Camila Cabello is only nineteen, but she's already a tried and tested veteran: a member of girl group Fifth Harmony since she was fifteen — having left last month amid much internet fanfare — she can explain the ins and outs of the glittery but fickle pop-music industry like someone much older. It's this candor about the joys and challenges of her profession (as well as a killer voice and a DGAF attitude) that initially made me a Camila fan, and I was thrilled at the chance to ask her about what keeps her sane, life as a Latina in the public eye during this election year, and the commodification of teen sexuality.
She was wise, open, and giggly, and I found myself listening to her social-media advice like she was my middle-aged therapist. This interview, given a few days before her exit from Fifth Harmony, is evidence that she's only just begun to tell her story and that what comes next will be on her own terms (and may involve space travel to Planet Sexy).
Lena Dunham: You were thrust very quickly into the world of teen pop, and obviously there are stories of people who've been really taken care of in that world, but there are stories of people who've really lost their way. What have been the things that have kept you from going off the rails?
Camila Cabello: I think what's kept me from, like you said, going off the rails, is my mom. I have my mom with me all the time. I literally don't think I could function without her. She's been through so much in her life that's real shit. She came from Cuba. My family came from places where a lot of people didn't have food to eat. Whenever there's stuff here, little stuff that could make you angry or makes you forget that we have so much to be grateful for just having hot water, my mom makes sure to remind me of what's important. I'm so happy to have her around. I really don't think I could do it without her.
LD: That's amazing. Speaking of your mom, she is Cuban. I want to ask about being a Latina in the music industry. Although there is diversity, you're online and you deal with the craziness of trolls and the kind of inherent racism that comes with living in America right now. I wondered if you ever feel that? How do you feel strong and connected to your identity when we're living in such a strange time with so much hateful rhetoric around difference?
CC: The best decision that I've taken in my career thus far has been this year I've just stayed away from social media. I don't go on it, and I just keep myself focused on getting better and growing as an artist and finding different ways to grow as a person. It's just kept me grounded, and I don't have 1,000 people thinking that they didn't like my shoes. Even though I know that there's way more support than there is hate, I don't have that in my head. That was one thing.
Anyway, as far as the Latina thing, I feel like this has kind of been a crazy year for us because of everything that happened with the election. I didn't even realize how much racism was still prominent in our country. I live in Miami, and there's so many cultures there. I remember going to school, and 99 percent of the students there, their parents didn't have English as their first language. I don't come from a place where that's even a thing, you know what I mean? There's Cubans, there's Puerto Ricans, there's Haitians. It's a melting pot. Just like I imagine New York is. If you're a racist living in Miami, you got to move because you're going to be seeing your worst nightmare everywhere.