Tête-à-Tête: Teen Singer-Songwriter Avonlea

In the first installment of a series of intimate interviews, the "It Sucks" singer talks to L'Officiel USA about empowerment and body image.
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Avonlea Photographed By Sarah Bahbah

In Tête-à-Tête, L'Officiel USA gets into the celebrity psyche by asking stars to tell us what's on their minds right now. 

Singer-songwriter Avonlea has won over the hearts and ears of music lovers worldwide thanks to lyrics that are as intensely personal as they are relevant. While she was first thrust into the spotlight while appearing on America’s Got Talent, it is Avonlea’s authenticity and work ethic that's taken her from a reality TV competition contestant to rising star in her own right. Hot off a European tour with Jhene Aiko (yes, even Parisians are singing along to her songs!) and a brand new music video by Edgar Esteves, her latest tunes 'Cars and Boys’ and ‘It Sucks’ are already Spotify and Apple Music chart-toppers–music, we might add, that has been written, played, sung, and cut by the 18-year-old artist herself. The busy teen took time away from working on her upcoming project ‘10 2 17’ to have a Tête-à-Tête with L’Officiel USA. Her subject of choice? Body image and empowerment.

AVONLEA: Quite simply, body image is important to me because I’m a young person growing up in this society–a young person who, like many adults, has constantly been told that we’re never enough. From the time that we’re in school, it’s all about the social expectations: how to dress, how to act, how not to act, the crowds you should hang out with. As disappointed as I used to be about not being able to attend prom or high school parties on account of my homeschooling, I’m very grateful that I was somewhat protected by the pressures being put on people from such a young age–even in a down-to-earth and beautiful place like my hometown, Santa Rosa, CA. Given these societal pressures on one’s body image, I don’t think I would be where I am today had I not spent all those years purely focusing on my creativity and my music. I realize that this is also a particularly relevant struggle for young women. It’s important to highlight that society (and the media, in fact) has corrupted and standardized a single, unachievable ideal of beauty. I was in Europe for about three weeks opening for Jhene Aiko's tour, for example, and that was absolutely incredible. We had shows every night and it was a truly transformative experience. I had been to Europe one time before for about a week, but this time I was able to see some of the cultural differences: their billboards and advertisements were so much less sexualized, there were less screens and I really liked that. I definitely don't have an answer or a solution, but what I want to let people know is that they are not the problem. They are perfect just the way they are.

That being said, I feel like it’s important to point out that people in the spotlight also have to struggle with issues of empowerment on a day-to-day basis. Not only must they deal with their own insecurities, sometimes it feels like the entire world is watching them and trying to dictate the moves they should make. It’s paradoxical, in a way, considering how much influence they have themselves. It’s important for these people to speak to it and to remind us that they, too, are people trying to figure themselves out and to find their place in this world; they, too, have problems and insecurities. Humanization is important. I was actually talking to my dad about my upcoming project and we realized that song writing is like journaling to me. Without knowing it, I had been documenting my journey of growing up all along. Each song represents a pivotal point in my life, whether I was going through something big or realizing something big–the good, the bad and everything in between.

Mentally, I'm in a much better place now than I have been over the years. I've progressively realized that happiness is something to be worked on, something to be found within yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, the amazing people around me, like my parents and my musical mentors, have reminded me that I have one life and that has become a powerful truth to me and my work. It has helped me gain perspective and I wanted to share my journey with listeners: Seven years in seven songs, ages 10 to 17 (AKA, 10 2 17). I'm just so grateful for the artistic integrity that I have been able to retain thanks to the teams I’ve collaborated with for my projects. They heard me with open minds and open hearts and, thanks to my music education and self-taught technology skills, I insist on overseeing everything from start to finish to ensure that what I’m sharing is truly me and mine. That’s extremely important to me and I think that’s one advice I would have with regards to staying motivated despite it all–especially in a place like Los Angeles. That's the thing, I really do appreciate when people feel the need to comment and compliment me on my appearance on social media and elsewhere but, at the end of the day, it's not something that's not important to me at all. It's when people–young girls–talk to me about my songs and about how the lyrics impacted them, that I feel the truly positive and special. It’s then that I realize that this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

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