What started out as viral TikTok songs have turned into a full-fledged superstar career. New Zealand based pop artist Benee charmingly shows the world she is the next household name. Her upcoming fashion collection with Spanish based company Bershka further catapults her into superstardom fame and offers exposure for more European fans. An empowering young woman anyone can look up to, she dominates the music industry, has her own record label and isn’t afraid to say how she really feels. Don’t compare her to Billie Eilish or Lady Gaga. Benee’s unique style and individualism solidify her as a hot new artist we’ve never seen the likes of before.
Tell me a little about your recent collaboration with Bershka. What impact do you think this will have on your music career going forward?
I really don't know! Fans might just be keen to wear a bit of Benee... Others might like the look of the clothes and hopefully, be introduced to the music.
Your new collaboration has a very 90s and early 2000s fashion aesthetic. Why did you decide to go in this direction?
I just gave them a whole lot of colour, pattern, style and texture ideas and we went from there… Maybe a bit of subconscious nostalgia from the time I was born! (Laughs).
As a major movie lover, I see a lot of similarities between your new collaboration with Bershka and the 1995 movie Clueless. Were there any aspects of the movie that inspired this fashion style?
Interesting, I’ve definitely heard of the movie and maybe watched it quite a while ago but it wasn’t an inspiration.
Fashion and music go hand in hand with influencing pop culture. How do you think your new collaboration with Bershka will affect New Zealand’s culture as well as music and fashion culture as a whole?
That's a big question! We don't actually have Bershka in New Zealand, so I doubt that it will have much of an effect on the country's culture. I just hope people really enjoy wearing the clothes.
You have your own record label company called Olive. Can you talk a little about it as well as the lack of female executives in the New Zealand music industry? What are some of the things you want to see change in this industry in order to see more women in these leading roles?
I started Olive with a view of using my current platform to help other artists gain a bit more exposure. There are so many talented people out there and it'd be great if we could have a small part in helping them to succeed.
There is a lack of female executives in every industry: full stop. Attitudes towards women in business need to change across the board. The fact that our own Prime Minister was grilled in the past about her potential decision to have children in the future says it all. Who would have dared asked a man about whether this would affect his ability to govern in any way?
What advice would you give to young girls especially from New Zealand who are aspiring musicians and want to break into the industry? What advice would you give to young girls who want to start their own record label?
Keep writing, singing and performing, don’t give up! Put stuff on Soundcloud or Bandcamp, get it out there so people can hear what you're up to. Find a mentor, ask other musicians for advice. Be true to your artistic vision. Learn to say no strongly to whatever ideas you don't agree with… It's your career, not anyone else’s. To start your own record label you need like-minded individuals and some financial backing. Concentrate on your own career first.
TikTok has played a major role in helping to broadcast your music to the world. Can you speak on this and how you want to interact with the app in the future?
I wasn't really aware of Tiktok until Glitter started blowing up and then with Supalonely it was just next level. I am very happy that this platform exposed my music to a whole lot of people who may not otherwise have heard it. I haven't ever written anything with it in mind and I don't plan to, most of my interaction will be looking at other people's TikToks I guess!
A lot of your lyrics, especially in songs like Blu, Supalonely and Winter offer a window of vulnerability for your followers. What kind of relationship do you think you have with your millions of fans, and how do you decide what aspects of your life you want to share and what parts you want to keep private?
From the feedback, I get I know that fans appreciate feeling that we all share the human condition, we all suffer anxiety and sadness, we all want to feel joy and be accepted for who and what we are.
Social media can make it very difficult to keep your private life private... Fans seem to be able to figure out the aliases I come up with and I'm amazed at how they find pictures of me from the past. I know that most of this is just done with love, so it's hard to feel offended but we all need to have some things in our lives which are not to be shared with anyone but our closest friends and relatives.
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What is it like being an artist with dyslexia and how does it affect your music career as well as your everyday life? What things help you cope with being dyslexic that you think could be beneficial for people who also struggle with this learning disorder?
I'm very lucky that I was diagnosed early and had lots of individual help to learn to cope in school. I had a great phonographic tutor who taught me how to decipher words, so I was able to function really well in a regular school environment after a couple of years. Not all children with learning challenges get this help and that worries me because so much potential is being lost by children unable to learn in the current school systems.
They say that dyslexics often think in pictures and have a wide world view, maybe this is a gift as well as a challenge?? Now that so much of our learning can be through video and audio (podcasts etc.), maybe this generation will do better than, say, my parents' generation when this wasn't an option.
I’m curious to know what your life was like right after dropping out of school to pursue a music career. During this time period were there any inspirations, meaningful events or other important things that helped you get to where you are now?
I was very lucky to be supported and guided during this time by my then manager, and my producer Josh.  We worked together for a long time to find my sound and I was allowed to experiment and find my voice without outside pressure.
What was it like being nominated for Push Best New Artist at the 2020 Video Music Awards? Can you talk a little about the whole experience and what it meant to you as a hot new artist?
It was such an honour to be nominated! It was incredible to see my name besides all those other amazing artists. I still pinch myself sometimes thinking about all the crazy experiences I have had in the last couple of years.
Your music, especially Happen To Me, frequently discusses themes of mental health and issues that many people around the world deal with on a daily basis. Can you speak on this and the importance of normalizing the discussion of mental health issues in society?
I think it's so important to acknowledge the mental health challenges that so many of us face on a daily basis. There is so much work to be done in making the world a safer and more accepting place and letting people know it's ok to ask for help. It's always been a bit of a taboo subject but even the recent withdrawal of a star like Simone Biles from the Olympics means others see that this is a problem for people in all walks of life. You are not alone!
I love your unique, quirky and indie-pop sound. As you continue with your superstar career, do you think you’ll branch away from this style and try out new genres of music?
I have always said that I am not to be bound by any constraint of genre or style. I want to be free to make the music I want to make regardless. We now live in a world where we can communicate directly with our fans and other artists… It's an exciting time to be a musician I think!
You can buy the Benee x Bershka collection here.
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