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The SANCTUM Issue with Isabella Lovestory

“I always wanted to be a superstar”

Swimsuit MONTESERRAT, bra and skirt HU DIE GONG ZHU, shoes BOTTEGA VENETA, jewellery stylist’s own

ISABELLA LOVESTORY is a force to be reckoned with. The HONDURAS born popstar — birth name ISABELLA RODRIGUEZ RIVERA — has successfully constructed a creative wonderland “packaged like a candy wrapper”. Picture a place where you’re encouraged to embrace freedom and stay authentically yourself, then times it by a hundred. An artist by nature, Lovestory’s musical career began with a carefree attitude on SOUNDCLOUD. With OG tunes like gati lindo precious and oh my goy originally luring in her audience, by the time Maripose and Kitten Heel came around in 2020, she had them hooked. Amplifying an experimental approach to sound and treating genre like a concept (she veers away from rigid boundaries and embraces fluidity and freshness), Lovestory is intuitive and instinctual — and her icon-status is set to explode. So, after digging into the discography, we spoke with the artist about her creative process and sublime style to paint a true reflection of her tracks through her passion for the visual arts.

Hey Isabella! Thank you for chatting with us today. How are you?
I’m good. It’s a full moon, so I’m a little stressed. There’s a lot of chaos happening in my life but I’m like, okay — I can fucking handle it!

What’s your sign?

Yes. You can handle this moon.
Yes! I’m good, I got this. I’m drinking coffee and chilling. It’s my last day in London because tomorrow’s my show. After London, I go to Berlin and then to New York.

Busy — and not just with travelling. You have a lot of new stuff coming up. But first, can we begin with how you began making music?
Of course. I began studying Visual Art at CONCORDIA MONTREAL. At the start, everything was visual, visual, visual. Obviously, I had been a fan of music all my life; always listened to music, and always had music playing, but because I never took any lessons, I never thought about making music — it seemed way too intimidating. But I always wanted to be a superstar. I love dancing and I always loved being on stage… actually, I’m looking at a picture now — I’m in my boyfriend’s room — of me as a kid on stage! Anyway, I started with visual art and going to shows in New York. Then I realised, this wouldn’t make any money. I felt like the art world was so exclusive, and I didn’t feel like it was my vibe. The art world is very pristine and white. I wanted to be more accessible and be able to express myself in all senses, so I decided to explore making music. Basically, I just made a song for my cat. Then I kept downloading free beats on YouTube and just singing over them with my headphones and mic and using Garage- Band. It was all super, super casual, but I enjoyed it so much. That’s when I realised I could have more freedom with music and was finally able to express myself fully. With music, I could be in control of a whole entire world, instead of just the visual aspect.

And share that world on a larger scale? Beyond the hierarchies of the art world…
I mean, I still feel misunderstood, but with music, yeah — I can show a full package.

How did you evolve from this SoundCloud casualness to where you are now?
So, when I started making music and uploading it on SoundCloud, it was really casual. But then this producer Chicken from New York sent me a beat. I sent it back, like, the day after with some vocals and then we made an EP. From there we continued working together. I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to do this to the max, and see what happens!”

Dress A1JEWEL, swimsuit MONTESERRAT, shoes and jewellery stylist’s own

Dress A1JEWEL, swimsuit MONTESERRAT, shoes and jewellery stylist’s own

Dress ANAL CANCER TV, skirt CYBERDOG, shoes and jewellery stylist’s own

It’s amazing how committing yourself to something can have such a huge effect… That casual, no-pressure start gave you the freedom to put your true self out there to an online audience. Do you feel like these spaces are necessary for artists in our digitally-driven times?
I love YouTube and SoundCloud. If it wasn’t for those platforms, I wouldn’t have been able to freely upload my stuff without any pressure, just having fun. I think they’re great and you can find so much stuff! As you say, I feel like they are just more… free.

Your name, Lovestory, is perfect for the world you are constructing. Where does it come from?
When I was in the art world, everything was super minimal. I was like, “Fuck that!” I want to be romantic. I’ve always been obsessed with love stories, they’re beautiful. I was watching a lot of romantic movies, which inspired me to write about love — from there I decided to change my name to Lovestory. I also think it sounds really sexy, like a porn star.

Do you think your fascination with love stories is your way of escaping the everyday?
Yeah, exactly. It’s a whimsical, fantastical title for my world. I also kinda liked how long it was, because at that time everybody had very short names. I wanted to take up space with a long-ass name.

