Interview by Laurent Altier
With her edgy nature and young fame, this musician-turned-model plans on releasing a full album of her grunge-pop tunes, while expanding her modeling career through appearances in campaigns for some of the most prominent designers today.
Becoming America’s sweetheart was never an option for Sky Ferreira. When she came onto the scene at age 15, Ferreira brought along with her music, style, and attitude that made her a natural rebel. Grabbing attention with her provocative looks, she pushed her rebellion further and became a sex symbol at the young age of 17.
As with music, Ferreira has used her offbeat edge to get into the fashion industry, modeling for the likes of Givenchy, Italian Vogue, and H&M. Sitting down with The GROUND over coffee, Sky appeared surprisingly shy for someone who has released numerous singles, an EP, and a Calvin Klein ad campaign. As she humbly talked about her music, modeling career, and life in general, it was apparent that Sky Ferreira is dedicated to all she does.
Music was always a passion for Sky, who grew up singing gospel music in her family church. When her parents became close friends with Michael Jackson, he in turn became influential to Sky’s ambitions. “Well, I always sang, and he was definitely someone who supported me. He was the one who put me in classical voice training and opera,” explained Sky. Her big break came through MySpace after she boldly messaged music producers Bloodshy & Avant and convinced them to listen to some of her music. Impressed with what they heard, they decided to work with her.
Although she was only 15 years old, Ferreira stood out from other contemporary artists at the time. “They didn’t know how to market me,” she said. “I was doing super pop-like music, but I had a grungier sense of style; they wanted me to be more age appropriate.” Nonetheless, Ferreira stood true to her natural style and refused to change for the industry, “I just didn’t want to be like Justin Bieber. I never was like that, even at that age.” Sky maintained her precocious disposition by being featured in magazines such as Nylon, Dazed & Confused, Jalouse, and even made a cameo in underground electronic artist Uffie’s music video, “Pop the Glock.”
Eventually, her rebellious persona led to a minor scandal, courtesy of label mate Katy Perry, who posted a picture of a 17-year-old Sky, brandishing a bottle of vodka between her legs on Twitter. The scandal was great for exposure, and the incident subsequently labeled her a “wild child,” which in turn led to her sex symbol status. “I was like a Lolita. I guess it was cool. It wasn’t on purpose, though. I don’t feel very sexy, so it’s really funny.”
Ferreira has released many singles and music videos in recent years, such as “17,” “One,” “Obsession,” and “Sex Rules,” giving fans a taste of her music in small doses. Originally, she planned to release her debut album in January 2011, but ended up scratching everything, postponing the release and instead came out with the As If EP in March 2011. Speaking candidly, Sky described how much of a struggle it has been for her to find her place in the music scene. As she spoke about how harsh the critics have been on her, her voice noticeably shook: “I wasn’t able to cross over into mainstream pop, and I’m not indie either. I’m in this weird cloud. I have to prove myself again and again.” Since she hasn’t been able to deliver a full album as of yet, critics have been unsure about her; half continue to name her a pop hopeful, while others aren’t certain she can live up to her hype. “I don’t think I’ve been given the proper opportunity to be a flop yet. I don’t know about being a rising star, that’s a lot of pressure. I think I’m just someone who has a good possibility of getting bigger.”
In addition to music, Sky is known for modeling, appearing in campaigns such as H&M’s Fashion Against Aids, and is more widely know for Calvin Klein’s CK One. “I’m not a model, I’m more like a part-time model. I’m a musician first, so I always want my modeling to make sense with my music. When I did CK One, it was showing me as an individual, not just someone putting clothes on me,” said Sky. Still, she said she enjoys what she does and has a vast portfolio of work, shot by some of the biggest photographers in the business. She explains, “I like working with a lot of different photographers. It feels good to see the photos in magazines. My mom really likes them, too; she likes pointing them out to people. If my family likes them, it makes everything better.”
Along with modeling and music, Sky finds time to support various charitable causes she finds very important. “I’m pretty vocal about what I believe, which I think I’ve been criticized for. But I think it’s a good thing, especially for young people.” She has done a lot of work for charities that support AIDS awareness, and she is also a strong gay-rights activist. “A lot of my friends are gay and people in my family are gay, so I’ve never been against it. I don’t know why people care so much to be against it.”
When she’s not doing charitable work, Sky likes to go swimming, watch movies with her friends, and think about trying her hand in film making at some point. Still, her first love will always be music. While rewriting her album, Sky likes to keep in contact with her fans via social networking sites, where she admits her largest fan base is in South America (“I don’t really know how that happened. I think it’s because my family is from there”). As for her own personal musical preferences, she did not name many musicians, aside from her love of Britney Spears. “I think now [the music industry] is in a little bit of a rut. I think everyone’s expectations are low. It’s at the point where everything is sounding the same, and I don’t think I’m impressed with anything that’s out right now.”
Now that Sky Ferreira approaches the age of 20, she hopes that she’ll finally be taken seriously as a musician. Since she began at age 15, Sky has worked hard to be treated as an adult, and as a result has grown up very fast. Yet, looking back at it now, she has no regrets: “I wasn’t forced into being an adult, because I chose to be so myself. I really wanted to be an adult so fast that I can’t blame anyone for it. I wish I had the interests of kids my age, but I didn’t.” What she does next, in time we’ll see. She mentioned more records and touring; she stated simply: “I’ll just be better and bigger.”
THE GROUND ISSUE #2