The key to this pop star’s success: embracing who she is and living life on her own terms.

By Jeff Nelson
May 07, 2019

Big things are happening for Bebe Rexha. The 29-year-old broke out in late 2017 with “Meant to Be,” her ubiquitous hit with country duo Florida Georgia Line, which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and topped the Hot Country Songs chart for a record-breaking 50 consecutive weeks. Within the past year she has also released her debut studio album, Expectations; was nominated for two Grammys (including Best New Artist); and became the Comeback Stage coach on The Voice. Considering all of this, it’d be easy to call Bebe an overnight sensation—but that would be a mistake. Bebe has actually been hustling for the past 10 years—she cowrote the Eminem and Rihanna hit “The Monster” and cowrote and sang on G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself & I” and the David Guetta-Nicki Minaj-Afrojack song “Hey Mama.”

Along the way, the New York City native has been adamant about staying true to herself. Lyrically, Bebe—who will release her sophomore album later this year—has sung about everything from heartbreak to managing mental illness. This past April she revealed she is bipolar. And on social media, she’s never been afraid to call it how she sees it—whether it’s publicly shaming a married pro athlete for hitting on her or slamming fashion designers who refused to dress her size-8 frame.

RELATED: Bebe Rexha Reveals That She Has Bipolar Disorder: 'I’m Not Ashamed Anymore'

COLIENA RENTMEESTER Styling by Edda Gudmundsdottir; hair by Kelsey Gustovich for the Chris McMillan Salon; makeup by Jill Powell for Dew Beauty Agency; manicure by Sreynin Peng

While this realness has endeared her to fans, some would say it’s made her rise to fame more of a slow burn. “I’ve never followed that ‘play the game’ thing. I’ve just been myself. I’ve had people tell me, ‘That’s why you’re not as big as you could be’—which is fine,” Bebe says with a shrug, going on to tell a story about an industry insider who suggested she change up her vibe to be more appealing. Her response: “You don’t tell me what to do—you cannot judge me or put me in a box or tell me how I need to look.”

Here, the refreshingly honest singer talks about finding success, learning to love her curves, and why she refuses to define her sexuality.

RELATED: Bebe Rexha Reveals That Designers Will Not Dress Her for the Grammy Awards Because She's a Size 8

How would you describe your path to success?

It’s been a journey. My favorite stars—I’ve seen them explode off one song. That was always a big insecurity of mine: Why can’t I have that moment? But what I’ve found is that my career is different. I’m still here. Like, I just shot a [Health] cover. I can’t even process that! For me, it’s been a series of puzzle pieces and networking and really working hard. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

From the start, you’ve been candid in your songs about mental health issues—at a time when no one else was doing that.

I know. I remember when I put “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy” out [in 2014]. There’s a new regime at my label now—and I’m so happy—but at the time, they didn’t want to put it out. The first lines are: “There’s a war inside my head/ Sometimes I wish that I was dead/I’m broken.” [The label] didn’t want to put it out. So I just put it out on Spotify on New Year’s Eve—and it exploded. It went to 40 million [streams]. I’ve gone through so much stuff with my mental health. That’s something that’s a really big part of who I am.

RELATED: Bebe Rexha Rocks Plunging Red Gown at the Grammys After Designers Told Her She Was 'Too Big' to Dress

How does it affect your work?

I wrote a song the other day about me trying to write a happy song. It was really hard for me. The first lyric is: “I wrote a happy song/I try to sing along/But I was faking it.” It’s really good; it’s on the new record. And I was at an event, and I had bad anxiety that day, and I had to stay backstage to talk to my team. A lot of times I’ll come off as intimidating. It’s usually because I feel nervous and I’m trying to get my anxiety down.

COLIENA RENTMEESTER Styling by Edda Gudmundsdottir; hair by Kelsey Gustovich for the Chris McMillan Salon; makeup by Jill Powell for Dew Beauty Agency; manicure by Sreynin Peng

You’ve also been open about struggling with body image. Where are you with that now?

Ever since I was little, I’ve been thicker. When I first got signed to one of my deals, my managers were like, “Are you ready to get into boot-camp shape?” I was like, “Sure! What does that mean?” They told me to lose 20 pounds, and it kind of messed me up. I went through a point of really not liking myself, and I still have my moments—but I just started trying to be nice to myself and doing things every day. I walk around the house in just underwear and a bra. My therapist told me, “You should walk around naked; it helps.” I’m like, “I can’t do that yet!”

RELATED: Demi Lovato Praises Bebe Rexha for Blasting Designers Who Body Shamed Her Over Grammys Dress

How has the pressure to look a certain way affected you?

