Interview: Lauren Jauregui - a force of nature.
Lauren Jauregui sans make-up, sans covershoot styling, and sans entourage, is bidding me a fond farewell by dousing me from head to toe with a 'Goddess'-scented aromatherapy mister as she prances to-and-fro, delighted with the parting gifts I've given her (all purchased from a store specialising in "magickal, spiritual, and metaphysical supplies"), as she wishes me safe passage for my long flight back to New Zealand.
I've just spent a lively five hours with the firecracker that is Jauregui, as we collaborated together on the styling for her Coup De Main covershoot, and she provided direction to hair and make-up artists, suggested ideas to the shoot photographer, and cracked jokes and quips aplenty. When her three-woman team of a manager, publicist and assistant all audibly murmur in unison, "God is a woman," in appreciation of Jauregui donning a custom crown made out of quartz crystals, in classic Jauregui fashion, immediately and thoughtfully, she muses, "No, it’s all of us, I’m just dressed like it right now." An hour later, my most vivid Jauregui memory occurs, as she points to a celestial-patterned dress she's wearing ("This is the stars") and then to her derrière ("And this is the moon") - all whilst twerking. Jauregui is a force to be reckoned with: untameable, unstoppable and unforgettable, with a love for life so infectious that she can't help but inspire everyone that meets her to want to do right by her.
Click here to order a CDM x Lauren Jauregui zine (i.e. a mini-magazine featuring photos + quotes from this cover-story).
Two weeks later, Jauregui greets me over the phone, and reflects upon her day, "It's been good - a very energy-clearing kind of day." It's an answer typical of Jauregui - forthcoming and honest, but 100% glass half-full. Going it alone following the indefinite hiatus of the girl group, Fifth Harmony, Jauregui's millions-strong fanbase eagerly awaits her music, with an unofficial live video of fan favourite song 'Expectations' (performed in Brazil while on tour opening for Halsey in South America) having already attracted over a million views, despite Jauregui having not even released a debut solo single yet.
Coup De Main invited Jauregui to hang out this past Summer in a secret garden tucked away in a Los Angeles backyard, and what follows below is a conversation between two kindred spirits...
COUP DE MAIN: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something you said during the shoot we did together, that usually you’re asked for recommendations on things like make-up tips. I guess you think about it a lot socially in terms of actresses, because red carpet interviews always ask actresses who designed their dress, but because image is so integral to popstar branding it seems more 'normal'. Which actually shouldn’t be the case. What do you think can be done to overcome this societal reduction of female popstars to be only worth opinions about beauty and fashion?
LAUREN JAUREGUI: Probably one of the best things that can be done is just reverting back to what "popstars" are. They are artists, they are people. So as humans, we all have a wide range of topics and things that we're interested in. Some people are pretty narrowly interested in one thing, and other people are multi-talented and have a bunch of different things that they're interested in, or have a bunch of different things that occupy their time. Most of us have a lot of different things that occupy our time, whether we're super invested in it or not. So acknowledge the fact that we're multi-dimensional and that our job as artists is so much bigger than just singing and dancing and looking pretty. We have a responsibility to speak truths, and be our authentic selves, and help bring that kind of energy into the world.
CDM: Like you say in your song 'Toy', "I'm told the superficial shit is all I can retain." But of course, popstars can be so much more than that.
LAUREN: That's one of my favourite songs, but, like, nobody seems to fuck with it, so I was like, 'Whaattt?!'
CDM: I love ‘Toy’, it has such a powerful message. What inspired you to write that song?
LAUREN: Thanks! I was pissed at somebody who told me what to do. <laughs> I was super pissed.
CDM: Aren't we all!
