Billie Eilish looks and sounds different than she did four and five and six years ago, and like any compelling coming-of-age story, it’s a good different. The almost 21-year-old has been busy this year weeding through our culture’s endless expectations for the fairer sex — with the pressure of 100 million people’s eyes on her, no less — and embracing the beauties of womanhood. It looks lovely on her.
Each year since 2017, Vanity Fair has sat down with Eilish on the same day for a repeat interview, and the 2022 iteration just came out this week, skyrocketing to the No. 1 trending video on YouTube. Released just two months after Eilish wrapped up her “Happier Than Ever” world tour, that’s exactly how she appears.
She rolls her eyes at the antics of her grungy younger self and exposes baby Billie as a people-pleasing fraud who was not much more than a parody of who she wanted people to think she was. “Just more footage of me being a little idiot at 16,” she says.
But with a breezy laugh and all the magnetism of a woman who knows not to be too hard on herself, Eilish gives herself grace. After all, there’s no shame in being better than you used to be. This time around, comfortable in her own skin with an understated haircut and color, Eilish thoughtfully considers the questions she’s heard year after year, seeming for the first time to give the correct answer, not the cool one.
But it’s not just her cheerful demeanor, authenticity, and “back to basics” style, as she describes it, that show Eilish has outgrown her child star persona. It’s her priorities.
“The most important thing to me now is being in touch with myself and how I am actually really feeling and listening to my gut, trusting my gut,” she says in a message that’s less about promoting self-love and more about demonstrating victory over depression and self-doubt. “My family being good and happy and healthy and my relationship being really solid with them — that’s what’s important to me.”
That familial instinct is a theme for Eilish, who closes out each year’s interview with a heartfelt moment with her mom. In fact, she says her “entourage” is usually just “my family, I mean truly that’s never really going to change. My family is like the most important thing in my life, so I’m with them a lot — or I’m just alone in my car. I love being alone in my car,” she admits with a smile. (And what woman can’t relate?)
Alone time is important for anybody, but especially as a break from the balancing act that is being a female. For Eilish, that balancing act isn’t only a demanding musical career, family, and hormones. It’s also taking care of her body with fitness goals, trying not to let people down, and managing a romantic relationship.
And when it comes to that relationship, Eilish’s message isn’t exactly one of toxic feminism. She’s not embarrassed to express how excited it makes her or how she considers her boyfriend the “hottest” man alive. When asked separately if she wants to have children, she confidently responds, “Yes I do.” And when asked what makes her happy in a relationship, her answer is less #BossBabe and more mutual respect:
You know, I don’t want to be controlled. I want to be trusted, and I want to be able to have space, and I want love and attention. And equal admiration is really important. I just am really inspired by this person and, you know, he’s inspired by me, and it’s really cool.
When pondering the biggest thing she’s struggling with, the superstar doesn’t bring up fame or burnout, or an adolescent identity crisis. Her current hurdle is how to handle an issue with a friend without becoming angry or holding grudges — truly every woman’s battle.
While most women don’t share Eilish’s profession, they can relate to the universal pressures of femininity, which Eilish captures in these lyrics: “Everybody wants something from me now, and I don’t want to let them down.” The demands, whether implicit or explicit, are endless. Be smart but not emasculating. Be sexy but not too sexy. Be assertive but not domineering. Strike just the right balance between career and family (even if that family is still your parents). Don’t be a robot, but please stop crying. If it’s not manual labor, it’s mental load — and like many other women trying to maneuver 21st-century femininity without folding or radicalizing, Eilish is navigating the choppy waters as best she can.
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“Yeah, I would say I feel that there’s pressure on me. I don’t feel debilitated by it. I don’t feel controlled by it. But there’s a lot of pressure that goes with all this stuff, so yeah, there’s pressure for sure,” Eilish said in words that probably could be spoken by any person with double X chromosomes, no matter their status or life stage.
Despite the ever-present pressures are ever-present truths: Family and friends matter. Relationships are rewarding work. Motherhood is desirable. Grace is beautiful. And we’re all just doing our best. Embracing them produces more happiness than fame or fortune ever could.