She’s the platinum-selling singer/songwriter who smashed the charts with Ciao Adios, had us singing 2002 all summer and teamed up with David Guetta on Don’t Leave Me Alone. Oh, and she’s toured with Ed Sheeran. But there’s more to Essex-raised Anne-Marie than her music: she’s also straight-up honest about mental health and body confidence. Her debut album is called Speak Your Mind, and that’s exactly why we (and her 2.3 million Insta followers) love her.
“I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was 12. As a kid, I was confident and carefree, but when I hit my teenage years I became really shy and would always worry about people looking at me. I wanted to fit in at school so much that I just did what everyone else did. Make-up was my mask: sometimes I’d slap so much on that you couldn’t tell what my real face looked like. Doing this totally took away my personality and I withdrew into myself.
“My shyness got worse at the start of my career. You’d think being a singer would be good for your confidence but, for me, it was actually the opposite. The more people I met, the more anxious I became. I was really protective of my feelings and wary of getting mugged off.
“Four years ago, I went on tour with drum-and-bass band Rudimental, who were the first people to see potential in me. They taught me so much and I started to regain my confidence. Then one day, on our bus, I looked over at Bridgette [Amofah, from Rudimental]. She seemed completely happy and comfortable to be on her own, and in her own world. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, there’s no barrier there. She doesn’t care what people think.’ It made me want to break down my self-conscious barriers, too.
“As well as getting therapy, I looked at other women who were close to me – such as Jaz [Jazmin Sherman], my manager, and Jenn [Jennifer Decilveo], who I wrote my first album with. They embrace who they are, which has inspired confidence in me. It’s been a journey – and one that I’m still on – my brain is overactive and I go through weird phases with myself.
I struggle with walking into new places and anxious thoughts often flood my mind, such as whether people will enjoy my performances. It can be overwhelming, but talking to people helps, and I learn a lot from everyone I meet. The more I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, the more I see that what I’m worried about will actually be fine.
“Now, sometimes I feel good, and sometimes I feel bad. Anxiety is my biggest challenge, but I try to stay honest about my feelings in my songs; showing my highs, but also my lows. Growing up, I listened to Alanis Morissette, Lauryn Hill and Eminem, who weren’t scared to sing about real stuff. And, just as I needed Christina Aguilera to tell me I was ‘beautiful’, it’s important for me to write about the experiences I’m going through – from body confidence to boys – and normalise them. It’s always been easier for me to write about my feelings than make things up; I need to have genuinely experienced something in my soul in order to sing about it.
“I’m learning that the more open I am, the more people can relate. Last year, my fans created a hashtag to promote body confidence, #ConfidentForAnneMarie, where they posted pictures of themselves with empowering captions. Knowing that my music or actions may have encouraged them to feel proud of who they are, makes me feel more complete. And, while I stress the importance of accepting and liking what you look like, I know that can be a battle, too. I enjoy wearing make-up now, but I also post barefaced pictures to prove that you shouldn’t be afraid of who you are.
“I guess the main thing is staying true to myself, and communicating. Despite my anxiety, if I’m ever faced with something I disagree with, I call it out. If I’m connecting to a young audience, then gender, racism and sexuality need to be spoken about. I want people to enjoy my songs and feel positive listening to them, but I also want them to feel something. I like to think my music is therapy for other people because, ultimately, that’s what it’s been for me.”