Gina Gizella Manning
The visual spell cast by Euphoria still has a hold over fans even a year after its HBO debut, inspiring a trend that took TikTok by storm just last summer. Fans shared makeup transformations that showcased their unique spins on the wild, couture-level glam concocted by makeup artist Donni Davy — Rue’s glittering teardrops; Jules’s dramatic eyelash spikes — in short clips set to a mashup of Labrinth’s “Still Don’t Know My Name” and Bea Miller’s lyrically numb breakout “Feel Something.”
“Clearly, I can’t do my makeup at all,” Miller tells MTV News over Zoom, her hair pulled into a ponytail. “I was like, fuck, I want to make one of these, but I don’t know how.” It’s a surprising, even bashful, statement coming from the rising 21-year-old pop singer: Miller made her first major performance in 2012 when she performed on The X Factor at the age of 13. Since then, her silky voice has been filtered through two full-length albums, including collaborations with the rapper 6lack and the British electronic twosome Snakehips. For her latest project, Elated!, she plans to release a music video for every track on the EP, each shot from her living room. Her close creative partner, Gina Gizella Manning, set up the shots, while Miller handled all the hair and makeup herself.
“We tried to find light in darkness as much as we could,” she says. “And we’re like, well, this pandemic is kind of ruining our lives, but at least we can kind of use this as a way to get more creative.” In spite of its sugary sound, Elated! strikes a serious tone, plunging into politics both personal and national. On “Hallelujah,” she points out the disconnect of the rhetoric of self-care while taking aim directly at the president, singing: “How am I supposed to work on myself / When there are Nazis in a big White House? Uh / It seems ridiculous to live in Hell.” Joined by the Oregon-born rapper Aminé, the collection also features a groovy update to her breakout hit, “Feel Something Different.”
Miller admits that staying positive during quarantine has been a constant challenge, but the impact of her music on its listeners is not lost on her. “I’m glad I created something to make people feel a little bit better, at least a little bit more understood,“ she says. With Elated! out today (October 23), Miller spoke to MTV News about watching Lizzo take on the Euphoria challenge, creating music videos from home, and what costume her dog, Ollie, will be wearing this Halloween.
MTV News: “Feel Something,” of course, blew up on TikTok. What’s it like getting to actually see everyone listening to and having fun to your song?
Miller: Watching everybody make TikToks with the “Feel Something” mashup with the Euphoria song has been really wild. For a while, I was kind of jealous in a way… I felt like I was watching from the sidelines.
Lizzo made one with the song, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s weird when, as an artist, you’re also a fan — when you recognize and realize that certain artists you love may have actually heard some of your music before. It’s a very weird, startling feeling. I just remember thinking, like, Lizzo probably doesn’t know who I am. But she knows my song, she’s heard me sing before, and that really blew my mind.
MTV News: Are you a fan of Euphoria?
Miller: Oh yeah, I’m a huge fan. The first day of my first tour last year, we had an Airbnb in Texas where we all piled onto the couch and watched the entirety of Season 1. Me and three or four people in my crew and band sat on the couch for the entire day.
MTV News: You wrote and released that song in 2019, so why do you think it’s resonating with people now?
Miller: I had assumed that it had already plateaued. That’s just typically what happens with a song: You release it, within the first couple months it climbs, and eventually it reaches a point where people have found something new, and then it falls back down. Then earlier this year, it started spiking again.
I remember finding out about the TikTok challenges, and seeing how that was translating into streams, and feeling kind of guilty at first. Of course, I’m grateful, [but] at the same time, I felt discouraged by the fact that the only reason that the song was suddenly doing so well again, was because people relate to it now more than they did when I released it. We’re all alone inside of our houses, we can’t really go anywhere, we can’t even go out to restaurants, go see our friends or our families, or take a walk in a park without wearing a mask. It’s really awful and really alienating. It creates this lack of connection and lack of emotion because you’re not experiencing anything to have emotions about.
I think that’s probably why the song suddenly started doing so well and why it moved from just being on TikTok to resonating with people on streaming platforms. I don’t know; I have mixed feelings about that. I’m glad I created something to make people feel a little bit better, at least a little bit more understood, during this horrible time. I also hate thinking that I’m, in some way, benefiting from something so awful. I’m torn.
Gina Gizella ManningMTV News: Speaking of TikTok, I was looking at yours and saw these very sweet videos where you were just hanging out with your fans. In one, it looked like you were just having a staring contest. What have been the best interactions you’ve had with fans?
Miller: It’s hard for me to choose! A lot of my fans have been following since I was 14 and they were also 13 or 14. The ones that have stayed since then, we’ve grown up together. It almost feels like we’re friends, sometimes. They literally came up with me and I would not be where I am without them having stayed here for this long. I think that they recognize the huge part that they have played in getting me to the point that I’m at now. Every time I accomplish even the smallest of things, they get really excited. That makes me feel more excited.
Even when my song was on TikTok, they were the ones who were, every day, tweeting me like, “Bea, get a TikTok.” “Bea, look what’s happening.” They’re like my PR team. They’re always cheering me on and sometimes they yell at me. You have to do something, because they’re looking out for me. I really appreciate that. I don’t know if every other fan base is like that. I think they probably are? But I think I do have a pretty cool group of fans.
MTV News: You recently released the video for “Wisdom Teeth,” which is on the EP. What was the inspiration for the song and the video?
