Fran O'Sullivan: Feet on the ground - focus on her dreams

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Lorde's success has opened others' eyes to possibilities

Lorde is an inspiration for young women. Photo / AP
Lorde is an inspiration for young women. Photo / AP

"Stay proud, Ella. You are one hell of an artist and feminist."

That is the kind of support I hope Lorde is getting from her family, friends, manager and her talented co-writer/producer Joel Little.

Two Grammys, commercial success and critical acclaim - it doesn't get much better than this.

Add to that an overwhelming outpouring of national pride and this should be a time of celebration.

Lorde knows she is talented. Her supremely confident performance at the Grammys was a tour de force.

But some media types are trying to position her as some sort of kidult, wise beyond her years, but who now needs protection from the dangerous New Zealand media who will destroy her over time if she stays here.

You've heard that drum roll this week.

It's from former A-list celebrities and media folk who long ago lost any drive and impetus for excellence they may have had, instead settling for the cheap celebrity of the gossip columns.

I'm not going to name them here. That would simply cheapen Lorde's achievements.

And I wish the media would not give them the airtime or space to rain on her parade.

Of course, it will be testing for Lorde as she navigates the shallow shoals of fame. She will have to balance on that public tightrope as she continues to develop as an artist and performer while at the same time grow her fan base through social media.

But there is no reason to believe that her maturity as an artist will not continue to deepen.

In an interview last year, Lorde spoke about how she had always written and read and how that was a part of her that was "super important".

"And it's a really good outlet for me to be able to say whatever I'm thinking and whatever it is that I'm trying to process. So, I don't think it's too weird. And I also think people my age these days ... with the internet, you know, you can be making beats out of your bedroom and be a superstar."

Like many New Zealanders, Lorde snuck up on me. It wasn't until Metro magazine ran its cover story (though I have to say I preferred Rolling Stone's take) that I paid any serious attention.

On the Friday night before the Grammy Awards, I had dinner with friends where we discussed Lorde's music. Here's the thing.

The way in which the two daughters of the host (girls under 10) discussed her music was captivating. Their eyes lit up. They were excited and expected her to win.

They got Lorde. Got her music. Got her attitude.

Lorde's success had opened their eyes to the possibilities for their sex. And her Grammy wins will have strengthened their own confidence.

Too often, younger women are given the subliminal message not to stand out and to understate their achievements if they wish to get ahead.

It's part of a national psyche which values humility as an over-riding virtue.

You see it when those awarded gongs preface their comments with a disclaimer that they are humbled to take their award ... their success really belongs to the team. And in newspaper editorials which proclaim the elements of what makes up a great New Zealander - as in the humility of Ed Hillary.

But Lorde has not shied away from her newfound fame. She is a simply a person of her age who initially turned to the internet to break through in a way that would not have been easily possible a couple of decades back.

So when these media matron(isers) talk about how "Ella" is only 17, and is still a minor who must be protected, the ultimate question is, Why?

Age is relative.

Mozart composed pieces from the age of 5. He was a court musician by 17. Lydia Ko has chalked up international success as a professional golfer. She is 16. Many entrepreneurs have made their first million by 20.

Just a few decades ago, young women were "on the shelf" if they hadn't become engaged by 21.

Lorde is not in any of those camps.

Let her take the space she requires (if she wants it).

But don't "childify" her.

Lorde has had a tremendous success. Here's to a brilliant career.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan has written a weekly column for the Business Herald since its inception in April 1997. In her early journalistic career she was a political journalist in Wellington and subsequently an investigative journalist who broke many major business stories including the first articles that led to the Winebox Inquiry in both NBR and the Sydney Morning Herald. She has specific expertise in relation to China where she has been a frequent visitor since the late 1990s. She is a former Editor of the National Business Review; has twice been awarded Qantas Journalist of the Year and is a multiple winner of the Westpac Financial Journalism Supreme Award.

Read more by Fran O'Sullivan

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