Interview: Iggy Azalea On Fame, ‘Fancy’ and the Unattractively Talented
By Courtney E. Smith
When Radio.com called Iggy Azalea to chat in advance of the U.S. release of her album The New Classic, she tells us she was in the middle of cleaning her oven. It just goes to show: you can hit every red carpet in the world, be featured on the pages of Vogue and have one of the most successful music videos currently on the internet but if you’re a woman you’ve still got to clean your own stove.
Just the same, Azalea made time to talk to us about her appearance in Vogue, identifying with Cher from Clueless and how many unattractive but talented people she knows.
Radio.com: Was the process of finally getting this album out in the U.S. what you expected?
Iggy Azalea: Yeah, I suppose so. I don’t know if I expect anything. I think other people expect things and I think to myself, “Hey look, I do female rap.” That’s what I am, I’m a female rapper. That’s always a weird situation, you never know how it’s going to be. It’s not the most popular kind of thing in the world. I never really expected [my career choice] to turn me into Katy Perry-level fame, because I know it’s not that popular with people. I think I’m pleasantly surprised that people seem to be interested. [Laughs] That’s always good.
I guess it’s what I expected, but I don’t expect too much. Not that I would ever settle for average, I always try the hardest I could try and hope I could achieve good things but at the same time if I don’t, or when I don’t, I think, “Well, you know — it is what it is.” I do make rap music, it’s not exactly the biggest seller. But you still hope.
I think I’m fairly on the mark with my disappointment levels. I’m not very disappointed, so I’m feeling good.
Did you get a sense of a change in perception around you after the “Fancy” video?
Yeah, I’d say so. I don’t know what it is, I guess people really love Clueless [Laughs].
Where did that concept come from?
I’m a huge fan of the movie. I always ask why hasn’t anybody remade it and wouldn’t it be cool if we could remake it. I’d see a lot of photo shoots and stuff like that trying to remake it, but I didn’t feel very impressed by them. “Fancy” is such a West Coast sounding song and beat that I felt like this would be the perfect opportunity for me to use this film. It’s a movie about Valley Girls and that’s something very West Coast but not very rap. I thought it would be a cool tongue-in-cheek way to be very L.A. but unexpected. I didn’t want to do low-rider cars and bright, shiny bicycles or palm trees. I didn’t want to do something that was cliché because that’s not me. I identify more with Cher in Clueless than I do that kind of stuff.
Did you leave the Alaïa designer dress moment out on purpose? Was it too iconic, fashion-wise?
It’s pretty iconic, it’s true. I thought about it, but some things I thought I wanted to do complete replicas of like the yellow plaid suits. Other things I felt like I wanted to give a little bit of a twist. That [moment] was something where I thought, “I’ll leave that one alone.”
You’ve made quite a few high-concept, big-budget music videos. What about that medium appeals to you?
It’s escapism to me. I’m from the country and music videos and film, those were my escape to sparking my imagination. I didn’t get to see really well dressed women in the street or expensive cars or people walking into a restaurant. I only got to see them in films or music videos. When I think about somebody watching my video, I want to give them some escapism. I want to give them something they can imagine [and wonder], “How much of this is her real life and how much is for show?” That’s what I always loved thinking about when I was a kid so I wanted to replicate what I thought made a music video great.
It’s cool to do DYI style videos, but I think there’s also something to be said about how mesmerizing a big budget video can be…I always loved the videos that were a bit out of the box or if it has a flying horse, I’m interested. I want it to be imaginative. I don’t think you’d ever see me do a video that’s in front of a colored background with different clothing. I like to be a bit more conceptual.
Sometimes my music videos take so long. [The record label] will be like, “We have to film this in a week!” And I’m like, “Look, I don’t know when I’ll get a good idea. So I’m sorry but you’re just going to have to wait.” That’s what I’m doing at the moment with my next single. They’re like, “We need to shoot the video before you go on tour!” I said, “I don’t know, I can’t promise you that. I don’t know when I’m going to have a good idea. I don’t have any ideas for you. I have to think about this thing.”
Earlier in your career you talked about people telling you to dumb down your lyrics and music. If that weren’t a consideration at all, what would you be doing differently?
I don’t know if I consider that anymore. Now I just do what the f— I want. But I do think, “I need to make this video make sense for a five-year-old.” Because there are some adults with that mental capacity. [Laughs] I still think that. You’d be surprised, things that you think make so much sense and how could somebody not understand? You’ll have so many people just be like, “Uhhhhhhh…what?” Or you’ll write some information on the internet that says, “Turn left at the red light, then turn right at the green light. And I’ll meet you there.” You’ll still get people being like, “How…what do I do? What color is the light?” You’d be really surprised.
