It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Jorja Smith is making waves in the music industry right now. Hailing from the West Midlands town of Walsall, the stylish R&B singer-songwriter (who favours an eclectic mix of retro streetwear staples and bold trend picks) has featured on Drake’s More Life album, toured the States with Bruno Mars, and last year made history as the only unsigned artist to ever snag a BRITs Critics’ Choice award. And all at just 20 years old. Talking with ASOS Magazine for the 100th issue, which is out today, she discusses social media, self-love and working at Starbucks…
STYLE AND CULTURE
GET TO KNOW JORJA SMITH
By Style Feed Staff, 22 February 2018
What’s a big misconception about you?
Sometimes I think people see me and think that I’m perfect. I’ve had my issues, I still have problems, but some people only see me looking happy. When I feel s***, I write songs, that’s what my music is for. When I was having trouble loving myself, I got myself out of it through music, and I want mine to help people too.
What kind of impact do you hope to achieve through your music?
When I first started listening to Amy [Winehouse], I didn’t even know what she was talking about, I just felt like I was hearing somebody tell the truth, and I loved that about her. I remember relistening to Stronger Than Me and being like, ‘Yessssss Amy! F*** these boys!’
Social media can be a little dark hole, especially if you’re feeling insecure. I’ve found it difficult. You see all these amazing pictures of beautiful girls and think, ‘I don’t look like that, I can’t pose like that.’ It’s what I was thinking about at the time and I didn’t see a song that talked about it, so Beautiful Little Fools was about filling that gap.
Why do you think self-love is important?
All my friends were white and skinny. I used to do stupid stuff to be thin. I’d say to my friend, ‘I don’t want to eat today,’ and she’d be like, ‘Yeah, me neither, don’t do it.’ I really thought I was fat and it’s only when I look back now and see how thin I was that I think, ‘Why did I do that?!’ I felt completely differently about myself to the way I do now. I just didn’t want to be me.
My dad was the one who told me, ‘You're never going to be white, Jorja, you're black. People are racist and you need to understand you're not white and there's nothing wrong with you. Don't try and change.’
What do you think of other singers rising up in the industry at the same time as you?
It was great to be nominated with them [Stefflon Don and Mabel]. We’re all female, we’re all women of colour, they’ve both had amazing years. And in the US, SZA’s been nominated for five Grammys. That’s just amazing. There’s definitely a shift happening.
Is it important for young girls to have strong role models to look up to?
When I grew up, of course there were black role models like Beyoncé, but I didn’t have anyone who was mixed-race that I really looked up to.
Who is someone you think is setting a good example?
[Adwoa Aboah] She’s so generous and lovely. It was really nice of her to invite me onto her table [at the BFAs]. I got to meet her sister Kesewa, they’re both great. What Adwoa does with Gurls Talk [an online safe space for women to talk about mental health] is amazing. She’s pushing something she really believes in and helping girls to feel like they can open up.
Your life has changed a lot. What do you miss?
I don’t like meeting people at events – I hate it – people act so differently in those environments and it’s weird. I’m not into networking! When I was working at Starbucks, I learned a lot of stuff by talking to all kinds of people every day. That’s what I miss. I don’t really talk to people that aren’t 'in the industry' until I go back home to Walsall.
Jorja’s debut album is out later this year.