LAUREN: Yeah, girl! I was super pissed. I was sick of it. I feel like, as a woman, and it depends on the reader and how they interpret even me starting off like that, but as a woman, it's just the truth. There's a whole other gender that gets submitted to this second class level where we feel insecure about everything that we have to do, because no matter what happens, it's still underneath some greater-- The glass ceiling, essentially, is what we could call it and draw a parallel to? But it's this place where we just can't ever be the greatness that we are. It's like, great compared to, or compared by, or in contrast to, or over this. With women, it's the way they pit us against each other. The way that they make us feel like we're not capable of retaining intelligent information, that we're just like little cut-out cookie cutter shits that will just look perfect and smell perfect, and play the part all the time. The truth of the matter is that everyone's a fucking human, and we all have our great moments and beautiful highlights that we all put on Instagram, but we have all those dark moments where we're crying in the bathroom and not sure how to handle life. And that's fine! That existence is fine. Being fluid and that. But I don't feel like girls get to exist in that fluidity as often as men do, or as often as we all should. It's not even a gender thing, it's a human thing. Existing in your duality is so important as a human being, because that's what allows you to have the full human experience. We're all just light beings, walking around on Earth, and we spend so much time hating ourselves and putting each other in boxes. Like, 'Oh, now you're an acceptable woman because you did blah-blah-blah.' Fuck you! No! I'm a woman because I'm a woman and if you don't like it, I'm so sorry, but that doesn't demean what I'm capable of in any way, shape or form. So that was me getting really pissed and letting all that out into a song.
CDM: I think you sum up all of those feelings really well with the line, "Told that even though I'm small, I take up too much space." It's a powerful line, like a modern-day 'women should be seen and not heard'.
LAUREN: "I'm told that even though I'm small, I take up too much space / When they put me inside a box and pull me out to play." You're the one that put me in a box and made me even smaller, and you're the one that pulls me out to just twirl around when you feel like it? NO! You're not allowed to touch me. You're not allowed to just demand my existence. I get to decide what the fuck happens to me.
CDM: I also particularly love the line, “You say that I’m dangerous when I open my mouth / That I have too much emotion and I can’t control it,” which really touches on the way that women are so often told that they’re too emotional. Do you think that it’s important for young women to learn to embrace their emotions?
LAUREN: For sure. I want to complete that line, "You say that I have too much emotion and I can't control it, while you start another war." You're gonna talk about how my emotional aptitude, my ability to touch into my empathy is a problem? But I believe, that your inability to connect with your feelings and your inability to understand the repercussions of your actions and reactions, has done society wrong as a whole. We're 2000 years deep in patriarchy and nothing's changed, in the sense of the systems, and the models of the way that these systems function. It's very clearly to oppress a certain kind of person over another. It's very clearly to make someone feel inferior so that another can succeed. There's no reason that someone is more successful, other than-- We're all capable of overcoming, but at the same time, there's a whole model that's been set up. And then they trapped us, they use our emotions as their weapon against us. Our own emotions. And then we fall into that place of self-doubt and insecurity, and making yourself smaller to fit other people's bigness. No! You're allowed to take up space, you're allowed to breathe in and out your emotions, you're allowed to feel one way one second, and you're not crazy if ten minutes later you get your shit together and you're like, 'Okay I overreacted, I'm sorry.' How many men do that? And yell and scream and fucking pull out a gun, because they feel insecure or they feel too small. That happens on a regular basis. That's why we live in this world that we do. It's just a matter of stepping back from that, and I think women are the gatekeepers because if we held each other with a tenderness, other women around us, and the fact that we're all combatting this constant pressure and that we're all mutual, if we all released each other from this mould that we've all upheld for so long? Then who's going to uphold it? They've still got to make babies right? We still need to continue the generation. As long as we come together, 'You can't treat us like this. We're your equals.' And that's just it, there's no debate about it. You can't touch me without my permission. This is my body. I'm autonomous. Your god says so too. Bodies are temples, right? Don't enter a temple with no permission. That doesn't make sense.
CDM: You tweeted something similar recently, "The sensitive male soul when not bound by toxic masculinity’s guidelines of what expressing themselves emotionally truly means for their happiness is the KEY to healing this world. When men acknowledge and love the divine feminine within them instead of shaming it, we all heal." Why do you think certain emotions have traditionally had gender attached to them (i.e. a strong woman is a bitch, but a strong man is a positive thing), and do you think that it’s important that these traditional norms are changed?
