Singer Olivia Rodrigo Claims She Grew Up Thinking Only White Girls Could Be Pop Stars

Though singers like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce have topped the charts for decades, 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo says she once thought only white girls could find success in the music business.

The former Disney actress, who recently helped the Biden Administration promote its Covid vaccination campaign, told V Magazine that, as a child, she believed “pop star” was synonymous with being white.

“I sometimes get DMs from little girls being like, ‘I’ve never seen someone who looked like me in your position,” she said. “And I’m literally going to cry, like, just thinking about it. I feel like I grew up never seeing that. Also, it was always like, ‘Pop star,’ that’s a white girl.”

Rodrigo’s assertion that she grew up not seeing minority singers is strange given that, in 2003, the year she was born, nearly all the women on the Billboard Hot 100 list were minorities, including Nelly Furtado, Shakira, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, and Rihanna. The one female group in the top 20, the Pussycat Dolls, was fronted by Nicole Scherzinger, who is, like Rodrigo, of mixed Filipino descent.

In fact, only one of the female solo artists in the top 20 that year—Natasha Bedingfield—was white.

In 2018, the year that Rodrigo became a teenager, none of the women in the top 20 of the Billboard top 100 list were “white,” unless you count Bebe Rexha (whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from the former Yugoslavia), Dua Lipa (who is an Albanian Muslim) or Ariana Grande (whose parents are both Italian). The rest—Camila Cabello, Cardi B, and Ella Mai—were all Hispanic or black.

This isn’t the first time Rodrigo has spoken out on race or implied she believes systemic racism is an issue in American cultural institutions.

In May, she told Nylon she believes the American public makes unfair comparisons between Asian-Americans and African-Americans. Speaking about the riots following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin, Rodrigo said:

During that time I learned a lot about “the model minority myth.” It’s something that I heard in Asian communities around me, which is this untrue idea that, “Oh, well, we’re Asian people and immigrants and we’re doing fine. Why can’t other disenfranchised groups be like us?” It is complete BS, when you consider the hundreds of years of institutionalized, internalized racism that they had to overcome. That was a big thing I learned about and educated myself on during the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd. It’s something I’m constantly still reminding myself of, and educating myself on, and I’ll never stop.

Ironically, Rodrigo has herself come under fire for racial insensitivity. As Yahoo reported in early August, the young singer was featured in a mash-up of non-black stars using “blaccent”—that is, speaking in what is perceived to be African-American vernacular. Fans accused her of cultural appropriation. Rodrigo has not yet addressed the controversy.

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