Billie Eilish: I’m in awe of female artists succeeding in a male-dominated world

Billie Eilish said she is in “awe” of fellow female artists succeeding in what she sees as women living in a “male-dominated world”.

The 20-year-old US megastar, who is the first singer born in the 21st Century to get a number one in the charts and an Oscar, is known for speaking out on issues like the environment and women’s equality.

Eilish spoke to the BBC World Service on the idea of progress as she was named on the BBC 100 Women 2022 list, which celebrates influential people annually.

Brit Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Billie Eilish arriving at the Brit Awards 2020 held at the O2 Arena, London (Ian West/PA)

She told the BBC: “I’m in awe of the time we’re in right now.

“Women are at the top right now. Top of all the charts, it’s women, women, women.

“It’s the most incredible thing for me to see because it’s just not been that way. To see festival ad mats come out and it’s so many women on them now.”

She also said “there has been a lot of backpedalling” in the world and in the US on women’s issues, citing reproductive rights in the US being overturned.

The US supreme court decided to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade case that legalised abortion nationwide.

Eilish added: “We are going back in time in certain areas which makes me want to throw up.”

Her debut single Ocean Eyes, released in 2015, was penned by her brother Finneas O’Connell, who she collaborates with closely to produce her tracks.

Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? reached number one in the UK album charts when she was 17.

The singer also told the BBC it was “a very bruising experience” being what she calls “an internet kid” when “you see yourself and your name everywhere it’s really hard to know who the hell you are”.

She added: “There was a specific period of time where I was in this pit of hopelessness about myself as I didn’t have much to look up to in terms of girls like me being taken seriously.

“I remember just crying in my bed because I was thinking about the kind of show I would want to put on.

“I would just feel so hopeless because I’m a girl, so … I’m never going to be able to be free up there (performing) and wild … perform in this way and be more physical and be more about the performance.

“I thought it would never happen.”

No Time To Die Royal World Premiere – London
The Prince of Wales talks with performers Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish (Chris Jackson/PA)

Eilish said she has been grappling with “severe imposter syndrome” during her life and would “grasp” at what she could to “feel” like herself again.

The 20-year-old has topped the Billboard 100 with her electropop hit Bad Guy in 2019 and the US album charts with When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in 2019 and Happier Than Ever in 2021.

Eilish also saw off competition from artists including Cardi B and Taylor Swift to win the international female solo artist award at the Brits in 2021, while in 2022 she became Glastonbury’s youngest ever solo headliner.

Her performance of No Time To Die for the James Bond film of the same name won the Academy Award for best original song in 2022 and topped the UK’s Official Charts in 2020.

Eilish also said: “I feel the most powerful when I feel the most masculine in my life… I also can find power in femininity. It’s kind of a balance of both.

“I struggled with it for a long time because I wanted to feel feminine and like it but I just didn’t really, but it’s finding moments when you can have that and it feels good still.”

BBC 100 Women in Conversation: Billie Eilish is available on BBC iPlayer.

The BBC 100 Women list for 2022 will be published on Tuesday.