'Fame is so weird to me': Alessia Cara on the power and problems that come with celebrity

In advance of the release of her second album, The Pains of Growing, the Grammy award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter sits down with Tom Power to talk about how she's feeling.
Alessia Cara arrives for the 60th Grammy Awards on January 28, 2018, in New York. (AFP/Getty Images)

Originally published on November 27, 2018

Alessia Cara has been pegged as the next huge pop star for a while now, but this year seemed to make it official. The Brampton, Ont. singer-songwriter won the Best New Artist award at the 2018 Grammys, making her the first Canadian ever to win the honour.

Award shows were a big part of Cara's childhood; she had imagined herself on those stages hundreds of times before. "My dad would always record them for us. He'd be like 'Hey! The awards are on!' and I would run and put on my pajamas and just sit in front of the screen rooting for my favourite artists and watching all the performances—that's all I would do," she says. Though her childhood dreams have become a reality, these days, she's singing for different reasons.

Cara talks to Tom Power about her second album, The Pains of Growing, which was released this past November.

When people ... tell you a specific story like, 'I heard this song and I was about to kill myself and I didn't,' that's when you realize that this is a true purpose.- Alessia Cara

With such extreme success at the impressionable age of 22, it would be easy for the attention to inflate Cara's sense of self, but she explains that "the idea of fame is just so weird to me — I don't really like the attention or the lack of privacy. When people have an interest in your life for the wrong reasons, it can be kind of weird."

Despite the drawbacks, Cara understands that her platform lets her bring a message of hope and healing to people who need to hear it.

The day after she performed 1-800-273-8255 with Logic and Khalid at the 2018 Grammys, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline surged with triple the amount of traffic. Realizing her influence on the well-being of her fans, Cara knows that her voice has power, and she doesn't want to waste it, even if the drawbacks of fame can sometimes feel daunting.

"It's so important to say something worth saying … I feel like when someone that has had the success that I've had speaks openly about their struggles or their emotional instability or even mental health, it can come across as being ungrateful," she says.

Cara now understands that even though people will criticize her vulnerability, the personal stories from her fans changes everything.

"It's one thing to look at a number and be like, 'wow that's insane.' But then when you see those people in front of you and have them tell you a specific story like, 'I heard this song and I was about to kill myself and I didn't,' that's when you realize that this is a true purpose."

Alessia Cara, Growing Pains

Produced by Saroja Coelho; words by Conor Sweetman

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