LAUREN: I just feel like men are threatened by assertive women because we get shit done. There's just no way around it. You can't bullshit. You can't coddle. You can't coax. You can't seduce. There's no way around it when a woman's resolve is set on what's truthful and what's right. We just have a deeper sense of intuition and morality, naturally, I feel like. It's engrained in us since we were born, because we're literally engrained to be a certain type of way and a certain type of vigilant and a certain type of empathetic and a certain type of caring. That's what we're supposed to do. And mind you, not every woman ends up identifying that way, but we're all taught to be that way. But I believe that a huge part of it is men accepting their softness. Because if they weren't so ashamed of their softness, and if they didn't hate their feelings so much, and were taught that their feelings were something that could help them and propel them to be better people and propel them to be more successful people, and healthier and happier people, I feel like that would shift things. And that's the thing with a women accepting that part of herself, and loving that part of herself instead of shaming that part of herself every time it came up or feeling embarrassed when she cares too much, it's just not conducive to our existence to constantly hate our nature and go against it to fit in or to not make a scene.
CDM: 'Expectations' has got such a strong and powerful 'hell hath no fury like a women scorned' energy. Why did you choose it as one of the songs you wanted to debut live on tour with Halsey?
LAUREN: Ever since I wrote it, it's kind of had this magic to me that was particular and special, and when I went on tour with Ash[ley Frangipane a.k.a. Halsey], it kind of confirmed it. The way that people reacted to it, the fact that the first time I ever performed it was completely unreleased and by the end of the song people from a foreign country who don't even natively speak English were singing along to the words and knew the words to the chorus. And that, to me, is usually when I fuck with a song. If I can finish the chorus by the end of it? That's probably something that I'm going to listen to again and repeat and put into a playlist and stuff. So the fact that people reacted like that to something I wrote, that was so genuinely written and that I was so hands on with, was just such a special feeling. So I felt it was a perfect start to the world. Just an entrance into understanding my brain. <laughs>
CDM: Your voice really shines through on 'Expectations'. Is having your vocals front and centre something that’s been important to you while exploring writing songs for yourself?
LAUREN: Yes and no, because I feel like I use my voice as an instrument, the same way that I use other stuff as instruments. While lyrics are super important to me, what I'm saying and what's coming out of my mouth is super, super important to me, the melodies and the sounds are kind of another piece of the music essentially, so I kind of play with that a little bit. Sometimes I'm really singing and out there, and other times I'm more chill, I'm more in a vibe. It all depends on what I'm trying to say. It depends on the tone of the song, it depends on the tone of the feeling and where that will take me. Because some stuff just needs to be more subdued and really raw, and then other stuff feels more powerful and vulnerable. So it's just a matter of swapping between those dynamics in songs, depending on what I want to communicate.
CDM: In ‘Expectations’, you touch on communication and respect. Do you think those are two of the most important things in any successful relationship?
LAUREN: Absolutely. <laughs> Absolutely! Communication and respect are the two number one qualities of a healthy, functioning relationship. And I can say that based off of every single relationship I've ever had in my life. When there's no communication, when there's no respect for the other person involved, you can't meet eye to eye. It's impossible. If you don't consider someone else your equal when you're speaking to them, or you don't consider them to be someone that you don't want to harm, like it doesn't bother you if you hurt them, that's automatically like-- I feel like this culture has no consideration for each other's feelings, because we're taught to be very hard on the external so that we can absorb all the harshness that the world gives us. Which is to be expected, I get why we've naturally gravitated towards doing that and not feeling, but I'm a Cancer and a Scorpio Moon! I'm super fucking emotional and sensitive and I feel so many things all the time, so I feel like delving into that and drawing from that, is more effective for me.
CDM: In 'Expectations' you sing: "I really wish that I could get it through your head / With no confrontation / Really wish we could talk about it instead." Why is honest communication so hard?
