Christine and the Queens Talks Feminism, French-Girl Style, and Her New Album
Héloïse Letissier, better known by her stage name Christine and the Queens, sticks out like a sore thumb in the dining room at Gemma, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the Bowery Hotel in New York City. Yet even though the Nantes-born singer is dressed like a classic French girl (turtleneck, blazer, fitted trousers), she feels right at home. "Last time I was here, I stayed on the Lower East Side," she said, without sounding remotely like a downtown know-it-all, then added, "I had this moment where I thought, Oh, I could live here and be totally happy." Fresh off a headlining show at Terminal 5 in New York City—a "savory gig"—Letissier got candid about the F word, why French-girl style is a total sham, and when we can expect some new music.
The last time we spoke, you told me about the origin of your moniker. How different is your stage persona from your real-life personality?
Recently, I realized that Christine is just me. I had to go mentally to that point where I decided to have a character, but it was really about being totally myself. I have more filters on when I'm in my civil state; I feel more sheltered and a bit self-conscious. I'm more myself when I'm Christine. I feel absolutely free.
I embrace everything more—especially my sexuality. It all feels more natural and fluid. I used to be really socially awkward. When I talked for a long time with other people, I got tired and had to shelter myself away. I feel like I'm standing on my feet now.
Where did your fascination with suits come from?
It was me obsessing with this idea of being a woman owning men's clothes, the idea of adapting menswear into a female's body and creating a new version of femininity. I always thought a woman could look really empowered in men's clothing, and I loved the idea of stealing things from men. It was part of the character to want to be treated like a man, because men are sometimes more free.
I find it interesting that you wrote "iT" about becoming a man, but you seem to be a feminist at heart.
The word "feminist" seems gross to people, and I don't know why. It's related to a bad image of feminism that implies you're angry at men all the time. For me, feminism means basic notions of equality between men and women. I'm proud to be a feminist because I think there are a lot of things to do as women to be as carefree as men. That song was about me being so angry being a girl that I wanted to escape gender in order to reconcile things. Now, I don't want to be a man—I just want to be considered as much as my male peers are.
Who are some women you admire?
FKA Twigs is really great. I love her because she's hypersexualized, but on her own terms. She's in charge. I'm a huge fan of Laurie Anderson because she's a very different version of what a woman can be. She has this very witty energy. I can be really empowered by Beyoncé or Rihanna as well. I love how women are taking back control.
Women's rights are a big topic in the U.S. presidential election. Have you been following the coverage at all?
I watched the debates the other night. They were … scary. But I admire Hillary [Clinton]'s bravery and resilience. I can only imagine how tough it is to be a woman in politics, because it's tough in the music industry. It would be great to have a woman president, because then other women can follow her lead.
Everyone wants to dress like a French girl, but is there anything you think Americans do particularly well style-wise?
Americans have many different styles: punk, normcore. You get to experiment a bit more. Parisian style has a reputation, but it can be a bit suffocating as well. It's the same vibe. We don't really know how to be a Parisienne. When we're abroad, suddenly we become them, but we don't really know what we're doing. It's a projection.
What's the status of your second album?
I have about 40 songs. I'm very into the process of writing. It's coming together in mental mood boards. The songs are tougher, funkier, sweatier, and sexier. I think I want to create a new way to be sexy. I want to be a horny woman. The new Christine will be this weird, desiring thing. I hope to evolve with her and grow old.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Buy Christine and the Queens for $8 on the iTunes Store and watch the video for "Saint Claude" above.