At just 19, Alessia Cara is unapologetically herself, and it's refreshing.
In a world where young Hollywood is flush with lip fillers and Photoshopped selfies, the Canadian singer/songwriter (born Alessia Caracciolo) is more concerned about embracing who she is and spreading that message through her music, in order to fight the traditional ideals the media serves up daily.
It's working. The Brampton, Ont.-native's anti-partying anthem "Here" topped Billboard's Pop Songs radio airplay chart in February, and was the defining song of the summer. It's quite a success for the young star, who started out posting covers to her YouTube channel.
"We're constantly being fed these things," Cara told HuffPost Canada Style of the media's unrealistic ideals while in Toronto for the re-launch of H&M at the Toronto Eaton Centre. "It was harder for me before I entered the industry, being young and not really that confident in myself, because I was just seeing all these images of what I felt I was supposed to look like and I was always really self-conscious about it."
But Cara says being in the industry has helped her become more confident, as she is able to "use that platform to speak out against all the negative things."
One thing she's not afraid to speak out on is the lack of diversity in the media.
"I think the media can definitely show more diversity — different sizes of women, different colours of women, just more diversity in general," she said. "If I were to ask people, 'What do you think of when you think model?', they'd give me the same description."
"Real women don't look like that," she continued. "And even the women on those covers of magazines don't look like that. They're all sorta changed, and I think less Photoshop needs to happen and more realness needs to happen, along with more diversity."
In photo shoots she's done, Cara has been adamant about staying true to herself and not changing up her appearance.
"So far, I’ve done my own hair," she spilled. "I keep my hair curly and natural because I really just wanna show who I am. I don't wear a lot of makeup ever, even when I do interviews or when I'm on TV. I just keep it me and I think it's important to show people I'm a regular person and regular people are beautiful too."
She attributes her unapologetic attitude to her role models: her mother, Pink, and Amy Winehouse; the latter, she says, shared the same fears she does.
"I think it was really great for me to watch [the Amy documentary] as a young girl in the industry, because my fears are really similar to her fears," she said. "So that was good as a kind of cautionary tale for me to know what not to fall into."
Despite the positive messages she spreads, Alessia, whose new video, “Wild Things” was released earlier this week, doesn’t consider herself a role model.
“It’s hard to consider myself one when a lot of my fans and people who are calling me a role model are people my age and sometimes older than me,” she explained. “I feel like they’re at the same walk of life that I’m in right now and they can probably teach me things about life too...I’m so young and I definitely don’t think I’m perfect at all in any way. I’m still learning.”
However, she’s not opposed to people giving her that title.
“If you’re gonna consider me a role model, cool. I think to a certain extent, entertainers, whether we like it or not, are bound to be role models for someone.”
The message she wants to spread most? “Live your life without apologizing for being who you are and not worrying about the noise or the voices in your head that tell you that you’re wrong or that you’re not good enough. We need to take that away and rid ourselves of that and I hope that my music can do that.”