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Nelly Furtado Shares Pearls Of Wisdom As She Prepares To Drop Her Sixth Album

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Photographed by Ryan Pfluger. Styled by Liz Rundbaken. Top by DKNY, earrings from Urban Outfitters, ring by Harrison Morgan.

The album drops March 31

The following feature appears in the March 2017 issue of NYLON.

The Boom Boom Room is packed. Only a select few have been clued in to Nelly Furtado’s surprise performance at the ornate club on top of Manhattan’s Standard Hotel, but the dance floor is so crowded that it’s unclear whether I’ve underestimated just how secret her appearance is, or the willingness of New Yorkers to rage on a Wednesday night.

I’m giddy at the prospect of being in such close proximity to Furtado. The endless champagne is partly to blame, but I’ve been an avid fan of hers since her debut, Whoa, Nelly!, dropped in 2000. Seven-year-old me was completely enamored by how she broke the pop princess mold: She was a tomboy with not-blonde hair and made Top 40-worthy songs that boomed with hip-hop beats. In 2006, my obsession deepened with the release of her album Loose, a beacon for women’s sexuality that would sell 12 million copies worldwide. Just when I had begrudgingly accepted her retreat from the spotlight in recent years, her publicist tipped me to this performance, and her sixth album, The Ride, due out this month.

Suddenly, the lights dim and silence sweeps the room. Furtado emerges from the darkness and opens with her Grammy Award-winning debut single, “I’m Like a Bird.” My body is buzzing. 

The feeling returns a few months later, when we’re face-to-face on set for Furtado’s NYLON photo shoot in Brooklyn. Munching on tortilla chips, the 38-year-old reflects on her career and upbringing in Victoria, British Columbia, by Portuguese parents. From the religious ceremonies at her Catholic church to her school’s marching band, she was surrounded by music, and she started writing songs at age 12. But it was Nelstar, her trip-hop group that formed in 1995, that established her unique medley of pop, hip-hop, and R&B, and would propel her to pop-star status.

Though lately Furtado’s presence in the spotlight has been limited, she’s been far from unproductive: Apart from raising her teenage daughter and expanding her creative palette to include pottery and playwriting, she’s been serving as an ambassador for the nonprofit WE Charity in Narok, Kenya. She still considers herself to be too pensive and introspective for pop stardom, but it’s those qualities that make her comeback just as impactful as her debut 17 years ago. “You get so ingrained in the habits of entertaining, and sometimes it can extend to your personal life,” she says. “I figured out I just needed to unplug. Now I feel like I’m back to the beginning.”

What’s the underlying story of The Ride?
It’s all about stripping away things. We chase material things, and sometimes don’t even know that we’re chasing them, but then you never really hold on to anything because you’re not grounding yourself. You’re just always seeking the next thrill.

Since the album marks your return to the industry, what’s your take on the current state of music?
It’s fantastic. I lived in Toronto for 20 years and I’m really excited for a new crop of Toronto musicians. I’m actually friends with some younger artists coming out of the city. My favorites are River Tiber, Mustafa the Poet, Charlotte Day Wilson, and Cadence Weapon. I’m excited that its urban scene is on the map right now, because I’ve been holding it down for 20 years.

Sorry, Drake. Nelly did it first.
Drake knows. Actually, he was on the tour for Loose. He did background vocals for Socrates, my opening act.

I really appreciated how songs like “Promiscuous” and “Maneater” on Loose addressed the gender-based double standards of promiscuity. What inspired those tracks?
I was trying to follow in the footsteps of TLC and Salt-N-Pepa owning their sexuality and trying to be on an even playing field with the dudes. If you’re having a tête–à–tête with a guy, then you’re probably going to talk about putting a condom on, too, because the dialogue has started.

Photographed by Ryan Pfluger. Styled by Liz Rundbaken. Sweater by Topshop Unique, earring by Laruicci. Hair: Eloise Cheung at Kate Ryan Inc. using Aveda. Makeup: Lindsey Williams at Kate Ryan Inc. using Tom Ford.

