Meet Ama Lou, The Singer Following In The Footsteps Of Jorja Smith

Photo Courtesy of Ama Lou.

“My music is my word”

While Ama Lou might not be a household name yet, just give her a minute, the young British singer is carving out quite a career for herself, with people-in-the-know calling her the next Jorja Smith. This comparison is no coincidence: The two just recently came off tour together and Lou, like Smith, has received an endorsement from Drake, with the rapper using her lyrics to caption one of his Instagram pictures. He also slid into her DMs to share how much he liked it, which is a pretty solid affirmation.

Lou didn’t come onto the music scene quietly, instead coming out strong with “TBC,” a Black Lives Matter anthem about police brutality. Her follow-up, “Not Always,” explores gender as a restrictive concept. Her latest and first EP, DDD (which stands for dawn, day, and dusk), is a three-track project that tells the story of a fictional runner in a Los Angeles crime ring, and it comes paired with a fun mini-film that she directed and shot with her older sister. Let's just say, Lou has the range.

Ahead, we chat with Ama Lou about her favorite place to write, the importance of visuals, and her love of touring. 

You just wrapped up your first tour with Jorja Smith. How was that experience?
Absolutely amazing, it was my first tour EVER and I’m so glad I experienced it with a friend. She and her team are super amazing. 

Touring seems to be something artists either love or hate, what are your first-time feelings toward it?
I am now addicted to touring!!! So many shows in a row becomes so addictive. I loved it. I grew up traveling a lot, so the long rides were sort of home-y to me. It’s so cool waking up in a different city every day, going to places you may have never gone if not for the shows. I can’t wait to get back on the road again.

You just turned 20, what are some lessons you’ve learned in your teenage years?
I did! God, apart from everything I know up to this moment? Not much [laughs]. It’s really weird being out of the teenage years now.

How does your classically trained background inform your music?
Classical training gave me a really good foundation of musical knowledge to build upon in a free and contemporary way. I learned a lot about music really naturally by going through the processes of classical training. 

What’s your relationship to classical music now? 
I love it still, as I always have. It’s a good way to concentrate or calm down. Something about those types of organized frequencies holds something that no other type of music does.  

You got a lot of attention for your song "TBC" because of how politically charged it is. Were you surprised by the reaction?
I had no expectations apart from that I knew it was a great song. I was happy that people took the song so personally and sort of removed me from it, as that was the intention. 

Do you consider yourself an activist?
I believe I have contributions to make and a platform from which I can speak on things I believe in or believe against. My music is my word, it is my contribution however it comes about, and I have hopefully loaned a voice to topics that needed it.

DDD came accompanied with a trio of videos. How much space do visuals take up in your mind compared to songwriting and producing?
I see a lot of things visually. Sometimes, I see sounds and have to translate them into an audio form. Visuals are so much to me. They are definitely balanced with audio in how I work, but I definitely automate to a lot of seeing with every aspect of my life, whether it's music or films or design. 

How important are visuals to your work? 
Extremely. I am obsessed with film, completely obsessed. There is a vision to everything; I conceptualize the film before I have finished the production for songs, usually.  

Where’s your favorite place to write? 
Everywhere and anywhere really, I’m not really fussy, but I will gravitate toward quiet where there’s no one around so I can zone out. But I have written with loads of people around before and had loads of fun. But, yeah, usually where I can just be in flow and go somewhere else. 

You played some new music during your Brooklyn show. When can we expect new material?
Soon... REALLY soon.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.