36 Questions To Fall In Love With Baby Queen
Ahead of her debut album release, the alt-pop star speaks to woo about love, friendship and fangirling over Taylor Swift
words Sophie Lou Wilson
In 1997, a psychology professor called Arthur Aron led a study that set out to find whether intimacy between two strangers could be accelerated if they asked each other a series of 36 specific, personal questions. The idea being if two people are vulnerable and sharing their unguarded personal thoughts with each other, it brings them closer together. In one case, two participants of the study married just six months after. While there's no replacement for knowing someone for years, these questions can be really useful for getting deep with someone on the first time of speaking. And, considering time is something that musicians, actors and other busy and successful people are short on, we figured let's use these questions to make the most of it. Read on to go deep with Baby Queen.
As a child, Bella Latham dreamed of working in nature, studying rocks or looking after wild animals. She would go to South Africa’s Drakensberg mountains with her dad at the weekends where they would look for stones and little diamonds in the streams. They never found any, but it didn’t matter because soon a shiny, new fantasy was taking hold. Like so many teenagers who grow sick of their hometowns, the expansive natural wildlife of her childhood started to feel restrictive. She wanted to move to a big city and become a famous musician.
And, it's happening. Her debut album as Baby Queen, Quarter Life Crisis, is out this Friday. She also has a song – and cameo – in Netflix’s beloved coming-of-age series, Heartstopper and an Olivia Rodrigo support slot under her belt. When we speak, Bella is sitting in the Converse HQ wearing a Baby Queen t-shirt and a pink puffer jacket matched to her signature pastel pink hair. She’s just added yet another string to her bow, joining the likes of Tyler, The Creator, pro basketball player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and artist Alexis Sablone as part of Converse’s Creative All Star community and the ongoing Converse Create Next campaign which offers a platform for creatives around the world. “With their ethos of love, acceptance, self-expression and individuality I feel very proud to walk around in their shoes," Baby Queen says.
As we get more into the details of this success, she quips “I always wanted to be famous,” adding "I think that when you do want something like that, it's because you're trying to fill a hole inside of yourself. You're trying to get affirmation from other people to make you feel better about something that you're lacking.” Bella moved to London as soon as she could and spent the next five years in the city trying to get people to listen to her music. Three years ago, she started releasing music as Baby Queen; lyrically dark, melodically upbeat alt-pop spanning topics from mental health and drugs to loneliness and social media alienation.
The inherent relatability of her music has connected her with a community of misfit dreamers who share handmade friendship bracelets and sing her songs back to her word for word. Her debut album might be titled Quarter Life Crisis, but lately Bella has been growing into herself, personally as well as professionally. “I felt like I'd finally grown up when I reached 25,” she reflects, contemplating the final development of her prefrontal cortex. “I feel like my brain did fully develop. It's an interesting time of life.”
This time of life is also often typified by spending time trying to get back to the things you loved as a kid after shrugging them off with angst-driven embarrassment in adolescence. Now, Bella is not quite so interested in the fame she used to be seeking. She would much rather just have a day off, sleep in, play video games and enjoy a family barbecue.
The presence of romantic love on the record is in its absence. Songs reference being forever alone and crushes that go nowhere. “I have not been in love for a really long time,” Bella sighs. “There’s a song on this record called ‘Die Alone’ and another one called ‘Love Killer’, so there’s a lot of themes of anti-love, being forever alone and not being able to date people because it’s not really a feasible thing at the moment.” Yet Bella acknowledges that romantic love is not the only love. She gets fulfilment from her closeness with her family as well as her best friend, who’s also her stylist. Below, we asked Baby Queen 36 questions to fall in love.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest?
Michael Stipe because he's such a fascinating person. Or Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins. I'd really like to talk to one of those guys about the golden age of alternative rock.
Would you want to be famous? In what way?
