Billie Eilish is a creation of her own making. And she’s unlike many stars who become famous as teenagers with the help of a producer and an entourage, who work with them to engineer a persona and compose a breakout hit. Or those who perhaps were regulars on television shows like The Mickey Mouse Club and parlayed that into later celebrity.
Eilish has grown exponentially famous at lightning speed with no signs of slowing down. The singer-songwriter is basking in the glow of her millions of fans, who sing all of her songs back to her at concerts around the world. Don’t forget her insanely unique fashion sensibility, which celebrates bold and baggy clothing that defies both gender norms and style rules. It is as singular as her music, which is brooding, catchy, and revealing of her old soul.
But has Eilish always been larger than life? And is she really as original as she seems? Brace yourself for the stunning transformation of Billie Eilish.
A Highland Park original
Eilish’s origin story begins not in a studio in Burbank or in a Brownstone in Manhattan. Born in 2001, Eilish is a native of the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, which may sound like she had a glam upbringing, but she didn’t. “Highland Park has become popular now but growing up there, it was not like that at all,” she explained in an interview with NME. “There were gunshots and s***, y’know — it was really sketchy.” That’s a long way from Beverly Hills, for sure.
Eilish having a relatively humble backstory flies in the face of how people tend to perceive her, too. “They think I’m just a little rich girl from LA,” she continued. But then again, Eilish is not known for being predictable.
Highland Park is where Eilish continues to call home and a place she’s seen go through enormous changes. “It’s huge now, and kinda popping, which is weird,” she revealed in an interview with Coup de Main. “I think it’s really cute. It’s very homely, very comfortable.” Time will tell if that’s where she stays.
"I've been singing since I was a tiny child"
One thing is certain about Eilish, and that’s that music is in her DNA. In her earliest memories growing up in the 2000s, she was always making noise and using her voice to the point where she had to be quieted down. “I’ve been singing since I was a tiny child,” she recalled in an interview with Paper magazine. “I learned ukulele and piano on my own — my dad taught me some. I’ve been in a choir since I was 8-years-old, so that’s where I learned my technique and how to not ruin my voice.” Thank goodness for that!
Just as Eilish practically came out of the womb singing, she also has been certain from the get-go that she was destined to be a musician. “I’ve always known that singing, writing music and performing is what I’ve wanted to do,” she continued. “So I’m glad that it’s happening.” Not only is it happening, but she’s redefining the rules of the game as she goes along. Take that, entertainment industry!
Her home was her school
There would be no Billie Eilish without her parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell, two working actors who moved to Highland Park from New York to settle in what was, at the time, an affordable community for artists. Along with her “built-in best friend,” brother Finneas O’Connell, Eilish speaks of her homeschooled upbringing fondly. “When I see movies set in summertime, that’s what my life was like all the time, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn,” she shared in an interview with Ssense. “My mom would cook and she’d be like, ‘How much goes into this?’ And that’s how we learned.” Judging by how well-adjusted and accomplished Eilish is, it’d seem her parents knew what they were doing.
Of course, music was part of the home school curriculum, which explains why both Eilish and her brother became musicians. And in addition to being homeschooled, Eilish and her family all slept in a four-person bed until her brother turned 10, and then they spread out into different rooms, according to The New York Times. She was also raised vegetarian, and she remains passionate about not eating meat to this day, according to one June 2019 Instagram story (via Uproxx).
She has one main creative partner
Arguably as an outgrowth of being homeschooled with her brother, Eilish and Finneas O’Connell have always had a good relationship. “Me and Finneas have always had a bond,” she revealed in an interview with Coup de Main. “We’ve always had a connection, especially with music.”
Given that Finneas was the older sibling, Eilish looked up to him and would strive to make music that was just as good as his — and their mom’s. “The whole time I’ve written any music — since my mom is also a songwriter, and she taught me how to write songs — I’ve always had a standard that is really, really high,” she continued. “I have to be as good as them.” Well, we think she’s more than that.
Even though Eilish’s fame has far exceeded what anyone could have anticipated, she still relies on O’Connell as her creative collaborator. Of course, she works with other artists from time to time, but her bro is the only bandmate she needs.
