Babe of the Month: Billie Eilish
April/May's Babe Of The Month has pretty much broken the internet - only not by swaying a champagne glass from her arse. Billie Eilish, full name Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell, is only 19 years old and already a certified badass.
Billie recorded the song 'Ocean Eyes' with her older brother Finneas in her bedroom and it received some critical acclaim, but her real skyrocket to the mainstream came two years later. In 2019 Billie and Finneas recorded the album 'When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?' and the track 'Bad Guy' was swiftly picked up by radio stations and the media. It became Billie's first number one song in the US, and the album one of the best selling of that year worldwide.
Since then, she's performed a James Bond theme song (which hit #1 here in the UK) and three singles since have all peaked in the Top 10.
But, as mentioned right there in the first paragraph: Billie is only 19. Her appeal came in the mainstream market of teenagers and young adults not just for her extraordinarily catchy songs, but also her relatability. Her signature black and green hair in baggy clothes with alternative 90s aesthetics and passions (horror films, racial justice, crude humour, even Justin Bieber) spilt across social media is a refreshingly amateur method. Her songs weren't sanitised or kept 'radio safe' and covered topics on everything from dying friends to the climate creation and suicidal thoughts.
“I don’t think there’s ever been such a young pop artist to write songs that are so personal. She doesn’t sound like anybody today” – Elton John
Billie was instantly liked because she was real; with no squeaky clean pop persona created by a record label to hide within. She was just like everyone else - and inspired girls worldwide that if she could do it, why couldn't they?
However, becoming famous at 15 - and being female - meant that media analysis and critique of her appearance were sadly (but not surprising for many of us!) commonplace. Billie's typical style was, to be honest, not far from the 90s street style most teenagers her age were/are wearing. Baggy, oversized pieces often with a large or bright print or design on, combined with chunky trainers and sometimes a hat were pretty standard - exactly the kind of ensemble a rapper could expect to wear without any paparazzi or gossip columns batting an eyelid. But with Billie being apparently female, speculation was rife. Some insisted that her oversized garms were symbols of body positivity, some of rebellion against other pop stars who wore considerably more form-fitting outfits. There was no official comment from Billie given - after all, why she should comment on what she was wearing when she was an artist? Her clothes were never intended to be the front and centre of attention.
In 2019, during an interview with Vogue Australia, she was asked about her style; perhaps not a surprise from a fashion publication. In the months prior there had been much speculation on why she chose to wore baggy clothing with the general consensus (and even false quotations circulating) that it was because she didn't want to be sexualised by the media while she was still underage. Billie counteracted that in the interview, saying "It kind of gives nobody the opportunity to judge what your body looks like. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath, you know?", and then insisted that she had no desire to slut-shame anyone else for choosing to wear the opposite. She was just comfortable in her own style, doing her own thing.
“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.” – Billie Eilish
It wasn't until October 2020, that the media got the shot they'd been hoping for - Billie not in something oversized. She was photographed candidly by waiting paparazzi wearing a standard spaghetti-strap vest, shorts and sliders with socks on. The news cycle was thrown into a frenzy, heavy with commentary on her body's size and shape which lots of credit given for her "braving" to wear such a form-fitting item. It didn't go down well - and quite fucking rightly - with Billie herself saying "Good for her for feeling comfortable in her bigger skin? Good for me? Fuck off!". Back to her usual aesthetics, she continued to release new music and continue on as the pop star her fans all know and love.
This month, May 2021, has seen a new Billie born; in aesthetic terms, at least. Posing for Vogue in a retro pin-up themed photoshoot with Marilyn Monroe platinum curls, skin-toned PVC and a vintage bodice, images of Billie have reverborated across social media in shock as people share her new look. Stunningly beautiful with a shock factor fans were not expecting that really adds to the depth of the photos (and accompanying interview), this latest style is a far cry from the neons and basketball shorts the public are used to seeing her in.
“Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin, and you’re easy and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I am, then I’m proud. Me and all the girls are hoes, and fuck it, y’know? Let’s turn it around and be empowered in that.” – Billie Eilish
While Billie's talent should be celebrated entirely unhindered by the way she looks or how she dresses, this unfortunately seems unlikely for at least the time being. The startling contrast of these new photos compared to those taken previously has already spurned disdain from some, unflattering meme creation from others and some pretty damning commentary from those accusing of her 'selling out'.
What should actually be focused on here is Billie. Billie is 19, extremely talented and already world famous. She uses her platform for good, often, and as she chooses to express her creativity in different ways, through, say, experimenting with style and fashion or dressing up or down for photoshoots, we should support her through it.
As Maura Quint says: "there are some things women shouldn't wear. Like the weight of other people's expectations and judgments". Long live shaking off the status quo and society's considerations, Eilish style!