Few pop stars today are as cultured as Dua Lipa. Born in Kosovo and raised in London, the singer-songwriter has become a full-fledged global phenomenon, whose tours have taken her around the world and back. Thus her versatility, impeccable fashion sense, and fierce independence make her the perfect fit for YSL Beauty’s newest fragrance, Libre Le Parfum. A sexy, sensual update to the house’s original Eau de Parfum, its searing saffron, orange blossom, and light lavender notes lasts all day (I can confirm this) and leave a trail everywhere, not unlike Lipa herself. Her chameleon-like quality allows her to constantly be on the go and simultaneously live in the in-between, straddling the worlds of masculine and feminine—and solitude and chaos—with aplomb.
Not only is she a fashion and beauty icon—Lipa is a fierce advocate for women’s rights. As of late, she’s taken on heavier topics of gender inequality and toxic masculinity on her hit podcast At Your Service, speaking with entertainment industry power players like Riz Ahmed and Megan Thee Stallion about how to best navigate these tenuous topics in 2022. Her keen insight is rare for someone who’s only just reached her late twenties, and she embodies everything the YSL woman stands for.
For her latest campaign, Lipa finds herself in the blue lagoons and black beaches of a remote world, removed from the noise of societal influences and focused on becoming her best self. To accompany the campaign, she recorded a blistering cover of George Michael’s iconic song, “Freedom.” As he succinctly put it almost 30 years ago, “Gotta have some faith in the sound, it’s the one good thing that I’ve got.” Lipa harkens on the past and present to propel herself into the future with her genre-defying music that has solidified her as a superstar with a future that is as bright as her sound. Here, she sat down with ELLE on a balmy June day in the south of France to discuss all things YSL Beauty, covering that iconic song, and all her travel beauty tips.
Who’s your biggest beauty inspiration?
Ohhh, kicking off with a big one! When I think about beauty and fashion inspiration, I draw a lot of it from the ’90s. I love that Kate Moss ’90s, fresh-faced, dewy skin. I love ’90s Drew Barrymore, she always loved a brown lip. That was something that I always loved, and my mum as well. [My mum] was the first person I ever saw putting eyeliner on in the mirror. I was always so fascinated by how she did it so perfectly every time.
What scent reminds you the most of home?
I think the smell of fresh cut grass is something that immediately takes me back to being in Kosovo. There’s also this smell in the wintertime, when it’s cold and everybody is burning wood in their fireplaces, and there’s this really warm smell of winter and burning fire. It’s really nostalgic to me.
Gotta love those childhood scents.
Yeah, those two are definitely the scents, and some of my favorite smells. And then, when I think about London, it’s like…have you ever smelt when it’s a hot day then it rains? There’s this rain, but concrete smell. I don’t know how to explain it, but that is also really comforting to me, and that reminds me of London.
It’s very specific to cities. It almost smells like the rain is coming off the pavement.
Yeah, I love that. Need to find a post-rain smell!
You mentioned watching your mom apply eyeliner. Was that your first childhood memory of beauty and self-care?
For sure. I was always fascinated; my mum would just sit in front of the mirror and do her eyeliner. I guess now when I think back to it, when my mum had me, she was 23 years old. When you’re a kid, you always think of your parents as so much older, but probably at the time when I remember her doing eyeliner, she was my age.
The theme of this campaign is freedom. When do you feel the most free?
I feel the most free when I’m onstage. Maybe that sounds cliché to say, but I feel lucky that I get to really live those moments, those words that I created in a studio environment, and remember why I wrote them, and why I felt the way I did, and be able to share that energy. And then there’s always this freedom and playfulness when I’m onstage. Especially after the first 10 shows of my tour, where I did so much thinking about where I had to be, and what I was doing, and the choreography, and the routine, and getting into the stamina of performing night after night.
That sounds like a lot.
That was everything, and it was really freeing. Everything felt really playful and fun. Really fun. I love Madison Square Garden.
You didn’t seem nervous at all while performing there either.
I wasn’t! I was totally in it.
You seemed in it.
I loved it. That show was a dream for me. It was crazy.
Headlining! I’d actually never been to Madison Square Garden before.
Had you not? It’s just an epic venue, and I think that it holds so much history that it feels daunting. Just the idea of being in there, let alone being on that stage…but it was amazing.
It was great. Now, tell me a little bit about the campaign video shoot. Which setup was your favorite? There are quite a few.
I like to call them adventures with YSL Beauty, because we always go to the most insane locations. I have so many emotional experiences when I’m filming these campaigns. The first one, we were by the Grand Canyon, and there’s just something about it…I was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon filming, and there was an eagle. There was just a moment where everyone in the whole crew was so far away, because we were filming this very isolated moment where I was all on my own. I was just in my head thinking, You’re such a small person in this vast, large world! There’s something about that feeling that grounds you.
It’s humbling, right?
