It’s impossible not to love Beth Ditto. Whether it’s her rafter-reaching pipes soaring over punky disco beats on Gossip’s latest aptly-titled album, A Joyful Noise, or her ability to get the media in a downright tizzy by recently calling out Karl “not even sane” Lagerfeld, Ditto is who she is in a world of overly-manicured pop stars, uncompromisingly and refreshingly so. MAC Cosmetics agrees: they’ve collaborated with the brazen singer to spawn her very own downtown-rave-friendly line, in MAC stores everywhere today. Ditto celebrated in style—and in Berlin!—with an invite-only performance in front of nearly 400 cocktail-sipping bouncing onlookers clad in head-turning looks, including her friend and electro-pop icon, Peaches. But it was her unexpected midnight performance that really caused some mind-losing: a champagne-sipping Ditto once again hit the stage and crooned out a soulful A capella rendition of Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road” before seguing into an insanely immaculate cover of Madonna’s “Vogue.”
Following the dizzying and surreal celebration, I was more than ready for a relaxing, post-performance drink on the rooftop of the stunning Soho House Berlin. Instead, I found myself keeping my jaw from dropping as Ditto and her fashionable gang—including an itty-bitty Perez Hilton—splish-splashed in the pool in their underwear and partook in overflowing champagne and gourmet pizza. Topics of conversation ran the gamut from Ditto’s small-town nostalgia circa her formative years in which her neighbor, “Miss Betty,” charged $1.75 to use her swimming pool in the steamy Arkansas summer to her dubbing Christina Aguilera’s much-blogged about performance at Etta James’s funeral (which involved a questionable liquid dripping down her leg) a kick-ass feminist moment. After reluctantly giving into her manager’s many failed attempts to get her on the tour bus for the band’s next stop, the perma-smiling, heart-on-her-sleeve (literally, she’s got a massive black heart tattooed on her arm) Ditto wrapped herself in her towel and offered many bear hugs before making her exit.
Before the endless overflowing drinks and Ditto telling me she wanted to have my babies/that I smelled like a mix of Nicorette gum and cologne, I chatted with the post-punk revolutionary musician, queer icon, self-proclaimed radical feminist and all-around killer style icon earlier in the day at the MAC store. In her charming mile-a-minute Southern drawl, the bubbly musician wasn’t holding anything back, spilling everything from how she copes with life in the mainstream pop world whilst coming from a punk background to her final words for Karl Lagerfeld, and, of course, her very own cosmetics line, the quality of which she would demonstrate at the aforementioned impromptu pool party. Dunking herself in the pool with a full face of makeup on—specifically her favorite item from the line, the Liquidlast Liner—she enthusiastically proved that it’s anti-smear. But, after our revealing and pretense-free interview, I wouldn’t dare doubt the loud-and-proud musician for one minute—Ditto definitely has nothing to hide.
ELLE: Describe your brand new album, A Joyful Noise, in 5 words.
Beth Ditto: Grown… up! [Laughs] That’s two words! Confidence. And I think contemporary… and sincere.
ELLE: There’s a lot of heartbreak on this one, isn’t there?
BD: Yeah, really good sad ones. But not even on purpose. I was in love for a long time, which is sad. It was hard to let it go and now it’s gone and I’m in love again and it’s way better.
ELLE: Apparently so… You’re engaged! When’s the wedding? And can you spill the wedding dress beans?
BD: Yeah! I’m engaged. I’m getting married in June. Frederic [Baldo, her stylist] is making it. I was also thinking about Erdem.
ELLE: Nice. I was expecting you to say you were planning on working down the aisle in a full Jeremy Scott look!
BD: [Laughs] Yeah! Jeremy Scott and it’s gonna be covered in bones!
ELLE: So, are you going for more of a traditional look?
BD: Yeah, very. I like things to be very traditional. That’s the thing that people are surprised about—when they go to my house, it is so grandma’d the fuck out.
ELLE: Where do you live nowadays?
BD: I live in Portland. Where do you live?
ELLE: New York, but I’m from Pittsburgh.
BD: Oh… Pittsburgh! Glamorous Pittsburgh. We’ve played in Pittsburgh before at the very, very punkest of punk days.
ELLE: On that note, can you describe your style evolution from the days circa your keg-heavy house shows in the middle of nowhere to becoming a bonafide rock star and strutting the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier?
