or no less than she chooses. Still, it’s interesting, novel even, to watch a celebrity build a brand off her own interests and obsessions, rather than allow her private life to become an interest and obsession of others. Since the dawn of Madonna, we’ve expected pop stars (and indeed all female artists) to bare all — to reference their mental health struggles (Lady Gaga) or their partners’ cheating scandals (Beyoncé) — only to judge and punish them for doing so. Lipa refuses to engage on that level. Her music, too, avoids the strange dissonance of other female artists (Taylor Swift; Adele) who’ve achieved success by exposing everyday secrets and sadnesses, only to find themselves stuck looping those same narratives now that their lives aren’t so relatable. Lipa won’t sing about those kinds of Easter eggs: “I think it’s a marketing tool: How confessional can you be?” she says. “I also don’t put so much of my life out there for people to dig into the music in this weird, analytical way.”
The next album will be “more personal,” she offers, but that’s not why she’s doing it. Two days before we’d met for sushi, Lipa had been rewatching “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” the 2020 documentary about the Bee Gees, “just bawling my eyes out,” she says, with her boyfriend, Romain Gavras, a 42-year-old French Greek film director. (Tellingly, her relationship with Gavras is the only thing her publicist asked that I not bring up myself.) In the film, someone talks about “music that just makes your body feel good,” she explains. “Those are the songs I get attached to — that’s the kind of feeling I want to convey.” Already, she’s proved herself adept as a singer in conjuring those sorts of sensations. But as she keeps talking, I notice that the ordinary gesture of recommending a film I haven’t seen is making her feel good, too. “You should definitely watch it,” she says, interrupting her thoughts about her own music. “It’s amazing. I cry every time.”
Hair by Rio Sreedharan for the Wall Group. Makeup by Samantha Lau. Set design by Afra Zamara for Second Name. Production: Farago Projects. Manicurist: Michelle Humphrey for LMC Worldwide. Photo assistants: Daniel Rodriguez Serrato, Enzo Farrugia, Hermine Werner. Set designer’s assistants: Tatyana Rutherston, Viola Vitali, Oualid Boudrar. Tailor: Sabrina Gomis Vallée. Stylist’s assistants: Martí Serra, Alexis Landolfi, Anna Castellano