Miller: I wrote “Wisdom Teeth” two weeks after I got my actual wisdom teeth pulled. I got all four at once. Only two of them were ready to go, but they said the next two would be ready in like a year. I was like, nah, all of them gotta go right now. I wasn’t able to write or sing for a couple of weeks after I got my teeth pulled ‘cause, obviously, I had these gaping holes in my mouth, and it was the first song I wrote when I was able to come back. It sounds stupid because I know that I’m young, but getting my wisdom teeth pulled was just one of those small things along the way that made me feel like I was getting older. I was expressing this in the studio before we wrote the song; when I was younger, I would hear about people getting their teeth pulled out. I always thought, that’s so far away. Like, ha ha, poor adults.
It made me feel nostalgic towards my childhood. In some ways, when we’re younger, we are smarter, in my opinion. We’re less affected by the opinions of society and what is expected of you. If you are an adult functioning in society, we mold ourselves to fit within our surroundings and be accepted by other adults, which is really weird and unfortunate. When we’re younger, we just bop around and, as long as we’re not hurting anybody, we enjoy our lives. We just smile and feel good. We don’t have any insecurities, at least not until we reach a certain age. I think there’s accidental wisdom in that.
We hadn’t really planned the music video in advance because, obviously, making a music video during a pandemic is not really the top priority for anybody. I found an amazing creative director, photographer, videographer; she’s everything in one. Her name’s Gina [Gizella Manning]. She’s my absolute everything, love of my life. Her and I would just consistently get COVID tested, then not see anybody, then wait until we got our results, and then we’d just see each other. We set up a black screen in my living room, like right there. She came over and she shot me with a bunch of lights and just did the most. Then she got these goldfish and shots in the tank; it was a whole thing.
MTV News: When I was watching it, I was thinking about how people have a lot of dreams about losing their teeth, which kind of signifies stress or having low self-esteem about something.
Miller: See, I didn’t necessarily intend to have that message when I was writing the song, but my fans were saying this, too. I was like, that actually works because I’m always stressed and anxious.
MTV News: You mentioned you were working on the music video during quarantine. What other ways have you been staying creative while being isolated?
Miller: Honestly, I wish I could say that I was doing something consistently to stay in touch with my creativity, but I really haven’t. I feel that this has been the least inspiring year that I’ve ever been alive. I obviously could sit here with my keyboards and I could write something, which I have done a few times. I’m trying to learn Ableton, which is a production program I’ve been trying to get better at that so maybe one day I can produce my songs. Ultimately, the only thing that I’m able to really write about lately is just my sadness about the pandemic, about missing my friends, about everything being shitty, and the environment falling apart, and our political situation being so awful. It’s not anything that everybody isn’t already stressed about.
As artists it’s our responsibility to point out uncomfortable things and situations that are not ideal. But at the same time, it’s also our responsibility to help people get through that. I have been writing a little bit by myself. I’ve more been journaling lately than anything else. It freaks me out to be a creative person my whole life and suddenly not having anything to create. I’ve been able to make videos and things along the way throughout this, and other little photo shoots and things like that. But music has been hard for me to write lately.
MTV News: I appreciate that honesty and can definitely relate. Knowing your EP is going to come out right before Halloween, I wondered if you had any favorite Halloween costumes you’ve worn in the past.
Miller: Halloween is my favorite day of the year. I have a lot of decorations in my apartment. If I can’t go to a haunted house this year, I’m going to make my apartment a haunted house. When I was younger, I wanted to be something from Alice in Wonderland, but I didn’t know which character I wanted to be, so I was all of the main characters. I had the Mad Hatter’s hat, Alice’s dress, Tweedledee and Tweedledum socks. I had Queen-of-Hearts-like shoes with little red hearts all over them. I had a giant clock on my neck for the rabbit. Oh, and I had a Cheshire cat smile that my mom painted on me. It was a lot.
Last year, I did not really kill the Halloween game because I was on tour and I didn’t have time to put together a whole costume. I went to the store and bought an inflatable poop emoji; I was literally a giant, inflatable poop. But that actually was a big hit. I went to a Halloween parade with my mom in New York City; that was where our tour stopped. We were walking the parade and literally everyone we passed by was like, “Look, it’s poop.”
MTV News: You’re from the New York area originally. Have you ever been to the Halloween Dog Parade?
Miller: This year, Ollie and I are going to be an alien and a spaceship. I got him a spaceship costume and I’m going to be an alien. We’ll be really cute. But I didn’t know there was a dog parade. Shit. That sounds so fun. That’s two of my favorite things coming together, dogs and Halloween.
MTV News: Is there anything else about releasing this EP that’s exciting for you?
Miller: I haven’t said this anywhere yet; but I am planning on releasing a little music video for each one of the songs on my EP. We tried to find light in darkness as much as we could. And we’re like, well, this pandemic is kind of ruining our lives, but at least we can kind of use this as a way to get more creative. So we kind of put our heads together and we made small videos for each of the songs on the EP. So, I’m very excited about that ‘cause I was very hands-on with these videos and really involved in the process. And I did all of my makeup and hair and wardrobe for everything. I am excited for everyone to see them. Those videos will all be coming out on different days in the next month or two. But I think they’re really cool. I think that we made the best out of a shitty situation and I’m excited ‘cause I’ve never given my fans as much content for one release. Not even when I released an entire album. I feel like they’re getting more content with the six or seven songs than they would be with, like, 12.