Women In Music

Billboard Women In Music 'Trailblazer' Kesha: My New Songs 'Showcase My Vulnerabilities As a Strength, Not a Weakness'

Kesha photographed on Nov. 21, 2016 at Harvard House Motel in Los Angeles.
Olivia Bee

“I’ve grown into an adult woman who realizes the power of my voice,” says Kesha, photographed by on Nov. 21, 2016 at Harvard House Motel in Los Angeles. Styling by Samantha Burkhart. Kesha wears an Any Old Iron jacket; Palace Costume pants, tie and shirt; Marc Jacobs shoes; and Mociun and The Way We Wore rings.

The Kesha of chart-topping fame -- a wild child whose golden ear for a party-starter earned her 10 Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits -- was not the same Kesha who sang a beautifully minimalist rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” at the Billboard Music Awards in May, backed only by violin and Ben Folds on piano. “It felt like the first time I actually let myself be seen for who I truly am,” says Kesha, 29. “I let my guard down and just let my voice carry the song. It was one of the most special moments of my career.”

It also was a poignant one: Since 2014, Kesha has been in the midst of a protracted legal battle to free herself from her recording contract with Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, whom she accused of physical, sexual and emotional abuse (though she recently indicated she is willing to release new music through her existing contract). Earlier in 2016, a host of artists (Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Demi Lovato and Haim, to name a few) started a #FreeKesha movement on social media, and, buoyed by that support, Kesha recently set out on tour. She says the new songs she’s working on “showcase my vulnerabilities as a strength and not as a weakness. In the past, I always felt like I was trying to prove something. Now, I’m writing what I want to share with the world, rather than trying to give the world what it wants. For better or worse, I’m just me.”

Olivia Bee
“I’ve realized that no matter what, we have to be there for each other as human beings,” says Kesha. “I believe it’s my responsibility to fight for the rights of others when I can.” Kesha wears a Foxhole shirt, Elisa Solman necklace and Kelly Cole bandanna.

Freedom Fighter:
“During this election, I met a lot of LGBT homeless youth and was incredibly inspired by them. I want to promote equality until the day I die.”

Support System: 
Adele is nothing but class. She reached out to me privately and publicly in the middle of winning her own award [at the BRIT Awards]. What a beautiful soul.”

“I’ve been writing a lot with Wrabel, who also is an artist. We have so much fun together. I’d love to collaborate with Mick Jagger, David Byrne, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. A girl can dream!”

Olivia Bee
“I’ve battled a lot of things, including anxiety and depression,” says Kesha. “Finding the strength to come forward about those things is not easy. But maybe, by telling my story, I can help someone else going through tough times.” Kesha wears a Nicholas dress, Charlotte Olympia shoes, The Way We Wore belt and ring, Yoko London choker, Le Vian ring and Palace Costume bow and tie.

?This article originally appeared in the Dec. 10 issue of Billboard. Billboard's Women In Music event takes place on Dec. 9 in New York City and airs on Lifetime Dec. 12.

2016 Billboard Women in Music