When we first met Estelle back in 2008, the British bombshell had just joined forces with Kanye West and jet-setted across the pond in search of an American boy.
Now, the fly London gal has landed on the top of the charts and solidified herself as R&B’s sweetheart with her soulful voice and infectious hits. Whether she’s wooing her bae to come over, exploring her inner freak or thanking her ex for heartbreak, one thing is for sure: Estelle’s songs come straight from the heart.
“I’m here to relate and touch people in a very real way. I’m not the type of artist that does entertaining records for the sake of it,” she tells Vixen. “I learned early on that people just want you to be you and talk about you.”
Here, Estelle spills the tea on sexuality, girl power, and her own source of inspiration for Vixen's "A Woman's Worth" series for Women's History Month.—Ashley Monae
I credit my personal growth to:
Not being scared to live. Not being scared to keep moving or to be in touch with my true feelings. I learned to stop trying to live life according to how people want you to live it, and live it how you want to live it, especially when you’re an artist. People have their mind made up that you’re supposed to represent a certain thing and I don’t. My whole thing is, 'Well, I won’t get too many of these chances or test runs so I’m going to try and get it right the first time.'
On creating her latest album True Romance:
I had gone through a lot leading up to this album. I learned a lot as not only a human but also a woman. I think it’s something that comes with age. When you’ve come to the point that you’re just not scared anymore, you’re not fearful and just don't care anymore. I think that is what happened with this [True Romance]. I’ve never been out of a relationship during the course of an album (laughs), and I was like, 'Oh, so this is just going to be about me then? Cool.' I also had a lot more freedom with this album, which I’m really thankful for because it allowed me to attack it in a whole different way. Normally, my approach when writing about myself contains a time lapse of a few months or so. This time around I was like, 'Well I’m crying so I’m going to write about it right now.' It was scary. It was extreme. It was a whole different level and once I got used to it, I was like, 'Okay this isn’t so crazy.'
One gem from my parents:
My mom and dad both have the greatest hearts ever. They are my example. They always told me that no matter what happens be nice, have a good heart, and don’t ever do bad things to people on purpose.
Advice I would give my 16-year-old self:
I would say it’s important to keep moving, it’s important to be a nice person, and to have grace above all. Also, watch out for your actions because what you put out there will come back no matter what your intentions. Your intentions and actions have to be on the same page so saying one thing and doing another is going to come back to you. Speak with your actions, stick to your guns and speak to the person you know you are.
My favorite girl power anthem:
“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. That was the one song that kept me from walking off the ledge when I was desperately homeless back in 1999. That song was in heavy rotation in the U.K. at the time, and I was like, 'Man, this song is literally everything I need to hear it.' I’d wake up in the morning singing it and I didn’t know who I was singing it to but it was those lyrics that meant everything to me: “I’m a survivor/I’m not gon’ give up/I’m not gon’ stop/I’m gon’ work harder.”
How to handle hardships:
It’s going to happen, that’s how I see it. And when it does happen, you can’t be intimated or scared. You honestly just have to get over it. I just don’t see anything as a threat or as a stop sign. If it's something I want, something I’ve dreamed of, and something I really believe in my gut and know that in my heart it’s meant for me, I really don’t see a stop sign. Trust and believe, I’m going to get my happiness at all costs, and of course try to do so with as minimal damage as possible. (Laughs) I’ve always had that way about me.
On the boldly provocative track “Make Her Say (Beat It Up)”:
I have done a record like that before; it’s called “Freak.” So for me, it definitely wasn’t new ground. I feel like people had me in a certain space in their brains after “Thank You,” so that might have scared or shocked people. But then again, I do think [“Freak”] was so long ago, it was almost another generation. I was really like, 'Are y'all serious? No one has sex around here?' (Laughs) I just didn’t understand what the big fuss was. I enjoy good sex, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning like, 'I want bad sex.'
The key to owning my sexuality:
Be appropriate and carry yourself with grace, from your attitude to the clothes you wear because everything you do represents your brand. You can wear a belly top and be perceived a certain way or wear it and be perceived a whole different way. It’s the way in which you carry yourself, and people will respect your presence if you handle yourself in such a manner. Respect is such a simple thing that many forget to practice. We’re women. We have bodies. It is what it is, but be aware of the way you carry yourself. I’m not a person that wants to take it down for everybody and if I don’t feel like being naked, then I wont be naked, but if I do feel like being half-naked then I will be. Once again, it is what it is and men have to get used to that.
Photo Credit: Atlantic/ Graphic: Epiphany Cole