Rule-Breaker Alessia Cara Talks Feminism & Challenging The World’s Status Quo On Beauty

At the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards, artist Alessia Cara was presented the “Rule Breaker” award, and in her speech claimed “some rules are meant to be broken”.

“It’s crazy to think that there are rules to be broken in self-expression in the first place…Sometimes questioning certain standards and breaking tradition is how we find our own truth,” she said on the night.

At 20 years old Alessia is staking out her own unique space in the music world by deliberately choosing not to fall in line with the aesthetic that many female artists have become subject to. It is sad to think that a woman choosing to be herself is considered a “rebellious” act, but that’s one reason we need feminism.

In conversation with Newsweek’s Tufayel Ahmed, the ‘Scars To Your Beautiful’ singer shared her opinions on some of the oppressive beauty standards aimed at women (which became the inspiration for her hit song), why feminism is important to her, and how she plans to use her voice in the Donald Trump era of leadership.

She wrote ‘Scars To Your Beautiful’ when she was 17, but already she could see the damage being done by the societal expectations placed on women, which tells them their worth is determined by their appearance. She was watching a reality show about plastic surgeries gone wrong, and it made her wonder why people put themselves through such an ordeal.

“I was just like: ‘Why do people do that?’ They would rather hurt themselves and go through all of that just so they can be happy with themselves. I was like, ‘I want to make a song about this’. I channeled my own insecurities…some days I will look at myself in the mirror and feel so disappointed with what I see. I have this thing: ‘I need to start working out, I need to look like this person.’ It’s a universal feeling, it’s so sad. I wanted to speak out against the noise being thrown at us on a daily basis. It’s about time the world changed its perspective rather than us having to change ourselves,” she said.

It’s an ongoing conversation about celebrity women especially, with recent articles about Renee Zellweger’s appearance by a film critic being hammered by women’s rights activists and other female actress/directors such as Rose McGowan. It becomes a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” narrative that seeks to punish women no matter what they choose.

Alessia says she has felt the sting of negative criticism so far in her career, and not surprisingly it happens on social media.

“I’m constantly attacked on social media in terms of how I dress. I’ve never understood that. That’s been very hard. As a female, and someone who’s young, I’m still coming into my own and I still have struggles,” she said.

However, she says she was determined to not change her appearance in order to make a statement that she is worth far more than just her appearance.

“I make it a point to show people that those things don’t matter. I have had to have awkward talks in the industry: “Maybe you should change your hair, dress like this.” Those talks are always uncomfortable. It’s just about standing your ground…I’m not here to be easy on your eyes—I’m here to say a lot more,” she said, a powerful message we need to hear more of from women in the public eye.

Alessia has been in partnership with non-profit organization I Am That Girl, dedicated to empowering young women to know their worth and get connected to a community that will encourage them in their endeavors. It is a mission Alessia takes seriously, being a role model to younger women, especially since the election of Donald Trump despite the many sexist and derogatory statements he has made about women and minorities over the years.

A guy whose multiple cases of rape and sexual assault (including a child rape case which was eventually dropped after the plaintiff received death threats) and horrible remarks about female opponents and female media figures seemed to fall on deaf ears to his many voters who claimed he is going to be their champion.

Although Alessia hails from Canada and has the privilege of living in a country whose leader is an outspoken feminist (we’re talking about bae Justin Trudeau, of course) she feels responsible for the message she shares from her public platform and with the partnerships she is involved in.

“At this point, we really need to lift each other up… we’re living in a very scary time. We can’t have any progress unless we just help each other, love each other, and it starts with us—it’s a very democratic thing. I think the world is very closed-minded sometimes and very dated. We need to start opening our minds. Beauty comes in all forms, it’s not just external, it’s internal as well,” she said.

She also commented on the normalization of Trump’s “grab ’em by the p***y comment” not being enough to dissuade more men and women to disavow him.

“Something as scary and awful as a man saying that and is now in a position of power, and that’s supposed to be normal? The fact it was pushed aside as “locker room talk” is scary because it was seen as such a casual thing. Nobody’s seeing the gravity of what it actually is. The fact it’s brushed off is terrifying,” she said.

“He represents a generation of men that think that’s okay. I don’t want any girls to grow up thinking something like that is okay. I think a lot of us feel defeated—and that’s a sad thing. Just because now [Trump is president], I don’t think it’s our cue to stop talking about it. We need to fight for more rights because of this,” she added.

It’s easy to see why Alessia is a feminist, and she certainly doesn’t shy away from using the word, or commenting on why it seems to continually be shrouded by misinformation and myth.

“That word has become tainted for many reasons and I don’t understand it. We need to fight for equality right now because of who was just elected… clearly it’s not getting through to people and it’s not an equal world. I am a feminist and if you’re not at this point, you’re dated and your mindset needs to change,” she said. #Likeaboss.

One of the struggles about the current feminist movement is how different women define it and live it out for themselves. We can often get caught up in the same patriarchal societal standards of women needing to fit into a neat little box without realizing it, and start to throw shade at one another. Staying true to the spirit of her “Rule Breaker” award from Billboard, Alessia says we need to be better at giving each other the space to make mistakes and learn.

“Feminism is such a broad thing and people like to pick and choose what they think is feminism. We’re all flawed and we all make mistakes. [But] if you’re showing other girls you can be in charge and should be empowered, then that’s all that really matters,” she concluded.

During moments like the post-election despair many of us felt at the thought of all the hard work and progress being demolished by small-minded, discriminatory attitudes, it’s encouraging to know that there is a whole army of powerful young women who aren’t about to let hate win.

Watch Alessia Cara’s ‘Scars To your Beautiful’ music video below:



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  1. Pingback: 2017 VMAs To Debut New Social Awareness Category: "Best Fight Against The System" - GirlTalkHQ

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