LAUREN: It's hard for us to say our real feelings out of fear that we'll be mocked or ridiculed or made to feel stupid. Or made to feel like it doesn't really matter. Because that's the most vulnerable shit in the world, when you open up your heart to somebody and they could give one fuck. <laughs> Or they couldn't even give one! That's the most painful shit ever. And that happens to people so often. They'll bare their soul and give their all to somebody who just doesn't reciprocate or respect the level of intensity that you gave. And that happened to me a lot growing up. I would give, give, give, give, give. And sometimes that's overbearing for the person you're giving to. Sometimes it's just a matter of communicating and letting each other know, 'This is what I need. And this is what makes me feel good. And I deserve to be happy too!' Both parties always deserve to be happy and feel fluid and feel like they're loved and safe. And so if that's not happening, you guys have to talk about it, because it's going to keep getting volatile progressively until it eventually explodes.
CDM: ‘Inside’ is the first solo track you wrote from scratch, right? How did it feel having the words for that song come out of you?
LAUREN: It was really therapeutic. I wrote it on a voice note in Ty [Dolla $ign]'s house, and I was by myself at the house and I was just vibing and making plans on the breakfast table, and then the melody just came into my head and I freestyled a little bit and sent it over to Khaled [Rohaim] and then he put it to the music. And then I saw him in person, I went in and we did different things to it. But it's cool that it's an organic song, because it touches upon how I had been feeling and where I was with myself at the time that I wrote it and it was cool to finally get pen to paper and get a melody to it and really get it out of my system for once.
CDM: “My truth and only mine can govern me,” from ‘Inside’ is such an important life lesson. How do you think people can learn to find, and follow their truths?
LAUREN: By listening to themselves. When their gut tells them something, just listen, and not doubt it so much. And this is just for me personally, everybody's got their own thing, but I like praying. Praying helps me so much. Just kind of giving it up and surrendering to the will of what is, and not worrying so hard about what could potentially happen and all the different scenarios. I'm an over-thinker, all the time, and my over-thinking causes my judgement to be clouded. So I doubt my intuition, which is really strong. And I always end up going, 'Lauren! If you had just listened to yourself, dammit.' But those all just end up turning into lessons. And every one of those lessons should be used further, to following your heart. It should never be a fear of not listening to yourself. You always should, even if you're scared. It's worth it every fucking time. Even if you get hurt first.
CDM: What was it like debuting new songs to an audience while on tour with Halsey?
LAUREN: It was cool. It was a little bit nerve-wracking. I wasn't sure how people were going to respond. Also I only had a couple weeks of writing before I went on tour, so those songs that I had to draw from, I didn't have the list of songs that I have now. So those were the best ones at the time that I really loved and that I really connected with. It was a different experience, and I'm grateful for the way people reacted to them. I don't know how their life is going to evolve though, with each one of them. Well, with 'Expectations', I do know, but the other two I just don't know where they're going to evolve to.
CDM: How many songs have you written now?
LAUREN: I have a whole ass arsenal, girl. Every time I go into a session I write something that I love. And I've had a lot of sessions. I'm just vibing out and seeing what comes to me, and just going with it. And at the end of it all, when I feel like I'm done and I've gotten enough shit out and I'm starting to get repetitive, then I'll start piecing together the album and seeing where it all lies, to create the whole story that I want to portray.
CDM: You've talked a little about your songwriting process. Was it important to you to write every single song?
LAUREN: Absolutely. For me, it's super important because lyrics are my favourite thing when I listen to music. I love hearing lyrics that I connect with, and I always connect with lyrics that are written by the artist who's singing them. Granted, I connect with other songs too, but there's something special about somebody saying what they've been through, or somebody telling you their story, or a story the way that they see it. Their perspective. Their mind. I've always gravitated towards those kinds of artists my whole life, those are the ones who have really influenced my taste and influenced my creativity. So I feel like that's just who I naturally became as an artist. That, to me, is important - making sure that my voice is coming out. While I have co-writers on some songs, because I'm not the sole writer of every song, they're just so good at feeling my energy and helping me get to the right place with it. And I've learned so much from them and their own tactics and their own approaches to songwriting, and that has helped me and my arsenal, and helped me become stronger. I love this whole creative process, but it's definitely super important for me to be invested in every single part of the song-creating. And the visual-creating. I'm super involved with visuals, because it's bringing the song to life, and the song is my baby, so bringing it to life is a whole other part of it.
CDM: What other themes do you explore in your solo songs, aside from the ones we’ve already talked about?
