Kicking It with Estelle
What did you think of Estelle when you first heard “American Boy”? Elegant, flawless, smooth, and glossy? You are right to some extent but she’s more of a big sister (that’s got your back) who you just want to hang out and laugh with.
Estelle (full name Estelle Fanta Swaray) – daughter of a Senegalese mother and a Grenadian father – grew up with 8 siblings (“They are my friends all the time, they love me, they are here, they look out for me. They are like my biggest advocates, and my biggest haters”) in West London. Her parents were “teenagers when they first moved. My mom was 12, and my dad was 15,” and they eventually met, had children, broke up, and found each other again – 20 years later. “Crazy, but it’s also meant to be. It’s a great energy, moment, vibe, and story, and just an affirmation that when we are supposed to be with somebody, however crazy-separated you are, you’ll find your way back, if you want to. My mom is happy, and I love how my parents are,” shares Estelle.
Just like her parents, Estelle, too, loves changes in life – she used to live in Brooklyn but now she resides in L.A. – as she declares, “I am a self…uh, what’s the word? I am a self-inflicted, military brat.” (She laughs and quickly adds: “No, I’m joking.”) I tell her I haven’t moved for the past 8 years because I don’t like changes. “Oh, God. Oh, no?” she pauses, later adding, “I’m all about the changes. I’m moving my energy, and I’m moving my spirit. And there’ve been times where I’m just like, ‘I’m so tired of moving, but I have to get out of here.’ When I first came here, I had a studio apartment. The older I got, the more music I got, and the bigger I got, I needed a bigger space. I’m grateful that I moved to L.A. because that’s kind of where everything else in my career has expanded and grown,” she grins.
That being said, her fifth studio album Lovers Rock is a full-length reggae album (“It’s just close to my roots to talk about and be about this time around”) that she worked on for 3 years – having tunes like “Love Likes Ours (feat. Tarrus Riley),” “Better,” “Sweetly,” and “So Easy (feat. Luke James).” In case you hesitantly wonder if literally everything is just all about reggae without pop music or R&B songs on this album, her answer is very simple: “Yeah, pretty much! Why don’t you listen to reggae and dance all the time?”
Interestingly enough, the year of 2018 also marks the 10th anniversary of her blockbuster album, Shine (“Uh-huh,” she nods). “I feel so good that I can be here with this whole new album. 10 years later, people still care. That’s real life because people have the attention span of a freaking fruit fly, or of the lifespan of a fruit fly,” she exclaims, snapping her fingers impatiently. “You know, they want you to cut things out immediately. I’m just grateful to still be here.”
Back then, “American Boy” (featuring Kanye West) won a 2009 Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and achieved an RIAA double-platinum certification. She then released the follow-up All of Me in 2012, and the single “Thank You” received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance (“I was going through a breakup, and I was hurt. I was more emotional and hurt than I was angry. You know, I was very sad,” she says of the song, though). 2015’s True Romance yielded the smash “Conqueror.” Guest-starring as Delphine in a popular episode of Empire, she joined Jussie Smollett for a duet of the tune, as well.
“I’m fighting for the right to be as natural as you wanna be...”
Throughout the career, she’s been singing about love – and not-so-great relationships. “Well, this is why I write songs. But also, there’s always a way around it – to get to the other side of it. You have to go through it, you have to go around it, and you have to get rid of it, but the way exists, and you will be OK,” the 38-year-old singer-songwriter elaborates. “I write songs, or I sing songs that help you find a way out. They are always like, ‘This was sh*t, still sh*t, but it will be alright’” – she warmly laughs – “you’ll be fine, we’ll figure, this is how we do this. I’ve always figured the way out.” In the midst of going through a tough situation, just like everyone else, she would question and victimize herself, but then she usually re-evaluates and shifts her mindset. “‘Alright, this is for me. What am I supposed to learn here? This is not happening to me more than this is happening for me.’ It hurts, it’s crazy to stay in the moment,” contends Estelle. “But then, you’d find out you’re here for a reason. So, ‘I hate you right now, but I’ll be alright! I’m gonna figure out what this means for me.’ That’s kind of the space that I stay in.”
Additionally, Estelle’s dedication to growth and evolution has been fully applied to her All of Me Foundation, which “is based on helping young people in minorities to see other experiences and opportunities. One of the things we did was to take a group of kids to Senegal, and that was pretty amazing.” In her daily life, furthermore, she is “trying to do my good deeds whenever I have the option, and I am trying to be empathetic enough because that’s what’s missing when everyone has distinctive opinions.”
“I’m fighting for the right to be as natural as you wanna be, whoever you are, wherever you are, to consistently grow,” she says. The clock hits 6:15 p.m. in New York City (she stays here for a week, preparing for the Lovers Rock promo cycle) – but her day isn’t over yet.
Writer: Eiko Watanabe
Photographer: Udo Spreitzenbarth
Photographer Assistant: Carolin Hohberg
Fashion Editor: Lassalle (@stylebylassalle & @stevenlassalle_ - www.stevenlassalle.com)
Fashion Editor Assistants: Huberta Marie (@huberta.marie) & Elizabeth Seifert (@lizseifert)
Hair: Dailey Greene
Makeup: Fatimot Isadare (using MAKE UP FOR EVER)
Videographer: Jeremy Aiken
Social Media Manager: Dessiré Villeda-Zoll
Editorial Assistant: Mike Varius
Special thanks to fresh&co (@freshandconyc - www.freshandco.com)