By: Jennifer Dann
Lorde’s little sister, India Yelich, published her own book of poems this year. In Sticky Notes, the talented 19-year-old describes anxiety in LA and self-discovery in New York.
1 The first poem in your book starts with; “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Why that quote?
I decided to write the book when I saw that written in the subway. I’d really wanted to have a project of my own and thought, “Okay, I’ve got to write”. It’s a good starting line.
2 The poem’s last line is; “You’ll only ever be the sister”. Is it hard to find your own voice with such a famous sister?
I’m probably the only one who compared myself to my sister. I have a really supportive family that have always believed in me. It was me putting pressure on myself to succeed. My own brain is my worst enemy. This book has really helped me to realise that I’m my own person with my own path.
3 Have you ever considered a career in music?
No but never say never. I had a really embarrassing experience where I sang a cover of a ballad in my room and put it on Soundcloud for my friends. The next day it had like 200,000 plays and everyone was saying it was my debut single. I was like, “Oh no!!!” It was just a little thing I did for fun.
4 Growing up in Devonport the daughter of a poet, did you always write poetry?
I’ve written stories since I was about 4. That changed to poetry a few years ago when I had all these feelings I didn’t know what to do with. Sharing your intimate emotions is scary. I didn’t want people to think I was whining but the more I’ve travelled and read and experienced I’ve realised that my feelings are valid. I may be young but it’s still a process that I want to share.
5 Why did you move to Los Angeles at age 17?
I originally moved to LA for acting. I had an agency and was doing auditions and acting classes. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing; I’d always wanted to go. I love New Zealand but I definitely had to leave it to appreciate it. My parents made sure I had an apartment with a friend in a safe part of LA. They know I’m not a crazy teen and trusted me to make the right choices.
6 The first half of your book is set in LA and the second half in New York. Which do you prefer?
LA is very aesthetic-based. You have to have a car so I was stuck in my apartment a lot. The sun shines so much you feel like it’s mocking you. New York is the place that helped me understand who I am; it solidified my persona. Sometimes you’ll be walking down a New York street to get a coffee and it feels like you’re living a song. I love being in places referred to by the musicians and artists who lived there, like Patti Smith, Robert Maplethorpe, Basquiat, Warhol and Frank O’Hara. I’m inspired by the confessional poets because they told things with the honesty and rawness that comes with being a messy human.
7 What issues are you most passionate about right now?
I talk about mental health all the time in my poems, Instagram and my podcast. Growing up in New Zealand, you don’t really vocalise things like anxiety and panic attacks. America was such an eye opener; seeing how openly everyone talks about their feelings. It was in LA that I realised I have anxiety. It’s probably always been there but it took me a long time to understand what it was.
8 How have you learnt to deal with your anxiety?
The most important thing for me is going outside, meeting friends and learning new things. Sometimes I’ll wake up at 2am with a really bad panic attack. It feels like complete sensory overload. Instead of trying to fight these feelings, I find it helps if I just accept them as something that happens in my life. That takes the pressure off. I also find it helpful when other people share about how anxiety affects them. That’s why I wrote such a deeply personal book.
9 Do you think social media can have a negative effect on young people’s body image?
Every young person feels like they have to fit a certain aesthetic; like they need to prove their worth by displaying this beautiful, easy life 24/7 but that’s not reality. That’s why I’m so drawn to rawness and imperfections. You don’t have to feel unworthy just because somebody told you you have a certain body type. F*** that. Sometimes I do social media detoxes for a day or two. I’ll delete all the apps off my phone and leave it at home. But social media is a tool for me. It’s how I run my career.
You just have to remember it’s a virtual reality and find a balance.
10 Did you grow up with social media?
No, I didn’t start using a computer until I was about 12. I loved, loved, loved books — more than life itself. I also loved playing football, watching old TV shows, and horse riding. I’d go out to a place near Helensville every Saturday for years, riding bareback with my friends. It was idyllic.
11 Where do you write your poetry?
Never at home. I’ll sit in a coffee shop with my laptop and write while watching the snow or in a diner at 3am. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in Washington Square Park and something will come to me and I’ll have to write it down on my leg. Editing is tricky. Sometimes I’ll write a poem and hate it all except one line which I’ll salvage to make a new poem. It’s like I’m blind and cutting through rock.
12 Do you get homesick often?
I get so homesick for New Zealand but New York is where my heart is. In a weird way it’s a lot like Auckland, especially where I live in the East Village. Four of my best friends from home live here too. I’ve started part-time study at college here. My family travel a lot so I get to see them often which is heaven. We all went to the Grammys and Coachella. Having everyone there together, watching my sister perform like that was magical.
Source: NZ Herald