I was lucky enough to get to photograph and interview for Vogue Italia four incredible talented women who all contribute to the world with their unique voices whether it’s by making dancy music, quirky Instagram posts or controversial art. Photography and interviews by Simone Steenberg

I present Rina Sawayama who talks about real feminism, her music and latest Tokyo adventure, Diana Chire who talks about performance art, racial and sexual identity and becoming an instigator for new ideas, Femme who talks about her upbeat sound, cutie dog Bullet and how fashion and music go together and Charlie Barker who talks about doing what she wants and not caring about how people react to it!

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What is your full name?
Rina Sawayama – people call me Ri!

What is your occupation?
I’m a recording artist and model. I love all the creative bits about my job – collaborating with other people, creating something out of nothing, expressing my views through art and music, connecting with people from the other side of the world. I write, produce, record, and direct my videos because every part of the delivery of my ideas is important to me. The workload gets overwhelming sometimes, but in my opinion we live in an increasingly visual world so it’s important to cater to that and make sure my music make sense visually too.

Do you think it is important for music to have a message?
Yes, to me it’s very important that music has a message. Music in general (and as an extension music videos) is a perfect carrier for a political message and social commentary – so why not? These days we have so much information at our fingertips that, for me, it’s harder to write in a vacuum. I’m constantly thinking about the wider picture, what I want to say to people, what my opinions are on the Internet, sexism, racism etc., and how I can connect personal experiences to societal movements. A few years ago pop music was so disconnected to real life – chart music was about partying in clubs and getting wasted.

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It was so boring lol. Nowadays huge pop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Blood Orange are using their skills in music to communicate to a wide audience about important issues like Black Lives Matter. Music that makes people think. Music that makes people want to look lyrics up on genius.com and learn something new about the world. Writing a song like that is hard, but that is art. I like writing generic pop but intelligent pop is so much more challenging and rewarding.

How do music and fashion go together in your life?
Fashion is another way to express myself when I’m not singing. Fashion can connect people, push your boundaries, make people talk, and bring a spark to daily life. I often collaborate with fashion creatives and find that they are the most forward thinking and accepting people in the world. 

Who would you fangirl?
Beyonce, Rihanna, Sheena Ringo, Yoko Ono and Utada Hikaru. All women who had a huge influence in my life.

You just visited Tokyo – can you tell us a bit more about your trip?
I was in Tokyo shooting a campaign. How it came about is really the craziest story – a couple of months ago Kiko Mizuhara found my music and got in touch on Snapchat. One thing led to another and a few months later I was shooting my first campaign in Japan’s biggest fashion building LUCUA; a TV commercial with a song I wrote and recorded with Seiho in the background. I shot some other things while I was there and hopefully going to collaborate on a new music video with the team. The power of internet is immense – this would have never happened without Kiko reaching out, I’m so stunned and grateful for everything and everyone involved. Tokyo has really changed since I last visited 4 years ago – there are so many more tourists and young people are so much more openly affectionate in the street – I felt a real buzz there, like things were happening. With the Olympics coming up I think Tokyo is going become the new world hub for creativity. I’ve got more trips planned there so I can’t wait to collaborate with Japanese artists!

Could you tell us a bit more about your hair colour?
Well it was a very practical choice. Being blonde was really wrecking my hair so I had to think of a hair colour that wasnt going to damage it even more. I settled on bright orange because thats the colour my hair goes when I use weak bleach on it anyways, so thought why not just amp it up? I get it done at Bleach London, they are amazing!

What is female empowerment to you?
I think the term “female empowerment” has become appropriated by capitalism. It’s used to sell a product and takes advantage of feminism (“I, as a feminist, believe the product is feminist, so buying it makes me more feminist”). I think therefore its important to know what IS and what ISNT empowering women. A£49 t-shirt that says “female empowerment” made in a sweatshop in a third world country is not truly empowering women. To me, I think true empowerment comes from the power of being intersectional, and at least trying to support all women from different walks of life. For example I’ve heard some feminists (men and women) will make casually racist jokes about a cleaner/nail technician/waitress. It’s not about being a perfect feminist, but it’s about making attempts to give a voice to all women, not just those who are white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied and privileged.

What are your plans for 2016 – do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Yes! Very exciting times ahead. I’ve been working on this EP “alone together” for ages but its finally coming together. I’m shooting a new music video soon and collaborating with some exciting people to bring an amazing live experience. The LUCUA TV commercial is out in the Kinki region of Japan in July.
What would your dream reality show be like?
A reality TV show about puppies of course!
Lastly, what is your best advice to female artists and creatives working to make it in the industry?
Assertive not aggressive. Don’t compare yourself to others. DON’T GIVE UP!

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What is your full name?
Laura Bettinson. Some friends call me Betts, and my Dad calls me Lol. And most of the new people I meet now call me Femme. Many different names. Many different hats.

What is your occupation?
I write, produce and perform my own music. I love the creative freedom my job allows me and I’m always learning new skills to help me navigate through an ever changing music industry.

Do you think it is important for music to have a message?
Not all music needs a message, I’d struggle to find a message in a lot of the instrumental dance music I listen to but all music should move you in one way or another. That’s when it’s at its most powerful. I tend not to spell things out directly in my lyrics but within every song on my album, ‘Debutante’ – there is a sense of female power and strength. The beats and production is very masculine but i have consciously coupled that with feminine, 60s influenced harmony and melody. I like that juxtaposition. A lot of young girls and women are fans of my music because it brings them up and makes them feel invincible, it’s feel-good. My album is fun, with a sense of humour throughout but I would hope, an intelligence at the centre of it. My favourite pieces of pop music are fun and overblown, but never dumb or lazy.