She loved dance until she was injured
Believe it or not, Eilish was in the midst of an intense pursuit of something other than music for a long time: dance. She loved it passionately and savored the emotional release that it gave her — until events rendered her unable to pursue it any longer. “Dance was always my way of doing that, and then I got injured, and then injured again, which completely took me out of dance,” she lamented in an interview with Coup de Main. She continued, “That was horrible, horrible, horrible.”
In spite of being depressed at not being able to dance, Eilish did find a silver lining amidst the embers of the fallout: she began to focus on music in earnest, which is how her first song “Ocean Eyes” was born when she was 13. “That song happened because one of my dance teachers knows that I sing and write with my brother,” she explained in an interview with V Magazine. “He asked if we could do a song for one of the dances.” Thus, the stars began to align, and an unforgettable ballad was born.
Soundcloud rocketed her into megastardom
Plenty of y’all know how it goes: you make a song or a video and upload it to YouTube, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud, where it gets a stream here and there… but then it dies a little death and you eventually forget all about it. And that’s what Eilish expected in 2015 when she and her brother uploaded “Ocean Eyes” onto a streaming platform. “We put it up on Soundcloud with a download link for free,” she recalled in an interview with Paper magazine. “We were just using it to send a link to my dance teacher and had no expectations for it.” If only she knew then what they had started.
It became evident pretty quickly that the song was destined to be a hit. “Overnight it got a thousand plays and we were like, ‘We made it. We don’t need to go any further,'” she shared.
Oh, but go further she did. The song went completely viral, according to NME, garnering millions of streams and effectively launching Eilish’s career.
She inked a deal with Interscope at 14
It didn’t take long after the success of “Ocean Eyes” for record companies to start taking notice of Eilish, even though she was so young. To that end, in the summer of 2016, Eilish made it official when she signed with Darkroom, a boutique label helmed by Justin Lubliner, who was only in his late 20s at the time, as reported by The New York Times. Darkroom might not sound so familiar, but it works in a partnership with the famed Interscope Records, which was founded in the late 1990s and is known for its insanely talented artists.
John Janick, CEO of Interscope Records, recognized extreme potential in Eilish from the beginning. “Her sense of style, how she thinks, the way she talks — everything about her was just different,” he gushed in an interview with The New York Times. “She had such a strong point of view, especially for being 14 years old.” Clearly that turned out to be the right move for the label, as Eilish was just starting the meteoric rise to where she is today.
Don't smile at her
Once Eilish was comfortably signed with a record label, it was time to figure out the next steps to take. Perhaps the conventional thing would have been to market “Ocean Eyes” as a hit single to radio audiences. But Brandon Goodman, one of Eilish’s managers, had a different approach. “We didn’t want it to be about a song,” he explained in an interview with The New York Times. “We never wanted anything to be bigger than Billie the artist.” So instead, Eilish got to work on an EP — sounds like that was definitely the right way to go.
By the summer of 2017, the EP was ready to be released to the world, bearing a title exceedingly suitable to Eilish’s sensibilities. “My EP is called Don’t Smile at Me for a lot of reasons, but one of them would be when [someone tells you], ‘Smile. Why aren’t you smiling? It’s so much more beautiful when you smile,'” she revealed in an interview with Ssense. She stated, “I’m not gonna look like anybody except what I am. I want to impress myself.” Girl, we are 100 percent here for this!
The style people can't stop talking about
If you’ve never seen Eilish and have only heard her songs, you’re missing out because her style is completely her own. Seriously, there’s no one else like her out there. She’s often seen sporting bold, bright colors on her Instagram page, and she’s never been known to shy away from a luxury label like Louis Vuitton. She’s also not afraid to make a statement, whether it’s lounging around in a shirt covered in curse words, repping the iconic ’90s brand Cross Colors, or wearing an outfit with her own name on it. Our girl is fearless, y’all!
