At the start of 2015, 18-year-old Swedish pop superstar-in-waiting Zara Larsson posted a picture on her Instagram about a subject matter that had been concerning her. The image was of her bare leg sheathed in a condom from toe to knee, while the accompanying blurb read: “To all the guys saying ‘my dick is too big for condoms’ TAKE A SEAT”. It quickly went viral and announced the arrival of an outspoken new popstar: If Lily Allen was born out of the Myspace generation, then Zara Larsson is pure Tumblr. Or something. That she also had some grade-A bangers up her sleeve helped too, with the MNEK collaboration Never Forget You and summer classic Lush Life both tickling the upper reaches of the UK top 10.
Considering she’s got opinions on just about everything, it seemed easier to chuck some questions in a box and let her pick them out at random and go nuts. So that’s exactly what happened. (The ones with * next to them are questions submitted by her mum, sister and management company. Cute right.)
Have you had media training?
Nope. I haven’t. When I first got signed in America they put me with this woman who taught me how to express myself when it came to speaking in interviews. Mainly because English isn’t my first language. But I only went there once. I just think my record company and my management are happy with who I am, and what I say, and how I express myself. Social media and expressing what I think is such an important part of me. The only thing I could learn from media training is how to get to the point – I have a habit of talking about irrelevant stuff.
How long did it take you to read the latest Harry Potter book?*
The Cursed Child? It took me a few hours. A day, tops. I read very quickly. My dad reads quickly but my sister and my mum are the opposite. I love Harry Potter!
In a strange of twist of fate you wake up a man for one day only – what’s the rst thing you do?
I would like to know what it’s like to pee and just have a thing dangling down there (laughs). It would feel very strange. I’d probably play with that all day (laughs). I would be the same person, you know. I would still do what I love, the only thing that would change is just my physique.
When did you last swear in front of your mum?
I swear in front of my mum all the time! Sometimes she tells me off. I can say ‘oh shit’, but when I say the Swedish version of ‘I was so fucking tired’ she’s like ‘that’s not necessary’.
Why did you always stay with your friend at kindergarten instead of going to the playground?*
What is this? Did my mum give you this question? That’s amazing. Why did I do that? It could have been because I was really in love with this guy called Jonathan. I think that’s what she’s trying to get me to talk about. Basically, I never wanted to go to school, so my mum had to bribe me by saying ‘but Jonathan’s there’ and I’d get excited.
I was four or five. That’s how she got me to school. He was really afraid of sharks so I was like ‘I’m really afraid of sharks too’. I’m not, at all. I loved him though. He was a sweetheart. I wonder what he’s doing now. I wanted to be with him all the time.
My sister thinks you sound like Rihanna – do you agree?
I don’t agree at all. I can’t hear the similarities, but it’s definitely a compliment. I love her voice so much. When I released my first song and people said I sounded like Rihanna I was really surprised.
Are you responsible for the behaviour of your fans?
In some ways I think. But I would say that my fans are really really sweet. At least what I see on social media. The sweetest thing ever is when I’m somewhere and people are waiting for me and then by the end of the day they’re like ‘we just made ten more friends’. It’s really nice to see how people are sweet to each other. I want my fans to respect each other.
Is it true that when you were four or five your mother sent you to your room so you snuck out the window and hid in the subway station?*
Yes! I did that a bunch of times. I’m a very stubborn person so when my mum sent me to my room I just couldn’t accept that. So I’d sneak out the window. We live near a subway station and a tiny forest so I’d go in there and climb up a tree. I’d be up there for hours. Then I’d see my mum and dad running around going ‘ZARA! ZARA!’ and I’d ignore them. I did that a lot. I felt like because mum was punishing me then I needed to punish her back (laughs). Later on when I told her I was going to run away she’d just say ‘okay then’, so then it wasn’t as fun anymore.
Do we care enough about the elderly?
To be very honest, I don’t really know that much about this question. I don’t really think about it. I think about mostly my generation. But I’ve heard some crazy stories about the elderly literally not being taken care of and that’s very sad. My grandma is the only elderly person still alive in my family and I would not like to see her suffer in some home with people who don’t care about her. I think we don’t respect the elderly enough. I just want people to treat them with the respect and love they deserve.
You’re in some sort of ‘beef’ with renowned twat Chris Brown – how did that happen?
I’m not in a beef. The only thing I said was that I don’t respect what he is doing outside of music. In loads of his songs he talks about women in a way that I don’t like. We all know what he did in 2009 to Rihanna, and even Chris Brown fans don’t defend that, but again and again and again he’s been doing things and I’m like ‘what are you doing?’. I never said he’s not talented, because unfortunately he is talented, and he’s got some great songs, but some of the things he’s said are trash. So I’m trying to not support his music. There are a lot of rappers and singers out there who are equally as misogynistic [in their songs] but there’s an element of playing a character there, but with Chris Brown he just doesn’t seem nice as a person. There are so many great artists these days that you can support who have great values, and respect people and who don’t talk shit about others. He called me a stinky butt, which is like whatever.
What’s your favourite audiobook?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. It’s nice to have something in my ears all the time. I listen to a lot of Swedish podcasts and the ones where you can just learn about things you wouldn’t normally learn about. I listen to ones about factual things – make-up! Passports! LSD! Everything.
Is it important that you write all your songs?
To me it isn’t. I would like to be a part of every song but if somebody has a song and really wants me to sing it and I love it then I’m not going to turn it down just because I’m super proud. I’m not going to do that. Maybe I’ll change a little thing here or there to make it more my own. As I get older I feel like I know what I want more and I can say what I want more. I have more confidence now in the creative side of things. I wasn’t involved in that part on my first [Swedish only] debut, but probably on my next one I’ll write on all of them.
If your tombstone could play an mp3 on a loop, what song would it be?
That is a funny question! Wow. I have never been asked that question in my life. I know my dad wants ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen played at his funeral. Probably something like Lush Life actually. (Sings) “I live my day as if it was the last”.
Do you have two dog cuddly toys?*
I do and I always sleep with them. They’re called Doggy and Lisa. I’m terrible with names. Doggy was the first dog and I just called him Dog and then it became Doggie. Like with my rabbits, we just called them Bunny One and Bunny Two. Real bunnies. I will never ever throw my cuddly toys away. I want them for the rest of my life.
How do you feel when a female celebrity says she’s not a feminist?
I personally became very upset a few years back about that, but right now I’m like, is that really what we should focus on? Like Kim Kardashian, she said she didn’t identify herself as a feminist. But she is! Everything she stands for, what she’s saying, it’s super feminist. But maybe she’s afraid of putting herself in that box, which is sad. It’s not a dirty word. It’s such a big debate and I obviously think it’s important for women with an impact such as celebrities to call themselves a feminist, but I don’t think about it as much as I did back in the day. I would rather focus on violence against women, rape, the fact that women are not being educated in some countries. That stuff. But yes, I do think it’s a little sad that we just can’t say ‘yeah, of course I am’. It’s sad because some women are afraid of being judged by irrelevant people who don’t know about shit.
You once put a condom on your leg to prove no man is too big to wear one – what was the reaction like?
My friends thought it was very funny. I got a lot of texts. Nobody really talked about it. It wasn’t a big thing [with my friends] at all, it just blew up online and outside of Sweden. My friends just liked the picture and then moved on. A lot of guys were very offended by it and I was like ‘why?’. That was pretty strange. But that wasn’t people I knew or cared about. They’re obviously people who have told that lie.
Zara means princess – is that appropriate?
Of course it is.