How do music and fashion go together in your life?
I’ve always loved fashion and dressing up for any occasion. I enjoy the freedom of expression that clothes allow you and some of my favourite pop stars of the past are fashion icons – Michael Jackson, Madonna, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Patti Smith. I’ve never really been able to afford to follow ‘fashion’ so a lot of my personal style has been born of combining second hand and found thrift store items with new young designer pieces friends have made, and carefully selected vintage items and accessories. My fashion sense is a bit like the music I make – eclectic, bold, tongue in cheek and ever evolving.

Who would you fangirl?
Vivienne Westwood – everything about her life past and present is an inspiration.

Could you tell us a bit more about your hair colour?
It’s pink and it’s high maintenance. I’ve had it this colour for nearly 7 years now, I wonder if it might still be pink when I’m 85. Possibly.

You have the cutest dog – can you tell us a bit about her?
My dog is called Bullet, or Mini B, Bdizzle, Btown, Peanut, Weiner. Several different names for a dog the size of a squirrel but with the heart of a lion. I rehomed her at the beginning of this year from a house where she’d barely been outside and since living with me she’s been to LFW, radio sessions and many photoshoots – she’s taking it all in her stride and melting hearts everywhere we go.

What is female empowerment to you?
Self-confidence. Being able to see a situation for what it is and having the strength to stand up for yourself and keep your head held high when waging through the trenches of sexist bullshit that is unfortunately so deeply ingrained in much of our society. I get asked this question a lot in interviews with regards the music industry and I think it’s something i’ve got better at dealing with as I get older – with every year I care a little bit less about what people think and much more for my own peace of mind.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
This summer we’re out playing festivals and then in the autumn i’m going to release a remix album of my debut album that just came out. It’ll be an album full of collaborators from all corners of the globe and the electronic music scene, putting their own spin on my pop originals. I then hope to get back out on tour towards the end of the year and then new music will follow.

If you could be Miss president of the planet for a day what would you do?
I’d feed everyone a vegan meal and prove that it’s really not such a huge leap. I’d also have to have some sort of system for publicly calling out litterers – maybe some kind of giant, finger pointing hand that comes down from the sky every time someone deliberately throws something on the floor. It really riles me. In London i see a lot of it, and I truly don’t understand why when there are bins everywhere.

Lastly, what is your best advice to female artists and creatives working to make it in the industry?
Keep creating, growing and moving. Don’t stand still because that’s usually when things go quiet, and if you’re anything like me I like to be turned up to 11 at all times.

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What is your full name?
Diana Chire – I dont have any nicknames yet!

What is your current occupation?

What would be your dream job?
Space Exploration!

In your performance work you challenge the notion of identity and gender – could you tell me a bit more about that?
I am interested in exploring facets of identity such as gender, sexuality and in particular the complex nature of racial identity. In my performances I alter my body, skin, and clothing to align with or go against social conventions.

When your body is your ‘medium’ – what is your artistic process like?
Using my self as a medium is a way for me to answer my own internal questions I have with my body that I can only communicate through performance.

As a performer, do you ever step out of your role?
I’m always working on new ideas and film everything. Even if I’m not so sure about a particular the piece, I’ll film it and it’ll exist. So, yes I’m always performing. There’s something so female about performing. This to be looks -at ness.

Which female artists have influenced your work?
Adrian Piper, Claude Cahun and Valie Export.

What is female empowerment to you?
Self-determination and creating your own opportunities.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
I’m working on a series of performances outside traditional at venues. My friend and I have also started our own magazine dedicated to female artists launching in Oct. I am also organising an art show with a group of friends for November.

If you could go back in time where would go and when?
Ziggy Stardust is 1971 – 1972 not ’73!

Lastly, what is your best advice to female artists and creatives working to make it in the industry?
Become an instigator for new ideas.

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What is your full name? Do you have a nickname?
Charlie Barker with no fun nicknames

What is your current occupation?

What would be your dream job? What was your dream job when you were a kid?
My dream job now would be to just travel and make friends all over the world which is kind of what I’m doing so yay and when I was younger I wanted to be a runway model and that’s also been ticked off. Honestly, that alone makes me believe you can achieve anything if you work hard enough:)

What do you love about Instagram?
I love that I can almost completely express myself, all of my more creative posts are my favourite, it’s a part of my art in a way like the whole notion of having an idea, shooting it, editing it, posting it.

What is essential in your art?
I specialise in painting and I guess Instagramming.

What is fashion to you? Do you have a style icon?
This is a weird one, I dress by whatever feels good not exactly comfy but if I put something on I know if its my style, I don’t have a style icon.

I noticed that you have a Hello Kitty tattoo – what is your relationship with Hello Kitty?
It has gotten too out of hand haha!!! I just loved her for forever its just such a cool household brand and when it was time to get inked up there’s nothing i really believe in as much as HK.

Could you tell us a bit more about your hair colour?
It’s instinctual.

What is female empowerment to you?
All sexes doing exactly what they want and not caring about how people are going to react to it, that’s literally how I get through life, it fuels my great energy.

What are your plans for 2016?
Lots of things!! I’m always spontaneous so i have no details yet but I’m been in NYC for a while and it’s already opening a lot of doors. Stay tuned.

What super powers do you have or wish to have?
I already have all the superpowers I need, I was pretty blessed.

Lastly, what is your best advice to female artists and creatives working to make it in the industry?
Work your ass off, take every opportunity.

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Women Artists