LAUREN: I'm exploring myself: my wants, my desires, my feelings about life and my feelings about the world. It's a very self-explorative album. I've learned a lot about myself writing it. It's been a very transformative year for me. Last year, too, was incredibly transformative, but this year was like a whole other level. So yeah, it's just been a learning curve and it's been really fun exploring. I love being creative, so this is the super fun part for me.
CDM: You told Nylon magazine that you've written a song with Ilsey Juber and Alex Hope, which is an awesome all-women team. What more can you tell me about that song?
LAUREN: I love it. <laughs> I don't want to give too much away, but it's definitely empowering. But again, I play with this mode of duality a lot, where I am vulnerable and powerful at the same time, because I feel that way all the time. Like for me, when I'm making a decision and going through shit, I go through phases where I'm like, 'I'm a bad bitch! I'm fine.' And then there's the, 'Oh, my God I don't know how to do anything, I'm a crazy bitch, I don't know what to do.' And those two people come out of me the whole time. It's not like I ever fully have my chill or fully am vulnerable, there's always that duality that I go through to get to my end result of, 'I'm good. We've got this now! We're through it. We can move forward.' So that's what that song is about.
CDM: Do you have any idea yet of when the world will get to hear your debut album?
LAUREN: Not really. I'm really trying to let it be as organic as possible. When I feel like it's ready, that's when the world will get it. And they'll know. They'll feel it too, I feel like. They're gonna get music though, we're definitely going to have music coming out, it's not going to be like a drought or anything.
CDM: Your bio on your Instagram, "I’m but a lowly instrument to the muses," is a line from an episode of 'Orange Is The New Black' Season 3, but an interesting standalone sentence. What is it about that line that you really connect with?
LAUREN: I felt like it was a perfect description of how I feel. I'm just an instrument, a vessel of youth. The art that I create, while it comes from me, it's coming through another space. It's ethereal, what controls that part of me. Any artist who really fucks with their shit and is really hands-on in their craft, they'll tell you the same exact thing. While it's definitely their story and vulnerability that they're speaking about, what drives them to create is something that is not really tangible. Like, I'm an instrument to the muses. I'm inspired to make the things I create.
CDM: You tweeted recently, “Whenever you feel insecure, try to remember that you are SO powerful a whole toxic society had to be created to convince you you aren’t good enough. They literally make money off of you feeling like everyone is better than you. Loving yourself is the BIGGEST ‘fuck you’ possible.” As you said, entire capitalist industries like the beauty industry, perpetuate ideology that you’re incomplete and inadequate without their products. What do you think can be done to help change this societal mindset?
LAUREN: I think the main thing is just hardcore loving yourself. Like, figuring out what it is that you're good at and shutting out everybody's noise and really listening to your heart instead of listening to the people around you. And that's way easier said than done, and I know that firsthand because I sometimes am on comments or reading Twitter like a fucking idiot and making myself feel bad and really allowing strangers' opinions of me to dictate what I know about myself. So I get it, we live in a society where it's super easy to get caught up in that, and how many ads do you see on a regular basis that make you feel inferior? There's so much being thrown at you all the time, so it's completely reasonable to just be gentle with yourself. I think that's the main thing. Doing little things for yourself that just help you feel good and make you feel happy and make you feel sane. It doesn't have to be anything too crazy political to be radical. Loving yourself is incredibly radical. There's some people who truly love themselves, don't get me wrong, but as a society, that shit's rare. Like for somebody to truly really be like, 'You know what? I'm the shit. I'm chilling and I'm not trying to rub this shit in anybody's face, but I'm good! I can do this.' That's a hard lesson to learn. And it's a constant process.
CDM: And it's awesome that you often post make-up free selfies!
