Beauty And The Beat: Charli XCX Talks Britney, Baby Spice, And “Loads” Of Black Eyeliner
If you spent much of your time as a 14-year-old going to raves and staying out until 6 A.M.—with your parents, no less—you might have also wound up spending your later years in rehab, not topping the pop charts. But don’t tell that to British hitmaker Charli XCX. The well-adjusted 20-year-old and the voice behind the song that is currently stuck in our heads, a collaboration with Icona Pop called “I Love It (I Don’t Care)” (Girls watchers will remember the jam from the dance-party scene during Hannah’s short-lived cocaine addiction), Charli—short for Charlotte—is a different kind of pop princess. Accented by mounds of black eyeliner, punky lyrics, and midriff-baring T-shirts, her sound isn’t so much candy-coated as rich with rhythm-backed synth riffs that are immediately catchy. As for the XCX bit, “it was part of my MSN screen name when I was 13, and it kind of stuck,” she told us when we caught up with her in the middle of a tour in support of True Romance, her debut album that features the addictive track, “Nuclear Seasons.” Here, the “nineties chick” at heart, talks about late-night clubbing, being inspired by Britney and Baby Spice, and her unconventional secret to the perfect dark lipstick.— Sarah Z. Wexler
How did you get into music at just 14?
As soon as I saw “Hit Me Baby (One More Time),” I knew I loved Britney and music videos, and I was in awe; it inspired me to start making music. I started writing, but it was just me kind of experimenting. I posted demos on MySpace, and a guy who ran a club in East London brought me up to play these raves. I started performing and became a regular in that scene. My parents came with me. They’d drive me and stay at the parties; usually I would play at 2 or 3 A.M. and leave at 6 A.M. At the time, I wasn’t into hanging out with my parents. We’d drive home in the morning and stop for breakfast. They were really supportive. We were always the weird family at the warehouse parties.
Um…Amazing. Why is the new album called True Romance?
All of the songs are about love and my experience with relationships and how I’ve changed my opinion on love, how the relationships have changed me. In true romance, you don’t have just walking on clouds, amazing, happy, beachy moments. To have true romance, you also have to have isolating, depressing moments of crying. The songs are about both. Some are happier and some are darker; some are pop; and others are more mysterious—and that’s what romance is like in real life. “Stay Away” is about an unhealthy obsession with someone, making yourself ill over them, but I haven’t been through that, so it’s more of an imagining.
Your Icona Pop collaboration “I Love It (I Don’t Care)” is the theme song for Snooki & Jwoww—do you watch the show?
That made me really laugh. I don’t watch the show religiously, but I’ve seen it. I think Snooki is pretty cute. They’re both hilarious.
You’re becoming known more and more for heavy eye makeup and dark lips. What do you use?
I’m terrible with girly stuff; I’m a shit girl in that sense. I just use any black liquid eyeliner, Boots No.7 at the moment. I used to be bad at applying it and put loads on when I was 15, but now I have a lot of practice doing it since I don’t experiment with other looks and do it every day. People are intimidated by liquid liner, but it’s easier to whack on really quickly. I like MAC Mineral Powder because it makes my skin glow but looks like I’m not wearing any makeup. And I always use an old red lipstick that was my mom’s; I stole it from her! I blend it with a black Loré:al crayon eye pencil, smudge it in, and blend it so it does this ombré thing where it’s darker on the outer edge and gets lighter toward the inside.
That’s pretty impressive for someone who’s terrible at girly stuff. You’re also known for taking risks with your shoes. Why do you love such massive platforms?
Because when I was younger, I was really into the Spice Girls. I wanted to be Baby Spice and have blonde hair and dye my eyebrows, but I would have looked like an alien. Platforms from Buffalo and Jeffrey Campbell are my favorites. I don’t wear heels much, and onstage they make me taller, but they’re more comfortable. I like how they look superhero-esque. I wear them all the time, everywhere I go; they’re my everyday shoes as well as my party shoes. But they have no grips, so I turn into Bambi on ice; I fall over a lot when it’s raining!
Photo: Dan Curwin