Your tracks play with a dichotomy of power and sass on one side, but they’re also fun and girly. Do you feel like that’s a true expression of the Lovestory character?  I think I’m a chaotic person. I have so many different personalities inside my brain that, thinking about it, I should explore some more. I feel like I’m cosplaying as a girl, like a really sexy girl, but inside I’m like a goth boy. I’m a complex person and I’m not really into branding myself as one image; I want to explore and be fluid. I think when you put yourself into a box and categorise yourself, it kills creativity. I just want to keep everything open and explore what comes up.

Is Isabella Lovestory a character, or rather one aspect of yourself amplified?
It’s me but amplified, it is my personality… but on steroids. It’s the purest version of myself. But obviously, I want it to look beautiful and I want it to be packaged like a candy wrapper or a movie poster. So, I think it’s a combination of both but ultimately, it’s 100% myself, showing what I love in the most authentic way.

Honduras also holds a lot of weight within this version of yourself…
Yeah, I think growing up in Honduras has definitely marked my entire existence. I listened to the most music I ever have when I was there, and so I think that was my base of what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. I grew up listening to a lot of indie rock and new wave from my parents; my dad especially listened to a lot of alternative music and was always showing me stuff. He would read indie blogs and send me playlists when I was, like, twelve. I also think moving around has shown me a lot of different sides to life, and Isabella Lovestory is definitely a combination of where I’ve been and the journey I am on. But also, I like combining new things to make an original product. So, it’s like a combination of subconsciously being exposed to those things, but also combining genres and creating new songs.

What’s your earliest memory of music when you were growing up?
Listening to THE SMITHS when I was about four years old in my parents’ house in Honduras, and looking at candles burning while listening.

Very scenic. Your music is a captivating concoction of various genres, particularly reggaeton and pop. Where did your desire to experiment with these genres — and mix them together — come from?
From moving around so much! I want my music to make a collage of my different sides and experiences. I think it’s interesting when you break the rules with what a genre should be. For me, I’ve never had any musical training or knowledge about how music should be written or how it should sound. I want to continue to approach it with this freedom and not care about what it should be. This means that my inspirations are super varied and I don’t care about combining the craziest, most opposing sounds together.

It’s what makes your music so special and different. Any influences?
That’s a hard question, I’m always listening to different people. Right now, I’m really into K-Pop. It is the most satisfying thing to me right now, because it is very extreme pop, and every part of the song hits — I like NEWJEANS, STAYC and HYUNA. Other than that, I listen to lots of guitar and indie rock. I like PRINCE, I like his whole persona. I like badass people who don’t care about what others think they should be — people who just do what they want.

Is your approach to lyric writing equally as freeing?
I don’t really have a structure with how I work at any stage, I’m kind of just intuitive with it all. Sometimes I have a word that I want to use or a story I want to expand on in a song. But usually, I’m just singing gibberish in a song and then I find the words to go with it. I definitely have to make my songs interesting in some way and I have to tap into a concentrated sort of story or a narrative to do so. I always try to make the lyrics of the song different from what’s been done before. I don’t really like to say the same shit as everybody else. It’s not that I don’t respect that — I do enjoy very simple lyrics and I do have simple lyrics myself. But it’s just my brain, I guess it just works in a kind of weird and specific way. I think the lyrics should just be fun. And I think you should just explore words in a fun way instead of a serious way.

Dress ANAL CANCER TV, skirt CYBERDOG, shoes and jewellery stylist’s own

For sure. I mean, you created a narrative completely dedicated to the iconic kitten heel…
Yeah, it’s different every time. Sometimes I have a word; with Kitten Heel, I had the idea of the shoe because I had just bought some new ones on eBay — for $12, by the way! For that, I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna concentrate on these words, and I’m gonna make it all about the shoe and how it sounds and explore everything about the shoe.”

A close analysis of the kitten heel… You often use butterfly symbolism in your lyrics: “Abre tus alas como mariposa” [open your wings like a butterfly] in Mariposa, and in Cherry Bomb the lyric “Abro la bag y mariposas salen”, which translates to, “I open the bag and butterflies come out.” What do they represent?
I think they’re very beautiful and timeless symbols of transformation and femininity, but also strength at the same time. I love the symmetry of the shape and the colours; they look like costumes. It’s also a very spiritual symbol to me because Mariposa (which means butterfly) was kind of my debut; after that, things have been insanely different. So, the butterfly then became a symbol of transformation for myself. I didn’t really realise that when I was making it — or maybe I did subconsciously name it that way, like a metamorphosis. They’re beautiful symbols of delicacy and spirituality, specifically freedom, but also mystery.