LAUREN: I made a pact with myself when I was sixteen, because I had this whole existential crisis when I first came into this industry. I was like, 'Holy shit, there's so many opinions. There's so many comments. There's so many articles written about my body, about my face, about how my face and body compares to other people's.' That was happening so intensely. The sexualisation of me when I was a kid, all this kind of stuff. And it was a lot. A lot was coming at me. So I made this pact with myself that I would post pictures without makeup so that people knew exactly what I looked like without makeup, so they could not slather me on a fucking tabloid and be like, 'Look! She's a whole other bitch without makeup.' I literally did that with myself. People are going to know what you look like with or without that shit, and you're going to love yourself regardless - so they can't ever use that against you. I don't want anyone to think they can ever use my own natural, God-given face against me to make me feel insecure on their magazine that's printing total bullshit - all lies, all scandals, all this drama, and super sexist, disgusting shit, like making women feel shitty about not having husbands or babies yet. That shit's just so crazy! Or shaming them because they have pregnancy bodies. What the fuck is wrong with everyone?! The person writing that sitting at home looks exactly the same, if not worse, than the person she's shitting on. All that toxic shit, I hate that shit. So I really made it a point to be like, 'Okay, people are going to know what you look like always and it's not ever going to be a façade.' That just helps me out, it makes me feel less stressed.
CDM: You also care a lot about what chemicals go into your body - do you think it’s important to be aware of these kinds of things?
LAUREN: Yeah, I do. Because we all have bodies and they are very susceptible to getting sick. And we all like to bitch about our healthcare bills because they're really fucking expensive, <sarcastically> in case nobody noticed that, and unfortunately our government is a little scary, so we're not looking at healthcare being covered anytime soon, but, super cool with billions of dollars of increased military budget, that's fine. This is just all types of shit. I think about all those things on a daily basis. And granted, I try my best, because it's hard. Some of this shit is addictive. Some of these foods are really genuinely addictive, like I crave shit that I shouldn't, and I know I shouldn't but I eat it sometimes. I'm not perfect. I can't even sit here and be like, 'I'm environmentally conscious and constantly aware and always good!' I'm not. I am very conscious, but sometimes I slip up and I'm not great.
CDM: All we can do is try our best.
LAUREN: And I really do though. That I can honestly genuinely say, because I do try my best. And I know that my body is the only one that's going to suffer in the long run. It's only me that ends up having to deal with the consequences of not taking care of my health. It's only me that deals with the consequences of whatever chronic pain comes from putting certain things in my body. And especially me, I have celiac so I can't eat gluten, but do I love bread? Fuck yeah, I do. It's hard sometimes.
CDM: I love that you're not afraid to speak your mind on your social media platforms, and that's so refreshing to see when the usual norm is messaging that's advertising a product to fans. Do you think it's important to use your platform for activism?
LAUREN: Yeah, and the word activism, I personally just-- I talk shit all day long in real life too, you know what I mean? I just love to muse about the world and contemplate the world and contemplate political theories and contemplate what we're really doing here. And I love helping people question that. And I don't know if it's from my mom, because my mom's a teacher, but I just love that concept of being able to teach or share what I know. That's something that's cool for me. And if I'm going to have a platform where people pay attention, especially young people, especially young women, then I feel this pull to just be me, genuinely. And to give them my life lessons, if I can. If I read a book that I really like, I want them to know about it, I want them to be able to share that knowledge and grow with me. I don't know why I do, but I guess we all kind of feel this extension that social media is of us, and I contemplate that too. 'Why do I even do this? Who cares?' But at the same time, I care! And that's what people are going to get from me if they want to follow me.
CDM: And for better or worse, people of our generation mostly get their news from social media now.
LAUREN: Yeah! Exactly. So would I rather they be going on Twitter and being misinformed? Or would I rather, if I know what I'm talking about, I'll comment on it. And I do make sure to research what I'm talking about, and if ever I make a mistake or am ill-informed, I will retract and I will put the proper information forward. I'm very conscious of the fact that I'm capable of making mistakes, even if the internet is not as forgiving, I'm forgiving of myself because I know I'm a human. We all do shit that we regret the fuck out of, and we all have done stuff that we're like, 'Really, bitch? Were you really like that? Did you ever really think that?' I don't like to put too much pressure on it, because the whole world likes to put, 'Are you an activist?' pressure! It's like, 'No! I just like to advocate for people's human rights because I have people who listen to me, and there's a lot of people out here who are suffering.' It's just a fact: If you look around you and you care about the people around you, a lot of people are suffering. And that matters to me.