This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into their psyche.
At 22, Héloïse Letissier plunged into a depression, roaming London's streets every night, eventually coming to Madame JoJo's. The queens of Soho nurtured her back to health, and she decided she wanted their glamour, sadness, and humanity for her stage character. Christine and the Queens was realized.
Her delicate electro-pop touches on sex, non-conformity, and gender fluidity. In her home country of France, she's a massive pop star. In the UK, she's just breaking through after her album got refashioned for an international audience. I met her at a really fancy hotel in London, where I ordered a beer, and she stuck to black coffee. She's strange, loud, and so animated her grin stretches around the room and back again.
VICE: What was your first email address?
Héloïse Letissier: I'm French, so maybe it'll be a bit less ridiculous than yours. It was my name HéloïseLeMarquis@hotmail.com. It's not as silly as white_tiger_55, but it was a bit too much because I was dressing like Marie Antoinette. People my age were definitely laughing when I gave my email.
What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
That's a sad question. Actually my parents are really happy with me. My parents understood before even I did that I would end up doing this. I remember studying so hard for so long and saying to my parents, "I will be a teacher." And they were looking at me like, "Girl… you just want to be on stage, stop pretending." So when I chose to do music, they were relieved. My parents were more intelligent and lucid than I was.
Why did you break up with your first boyfriend or girlfriend?
That's so deep, man. I broke up with my first girlfriend because I was out of love. I was crushing so hard on her for a whole year, and I finally got to be with her, and the interest vanished. I'm a terrible person. I was seventeen, and she was in my class. It took me a whole year to get her. I was writing poems and trying to make myself interesting. Such long work. She was my ultimate goal. But I realized I liked seduction more than having her. I'm not like that now. I got dumped after that, and it was the other way around. Then I understood. What was your worst phase?
The Marie Antoinette phase from fifteen to eighteen was not good. When people would take my picture ,I had a ghost face. Puffy dresses. I think I was trying to be a girl too much, and I didn't know what it meant. Thankfully I discovered Katherine Hepburn and realized trousers. My phase now: I'm obsessed with being in real life. I formerly had social anxiety, so I don't really like to go out and meet people and have interactions. Now I must do that, but I'm not succeeding, so I'm having a teenage awkward phase. In Paris, it's a weird dynamic because I'm famous. I'm loved for something I'm not sure I am, and when you're already socially anxious, it's worse. I feel like I'm in The Truman Show where people are paid to be nice to me, but no one really likes me. This is creepy, but this is how I feel. I'm trying to find the stairs, the exit door that looks like the sky.
How many books have you actually read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
None. I used to read so much when I was young—I like to speak like I'm sixty years old. I was lost in literature; Dickens, Brontë, French poetry. And then Facebook and YouTube arrived in my life, and I can't hold attention for more than a few pages of a book. I'm sorry. I'm ashamed for my family because they're teachers.
How many people have been in love with you?
Ones that I know of… not much, not much, darling. Let me count. In love with who I really am: maybe five. In love with me for whatever fucked up reason: maybe twenty-five. I have plenty more people who I have not loved back. What a douche thing to say. Love is a complicated thing. I'm paranoid, so I test the love of people for a very long time, like a year. If you're still there, I know you're in love with me. And then I can date you. That's probably why I don't have many dates.
"I used to hide behind my hair. It saved me: a comfort blanket, scarf, seduction tool, moustache."
Who is the worst person on Twitter?
Kanye West, recently. Worst in a good way. I'm fascinated with how he pours out everything from his mind. I think Kanye West is a child. He's unfiltered, unprepared for society every time. But Perfume Genius is the best person on there. Funny, witty, dorky. I want to RT every one of his tweets. I use Twitter to be my best self: fun, dateable. I don't get paranoid with Twitter, only in real life. I write, so I feel comfortable not speaking.
What conspiracy theory do you believe?
The Truman Show. But that's a bit narcissistic? To think you're with actors and part of a TV show. I heard about reptilians. Could Beyoncé be a reptilian? When I look at her, I get the intelligent lizard vibe. It makes sense. She handles every gig so good, never out of breath. The lizards are ruling the world. I'm no lizard. I'm a dog. I trust people who look like animals. The Snapchat filter of a dog is just my face; looking at it, it's like my Patronus is out.
If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you carry on doing what you're doing, or change jobs, or stop working?
I would be like the guy in Empire. I would found a label and buy expensive suits and seduce artists. I would storm into the studio and say, "Do it better!" Or maybe I'd work on serial killer cases. Profiling them and trying to enter their minds and anticipate their moves.