As a kid, I always did want to be famous and I've often said this in interviews. I really wanted that. I think that when you do want something like that, it's because you're trying to fill a hole inside of yourself. You're trying to get affirmation from other people to make you feel better about something that you're lacking. Now, I think that a level of fame would be fine. I wouldn't want to be Taylor Swift famous because I think that then you can't do anything. I think that I get a lot more fulfilment from the creation of the music and actually finishing something that I'm really proud of than I do from affirmation from other people these days.
Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you're going to say?
No, but I have rehearsed voice notes before, especially if I'm sending them to someone I fancy and I do plan texts in my notes.
What would constitute a perfect day for you?
I really love being at home. I've been so busy recently that honestly a perfect day would just be to wake up at 1pm and hang out with my family and have a barbecue at home, play video games and smoke a zoot.
When did you last sing to yourself?
This morning on my way here. I was voice note recording an idea as I walked to the station.
If you are able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30 year old the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Definitely the body because my mind is going to be great at 90. I feel like the older you are the more perspective you have and the more you know. Imagine having all the experience and the perspective of a 90 year old but being fit. That would be my dream.
Name three things you and your best friend appear to have in common.
Me and my best friend are both very sarcastic, witty and dry. We both have pink hair. We are both very loyal, caring people but only to a select group of people. We don't have loads of friends. We basically only have each other.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I feel the most grateful for my family because I feel very lucky to have the family that I have. They're my closest friends. I often feel like I don't really need anyone but them so I'm very grateful for them.
If you could change anything about the way that you were raised, what would it be?
I definitely wish that I had been pushed to stick with things a bit more because my parents just let me drop out of anything that I didn't want to do. I think that the real working world can be quite a shock to somebody that has been able to quit things so easily. I also wish that I had played instruments a lot earlier, and really fucking worked on playing instruments and getting really good at it. I just think of all that time I could have used when I was younger to become amazing.
In four minutes, tell me your life story in as much detail as possible.
I was born in Durban, South Africa and I am the second child. I have an older sister. My dad owned and still owns a visual art supply company and they had a local art gallery in South Africa. I had a really good upbringing. I enjoyed school. I was really studious and loved writing. I loved writing poems. I loved making music and creating things.
I felt like I always wanted more from life. I always felt trapped in the city I was in in South Africa because it felt so far away from where I wanted to be and what I wanted to achieve. I really love nature and I feel like I could have had a job being a palaeontologist that studies rocks or someone who works in the wild with wild animals, but I ended up wanting to be a musician really, really badly. I would make all these demos at home and I decided I wanted to move to London.
I moved to London by myself when I was 18. It took me five years of begging people to listen to my music and begging people to give a shit to get my break. I also needed to get a lot better as a songwriter because I was mimicking my heroes at that time. I hadn't really created anything that was unique.
Then I started writing the music that became Baby Queen. I met an amazing producer called King Ed and we started working on this music together and I signed to Polydor, my record label, before I released anything. Then I started releasing music as Baby Queen which I've been doing for three years now. My first album is coming out on 10 November.
That is pretty much my life story. South Africa was a beautiful place to grow up and I miss it a lot and it still feels very much feel like my home although I don't get to visit it as much as I'd like to. It's weird moving away from the place that you grew up in because there's a part of you that you feel almost dies and you create a new version of yourself. I think I'm still trying to merge those two parts of myself. I felt like I'd finally grown up when I reached 25. I feel like my brain did fully develop. It's an interesting time of life. We'll see what happens next.
If you could wake up tomorrow, having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
I would love to wake up with the ability to be an incredible music producer and just understand how to produce a song and how to work all the plugins and how to record and mix a vocal properly. I think that would be the most surreal knowledge to have because it's like a lot of work to figure out how to do that. I feel like I've worked my whole life to understand how to write songs and that's a whole different kettle of fish so I'd love to be able to produce.
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know
I would want to know if I get to keep making music as a job and if that works out. It's a weird life to have because you don't know what's happening in the next months and there's no stability so I'd love to know what ends up happening in 10 years time. I'd want to know if I ever fall in love with someone good, someone that's not a dickhead. Do I ever get married? Do I ever have kids?