I don’t know what it is, if people just don’t know how to listen? Or if they don’t comprehend? I don’t know, but you would really, really be surprised. I guess in a way it’s dumbing it down, or I thought of it like that. Now I think I just have to tell the story I want to tell, but think about how and make sure that it can be understood really, really easily. Otherwise it’s a big question mark for so many people and you don’t want to have that.
For you is that an extension of wanting to be understood by the greatest amount of people or to be able to reach the greatest amount of audience?
I think it’s a bit of both. Obviously I’m creative, but I’m still running a business here. Of course, honestly — yes, it’s always going to be something to consider. I want the biggest audience. But I also don’t want to have to compromise everything to achieve that or I’m not going to be having fun. Then there’s just no point, doing it would be a job for me. It’s trying to find that middle ground, between running a business successfully and having people that are interested in buying tickets or liking a music video while also having it be enjoyable and something that I can take pride in still. You don’t want to have no pride or belief in what you’re doing.
I think “Fancy” is a great compromise. It’s a compromise that doesn’t feel like a compromise. It’s a good balance of something that you can all understand and I still love.
Do you feel like to the general public it’s more important for you to be attractive or to be talented?
Attractive. It’s not more important to me, but I know it’s more important to them for sure.
How do you juggle those demands without those two things getting in the way of each other?
It’s easier for me, because I’m more of a girly-girl. For other people I think it’s harder to be more experimental in the way they look. I think the thing that makes me unattractive to people sometimes is that I like to wear wacky things. I’m like, “You don’t get it I’m having fun. Relax! Every outfit doesn’t have to be serious.”
But it’s hard. I know so many talented unattractive people. And I know plenty of talented people who are complete s— and make five times as much money as them. Life is harsh. [Laughs] For me, I’m a bit of a girly girl so I like to dress up and do those things. It’s easier for me to balance it. I don’t have to think so much about that. It’s like an accessory.
You tweeted that you know when you’re talking to a writer with no imagination and that they’re often called journalists. What is everybody doing wrong when they interview you?
I meant that about somebody who was a writer about fashion. You know what I’m talking about. I always find it really funny when I’m talking to somebody and I know that they’re not understanding. I was talking to this girl and she was saying to me [affects a Long Island accent], “Wait, wait. Why aren’t you going to the Alexander Wang show? Like, I don’t get it.” I was explaining to her that I can’t go to the show even though I love him because I had to go back to L.A. and I had to rehearse for my video where I was recreating Clueless. You would think any girl would be like, “Oh my god that’s amazing! I totally get why, you go ahead girl!” And she was just like, “Wait, what? I just don’t get it.”
I was like, oh god you’re one of those. You don’t get it. Why are you writing about such creative people? Fashion designers and those people, they get it. I think that if you’re going to be a reporter or investigative journalist then by all means do it, but don’t report on the creative because that requires an imagination. That requires you to have an interest in pop culture.
Sometimes I’ll hear people or talk to people and I can see how they have zero interest. I know those conversations are going to be written about in their black and white perspective. I’m talking about rainbows here and unicorns and s—. You’re not understanding why that’s cool. So I don’t know if we should be having a conversation. That’s how I can feel sometimes. I’ll know when I’m talking to somebody like that and I think to myself they should be writing about something else. I don’t think they should be writing about the arts because they’re clearly not interested.
I can always tell when I'm talking to a writer with no imagination. I guess they call them "journalists"—
IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) March 28, 2014
You posed for the April issue of Vogue, though. On the one hand the photo editorial there is so phenomenal that it’s every girl’s dream, or should be. On the other hand, there’s the text. What did you think about your experience?
It was interesting. I felt like I am being Vogue right now, it wasn’t necessarily something that I would have envisioned for myself. It was beautiful and it made sense for the magazine. I was like, “Whatever you want me to do. If you want me to rub s— on my face, I’m going to do it because you’re Vogue. I’m not trying to piss you off, I’ll go along with it.”
It was different than what I’m used to doing, but it was beautiful. I can’t be mad at having me and a Picasso painting in my favorite magazine. Usually I’m so involved in anything visual, anything that I do. Even my cover of Complex [for the magazine's November/December issue], I did the whole thing for it. Every set-up I said what I wanted it to be, what we were going to do and the whole thing. With Vogue it was kind of like, I was scared to say no to any of it so whatever we’re doing, I’m doing it. I felt more like I was being a model in Vogue.
Iggy Azalea’s feature in the April edition of Vogue is still on newsstands.
Her album, The New Classic, is available on April 22.