Ella Mai Is Just Getting Started: “We Box Ourselves in So Much – If I Can Do It, I Will”
Sitting down with Ella Mai is more like hanging out with one of your best mates. So much so, you’d be forgiven for forgetting she’s actually a Grammy-winning artist with a huge fanbase and two incredible albums under her belt. The 28-year-old oozes a confidence beyond her years and a warmth that immediately makes you feel at ease; rare qualities when it comes to the world of celebrity. And it soon becomes clear that her family’s wise words keep her grounded.
“My brother told me something really cool, a couple of years ago, and he said that when you speak to yourself in your head, it’s your own voice,” she tells POPSUGAR as she explains how she avoids negativity on social media. “So when you’re reading a comment that’s from somebody that you have no idea who they are, you’re reading it to yourself in your own voice which validates it a lot more. I’d never thought of it that way, but it was like a new thing unlocked in my head.”
“It just felt really good to be back in what feels like my natural habitat.”
Since bursting onto the scene in 2018 with her self-titled debut album, and hit single “Boo’d Up”, she has been extremely busy. Having landed in London two days prior to our chat, after finishing the North America and Canada leg of her tour which included 41 shows in 2 months, she is revelling in being able to perform for her fans again following a hiatus due to the pandemic. “It just felt really good to be back in what feels like my natural habitat,” she says.
On top of recording and touring, she also continues her role as ambassador for jewellery brand, Pandora. She sums up her look as “simple, comfortable, and stylish”, which plays into the Pandora aesthetic of dainty pieces that can be worn in so many different ways. “I don’t wear super statement pieces and I think Pandora fits that perfectly,” she says. “You can layer, you can add stuff, you can make it way more than if you just had one piece. Or you could just add one piece and that makes it simple but still effective, and that’s definitely my type of style.”
Image Source: Getty Images / Prince Williams
As we are firmly in festival season, Ella Mai’s must-have festival essentials are functionally fashionable. “Anything with frills, a lot of glitter, some shorts, and some trainers. You’ve got to be comfy, for sure, otherwise it’s going to be a nightmare,” she advises. And this look also works for the big standout tours of the summer, too. While she hasn’t yet bagged a ticket to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour, she did see her in Coachella in 2018 and declared the set as “the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life”, and is determined to catch one of her shows. “The very first time I met her I was just lost for words because I’m also just so inspired by her,” she says. “I wanted to be like ‘omg I love you, thank you so much…’ but i also didn’t want to do too much, so I just kept it quick.”
“I think regardless of whether it’s a positive outcome or a negative outcome, it teaches me something.”
Ella Mai’s second album, “Heart On My Sleeve” was released last May and the year has truly been a whirlwind. While she literally has a tattoo of the phrase on her arm, does she still live by that vulnerability? “It’s what brings the best out of me personally. I think regardless of whether it’s a positive outcome or a negative outcome, it teaches me something,” she says. “Being on tour especially, meeting other people who tell me the stories of what the music has done for them, it also tells me, it helps other people for me to be that way also. I’m not going to change that.”
With her career on an upward trajectory and appreciating life more as she gets older, she’s still eager to learn as much as she can and refuses to close off any opportunities that come her way. “I’d love to venture out and not just be in the music lane,” she says. “I did performing arts, so I’d love to do more acting, but still have music be my main focus. Just expanding my horizons. I feel like we box ourselves in so much and it doesn’t always necessarily have to be one thing, so whatever I put my hands on, if I can do it, I will.” We have no doubt that’s true.