STYLE AND CULTURE
ASOS MAG MEETS MABEL
By Hattie Collins, 17 May 2019
On her mixed heritage
I’m Sierra Leonean, I’m Swedish, I’m English. But I found it hard to claim the black side even though it’s a massive part of who I am. My mother’s black, but I look how I look. Am I not allowed to sing a certain way? Am I not allowed to make music with a certain type of people? So last year I was like, 'Yeah, I’m mixed race, I am who I am'. When people ask me if I’m mixed race I say, 'It’s the same as my music, it’s all mixed, hun!'
On her relationship with her mum (singer Neneh Cherry)
I’m so proud. We were both undergoing self-discovery journeys making our albums. I hadn’t moved out and it’s difficult having two people under one roof being extremely self-indulgent. We have a very good relationship, though I worry about her. I think lots of daughters feel that way.
On living in Sweden
There’s so much I love about Sweden and being Swedish, but I also felt like a fucking alien there. Everything’s very clean and white. Our family – my granddad from Sierra Leone [musician Ahmadu Jah] – would barbecue chicken outside on Christmas Day, in minus 20! But I’m proud we were different. Me and my friend were the only brown girls in school, [so] we were 'exotic'.
On her responsibility to her followers
I’ve got half a million followers and 80% are girls. I don’t want anybody to think I’m perfect or happy all the time. I have demons: about my body, having a spot and doing the red carpet... It sounds cheesy, but when I was younger if one of my idols had been like, 'I’m anxious' it would have made me feel less like an alien. I wanna make people feel they’re not alone, because I felt alone.
I’m fuming. I drive past it every day and say a prayer because that shit hurts. That’s my home, this is where I’m from and I won’t forget. Families of five living in horrible hotels, up on the 12th floor. That is so fucking traumatising. It’s heartbreaking and it’s gonna hurt [the people of Grenfell] for the rest of their lives. But my community’s amazing and seeing the love and support that everybody had for each other… We’ll never forget.
On her generation
I think my generation is sick! I feel optimistic about what we can bring to the world even though it is fucked up. I look at the news and I’m like, how with Brexit, how with Donald Trump? My parents taught me to think positively and there’s a lesson to be learnt from every tragedy. So I feel positive because my generation is using our platforms for things like mental health and Grenfell. We are the future.