Camila Cabello – The Spirit of Transformation

Photography:
Shane McCauley
Styling:
Carolina Orrico
Words:
Gemma Lacey

There’s a spirit of transformation in the air this year and meeting Camila Cabello we find she’s embracing it in every way. Debuting a brand new hairstyle and colour, she’s every inch the bombshell but this fresh start is not defined by aesthetics only: she’s revealing a brand new sound too, with a new record on the way, which she describes as “pure undistilled creativity.”

 

Camila Cabello is our digital cover story for February 2024

Zadig & Voltaire dress
Zadig & Voltaire jacket & shorts
Roisin Pierce dress, Sportmax shoes
If there’s one word that’s driven Camila’s approach on this album it’s “uncompromising,” as she puts it, “I just really wanted to challenge myself. What excites me the most is to do things that I’ve never done before.” For her that meant working with a new producer, Pablo El Guincho, who she was drawn to because “I felt like he had just such a fresh perspective on pop music. He was the first person I just immediately knew that I wanted to work with. I felt like he was kind of the weird guy in pop, and I just love working with people like that. I feel like that too, and I feel like I’m my best self when I’m doing weird experimental pop music.” That freedom to be playful and explore her thoughts and ideas also hits on deeper roots where transformation is concerned. “I love making an album for the sake of just growth and creativity just coming straight from my heart and my taste.”
In terms of a theme, well it’s love, but in it’s broadest sense. “It’s me sitting with this feeling of understanding that I feel really confused as a 26-year-old who I really felt I was in love with this person. Now I feel kind of lonely and small and weird, but at the same time, I’m an adult and I feel so strong in other areas of my life, but not this one. There’s just the wrestling of those feelings without it being kind of neat or in a box.  You can’t really say that it’s a sad song, you can’t really pin it down. It’s just kind of me wrestling with these feelings and me kind of being really present on a particular feeling and exploring it. I feel like a lot of songs on the album are that.”
Though she’s still tight-lipped about the actual theme of the album, (spoiler: she says the title will tell us all we need to know) she does allude to broader themes. “I think it is part of a kind of reinvention. I feel like so much of the album has a through line and there’s definitely more themes that the album touches.”
MM6 dress, Grounds sneakers, stylist’s own socks
Rabanne top & skirt
Hand in hand with this notion of reinvention was her physical transformation. “I feel like I needed to have a different physical appearance, something different to kind of help me channel that energy that I accessed in my songwriting voice more.” For her, going blonde was less about having more fun and more about being “chaotic and brave” or to coin a new favourite phrase of hers getting back “my unhinged sparkle, which is my new favorite term from TikTok.”
This laissez-faire attitude to change is serving her well and she’s also embracing new experiences, recently attending Sundance for a new movie she’s part of titled Rob Peace. She was cast by Chiwetel Ejiofor and describes it as “such an exciting project to be a part of, partly because she’s a huge fan of Ejiofor. “I think he’s such a masterclass actor, and I was really excited to be working with somebody who is the director, but that also knows the process behind acting so well.”
For our shoot, she’s debuting a lot of new looks, red sequins, butter soft yellow leather and more, a process which she clearly enjoyed. “I think I just really fell in love with new things in all these different areas, especially fashion. My fashion language just arose for the period in my life that I’m in. I think the music influences how I dress and how I dress kind of feeds back into the music.” For style inspiration she credits music and also new discoveries “I think what’s been lighting me up is, I don’t know, some grunge, some Y2K styles. I also discovered Dover Street Market, and that was a big game changer for me, seeing more kinds of weird out of the states fashion brands. It’s just something I was never around when I was younger.”
Speaking of when she was younger we discussed her Cuban heritage and Miami where she grew up and still resides and it’s clear this had a huge impact on her thinking.
“I think culturally it’s been such a volatile experience for Cuban people, especially in the last, I don’t know, 60 years. My experience of growing up in Miami was influenced by a lot of immigrants and a lot of uncertainty, just kind of shaky ground. So I think people tend to focus on the raw experience of just the human condition because it just feels like things are kind of ground down to what’s important because there’s so much kind of chaos.”
Zadig & Voltaire dress
Zadig & Voltaire dress
Rather than being swept up in the bright lights of Hollywood, it’s clear her hometown has her heart. “I’m so thankful to Miami. I think that’s why I don’t really spend a lot of time in LA and people are still like, ‘Do you live in Miami now?’ I’m like, ‘I’ve never stopped living there. I’ve lived there since I was seven.’ That’s always been kind of my home base for that reason. I feel like it took my family and I when I was seven years old. There’s so many people with this kind of story. My best friends are Dominican. They moved there when they were seven. Miami is such a specific kind of cultural melting pot. It’s almost like its own country.”
One thing she shares is how it’s impacted this latest record “I feel like this album is kind of a love letter to Miami, it’s definitely been a safe haven for me. Anytime as crazy as life gets, I know I always go there and it’s real. It’s just like my real friends from when I was eight years old. My family, I still have family that’s coming from Cuba. It just keeps me very real and grounded.”
It’s not just the ethos of Miami that inspires her though, it’s what she hears when she’s there “So much of my music taste also comes from Miami. It’s such a melting pot.  You drive down the street with the windows down and you hear Afrobeat and you hear rap and you hear Bad Bunny and you hear salsa. You hear everything. I think that’s informed me too.”
I ask what she wants her fans to take from the new record and she pauses a moment and then says, “Just to really sink into life and live,” before adding, “In ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, Rainer Maria Rilke talks about living your questions and that was a big theme for me. Don’t get stuck trying to find the answer or wait till you have everything figured out to move forward. Just live your questions.”
That’s where we find her, embracing her questions and moving beyond heartbreak to a brilliant and blonde new future, all the while sure to be encouraging a host of fans to follow in her footsteps. It might not just be limited to fans though, with this attitude Camila Cabello may just be the inspiration we all need this year.
Rabanne top & skirt
Zadig & Voltaire jacket & shorts
Photographer: Shane McCauley
Stylist: Carolina Orrico
Hair: Jesus Guerrero at The Wall Group
Makeup: Ash K Holm at The Wall Group
Nails: Tom Bachik at A-Frame
Words: Gemma Lacey
Location: Khrys
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