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Published on August 4th, 2021 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


GQ: Olivia Rodrigo Discusses Going From Disney Star to Global Popstar, Cultivating a Brand, and More

In a new interview for GQ’s September issue, Olivia Rodrigo speaks with staff writer Gabriella Paiella about the challenges of going from Disney star to global popstar as a young woman, cultivating a personal brand at the age of 14, and the importance of separating Olivia Rodrigo the person from her onstage persona.

Credit: Adrienne Raquel/GQ

Rodrigo’s first single, “Drivers License,” a mournful and melodic ballad about young heartbreak, dropped in January and took root on TikTok before fully taking over the zeitgeist. She chased it in May with her debut album, Sour, which smashed streaming records and reigned at the top of the charts while being enthusiastically lauded by critics. Rodrigo went from teen actress to household name in no time at all.

At a moment when conversations around former Disney stars-turned-global pop stars like Britney Spears are shifting, Rodrigo says there were challenges she’s consciously worked to avoid as her stardom took hold.

“I think, as an industry, people are getting better at not taking advantage of and manipulating and bullying young women,” says Rodrigo. “But it’s still so apparent, and I witness that too. Not near at the level that Britney has, obviously. I think that’s an important paradigm that I hope that we’ll be able to break in the coming generations. I’ve definitely seen corporate dollars be prioritized over people’s mental health. That’s always been something that I’ve been really conscious of in my own career, and I’m really lucky I’m surrounded by people who are conscious of that and conscious of my mental health being the most important thing.”

Rodrigo has previously discussed being asked to describe what her brand was at the age of 14. She opens up to GQ about how that experience helped shape how she thinks about herself and her identity now.

“It was not fun,” Rodrigo says. “I just remember being 14 years old and being like, “I literally have no idea who I am. I don’t know what my personal style is. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know who my true friends are. How am I expected to cultivate an image?” That was always hard for me. Even now, I have no idea. I try, but my image today is not going to be the image that I’ll probably like tomorrow.”

As a Gen Z artist, Rodrigo felt additional pressure to cultivate an online persona that would be acceptable to her peers and fans on social media.

“As a young girl, that was really daunting to me,” she says. “I felt like if it wasn’t able to be seen by other people and it wasn’t consumable over the internet or over other mediums, then it wasn’t worthwhile. That’s increasingly more prevalent in people: the constant desire to always need to share so much of yourself. You’re not a cool person if people on the internet don’t think you’re a cool person. That was a mindset that I had to get out of, but I’m definitely out of that now.”

By keeping her social media intake in check, and avoiding negative online commentary, Rodrigo is able to balance her various public personas in a healthier way.

“Something that I learned very early on is the importance of separating person versus persona,” she says. “When people who don’t know me are criticizing me, they’re criticizing my persona, not my person,” she tells me. “But that’s really difficult, though, too, because my persona is being as genuine and honest as I possibly can, so it’s this weird dichotomy.”

She’s landed on a good solution for now. “It helps to not look at that shit,” Rodrigo says. “That shit” would be social media—a friend of hers set up a child lock on her phone a while back and then forgot the password. As a result, Rodrigo can log in to the apps for a maximum of only 30 minutes a day. “Which is honestly the biggest blessing,” she says. “You’re literally not meant to know what everyone is saying about you at all times.”

Discounting the whole “global pop star who gets invited to the White House” bit, Rodrigo’s summer is playing out much like many high school graduates. She’s planning to take her first vacation with friends in a while. She can finally read for pleasure rather than for schoolwork, so she started The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho’s mystical allegorical novel about a young shepherd boy who follows his dreams, because her friends are “obsessed” with it. Dating, Rodrigo says, is less of a priority. “I had Raya for a second, and it was so vomit. Like, I could not,” she says. (Shortly after her GQ interview, photos of Rodrigo with the producer Adam Faze surfaced.)

“I’m so happy for the first time in so long, I just don’t want to fuck with it, you know what I mean?” she says. “I just love my girlfriends and love my job and am exactly where I’ve always wanted to be. Everything else is just icing on the cake.”

*Read the full story “Olivia Rodrigo Was Built 4 This” by Gabriella Paiella in GQ’s September issue and on

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Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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