What is something that you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
I dreamed of acting for a really long time. I dreamed of writing books. I really want to release this poetry book that I've been working on. The reason I haven't done acting is because I feel like I chose music and both things are as impenetrable and as difficult to achieve as the other. I don't feel like I can take my foot off the pedal of music to focus on something else right now, but I would like to do that in the future. And why haven't I released a book? Because I've never finished writing a book. I want to release the poetry book, but I haven't finished it yet.
What would you say is the greatest accomplishment of your life so far?
I think the greatest accomplishment has been having a dream and chasing it and following it through and actually getting to live it. When I finished this album at the start of the year, there was a huge sense of fulfilment and it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. I'm really proud of it. It was a big thing to get to the other side of.
What do you value most in friendship?
I value people being a positive energy and bringing something good into your life as opposed to not adding value or adding negativity into your life. I value people that I can completely be myself around and drop any sort of act. I value people that are understanding. I'm not really good at always being a present friend who replies. I think friends that you might not see for three months and you haven't spoken to them, but you meet up and it's still exactly the same. People who make me laugh too.
What does friendship mean to you?
I think friendship means having someone's back regardless of how present they are in your life. It's unconditional support and unconditional companionship and just being there for each other and lifting each other up. It's making each other laugh and bringing positivity into each other's lives because there's so much negativity already in the world and friends are meant to be good things.
What roles do love and affection play in your life?
I think the love and affection with my family is amazing and I think that's where I get most of my fulfilment from as far as romantic love goes. It's not really something that I feel that I have any time for. Every time that I've tried to have a relationship while being a musician, it's been really difficult because you'll start something then go on tour and it just ends. Love doesn't play a really big part of my life, but it plays a big part in my mind. I really want to have one person that I can rely on. I'm not really a very promiscuous person. I would like a relationship, but it doesn't feel like a thing that is going to happen right now.
Can you share five positive characteristics of your best friend?
She's hilarious. She's incredibly talented. She is incredibly caring, incredibly loyal. And she is ambitious and dedicated to her work.
How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people's?
Yeah, my family is very warm, very affectionate. We're very close. I do feel that I had a really happy upbringing. Obviously, it's all relative and you have issues and there are dynamics within families and relationships that cause you to maybe develop some of your bad characteristics or cause you to really struggle, but all in all, I think that I am very lucky.
How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
I feel good about my relationship with my mum. I haven't always had the easiest relationship with her. My sister and my mum are very similar and I'm very similar to my dad. I think me and my mum have struggled to see eye to eye. She's very set in her ways about the right and wrong way to live and to do things and I'm a very free spirit that can't really be contained or controlled. I think that's why we've had a difficult time through my teens, but we're in a much better place now. It's been a journey.
What is one of your most treasured memories?
When I was younger, I used to go to the Game Reserve with my dad almost every weekend. I can't really pick out any specific trip, but I think those are my most special memories. We'd also go to the Drakensberg which are the mountains in South Africa and go to the streams and look for little stones and try and find diamonds, but we never found one.
I'm going to start four sentences, and you can end them. I am feeling...
Overwhelmed with the amount of shit that I have to do.
Doing interviews is...
Really fun, but also really awkward because I feel like you're having a conversation with someone but you're literally just talking about yourself for an hour straight so I'm sorry about that.
Winter is coming and that feels...
Fine, I suppose. I don't like the heat, but I don't like the extreme cold either. I really like autumn. I do get a bit depressed during the winter, but I like the fact that you get a proper break over Christmas. I'm really looking forward to that.
I wish I had someone with whom I could share...
The deepest, most poetic parts of myself. I reserve and don't really share that with anyone.
If you're going to become a close friend with someone, what would be important for them to know?
It would be important for them to know that I'm not a very reliable person. I'm a really good friend, but I'm not always there. I find it difficult to be consistent and to properly be there for people. It's difficult to bring someone in because my whole world revolves around Baby Queen. Don't be my friend, basically, is what I'd say.
