it girl

Empress Of Likes It Messy

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Kaio Cesar

Lorely Rodriguez has been working as Empress Of for almost a decade now, and people still can’t seem to resist asking her, “Empress of what?” The question makes her eyes roll a little bit; the answer is beside the point. Her stage name is a reference to the Empress tarot card, a powerful ultrafemme ruler with a crown of stars who is also considered a mother, nurturer, and creator. Since adapting it, Rodriguez has put out a combined six albums and EPs, toured with fellow pop girls Carly Rae Jepsen and Rina Sawayama, and launched her own independent label, Major Arcana (another tarot reference, of course).

Now, Rodriguez is getting ready to release her fourth studio album, For Your Consideration, a confident and sometimes horny ode to Hollywood glamour and late nights at the club. Inspired by a short-lived relationship with a movie director, For Your Consideration came from a place of heartbreak, but the lyrics are more triumphant than dejected — flirty products of Rodriguez’s time being single and going out in Los Angeles.

It’s no coincidence that the album, which Rodriguez put out partly through Major Arcana with support from a different indie label, will arrive at the tail end of awards season. The title track is a nod to her upbringing in L.A., where she says she has seen “For Your Consideration” billboards every year. On the cover, she’s straddling a neon-lit shooting star that looks freshly heisted from the Warner Bros. lot, riding the prop like a campy stallion and commandeering the city as her own. “I’ve done my Latin identity in L.A. and what that means to me in my visuals before,” she says. “Ten years into my career, with this album I wanted to be, like, Whether you recognize me or not, I’m on a fucking shooting star over L.A.

What is an “It” girl?

An “It” girl is unbotheredly cool. When someone has an “It”-girl quality, you’re nosy about them. What are they doing? What are they wearing?

Do you consider yourself an “It” girl?

If you wanna call me an “It” girl, I’m down. But I wouldn’t go around town saying, “I’m an ‘It’ girl.”

Who are some other musicians you would classify as “It” girls?

I always thought Tommy Genesis was “It” girl before “‘It’ girl” was a thing. She just has that thing. I’m nosy. What’s Tommy up to? I’m looking at her stories, I’m invested. Kilo Kish — I’m, like, How do you look so effortless? Charli XCX is, like, capital “I-T” girl. She can wear anything and just look amazing. Rowan Blanchard pioneered how everyone dresses right now.

Where do you like to shop?

I’m a vintage girl. I’m on the whole environmental tip, but I also love the search, the process, and it feels so unique. I buy a lot of stuff on eBay. It’s amazing to travel and find, like, vintage Moschino pants at THANX GOD I’M A VIP in Paris. In Berlin, there’s an incredible early 2000s vintage store called Sing Blackbird. Every time I wear that type of stuff, I feel special.

What was the last thing you bought that made you feel like that?

I found these YSL satin pumps in a vintage store in the middle of nowhere in a mountain town called Idyllwild in California. I remember seeing this blue box in the corner of the floor and pulling it out. They’re in amazing condition, and the box is from Neiman Marcus in the ’80s. I thought, I’m gonna wear this to a red carpet or an event and everyone’s gonna be, like, Oh my god, and I’m gonna be, like, Yeah, I got this at a thrift store in the mountains.

Your album art is always so vivid and beautiful. What inspires you visually?

I get drawn to the mood of the music I’m making, whatever kind of mythological world happens in my head. With For Your Consideration, it felt very stardom-y, Hollywood-y — it’s the idea of being recognized. I’m giving myself the recognition before anyone else does. I am prizeworthy whether you give it to me or not. But the title is cheeky, so we went kind of camp with the cover.

Your lyrics sound more confident than ever. What headspace were you in while writing these songs?

I worked with collaborators who helped me say things more directly than I would have in the past. I was definitely in the headspace of being a single girl in L.A., being on dating apps, people coming in and out of my life. It feels very sweet and short, like a fling. I’m just wanting to feel good, which manifests in some of the lyrics — the sexy wateriness of “Preciosa,” that sort of baby-girl energy. But then there’s the dom girl in “Femenine.” She discovered herself in some of these songs — “she” as in me.

Do you like collaboration or prefer to work alone?

I’ve worked alone so much in my life, and this is the first album I made that I didn’t hands-on produce everything. I very much wanted to work with other people on this album, but it still sounds like an Empress Of record. Because I’ve worked so much alone, I could really control that even though I wasn’t at the computer. On this album, I was very good at having a vision sonically. And you can hear it — the album is very fluid and whole, even though I have all these different producers and songwriters. It doesn’t sound patchwork.

What’s a perfect night out to you?

Because I was dating and going out and being very transactional with people when I made this album, when I did have my nights out, I was, like, I just wanna hang out with the girls. I want to have a baddie girl hang at some hilarious place. I love the iconic classic places you can go to in L.A., where Frank Sinatra would have a drink — going there with my girls and having a martini.

What’s your go-to dancing music? 

In the morning, I listen to Beyoncé and do my “Okay, we’re gonna take the day” dance. But for that meditative process of getting ready before a night and doing your makeup, it’s usually, like, Peggy Gou, Channel Tres, maybe Janet Jackson. Something that’s iconic.

You can really hear those dance-music influences on this album. Do you want people to dance to your music?

I’ve been playing these songs already, and the vibe is very much a dance party. Let’s just be a little messy. I played in Paris and went out in the middle of the audience and made a little … wholesome mosh pit. It feels very fun and flirty. I love to dance, and I do a lot of dancing onstage, so it all makes sense.

Your stage name is a reference to the Empress tarot card. Why that one?

At my first ever tarot reading, like, 11 years ago, the first card they pulled out was the Empress card. I was making all this music and I was like, I can’t call myself the Empress. Can you imagine my career if I was the Empress? But I relate to that femininity and the care and nurturing that I give my music. There’s always a conversation that’s, like, “Empress of what?” I love the playfulness and the open-endedness. It’s confusing and mystical, and it feels right.

Empress Of Likes It Messy