It’s hard to avoid Bebe Rexha’s music these days. The 25-year-old New Yorker wrote Eminem and Rihanna’s hit “The Monster,” co-wrote and sings the hook of David Guetta’s “Hey Mama,” and collaborated and sings the hook on G Eazy’s “Me, Myself and I.” When she’s not contributing to radio-friendly tunes on other artists’ albums, Bebe Rexha makes her own music—like her newest single “No Broken Hearts,” featuring Nicki Minaj.
In the middle of her tour with Ellie Goulding, Rexha stopped by the Billboard offices to chat about channeling a “glamorous girl” version of Jay Z’s look and how New York fearlessness manifests itself in her style.
How would you describe your style?
I’m not one to be like, “What is everybody doing? Let me do that!” I just do what I want. If I could explain it in an image, I’d say I wanna be like Jay Z in the “Hard Knock Life” video, but done in a glamorous, girl way. I’m definitely inspired by old hip-hop.
Who are some of your other fashion icons?
Aaliyah was really fresh and early Britney stuff was fun. I love what TLC did with the baggy pants. I love a lot of throwbacks. I was watching a Busta Rhymes video the other day, and I just like the way they dressed in those videos. It’s really cool.
You’ve written some KPop songs in the past. Is KPop a style inspiration for you?
It’s funny because people think I vibe off it, but no! Still, that could be a good compliment, because their shit is amazing. Sometimes it gets a little too bubblegum for me, but what I do love about KPop videos is their attention to detail and their choreography and dancing are always spot-on. That shit is on fleek.
Your own ethnic heritage is Albanian — has that impacted your style?
Yeah, it has. Albanian events are very glitzy. It’s like the more glitter you have on, the more makeup, the better. Back in the day, to show how wealthy you were, you would throw on all the jewelry you had at once. And when you get married, people buy you golden chains that you pile on to show how many gifts you’ve gotten. It’s very showy. I weave a little bit of that into my style.
When it comes to makeup, do you prefer doing your own or having someone else do it?
For official things, I like having someone do it for me. But I don’t mind doing my makeup if I’m going out with my friends or going on a date or something. I’ll do something simple and pretty.
When I do my makeup on a daily basis, I try to go light. I’ll do a corrector under the eye, a tinted moisturizer, and a pretty lipgloss. I stick to Bobbi Brown under eye correctors, the Makeup Forever stick, and MAC lipsticks and liners.
When did you start bleaching your hair?
About six months ago. I was stuck and I wanted something fresh and different. I was like, “I have to do it now, because I’m tired of being scared of dying my hair.” Anytime anything scares me, I have to do it.
Is there a difference between your performance and everyday looks?
They’re similar, but I’m more toned down in everyday life. I like my stage outfits to be a little bit more exciting and edgy. Either way I tend to go for more of a tomboy look. And I tend to wear sneakers or Timberlands onstage because I don’t want to fall.
Have you always dressed tomboyish?
I won’t say that I don’t like a pretty dress, but if I had to pick a dress or pants, it’d be pants. That has always been me. If I could, I would have messy hair and clean makeup all the time. If I had to live in one outfit for the rest of my life, I would want to wear a pair of black sweatpants, sneakers, a black crop top and a black hoodie. That’s my vibe.
How did growing up in New York influence your style?
The beauty of New York is that it’s such a melting pot of cultures. That has inspired my style and attitude. I’m willing to try anything. New York has also given me a hustler mentality — it’s made me a little bit harder on the outside and I’m very fearless.