I see pop stars who are super thin. I could definitely get there. I’ve done it before, where I was 120-something pounds—and I was just miserable. I was always cold, never eating; I had no ass. Now I look at those pictures like, “Oh my God, I was so skinny.” But I wouldn’t go back there. Even for this shoot...a lot of people would probably kill themselves working out. I’ve been not eating perfect or starving myself—I had chicken Parmesan the other night, Thai food the night before. I’ve just been enjoying my life. Then I was kind of bummed because I weighed myself. I was like, “Oh my gosh, dammit, I gained, like, six pounds, and I have my Health shoot!” But then I was like, “You know what, when will I ever be ready?” That’s just nonsense. I think you have to do what’s best for you.

There have been rumors about plastic surgery—that you’ve gotten a nose job or butt implants.

I think it’s funny. My friend’s a stylist, and he works with other people in the industry, and they’ve talked about my butt, not knowing he’s my best friend. They’re like, “It’s so fake.” And he’s like, “I’ve known this girl forever; that ass is not fake.” I’ve never had my butt done. I’ve never had my nose done. Actually, I have a deviated septum, and I keep getting sinus infections, and I’m scared to get that [fixed]. I’m scared to go under the knife—I don’t want it to mess up my nose! If I got work done, I would definitely say it. I definitely want to get my boobs lifted one day. If it makes me feel better and sexy? I’m like, do whatever you want.

RELATED: 9 Times Celebs Got Real About Being in Therapy

What’s your approach to healthy eating?

I don’t deprive myself. I just don’t think that’s fun. I can be very clean. When I try to be healthier, it’s no bread; no cheese or dairy, except in coffee; no sauces. My ultimate lunch: I’ll order a salad with chicken and no croutons and a side of sweet potato fries. That’s my balance. People are like, “Pizza’s bad.” Pizza’s not bad if you have one slice with a healthy salad on the side! Or people will tell you, “You can’t eat bananas or grapes or watermelon—it’s way too much sugar!” Stop right now. Seriously, just stop.

COLIENA RENTMEESTER Styling by Edda Gudmundsdottir; hair by Kelsey Gustovich for the Chris McMillan Salon; makeup by Jill Powell for Dew Beauty Agency; manicure by Sreynin Peng

How about your exercise regimen?

I work out with my trainer Jeanette [Jenkins]; we change it up. One day we’ll do yoga; one day we’ll do Pilates. We can run one day or box, which is my favorite. When I go to different places, I’ll try to run or go to the gym—or I’ll take cycling classes or bo classes wherever I am. And I deal with my anxiety by working out. I can get out my aggression or anything I’m feeling I just want to get rid of. I also see my therapist. It’s very helpful to talk to somebody.

RELATED: 7 Inspiring Things Celebrities Have Said About Why They Don’t Diet

You made headlines when designers wouldn’t dress you for the Grammys because you’re a size 8. Why did you speak out?

I was hurt. There are a lot of showrooms that lend out dresses. And they’re the meanest people sometimes. I shouldn’t say that because now I’m probably never gonna get anything loaned to me. Some of them are incredible, but some are so gossipy. I made that [Instagram] video because I was upset.

You’ve also called out a married athlete for texting you...

I had his manager calling me nonstop—they were scared I was going to say something! But I wasn’t going to. I think me [bringing attention to the situation] was stronger than blaming him.

How do you navigate dating in the spotlight?

It’s hard. I think me being so outspoken scares a lot of guys. A lot of times, guys want a girl who’s soft and reserved—and that’s not me. I have no filter. I’ll say what I want. I don’t have time for bulls---. Right now, I want to be in a relationship, and I feel like I can’t because I’ve worked so hard—I don’t want my attention to go to anything other than my career.

Last year, you collaborated with Rita Ora, Cardi B, and Charli XCX on the single “Girls,” and the bi-curious lyrics drew backlash. Some of them apologized for the song, but you never did. Why?

You shouldn’t just come at me because I look like I’m a girly girl and be like, “How dare you make fun of lesbians or bi girls?” You don’t know what my background is or what I’ve done or who I’ve made love to or what I consider myself.

RELATED: Cardi B Shows Off Post-Baby Stomach and Asks Fans How to 'Get Rid of the Black Line' After Birth

Why haven’t you publicly defined your sexuality?

I try to keep one thing personal to me. But I consider myself fluid. Until I find “the one,” I can’t just say what I am. I just want to find someone I love and who loves me—and I don’t care if that’s a boy or a girl.

So in all areas of life, it’s about being real and doing what brings you the most happiness?

Yes. When you’re your truest self, people really can feel it. People are craving real more than ever.

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