Eilish doesn’t mind that her outfits call attention to herself. Rather, she quite enjoys it. “I just like to be looked at,” she stated plainly in an interview with Luxury Insider. “I always wanted to wear whatever I wanted to wear. No one has ever told me otherwise even when I was a kid. Clothing is my safety net, it’s like my security guard.” You can’t argue with that, especially because she wears everything over-sized, too — and looks darn good doing it.
She believes in her generation
One thing that’s especially interesting about Eilish is her confidence in teenagers, even when people tell her that there are things she can’t understand because she’s too young. “Bro, teenagers know more about the country that we’re living in right now than anybody,” she proclaimed in an interview with NME. Given how many young activists like Emma Gonzalez and Jazz Jennings are having their voices heard, Eilish might be on to something.
That’s why Eilish joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2018 in a push to register young people to vote. “The world is ending and I honestly don’t understand the law that says you have to be older to vote, because they’re going to die soon and we’ll have to deal with it. That doesn’t make any sense to me,” she said. “But to see young people taking part in peaceful protests and not obeying is beautiful.” That should make anyone with a rebellious streak smile.
Finally, she released a full-length album
Eilish finally dropped her long-awaited and first full-length album — arguably one of the most anticipated albums of the year — on March 29, 2019. Entitled When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, the album is the culmination of three years of work from Eilish and her brother, who worked on it in his bedroom studio.
Eilish was nervous just before the album dropped, afraid people wouldn’t love it like she did. “I didn’t want the world to be able to tell me how they feel about this thing I love,” she confessed in an interview with Billboard. “But the response has been crazy.” Girl, we knew it would be.
The success of the album is not lost on Eilish, who knows that this is her moment. “I’m in the good old days right now,” she continued. “Who knows if this is my peak and then I die or some s***? Or my career dies and I go away and no one cares.” She added, “Or it gets crazier.” We’re betting on the latter, Billie.
A coveted spot on the Coachella stage
In 2019, Eilish got to do what so many artists often dream about: she played a full set at the festival of all festivals, Coachella. It was only two weeks after her first full-length album dropped — and landed at No. 1. on the Billboard 200 — so this was, once again, clearly her moment. But the night before, Eilish was still processing all of the emotions that come with playing a Coachella set. “Everything that’s being said about me and what I’ve created — I’m playing Coachella tomorrow and I’m doing this and I’m doing that — I keep having to think of it like I’m not me, because it is just a name,” she shared in an interview with Billboard. That’s a lot to be dealing with for anyone, let alone a teenager. But, of course, Eilish crushed it.
Given her success, she’s been able to meet other celebs she’s admired. “I’m at this place where I kind of know all of the people that I’m a fan of,” she continued. “It’s very weird.” Enjoy the ride, boo.
Speaking her truth in Calvins
It’s quite obvious to anyone who’s seen Eilish that she has model good looks. With her haunting blue eyes and perfect skin, Eilish radiates a beauty and a confidence all her own, and she dazzles with an impeccable wardrobe.
But in May of 2019, Eilish got candid in a commercial for Calvin Klein, sharing with the world the reason she always wears baggy clothing. “I never want the world to know everything about me,” she revealed in the advertisement. “That’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.” This is the most relatable thing that has ever been spoken, for all women — ordinary, exceptional, famous, anything.
And while her Instagram page still garners comments from haters, Eilish know’s they’re just trolls. “You wouldn’t believe the s*** people say about me,” she said an interview with NME. “It’s f***ing funny though, because who’s making money? Who’s playing shows across the globe? Who’s getting free shoes? Me.”
She's as real as it gets
Even though Billie Eilish is just getting started, it’s clear that the singer is poised to have a career that can rival or even outshine many of her predecessors. With her 2019 Coachella debut behind her and millions of streams to her name, the world is Eilish’s oyster.
Perhaps what’s so refreshing about Eilish is that, despite her many accomplishments and accolades, everything about her reads as 100 percent authentic. “She has been true to herself since day one,” said Lindsey Fell, YouTube’s artist relations manager, of Eilish in an interview with Billboard. And she still has her hand in all aspects of her work, too. “Billie is fully [involved] across all of her creative, down to the smallest details,” gushed Zane Lowe of Apple Music. “She is riding a wave of her own making.” And we’re all riding it along with her.
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