Meet Natalia Kills And Her “Brutal Femininity”
Strange as it may sound, Natalia Kills has Perez Hilton to thank for her burgeoning fame. “I wrote a song for myself and put it on my MySpace page and he blogged about me and suddenly I had two million plays and was No. 1 on the MySpace unsigned artist chart,” the half-Jamaican, half-Uruguayan London-bred singer says. A record deal with Will.i.am followed in 2008, as did a chart-topping single, “Mirrors,” which was produced by Akon. Yesterday, Kills dropped her first solo album, Perfectionist, and celebrated with a rooftop record release party in New York. “I like a dramatic eye and a bold lip,” the 25-year-old told us as makeup artist Melina Cavalieri prepped her for her performance using Yves Saint Laurent Eyeliner Effet Faux Cils Shocking Bold Felt-Tip Eyeliner Pen in No. 1 Black and its bright coral Rouge Volupte Silky Sensual Radiant Lipstick in No. 27 Rose Paris. Along with a braided tower of hair and cropped bangs, they’ve become something of a uniform for Kills, who is about to embark on a two-week leg of Katy Perry’s global tour. “It’s everyday for me,” she says of the labor-intensive look that rivals Gaga for showmanship. It’s not pasted-on face pearls or egg-yolk yellow beehives, but we’ll take it. Here, Kills talks eyeliner tips, gender roles, and what it means to make “revenge pop.”
How did you develop what has become a serious love for makeup?
My grandmother was a real lady—every single day was lipstick and high heels, from the age of 16 to 86. She always used to say to me [in a South American accent], “Ay, Natalia, it’s so nice to be a woman. You always look nice and smell pretty.” I never really understood that until I really got into [beauty]. The first makeup I bought was YSL when I was about 16, the mascara, concealer, and Touche Eclat under-eye concealer. Then I was like, this is the way to be an ultimate woman—to really appreciate what is exclusive to being a woman, that regimen of making yourself extraordinary. I don’t change for the stage.
So the heavily lined lids and orange mouth are everyday wear for you? Are you as diligent about taking it off at night?
I never wash my face at night, actually. I just use cleansing wipes and I have perfect skin. I use whatever I can get my hands on. When I’m in America, I like Ponds—the blue packet—and in England, I quite like the brand Simple. My grandma told me never, ever, ever to use soap on my face. But I do use lotion. It’s Estée Lauder. The price is horrendous but I quite like it.
How would you describe your style?
Brutally feminine. It’s abrupt, it’s direct, it’s aggressive, but it’s gentle, soft, and womanly at the same time. There’s this weird confusion of women now where it’s about fake nails, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, fake tans—an extreme of what women are supposed to look like that actually looks more masculine, almost like drag. I personally think a woman should look like a woman, not like something else emulating a woman. So I appreciate things that, while they can be extremely dramatic and not always appropriate for everyday, are definitely feminine.
So no fake nails or lashes for you.
No, I’m not a fake nail wearer or an eyelash wearer. These are my own—the ones that I was born with! Enhancement is fantastic, but when you make a cartoon out of yourself how can you expect anyone to take you seriously? I do actually have a piece of extra braid in [my hair] today, though. The style started as a bun because I thought, if I don’t have the cheekbones, at least I have the jaw, so let’s go with that and sweep it all away from the face. Any girl with long hair can do it; just put your hair into a really high ponytail and wrap it. I do it myself every single day and I trim my bangs every day as well. It takes ten minutes to do and I take it down every night.
You make it sound so easy! Any other good tips?
I have really bad dexterity so I like to use the wet liquid liner on my eyes. You just pull, swipe, open—and it’s done. And if you do it wrong, you just make it thicker.
What about lipstick? The bright red lip in the video for the title track of your album, “Free,” featuring Will.i.am, seems pretty signature at this point.
I did red for like three years and then this January I was like, ack, get it off me! Then I got an orange Barry M eyeliner and just started wearing orange eyeliner on my lips until MAC finally came out with a great orange. My favorite lipstick right now is YSL Rouge Volupte #27. It’s everything you dream about as a little girl—the sensibility of romance and sophistication embodied by one tiny thing. I want to shrink myself and live in the packaging, it’s so gorgeous!
Do you have any beauty icons?
Audrey Hepburn, Karl Lagerfeld, and Vivienne Westwood. There is a picture of [Audrey Hepburn] and she has the same style of fringe that I have right now. I think there’s something sort of poignant about how graceful she is. The way a woman is powerful is with charm and persuasion and elegance and vulnerability and all of these things are secretly tools of manipulation—in a nice way. To be a man and to be powerful is the opposite. When a woman tries to be assertive and aggressive it’s a disaster, I think. The worst mistake a woman can make is to emulate a man.
Is there any of that empowered femininity in your music?
Well, I’m not a feminist. [My music] is delicious heartbreak music. It’s the type of music you want to hear when you’re heartbroken. And not in this beautiful mesmerizing ingenious way that Adele would do it. Mine is more the type of music that’s not how you’re feeling at the time, but what you need to hear to get over it. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s “you didn’t deserve me, and I’m going to key your car and tell your new girlfriend exactly what you are.” That’s probably why people are calling my music “revenge pop.”
Can we expect to hear more of that “revenge pop” from you this year?
I direct and co-direct short abstract films—and my own videos, like the one for “Free”—so I’d love to do more of that in the distant future. I’m really inspired by Quentin Tarantino. He makes you fall in love with the anti-hero, the person who is committing the crime, the rebel, the avenger, the baddee. You fall in love with them and you root for them because usually their motivations for doing such bad things are good and you want them to be vindicated. And that’s kind of like my music.