Photo:Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
The first time I met Bishop Briggs, she (or rather, her voice) crawled out of the TV and into my heart. It was 2015, and while I mindlessly plodded away on a philosophy paper during my senior year of college, an Acura commercial came on in the background. (Random, right? Stay with me.)
A soulful song rang out—an indie-pop melody that made me want to stomp, snap, sing, and dance all at once, and within seconds, my Shazam app was open. The song, "Wild Horses," was Briggs's first single and a quick-sizzling flare that would spark a domino effect of equally dazzling singles—"River" in January 2016, "The Way I Do" that May, and "Pray" in August. However, despite the underground musical frenzy Briggs had ignited, her first full-fledged album, Church of Scars, wasn't released until April of last year—10 songs all written and composed by Sarah Grace McLaughlin, aka Bishop Briggs.
Now, over a year later, the singer's second album, aptly entitled Champion, is officially available—news that is, quite literally, music to her fans' voraciously hungry ears. Prior to the album's release and a two-month tour spanning the globe, from Detroit to Berlin, I had a chance to chat with Briggs about not only the sparkling success of her musical career thus far but also her eclectic fashion aesthetic (a high-octave range including vintage Nike sneakers, "belt chains $10 too expensive," and long-sleeve Burberry button-downs), her decision to shave her head, and the mascara that's far superior to a set of extensions.
Even though Briggs isn't a household name (or at least not yet, anyway), I can't seem to curb my excitement. After becoming addicted to her haunting vocals and fatiguing my Spotify with incessant playbacks of her first album, I consider myself a pretty devout, if not borderline embarrassingly obsessed, fan. Something (bless her) Briggs overwhelmingly appreciates and actually thanks me for.
"I absolutely can't wait to talk with Bishop!" I say into the receiver after punching the dial-in and speaking to someone who I mistakenly believed to be her publicist. "Oh my gosh! I am Bishop!" a very warm, very kind voice responds. We laugh, and so begins a half-hour chat that not only confirms my appreciation for Briggs's music but brings to life the artist behind the melodies. The soul-consuming process of creating music isn't something Briggs takes lightly, and quickly, I realize her emotional authenticity bleeds into everything she does—from the way she dresses and applies her contour to the ways she supports friends (e.g., shaving her head) or confronts vulnerabilities during "much-needed" therapy sessions.
"I feel like my confidence has dramatically changed since I started going to therapy," she tells me when I ask her about the evolution of her self-esteem in an appearance-obsessed age and industry. "When you have to show up each week and tell someone what you're doing and why you're doing it, it really reveals a lot within you. I started going to therapy a couple of years ago, and it made me feel like my skin was suddenly inside out. I could see why I acted certain ways, and I think for a lot of people, myself included, it comes from things you internalize or experience during childhood—when you're at your most vulnerable in a lot of ways and maneuvering a lot of 'firsts.'"
Having a better understanding of why she loves making music has also offered some helpful perspective, and it's something Briggs tells me has shaped and improved her self-esteem. As she sees it, making music is a need—a soul expression that's not only an extension of herself but a lifeline when society tries to undermine her sense of self-worth.
Of course, this brings up something interesting—the fact that Briggs roughly one year ago traded in her signature, slicked-back space buns for a brazenly bare head. It wasn't an angsty act of defiance but an act of love in support of a friend (makeup artist Arax) who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. But having no hair, as it turns out, has been pretty damn liberating for Briggs in a personal, self-discovering way, too.
"I can't believe it's been a year!" she exclaims when I ask for details on life sans strands and whether it's a look she'll maintain. "I keep thinking it's only been a few months, but you're right! Well, first of all, I tell every girl this—well, guys too—but literally everyone has cheekbones, and I'm telling you, when you shave your head, suddenly you have these crazy-amazing cheekbones. I'm about to go on tour for a couple of months, so I think I'm going to keep it like this for a little while. It's something I really want to have during this release. Writing this album, it really was a liberation of my past self, and I really tried to free myself of the insecurities I was holding and, you know, maybe the truths that I wasn't telling. I want to have it shaved during this time period because it's a constant reminder to myself to be honest, to not hide, to tell the truth. I have always been really lucky that I don't have the same attachment to my hair that I think a lot of people do."