BD: Oh, those house shows…! Most of the shows were in our living room back in the day. There’s so many good pictures of that. Red eyeliner to there and huge hair. I was into really big hair. Do you know the band The Make-Up? I really wanted to look like Michelle Mae. I’ve always been into people. And people who looked really cool. The older I got, the more cooler influences I liked. I didn’t really listen to Blondie ’til I was older, and then I started to see how cool Debbie Harry was and stuff like that. But yeah, I think the older I’ve gotten, one could afford different kinds of things which is really awesome. You know how people love to glamorize poverty? There’s nothing glamorous about it. But it did make me really creative. Those days, I was literally taking t-shirts in the day and sewing them back together to make dresses for the night. Shit like that was so awesome and doesn’t happen anymore. I wouldn’t be the same person without that.
ELLE: I also hear you’re also a massive Grace Jones fan.
BD: Yeah, she’s amazing. Oh my God! I was watching this thing earlier today how she was playing the Jubilee and she was like, “Happy Birthday Queen!” And it’s not her birthday! It’s so funny. I love how she doesn’t give a shit. Genuinely could give two shits. But she’s like the sweetest person I’ve ever met. A very sincere person.
ELLE: In terms of amazing makeup and fashion, what’s your favorite music video of all time?
BD: Oh God… “Carma Camelion!” Also “Time After Time.” She’s in the trailer in the woods and she leaves him a note… so good!
ELLE: What is your definition of beauty?
BD: I think it’s about context. Everything is beautiful in context is my signature slam. There’s no such thing as ugly.
ELLE: OK, we have to go there. Once and for all, Mr. Karl Lagerfeld. Do you have a message for him?
BD: I don’t really have a message for him. I mean, he’s Karl Lagerfeld. I think that he’s really amazing at what he does. I don’t think he makes the best social commentary, and I don’t know why people expect him to. You know, he’s a fashion designer, he’s not a journalist. I think that’s the other thing–I come from a different world. I come from a punk world, I come from a radical feminist world. I come from a place where there’s no such thing as ugly, there’s no such thing as stupid. If I say, “Oh, he’s old,” it doesn’t mean that that’s bad. It’s just a different context. I think that’s the hardest part about being from a punk background and then being thrust into the mainstream—people are always like, “Oh, you think he’s old?” and I’m like, “No, I don’t think he’s old, I know he’s old. And who gives a shit?” In fact, my favorite people are people who are honest. And I understand that it’s hard because there’s so much pressure in this society. To want to be young, thin, and perfect forever. And that’s just not realistic. I don’t relate to that world. I enjoy my life and I enjoy people around me. And I’m sure Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t give a shit what I think… that’s what I think.
ELLE: I’m not so sure about that!
BD: I really don’t think so. At the end of the day, I think we’ve both been in the business long enough to be like, “Who fucking cares?,” you know? Also, I don’t really know what context he uses things anyway. The whole thing was the response to Adele. The only reason people bring that up to me is they wanna fuel the fire. When people were asking about what he said, I said, “Well, I think Adele is fat.” And I don’t think there’s anything fucking wrong with that. That’s the thing—it takes so long to explain that. I’m like, “Well, let’s go back to Feminism 101.” But you can’t beef up everyone’s education all the time. And people aren’t always going to agree with you.
ELLE: Let’s talk about what we’re really here for… your very own MAC Cosmetics line launch! You had some fashion heavy-hitters working on the line’s shoot. How was it?
BD: The shoot was really awesome. Nicola [Formichetti] was cool. The funnest part was working with Val [Garland] and Lyndell [Mansfield]. I like the creative people. I just love when people are excited. There was a lot of really good energy in that shoot because everyone was just in it to win it. There’s no diva rage because everyone was just having fun and confident in what they were doing. I would let Val shit on my face if she called it makeup. Seriously.
ELLE: If you could raid any of your style icon’s closets, who would it be and why?
BD: Oh God… that’s a really good question. Whose would I raid? I’d like to see what Victoria Beckham’s got in her closet. ‘Cause I bet she’s got some really awesome shit. But who else? I feel like all of the people who I’d wanna raid their closet, I get to raid their closet. Like, Lyndell [Mansfield], my hairdresser and friend—also my London roommate. She has the craziest shit ever.
ELLE: I know you have a penchant for Dolly Parton, specifically you covering her for MAC’s Fashion’s Night Out… Discuss.
BD: I love to look like Dolly Parton. The nicest thing someone ever said to me—someone I was dating at the time said: “You’re my little punk Dolly Parton.” I’d also like to look at her closet. Can you imagine the shit that’s in that closet? Oh my God, her wigs. Her fucking wigs. I wanna see her without her wigs… what’s going on down there.
ELLE: Out of all of your items from your MAC line, which is a must whilst touring the globe?
BD: The Liquidlast Liner. I cannot tell you how amazing this is. You can go swimming in it. Like, literally, not an exaggeration—and I do, I go swimming in this. Like, deep sea fucking diving. Whales could wear this! Baby belugas could wear this!