It’s really, really humbling, and it’s really exciting. I love doing these campaigns, and I’m excited to do the new one as well. I had some really mind-blowing moments just looking at the ocean and seeing how small you are in comparison to it. The power of the waves, and being high up in the lighthouse…all of those things really just bring you back down to reality.
What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever received?
Less is more. Especially when I was on tour, dancing every night with makeup on, and then having breakouts. I was trying everything: serums, masks. Then I was like, “Okay this is overkill.” I think that what I need to do is just go back to basics [and] keep it really simple. I just don’t use very many products anymore. My skin was fine when I was a kid, and the less you’ve got on your skin, the better it is. I always have gone back to that, and that’s where I’m at at the moment. Less is more, but it might change [laughs]. Also, my mum never let me pluck my eyebrows when I was a kid, and now I’m really happy about that.
How about the worst?
I once bleached my hair and didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I thought, Oh, it’ll give my hair some texture, whatever. Then it looked like I came out of a microwave. It just didn’t work. My hair is too dark to go blonde.
I can’t imagine sitting with that bleach on.
It was eight hours! And that’s not even the worst beauty advice, because I might do it again [laughs]. But it’s one of those things where at least know what you’re getting into.
What’s the key to self-care when you’re on the road? Besides keeping the skincare routine very simple.
Taking your vitamins and getting sleep. That’s what I’ve realized allows me to keep my stamina up. I do yoga every day, but other than that, it’s really important for me to try and get enough sleep. You’ve got to double cleanse man—two different cleansers. I’ve really got to scrub that makeup out!
If you could describe Libre in your own words, how would you explain it?
I think it’s a perfect juxtaposition between masculine and feminine, and I think the scent in itself is something that I really connected with, because I love that merging of worlds. I like duality. It’s something that I’ve always felt very comfortable [and] very connected to. It’s just this really strong but sensitive smell, which I also feel like represents a lot of women.
Because you can be strong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of being sensitive.
We should celebrate all parts of ourselves. I think that’s incredibly important, and I think people are so quick to associate women with being vulnerable, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that’s also part of toxic masculinity. We should be able to be vulnerable, and we should be able to feel emotional and be able to express ourselves, because it’s actually the best way for us to be able to be the most open and free.
I was just listening to an episode of At Your Service, and you touched on this, how even men need to be vulnerable.
Absolutely! They’ve been taught to not be that. They’ve been taught to have to be strong to a fault, you know? And I think it’s about taking 10 steps backwards.
It can be damaging to put your emotions to the side without properly processing them. There’s a reason I‘m feeling this…
I’m feeling this, so we should allow ourselves to feel it! The same thing happens sometimes with women. These days, as I’ve experienced talking to friends of mine, as women, we’re slowly starting to get our sense of power and feeling stronger in our positions. We’re also taking on more masculine roles, and then we’re like, “We have to be stronger! We have to not show fear and not show vulnerability to be taken seriously.” And it’s like, no! We can have all these nuances, and we can be all those things and still be taken seriously and still be strong.
We definitely need more nuance.
More of that, absolutely.
Shifting gears to music for a sec. How do you go about picking collaborators when you’re making a song? Is it the song first, then the artist? Or vice versa?
I like to do things a lot of the time that are unexpected. I think it just makes for an exciting song. In this day and age, there’s no such thing as a genre, so when two artists come together, it’s just what they create together that makes it so exciting, and that’s what I love. It becomes a sound all on its own, and that’s how I go about it. Then, if it’s a song that’s being presented to me first, it’s everything: what it’s like sonically, the artist that I’d be working with, what can they bring to the table to make it unique, and to make it sound like something that we both represent.
If you could be any makeup product, what would you be and why?
Oh my God, you are really keeping me on my toes! I think I would be a brown lipstick, because it’s just classic. You don’t have to wear any makeup, but you put the brown lipstick on and you feel good. It’s minimal, but effortless. It’s the least amount of effort while still doing the most.
I heard a snippet of the “Freedom” cover that you did. What was it like recording such an iconic song?
It was really exciting, but obviously, when you’re covering a song that has such a big legacy and with such an incredible artist, you know you want to do it justice. I always like to be thoughtful when I’m covering songs, but especially with songs that hold so much value to culture. I wanted to create in my own way, but also have it hold the same meaning. I think
it’s perfect for the Libre campaign, because it embodies that. I hope I did it justice. Again, it’s a cover, so it’s my take on it that’s hopefully done in the most respectful way possible.
It encapsulates the masculine and the feminine, the soft and the loud, in the beginning and the end. You get to scream from the mountaintop and let it all hang out.
I mean, that song is the embodiment of freedom. And the way it’s been used over time to represent so many cultural moments is iconic.
And it still hasn’t lost its impact whatsoever.
No, it hasn’t!
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Kevin LeBlanc is the Fashion Associate at ELLE Magazine. He covers fashion news, trends, and anything to do with Robyn Rihanna Fenty.