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
Just before I had my teeth removed. It was the only time I had to be put to sleep completely, and I wrote a last will and testimony. I had a crisis. I was sure I was never to wake up. The worst of it was that the male nurse who took care of me was one of the guys who bullied me in college. The guy you actually want to see in your full graceful form, winning, and he saw me on the floor sobbing, "I don't want to die." So humiliating. And of course, he was nice now because he's grown up. Ugh. In the past month, what is the latest you've slept in?
Late. Last night, I slept in at a Holiday Inn near KOKO where I played a show. There was a nice bed. Buzzing lamp all night long. I felt like a tourist.
What is the nicest thing you own?
My two cats. They're not things, my God. I'm a terrible person. My hair. American people freak out over my hair. When I did photoshoots there, they went, "OMG, how did you get this French bed hair." I didn't know that was a thing. I used to hide behind my hair when I was in college; it saved me, a comfort blanket, scarf, seduction tool, moustache. It's everything, yet it's the only thing that doesn't need maintaining.
Complete this sentence: The problem with young people today is…
That I'm too old for them. I want to be them. I have young dancers, like they're twenty years old, and I need to be them so badly. I've started to be jealous of young people. I envy them. I want to drink their blood to keep me young. They are so fresh and have Snapchat, where we only had MSN Messenger. They have filters for Christ's sake. They can be beautiful. They can be dogs. I would kill the seduction game on Snapchat if I was younger. I'm worried feeling like this means I am old. I have to wake up my face now. Water, patting, comforting; I have to pick it off the pillow.
What would be your last meal?
A ham croissant. Simple. I'm not even trying to be French, I just am. With no salad. I don't understand the concept of having it on there when the food is good. It's useless. With a black coffee on the side. But if I were on death row, I would not want to die; I never want to. I'd use the ham croissant to hit the guards and fight for my life.
Would you have sex with a robot?
My God, yes, totally, I'm just waiting for it. When I saw Artificial Intelligence with Jude Law when I was little, I remember being so turned on by the concept of a sex robot. If they came out now, I'd buy one. I hope I'm alive when they come out. I would share the robot with my lover, and we'd have five of them. We'd live on a farm with all our sex robots. We'll cultivate them.
If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
I would choose such a gay song. RuPaul, "Jealous Of My Boogie." I would upset the contender with the most gay entrance, runway-walking in.
What's the grossest injury or illness you've ever had?
I've had diarrhoea and gastro like everyone else. My injuries are always artsy and conceptual like this white scar on my forehead.
What's the closest you've come to having a stalker?
I have stalkers already. People follow me in the streets, pretending they're not. They pop up everywhere I go in Paris and say "What a coincidence!" but I know they're following me. I think they know where I live. I see them four times a day. I haven't yet told the police. I'm afraid to tell them because if stalkers find out, they could become aggressive. I'm traumatized by what happened to John Lennon refusing an autograph.
What film or TV show makes you cry?
The Elephant Man. I don't want to watch it again. You're an emotional hostage to it. I was in love with the character of him. It's about acceptance; it's so deep and heartbreaking. Watching it at nine was definitely too young.
Without googling, explain how global warming basically works.
We have a problem with the ozone… couch? Because it doesn't protect the atmosphere as much it used to do, the temperature goes up and pollution. Something like that. The ozone is destructed by pollution, so it filtrates less. So the sun… I'm French, and I'm explaining in English so, you know.
What picture of you, that's been taken this year, do you think you look nicest in?
I love these questions, so narcissistic. I did a shoot with The Fader recently, and I look intelligent, which is hard to do in a photograph. I look like Rodin's Thinker.
What have you done in your career that you are most proud of?
I didn't have to compromise with this character I've created. That's lame as an answer, but I did whatever I wanted to do. No hiding anything or softening, which you often have to as a woman.
What have you done in your life that you most regret?
Trying too hard to be something that I'm not. I do it a lot still today. It's always when I like someone or want to impress. Every time I step on my real self I regret. I must stop trying to please. I need to stop.
What memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
Every time being bullied. I was not accepted. I remember being punched. I still don't know why, but something was wrong with me. I was the target, chosen. I was so cute trying to stop it, though. I started an anti-violence campaign in my school, and I went around saying, "Hey, I'm trying to start a…" and they'd punch me in the face. I laugh about it now.
If you had to give up sex or kissing, which would it be?
But kissing is sex? French answer. But when kissing is good, it's like sex, right? Frankly it depends on the partner. I'd choose sex, though.
Do you think drugs can make you happy?
That's a question I'm asking myself right now—I've never experienced anything, ever. I want to try. I've told my friends I want to have my first joint this weekend, but I'm not sure it'll make me happy. We will see. I'm a bit paranoid and anxious, so I don't know if drugs can free me or push me into the dark. If you see my tweets being weird, you'll know it happened.
Photos by Jeff Hahn and Burak Cingi Christine and the Queens play Latitude Festival this July
Follow Hannah Ewens on Twitter.