Say something very honest about your best friend that you might not say to someone you've just met.
I would probably call her a Scottish bitch. I definitely wouldn't say that to somebody I've just met. I call her a Scottish bitch all the time, so I probably do that.
Share an embarrassing moment from your life.
Oh god, there are so many. When I was a young Taylor Swift fan in London, I was once at the overground station and this was when Taylor Swift was dating Joe Alwyn and I saw him at the train station. I really wanted to take a picture to send to my mum. He was going the opposite way on the train and I was going in a different direction, but I was like, fuck it, I'm gonna get on the same train as him so I got on the train. The pole was in the middle and I was surreptitiously trying to take a little picture. Then he was looking at me really strangely and I realised that on the back of my phone was the Taylor Swift Lover pop socket and it was so embarrassing. I got off the train immediately and just thought about my whole life and all the mistakes I've made and that was traumatising.
When was the last time you cried in front of another person?
At the family dinner table about a week ago because I just got like in my head that I was unlovable and no one would ever love me and I'm not good enough. I had this whole narrative spinning in my head and then I was just crying at the dinner table.
Tell me something you like about your best friend.
I like that she is permanently making jokes. She's also my stylist and on set she'll come and whisper something really funny in my ear. She will literally always make me laugh no matter what the situation is.
What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
There's a lot that's too serious to be joked about. In the age of cancellation, you can't joke about anything. Everything's too serious to joke about. I think instances and situations and events in which people or groups of people were actually really hurt and really affected by something happening or if people are in pain as a result of the thing that you're joking about then it's probably not a good joke.
If your house containing everything you own caught fire, After saving your loved ones and pets, and you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item, what would it be and why?
It would be my laptop because all my songs are on there. All my older songs and all the demos that I've ever made and all the songs that I'm working on are on there. I would probably grab my toy leopard that I had as a kid. This ring that was my grandmother's ring, and maybe the drives that have got all my old home footage or pictures of me and my sister when we were kids. Those would be my top things.
Share a personal problem that you have and tell us how your best friend would handle it or what advice she'd give you.
Probably that I've got too much work and I feel very overwhelmed and out of my depth and I can't live up to the expectations of the thing that I've created. She would probably say, well, if you have anything on your to do list that you think I could do, send it to me. She would say it's gonna be fine. You're doing great. Then she'd say, I'm also dying as well, but don't worry, we'll get to the end of this week. All you need to do is get to Friday and then you can take a deep breath, and then we'll go for a Margarita. That's what she'd say.
How has love influenced this album, or found its way into the songs?
I have not been in love for a really long time. I've been infatuated and obsessed with people, but I think my last proper relationship was four years ago. There's a song on this record called 'Die Alone', and another one called 'Love Killer', so there's a lot of anti love, I'm forever alone, and themes of loneliness and not really being able to date people because it's just not really a feasible thing at the moment. Hopefully I can fall in love and someone can break my heart for the next album because that would be really convenient.
When do you feel most creative?
I feel most creative when I’m alone and bored and restless. That’s why I prefer writing at night. 2am-5am is probably my favourite time to write because nobody else is awake and I feel very isolated.
How disciplined is your work ethic?
I’ve got a very good work ethic when it comes to songwriting. I’m as disciplined as I can be as a creative. I think you have to give and take; force yourself to finish things whilst allowing yourself the freedom to go on tangents and experiment. I made schedules when I was finishing this record, but schedules are incredibly difficult to stick to in such a creative space. I’m very hard on myself so I think I just get consumed by the process and it becomes me.
Who do you go to when you want advice and what’s the best advice they’ve ever given you?
I actually go to my aunt who is very sensitive, rational and emotionally in tune. She once said to me, when I was very depressed, something along the lines of, "The landscape of life is ever changing. When you are up, you will ultimately come crashing back down and when you are down, you are bound to go all the way back up again. Ride the waves.”
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