Celeste, the soulful jazz voice of this generation, on why wearing her hair natural makes her feel more empowered

GLAMOUR sat down with the soulful singer, Celeste Epiphany Waite, 27, at the beautiful Somerset House – surrounded by Global Goals Forest for Change. The Calfornia-born and Brighton-raised singer has made Jazz mainstream and current, again, winning the Brit Awards‘ annual Rising Star accolade and receiving an Oscar nomination for her song Hear My Voice, which soundtracked the Netflix feature film The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Watching her perform, after us all being starved of live music for over a year, was emotional – I saw a couple of people wipe away tears in the audience and I had full-on goosebumps. The setting, Somerset House, had been transformed into an inner-city forest, designed by the artist Es Devlin. In the heart of the forest, Celeste performed is a clearing and 17 colourful pillars – which represent the UN’s 17 Global Goals.

Here, Celeste shares her GLAMOUR beauty memo…

When writing Hear My Voice we wanted it to have an ambiguity to it and I guess like an open nature to it

Hear My Voice was a protest song, and I think something that we (Celeste and Daniel Pemberton) understood and something that we spoke about when we were making the song together was ‘when people protest, what are they doing? Why are they going out there?’ They’re going out there to be heard. So instead of speaking about a specific fight or particular subject that either of us stands for, because we all have our own fights and things that really liberate us, we just decided to write something that felt like it could be all-encompassing for anybody striving for change.

It has an ambiguity to it and I guess like an open nature to it. And that was really important to us. And I think, especially in writing it for the film, because in that film, it’s all of these different parts of society and different people from different pockets of society, whether it be like the liberals or the Black Panther party, coming together.

There’s something quite profound in the sort of simplicity of the monotony of everyday life

When songwriting, I think there’s something quite profound in the sort of simplicity of the monotony of everyday life and there’s something quite romantic about it. And I think I’ve always tried to understand those stories and from my own point of view and perhaps from other people’s and find the romance. Like you might go through a heartbreaking thing, but then I will transform this into a beautiful song. And then as a catharsis, the moment you get to sing that song, there’s an appeal.

I only use two skincare products…

When I do my own makeup, I use two skincare things. One’s called Monroe and it’s like a nonbinary skincare brand. I put that on at night and I don’t wear foundation or anything. Then I genuinely, I have a Gucci lipstick called Myra Crimson and I just dab that on my cheeks and then put it on my lips.

Now I’ve got my own short hair, I feel more like myself…

Now I’ve got my own short hair, I feel more like myself than I have for a while. How I was looking at shows wasn’t how I look in everyday life, I feel more close to that now. So that’s nice. It is really important for me to have my hair the way it falls naturally. And, for me, that is like this sort of afro that grows into this kind of round shape. And so I just think it’s really important because when I was younger, I didn’t really feel like my hair was very beautiful and I didn’t really feel like it was nice at all. And I think that was perhaps because I just didn’t have any hair role models in the mainstream. And so I just thought that beautiful meant having straight hair. So I felt I had to straighten my hair and it ruined it so much. So now my hair only ever really grows to a certain area. I just want to be like myself. And whether some people find it less fit or less sexy or whatever, I feel sexier knowing I’m myself when I go home and on and offstage, you know?

I’m not wearing that much makeup and I’m feeling a lot better about it.

I think it takes a while to like and accept your face. Whether it’s your skin or the shape of your nose or your eyelashes or whatever. You get to a point where you just, you have to accept yourself. Instead of every time you look at yourself challenging yourself and saying ‘why don’t I look at this?’

I saw Alicia Keys on her Instagram the other day saying ‘I challenge you to stand in the mirror and naked and look at yourself and not have any judgment and not just pick up your flaws.’ And I thought to myself, it’s funny how often you stare in the mirror and you just go, oh, I don’t want that. The more you embrace yourself and find familiarity with it and a fondness of it, the more eventually you will allow someone else to embrace you, which is really difficult. In a relationship, I find it very hard to just accept that someone just thinks that I’m good-looking. I feel like my aim is to be one of those women in her fifties who feel great about who they are and who they’ve become. I don’t want to feel stunted or trapped in being judgmental of myself or things that I can’t change.

I first realised I could sing at age 16

When I was in college, I had to drop a lot of academic subjects because I just wasn’t keeping up with the work and I saw that as a signal to just try it (music). There was one boy, Adam, who really encouraged me. I just remember his reaction to my voice. Then it started to go around the school that ‘Celeste can sing’. These boys put together this band from another school and they were playing at a venue in Brighton and asked if I wanted to come and sing for a tenner. The rest is history.


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