Self-reflections WITH: MUSICIAN RAYE

To kick off our new series, which explores our relationships with beauty and identity, we meet south London siren RAYE to chat self-image, self-love and, of course, beauty.

Words: Emily Dinsdale


As we kick off our new series in which we explore our relationships with beauty and identity, we meet south London siren RAYE to chat self-image, self-love and, of course, beauty.

Words: Grace Gargini

As part of our ongoing collaboration with Dazed Beauty, we caught up with RAYE, the south London singer-songwriter who’s taken the pop world by storm. What does a pop star see when they look in the mirror? How does being in the scrutiny of the public gaze affect their personal relationship with their own reflection? “It depends on the day,” says RAYE. “Sometimes, I see a strong, fierce, fabulous woman and sometimes I see a ball of nothing.”

Since releasing her first EP, Welcome to the Winter, in 2014 (aged just 17), RAYE has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Stormzy and John Legend – with a whopping one billion streams of her music to date. Fame has given the 22 year old a unique perspective on self-image. Looking back on what she’s learned along the way, she tells us: “A piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to stop looking at what everybody else is doing and to just be me.”


It’s a beautiful thing when you can finally look at yourself and be, like, ‘Actually, what I am is great. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone else.’


Rather than aspiring to a generic vision of conventional beauty, RAYE’s look has evolved into a celebration of what makes her unique. “My favourite feature is my teeth. I used to be really insecure about them – I have a really big mouth and a big smile. But now I embrace it; I love how they stick out, how they are too big for my face. I used to think of trying to hide it, or try to look how I thought a pop star needed to look,” she says.


 I think all those little stereotypes and ideals that we had of what ‘a perfect woman’ looks like are just disappearing and disintegrating. I think our eyes are open to really seeing beauty for what it is – in all colours, shapes, sizes, structures – which is beautiful, you know.


Like many of us, RAYE believes the ritual of applying make-up has transformative powers. “Make-up is a way to identify and express yourself, a thousand per cent. I think it’s one of the most empowering tools that we have,” RAYE says. “Sometimes, I paint my face depending on my mood. So when I’m angry, I do bold black liner in the waterline with a big, winged cat-eye, and when I’m feeling more peaceful, I’ll just do natural skin with a red flush on the cheeks.” She explains: “I think make-up saved me – it’s crazy that I can even say that – but it really does allow you to feel incredible. I love it. I absolutely love it.”

Despite the timeless sound of her irresistible R&B-infused pop, RAYE looks to the enduring icons of mid-century glamour for her make-up inspiration. “I have always idolised a lot of 1960s Hollywood actresses,” she tells us. “I love Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield. Or Hedy Lamarr, who had one of the most iconic faces of all time, but also developed some crazy contraptions for World War II. Brains and beauty – I love it.“ Her favourite look, inspired by this classic era, is winged eyeliner and false lashes – “I love to accent the eyes; make them big, dramatic and flirty“ – often adding a red lip for dramatic effect. “I think it’s powerful. The colour red is just a beautiful, rich, strong colour. Anyone wearing a red lip? Good on you,” she says.

If beauty rituals are a way of invoking her long-gone heroines of the past, they’re also a means of reimagining the scope of what a modern pop star looks like. Beauty is truly transformative but, crucially, RAYE uses make-up as a tool to enhance and celebrate her own distinctive qualities, rather than attempting to conform to narrow standards of beauty. Ultimately, it’s about empowerment. “When I’ve got my glam on, I’m invincible,” she exclaims. “Nobody can hurt me; I’m on top of the world.”