Madonna has been there and done that, more times than anyone can remember. So in a new cover story for Elle magazine about Billie Eilish’s style and music evolution, the 63-year-old pop star lays down the real talk about what happens when a female artists stops worrying about the male gaze and starts getting real.
“The problem is, we still live in a very sexist world where women are put into categories,” said Madonna, a veteran of 1,000 moral panic wars. “You’re either in the virgin category or the whore category. Billie started off in a non-sexualized category, not pandering to the masses and not using her sexuality in any way, which is her choice and God bless her for that — after all, she’s been a teenager all this time.”
Eilish, 19, who has recently switched up her signature baggy streetwear silhouette to include more body-hugging clothes that show off her figure, discussed her reaction to some of the backlash she received from photos showing her in more revealing outfits. “People hold on to these memories and have an attachment. But it’s very dehumanizing,” she told the mag, noting that one pic of her in a corset caused a mass run for the digital exits. “I lost 100,000 followers, just because of the boobs. People are scared of big boobs.”
As far as Madonna is concerned, if Eilish wants to change things up and take photos where she’s portrayed as a “feminine woman,” showing off her body in a way she hasn’t in the past, why should she be punished for it?
“Women should be able to portray themselves in any way they want,” Madonna said. “If Billie were a man, no one would be writing about this. A man can show up dressed in a suit and tie for the first three years of his career, and then the next month he could be dressed like Prince or Mick Jagger, shirt off, wearing eyeliner, and no one would say a word.”
The piece also describes a swagged-out Eilish presiding over a Beverly Hills mansion party earlier this summer featuring fellow musicians — Olivia Rodrigo, Ben Platt, Will & Jaden Smith, Khalid — gathered to listen to sophomore album Happier Than Ever for the first time. Moments after the title track begins blaring from speakers, Eilish — rocking four-inch-high platform boots — and her two best friends jump into the pool fully clothed and start singing along at top volume.
The singer also describes confronting her greatest fear — drowning — in the video for the title track, as well as the toll of having her address leaked online took in form of stalkers and paparazzi parked in her front yard. “I just wanted to make a song once, and then I kept making songs,” she said. “I never said, ‘Hey, pay attention to my life.’ All my friends know I don’t wanna see any of [the negative chatter]. When people send me something mean, it hurts my soul.”
Eilish also dived deep into why she went blonde this year after rocking nuclear-waste green roots for years, saying she simply couldn’t go “anywhere” without being recognized. Plus, she was looking for a bit more anonymity and some respite from the hounding from paps. “I went to a park with a friend, and I was like, ‘No, I can’t take off my hood!’ I was terrified of the paparazzi and these stalkers I’ve had,” she said of a recent excursion. “But my friend was like, ‘Don’t worry: You’re OK. Nothing’s gonna happen.’ And I took my hood off, and I felt like a new person.”
As for those who tried to make up a manufactured rivalry between her and Rodrigo in keeping with some people’s need to pit women against each other, nope, Eilish doesn’t have the time for that either. “It’s sad because girls are trained to be competitive with each other. And all the people who have modified their bodies or their faces and then deny it make it worse,” she said, adding that she’s not necessarily anti-plastic surgery or beauty filter, but just thinks people should be honest about it.
“I totally understand Facetuning a pimple,” she explained, pointing out a real-life breakout on her chin. “Just don’t lie about ‘Oh yeah, that’s just naturally how it looks.’”