With 190 million YouTube views (and counting) on her solo hit “Drivers License,” all eyes are on Olivia Rodrigo. And now, the buzzed-about 18-year-old performer is fittingly gracing the cover of Elle’s Rising Stars issue. In the accompanying feature, the Disney star discusses everything from imposter syndrome and growing up in the public eye to what it’s like having the entire world dissect your love life.
(Back story: California-native Rodrigo plays Nini in High School Musical: The Musical—The Series, where she met her ex-boyfriend Joshua Bassett. Fans were quick to speculate that Bassett is the subject of the song, and that the “blonde girl” love rival referenced is fellow Disney talent Sabrina Carpenter. When both Bassett and Carpenter released singles after the highly-publicized release of “Drivers License”…well, all hell broke loose.)
“This song has given me a lot of confidence in my voice,” Rodrigo says of the smash hit, which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and broke Spotify streaming records. “I think songwriting has really helped me home in on what I like about myself and my art. I just want to be effortless, I guess. Whether it’s in my fashion or my songs or my social media, I want to just be like, ‘Yo, this is me. And I’m sometimes weird as f**k, and I’m sometimes polished and put together.’ I think that’s the antithesis of a brand.”
In the fashion story, the Gen Z star wears pieces by Chanel, Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Molly Goddard, as styled by Kyle Luu—although she’s quick to mention that she herself prefers to shop vintage and pre-loved clothing on Depop, or cute dresses from sustainable brand Reformation if she has to buy something new.
See below for some top quotes from the interview, and pick up your copy on newsstands on May 4.
On millions of people dissecting your love life in social media: “It’s truly any songwriter’s dream. There’s something so powerful in being vulnerable and open, like, ‘This is my life, and I’m f**king sad.’ Or, ‘I’m insecure.’ That’s what makes songwriting so special.”
On growing up with her mom’s influential music taste (the Clash, the Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, and the White Stripes!): “My mom would be like, ‘Screaming and yelling and all that grotesque stuff, it’s emotion. It moves me. That’s the point of music.’ I’ve always had that in my head: The point of music is to move you.”
On her dad pushing her to take piano lessons as a kid: “Oh my God, I hated it. I’d literally cry before every lesson. [But soon] I realized that songwriting was something that people do, and it’s a craft.”
On becoming a Disney star as a tween and experiencing an identity crisis: “Who the f**k am I? Who cares about me? How do I treat people? Most 14-year-olds aren’t in a room with adults being like, ‘So, what’s your brand?’”