Olivia Rodrigo Responds To Backlash After Saying Pop Stars Are Always 'White Girls'

Photo: Getty
Olivia Rodrigo at the Met Gala

18-year-old pop star and singer/songwriter behind the megahit “Driver’s License,” Olivia Rodrigo, faced backlash earlier this year for a comment she made about what she believed was the nature of the pop genre.

She hoped to address these criticisms among other subjects relating to her newfound stardom in an interview with Teen Vogue on Tuesday.

Olivia Rodrigo faced backlash for saying pop stars are usually 'white girls.'

“I’m definitely going to make a lot of mistakes in my life and in my career probably too,” Rodrigo told Teen Vogue. “That’s just life.”

A lot of people believe that’s exactly what happened when a statement she made was taken out of context and misunderstood — causing people to think she was erasing prominent non-white artists from the pop genre.

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In late August, SNL comedian and writer, Bowen Yang, interviewed Rodrigo for V Magazine.

Being a Filipina-American artist, Yang asked her how she views her career in relation to her race and existence as an Asian artist.

“I sometimes get DMs from little girls being like, ‘I’ve never seen someone who looked like me in your position.’ And I’m literally going to cry,” she replied.

“Like, just thinking about it. I feel like I grew up never seeing that. Also, it was always like, ‘pop star’ — that’s a white girl.”

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That last part confused people because growing up in the 2000s and 2010s, Beyonce and Rihanna were just two pop stars of many artists of color that were taking over charts and breaking records — but that wasn’t what she meant at all.

Rodrigo clarified her comments and defended her stance. 

“What I was saying is that it was cool to see girls of Filipino heritage DM me and be like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool to see someone that looks like me, and that’s really empowering,’” she said about the criticisms.

She’s addressed race several times in interviews, and how society portrays the ideal woman as someone of European descent — a white woman.

“It’s hard for anyone to grow up in this media where it feels like if you don’t have European features and blond hair and blue eyes, you’re not traditionally pretty,” she said in an interview with Guardian in May.

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This is likely what she meant. Where ‘pop’ just means what’s popular, and the societal standards for beauty lie in European features, making it hard for anyone who doesn’t fit those standards to feel represented.

“I think representation is all about adding,” she emphasizes in the new interview. “I don’t think it’s about taking anything away from anyone.”

In the whirlwind of Rodrigo’s teenage stardom, she’s discovering what really matters to her at the end of the day despite all of the criticism.

“I hope people know that deep down, all that I do is write songs and talk about how I feel,” she says, “and that’s the most important thing to me. Everything else, I think, is not so important.”

At the end of the day, she recognizes that it’s out of her control and the best that she can do is to try and separate what’s true from what’s fake.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.