Equipped with a "punky spirit" that she realized at a pretty young age, Briggs tells me it's always been her style and beauty MO to lean into anything low-maintenance, be it a day-to-day nude lipstick (Marc Jacobs, BTW) or a preference for city-specific vintage tees and jeans for places she visits on tour.
"I'm always thinking about what's going to be the best or easiest to perform in," she admits.
"If I can find a vintage tee that has that particular place on it, I like to throw that into my tour look, but this time around, I’m focusing on having clothes that I can wear on a day-to-day basis but still destroy on stage and sweat through. I used to think I really had to lean into athleisure for stage, but then I would find myself feeling so much more like myself when I was wearing something more skater or street-friendly. I love to play with androgyny, and I've kind of discovered that I can really have the best of both worlds."
Even though Gwen Stefani circa her No Doubt days and envelope-pushing artists like Björk have been longtime inspirations for Briggs, right now, she's focused more on the everyday woman and is rather obsessed with what she notices on, say, the streets of London.
"Anyone who isn't conforming to something that doesn't feel right to them is very inspiring to me," she states matter-of-factly. "My mom is this very, very sweet Scottish lady, and she did always have this vision of me being very girly and wearing dresses. I still remember the first time I wore sweatpants and a hoodie, and I just felt so confident, you know? And it wasn't about covering up my body. It was about having the physical freedom to move the way I wanted to move without restriction and not having my body feel hugged in ways I didn't want it to feel in that moment. And as women, we get to decide that."
While Los Angeles has been Briggs's home base for years now, her parents are Scottish, she was born in London, lived in Tokyo for six years, and then Hong Kong for eight (where she graduated high school) before migrating to Los Angeles—a vibrant and eclectic upbringing that not surprisingly has very much shaped her fashion-and-beauty aesthetic.
"I was really lucky I lived in Tokyo, which was full of vibrancy and energy," she elaborates as I press for every detail. "There was a lot of creativity when it came to clothing, and there was something really freeing about seeing people utilize clothes, fashion, and makeup as a way to express themselves. There was this amazing difference and transformation between what I'd see people wear during the day to work or school and then the outrageous outfits that were full of personality they'd transition to at nighttime." A juxtaposition, she says, that always intrigued her and made her feel fearless as far as color, fashion, and beauty were concerned.
That said, being the beauty-obsessed editor I am, there is one thing I absolutely have to ask her about, and that's whether or not her practically brow-grazing lashes are real. Her answer: yes. After a four-hour stint with lash extensions, she—and an outspoken semi-dismayed barista—decided the fad just wasn't for her.
"I do have a particular mascara that I highly recommend—Marc Jacob's Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara ($26)—and I do spend a lot of time on them. I have a lot of tricks! I start at the base of my lashes and wiggle the wand side to side. … I use the tip to individually get each lash, it's definitely a ritual of mine."
Additionally, the magical powers of a really great contour, blush, and highlighter combo aren't lost on Briggs and represent an essential part of the singer's beauty routine. Her cheekbones, highlighted by her sleek buzz, are her favorite feature to play up.
"Not having hair, they're kind of all I have!" she laughs. "So I really go in on contour sometimes, and I try to blend it, but, you know, considering how much contour I'm adding, there's really not that much blending happening. I swear by a lot of highlighters. I love Becca's Pressed Powder Highlighter in Champagne Pop ($38); that one is just wild. And then as far as other products, I've been loving Glossier's Boy Brow in Clear ($16); that’s been kind of a game changer. And then I really love Marc Jacobs Le Marc Lip Crème Lipstick ($32) for an everyday wear kind of thing. Oh, and honestly, this is another product that's definitely worth mentioning: It Cosmetics CC+ Cream ($39). It works for everyone, and it's so incredible—no matter what state your skin is in."
As our interview wraps, there's one more thing to address, and that's the fact that having grown up in Tokyo and Hong Kong, Briggs was the queen of face masks before face masks, you know, represented the most in-demand currency within the beauty space.
"I mean, I have an obsession with face masks," she confirms. "I feel like everyone does right now, but my obsession is really OG because I grew up having access to all that stuff in Hong Kong. So when the craze began a couple of years ago, I would say I just rejoined the club."
Keep scrolling to shop all of Briggs's must-have beauty picks, and to get your full fix, I recommend listening to her new album, Champion, out today, while you do so.