It was only a matter of time before fashion designers caught on to Héloïse Letissier, a.k.a. the euphoric frontwoman from the French pop outfit known as Christine and the Queens. Sure, now she’s recognized as a stylish national treasure in her home country—Kris Van Assche hand cut a Dior Homme suit for her, specifically for her touring and Simon Porte Jacquemus collaborated with her on a video—but Letissier’s rise has been anything but meteoric. In fact, the 27-year-old’s look (tomboy-meets-schoolgirl) and sound (Daft Punk-meets-Enya-meets-Frank Ocean) was, as she puts it, “way too weird” for many because it went against “the archetypical Parisienne…I didn’t want to be the predictably pretty girl who doesn’t eat and spends all her time putting herself together,” she says. “At first that turned them off.” As soon as she started crossing over into English pop, people’s perceptions began to change. “Now I’m seen as cool to some,” she laughs. “Women in my country seem to have realized that I—or they—don’t need to be sexual to inspire desires.” Now Letissier is moving from fashion darling to festival darling. Aside from the success she’s seeing in the song “It”—which Lena Dunham used in a recent episode of Girls, the French talent is booked to play a coveted spot at Coachella and the Govenor’s Ball.
In many ways, Letissier’s new-found fame signifies the rising of a 22nd-century pop star, one who isn’t shackled by focus groups, roles or Insta-likes. Letissier is a self-identified pansexual (“I fall in love with men, women and grey areas”), a modern feminist (“place the emphasis on the modern, s’il vous plaît”), a gender nonconformist (“male and female are merely performances”), as well as an artistic egalitarian. “I love flipping through Vogue magazines and scrolling through lookbooks, but seeing a drag queen put on lipstick is much more feminine to me,” she says. Her most recent performances, which support her debut English pop disc, indicate her ambitions. “When I perform, I reference [esteemed choreographer] Pina Bausch, as well as Michael Jackson, because I think the two of them should have a dialogue on stage,” she says. “I’m not a snob—neither was Pina Bausch or Michael Jackson. With me, they can live together.” Of the intentions behind her music, she says she is in constant evolution mode. “The Paris attacks made me think of music differently…[After] it happened, I thought of my music as a French love letter to a dream that has not come yet. Perhaps that’s why I am holding flowers in the photos for the disc. I’m waiting for this love, this peace.”
Many of these romantic ideas can be found in synth-driven songs such as “Tilted” and “Here,” which mix English and French verses. Letissier’s cerebral approach, however, is lost on some. For example, she turned down Karl Lagerfeld for asking her to pose naked for a series of photos. “Showing my breasts and pussy is the exact opposite of what I want to do. I don’t want to be recognized for my gender—I want to subvert the male gaze,” she explains. “I don’t think he understood that I want to be a macho rock star who is feminine. A rough sailor who sings softly. That is why you must always choose your collaborators wisely. As much as I love all the Beyoncés and Katy Perrys out there,” she says, trailing off, “North America is already fixated with the whole notion of the bombshell. I am far more intrigued by Patti Smith.”
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