Your videos are amazing. How do you expand on your lyrics and sound with visual concepts for your tracks?
Again, I guess it’s intuitive, I’m not trying to reference anything particularly. Most of the time, I just see what comes up after listening to and feeling the song, and expanding on how that would translate visually. It’s important to match and expand the concept of the song in a visual way.

Do you enjoy this process?
Yeah, it’s very, very important to me. Just because I’m a visual person. I create all my artwork and videos. I want to differentiate myself from everybody else. So, I want to have a specific style and I want to explore that because it’s just really fun. I think people don’t realise that the visual aspect is part of the whole Isabella Lovestory world.

What’s been your favourite visual to create so far?
Kitten Heel! It cost zero dollars, no budget. The video was due that night and I thought, “Fuck it, I’m going to make it with my best friend,” and I edited it super quick. It was the funnest one, I love how DIY it is. A lot of people think the highest budget things are the best for me, but for me this monetary aspect doesn’t always equate.

It allows for more experimentation with style.
It’s obviously more work than if I had a team of people doing everything else for me, because with videos like this, I’m doing everything. But because I’m very particular with how I want to represent myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know what I want and how I want to be perceived; it’s like you’re the director of a movie and you’re finding how to present your movie, the colours and everything.

Your desire to express yourself authentically ties into your style, and how unique it is. You’ve even written a couple of songs about fashion — Fashion Freak, for example. What does fashion mean to you? How do you use it to elevate your vision?
I kinda have a weird relationship with fashion — but obviously, I’m obsessed with fashion. I’ve always loved fashion. It’s not a serious thing to me. You know, I’m not like, “Oh, I’m wearing the latest collections,” I’m more just having fun with it. I’m always trying to make myself happier with the clothes I wear and I love looking good and looking cute. I love finding unique pieces. I think it’s also part of my world and it’s kind of like costume design. It’s another way for me to explore myself and express my personality, it shouldn’t be serious. I think it should just always be fun and there’s no rules to it.

The Fashion Freak video really translates that…
I guess the most important thing for me — in everything I do, but specifically in fashion — is to convey freedom, fun and light-heartedness. If you just let yourself go and express yourself in a wild way then it’s how it should be. You shouldn’t overthink things, I think you should just have fun with everything; have fun with fashion and colours. In that video, I wanted to convey this freedom and fun; I always repeat those words, but it’s just the truth of what I want to do.

Where are your favourite places to shop?
I was just on eBay before this, I definitely love eBay. I’ve found some really nice stuff. I love thrift shopping too. I was thinking about if I become a millionaire, I’m definitely still going to be second-hand shopping for sure, you can get such iconic pieces, it’s definitely more unique.

Top SOURTAL, dress MOSCHINO, jeans ICEBERG, shoes stylist’s own

Jacket BLUMARINE, thong BALENCIAGA, shoes and jewellery stylist’s own

We’ve spoken a lot about world-building and liberating yourself from boundaries. Where do you feel most alive, energised and inspired by?
My childhood home in Honduras, and the nature in Honduras — the sun and the grass. It makes me feel super connected to the world. Also, the club, the stage and performing. It’s opposites; one is daylight, sunlight and fresh air, and one is the suffocating club air. Both of these places make me feel like I’m in a sacred place.

And when you perform on stage, do you feel you’re stepping into this sacred space?
Yeah, it feels amazing! I’m happy, so I’m making people happy. It’s kind of like an exorcism sometimes because it’s so much energy. It’s insane to me that people are listening to me, I’m performing my own song, using my voice to touch others and make all these people dance. It’s kind of like a ritual, all those eyes on you. A spiritual experience or something; a transferring of energy, like the audience and the artist, are fucking.

It reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Totally! When I went to Europe for the first time and performed last year, it was insane. It was shocking to me how many people knew all the fucking words — like, words that I forgot! Even from old songs, it’s amazing.

What is on the horizon for Isabella Lovestory?
An album very soon. A few singles also. After that more stuff — I’ve been on a kinda hiatus as I didn’t have a visa for America, so I’ve been making this album remotely. But now, I’ve got my artist visa so I want to keep the fast pace going — release, release, release!

Bralette and skirt MOSCHINO, bra HU DIE GONG ZHU, shoes stylist’s own, ring model’s own

Shop The Sanctum Issue

Words by Issy Wharton
Photography by Oscar Lindqvist
Styling by Kate Kidney Bishop
Hair by Hiro Furukawa
Make-up by Sophie Gia Moore
Styling assistance by Yassine V K
Thank You Elements, Neeliya Desilva and Nordic Poetry