What was the response like?
People don’t realize that the world was so different even just 10 years ago. For a while, I went through a weird phase where I changed the lyrics to “Promiscuous” to say “mysterious” because people didn’t get it. They were like, “Woah, she’s trippy-hippy and now she’s sexy.” It was probably because of the album’s title, but “loose” meant something different to me. It meant being free and more streamlined in the music that I was making. I came up with the title before I even did the album. I was trying to be more of a pop artist.

That’s interesting, because you always stood out from typical pop stars. Were you ever pressured about your image?
Oh, I had to fight my label to wear Adidas shell toes and huge raver jeans in the “I’m Like a Bird” video. They had dresses at the fitting and I was like, “No. I’m going to wear my shell toes and my jeans because this is who I am. I’m going to wear hoops in every photo shoot, and I’m going to wear my hair like this.” I was really aware of who I was and what made me feel comfortable.

Where did that confidence come from?
I had a really great role model in my mom. She’d be at her church council meetings talking down to the whole room of men like it was no sweat. She taught me how to have a voice. When you have a true sense of yourself, no one can take that away from you, because you don’t feel right when someone’s trying to mess with it.

Considering that you grew up in a working-class family as a first-generation Canadian, how did your childhood influence the person you are today?
From a very young age, I was totally used to being “the other.” My town was an interesting place to grow up in because it was a British colony, but as a child I was so connected to the First Nations culture, tradition, and history of the area. I got used to bouncing between cultures and going through the very archetypal immigrant-kid situations. My dad was a stonemason and landscaper, and my mother ran the housekeeping department at the Robin Hood Motel. I spent my entire childhood at the motel, and eventually worked there from age 12 to 18. I wanted to pull my family out of having to do labor—that was a big impetus in me becoming a pop singer. If my family was more middle class, I probably would have never become a pop singer. I would have just gone to university and written a novel or something.

When you were first starting out, what was your goal as an artist?
Although I was motivated by my family’s economic situation, I was also motivated by wanting to put Portugal on the map. Growing up, I was like, “I don’t see any Portuguese people on TV. There’s no Portuguese people on The Brady Bunch, this is so weird!” And now, I have the Order of Portugal from the president. It kind of blows my mind.

What does success mean to you?
If you can find work that helps contribute to your sense of overall balance in life, I truly think that’s success. I did an event called Common Ground for Peace and the Dalai Lama came. A bunch of artists sang for him, and then we all got to sit with him and ask questions. He said the one thing artists should do is try to put a peaceful vibration in their music and really pay attention to the energy they’re putting into the world.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in life?
Never make the same mistake twice. Don’t shit where you sleep—keep business and personal as separate as possible. And the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is that you really need to treat everybody equally, with the same amount of respect no matter who they are or what they do. Just treat everybody the same, because if you don’t you’re kind of just playing yourself.

Photo by Rachel Dennis

Finally

"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Nicholas Hunt / Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

This photo makes me so happy

It can't be understated how big of a phenomenon the Spice Girls were during the late '90s. Their impact was felt from the bustling streets of London to the dry desert land of Scottsdale, Arizona. The latter place is where a young Emily Jean Stone was so immersed in fandom that she asked her second-grade teacher to call her Emma, after Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Emily is the Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone. What's even better, she's still a huge Spice Girls fan.

Stone went to the Spice Girls reunion tour at the Wembley Stadium in London and finally met the woman who inspired the name the actress is now known by. Bunton shared a photo of the two of them outside of the venue on her Instagram. She captioned the photo: "When Emma met Emma."And even added the hashtag #2become1. I can't figure out if I want to cry from sentimentality or serious envy.

As for Stone, she once cried when Mel "Scary Spice" B. sent her a video message so I can only imagine what this moment felt like for her. Let this be a reminder that even Oscar winners can be stans.

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Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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