Lauren Jauregui become a household name from the moment Fifth Harmony graced our television screens on X-Factor US, but this young starlet has proven to be more than an entity of a girl group. From her strong views on women’s rights and politics to how she overcame the hard reality of fame, Lauren took a moment to bear all in this VULKAN Magazine exclusive.

You have been extremely vocal about your opinion towards women’s rights and human rights in general; what do you feel is needed to overcome the imbalance and how do you plan to contribute?

I think organization and a call to action from any and every voice of influence that cares is what’s going to drive this resistance. The imbalance exists because so many people feel too oppressed to believe their voices matter. Empowering these people and reminding them of their worth and abilities to overcome this imbalance is going to be one of the strongest tools in organizing properly. Education and TRUTH over alternative facts are also huge proponents to clearing the way for light in this smoke.

We NEED to talk about your open letter to Billboard regarding Trump’s win; it’s a beautiful, raw, and powerful statement that SO many people need to see. Have you received any backlash for speaking such truth? Do you think there is anything at all positive that can come from his presidency?

I think in a society where we even have to be talking about having someone like him, his administration, and cabinet in the office of “democracy,” a toxic environment has been created so, yes, I’ve received a lot of backlash. The truth is a hard fact to face in the midst of so much horror being done. The truth is a slap in the face, or a cold bucket of ice being dumped over your head while you sleep. People often respond to those sort of things aggressively if they a. don’t want to believe the truth and would rather stay comfortable or even worse, b. don’t need to know the truth and strongly support the system of lies. When someone like me, who is in the entertainment industry, which is a huge falsity of its own, tries to talk outwardly about politics, especially as a woman, I receive a lot of “shut up, just sing and dance for us, you idiot.” Societies have been conditioned to believe that entertainers are just that, but I refuse to be put into the box of a puppet, and I will continue to voice my concerns and knowledge about what is happening right now for anyone who needs this to feel stronger.

I think the only positive thing about this administration is that they are so blatantly dismantling the American ideals of democracy that those who see it and understand it have no choice but to be vocal about it and start to organize in opposition. I witnessed first hand the Women’s March in D.C. the day after the inauguration and I saw both crowds. The amount of people in opposition to hatred and the stripping of freedom was astoundingly larger than those in support of the regime; and not only in Washington but around the entire globe. They’ve woken up a revolution that I don’t really think would ever have happened if they hadn’t chosen someone who, again, blatantly does not care about our rights as human beings and sees us as walking dollar signs.

“I am proud to be a woman. Proud that the sex between my thighs provides a strength and resilience in me that only other women can feel, that my body curves in ways that allow me to create life within me, that my entire life is filled with adversity and doubt and people questioning my intelligence and my artistic potential and my expression of myself and my virtue and honor because I am too much woman. I am proud that I get to prove them all wrong.” This quote is so incredibly accurate and speaks to women everywhere. How can we continue to prove them all wrong, despite Trump’s appointment of so many backwards-thinking cabinet members? How do you do it on a daily basis?

Embracing yourself every day and not allowing propaganda and lies to discourage your soul from understanding it is infinite. Women have so much power when we harness it and see it in each other. We are the answer and cure to this sick world; our nurturing spirits, strength, and intuition were given to us to balance the dominance and strength of the man. The world we’re seeing right now is a result of the patriarchy oppressing the woman and her abilities and convincing her she’s nothing but her appearance and likability, which obviously leads a lot of women to think of each other as competition instead of counterparts in this fight for survival. They keep us divided for a reason…when we wake up and see things for what they are, it’s impossible to not understand the strength you have inside of you. I wish I could say this administration saw the woman’s worth but so many executive orders carried out target not only women as a whole, but especially target our minorities and the vulnerable. In a regime where billionaire profit takes priority and human worth and sustainability becomes obsolete, it is truly an important time to harness and speak up and find a fight you believe in and act. I have been working a lot with Fifth Harmony over the past month and writing as much as I can, using my voice as often as possible to shed light and update and bring all of the things happening to people’s attention. I keep myself informed, I donate to almost every cause I come by, I’m working with my team to figure out organizations I can begin to work more closely with, going to whatever rallies or marches that are going on around me that I can make it to. It’s hard when you don’t have any stability to consistently work on something so I try my best to just stay informed and do what I can. Calling and mailing letters to your senators is also a great daily action method.

Some would say that your push for women’s rights is contradicted by the sexualized image that you and your group portray. What would you say to counteract this notion? 

I would say firstly, that the group’s image doesn’t really have anything to do with who I am as an individual, as I’m sure a majority of people can understand if they know me or the story of how we were put together on the X Factor. But secondly, I would say that regardless of how the brand has been created, we are four hard working women who have succeeded in making our dream to become artists a more possible reality through this. We’ve reached millions of people all over the world who watch our interviews and listen to the message beyond the sexualization, which is to love yourself first and to understand your worth. We had so many of our fans tell us how worthless they felt before they found out about us and watched our interviews and listened to our music. Within our music there are a range of topics that deal with growing up, love and understanding. A woman embracing her sexuality is something that shouldn’t be taboo; most of our songs that are popular are sexual for sure, but I would say that’s more of a result of what the culture in America propels and consumes. Our first singles, “Miss Movin’ On,” and “Sledgehammer Boss” all had to do with harnessing your power and love. Those unfortunately weren’t as successful as “Worth It” or “Work From Home” so I think it’s a clear trend of what people want vs. what we want to give them. Again though, women embracing their sexuality should never be a reason to disregard their intellect or ability to speak on topics beyond that.

Why do you think Americans so obviously underestimated the power of Trump’s hate-fueled, misogynistic campaign? Who do you think it resonated with the most?

I think Americans are so jaded in this hamster-wheel-life capitalism has them on that they prefer comfort and stability to the fear of prison or the unknown world beyond where there is understanding and love seeping from every corner of our culture and society. We’re told this is how things were, are, and will always be. We’re trained in America to only care about our personal future and endeavors, we aren’t taught to share or help or give. So, in a society that is so self-driven, it’s completely understandable why so many people would shut off their empathy and view what this administration is doing as what’s best for this country. Most industries that people work for exploit humans on a regular basis for profit, that’s how they earn their survival, so they don’t even really notice anymore; it’s normalized. People are profit and we’re taught to believe that if we look out for someone else, we’ll be stuck last place in the race of struggling to survive. That’s the type of propaganda this administration feeds its consumers: “immigrants are stealing your jobs and killing and raping your women!” If you shout that loud enough over their evident scam of a system, those enslaved to it would rather place the blame on the “threat” than the horrible truth that their own country is betraying them; so most people just push forward in the rat race. I think the only reason I even have the ability to see everything for what it is is because I was blessed to be able step out of it and live my life through art. There is such a freedom and exploration of human experience in it that most people never have the ability to explore. I also understand how people would rather not think about the misery that is their daily life because they’re taught that success and happiness is equivalent to the amount of money in their bank account, not human emotion, love, or worth. Escapism is always a better option than revolution; nationalism is too deeply rooted in the American mindset to really make someone critically think about what they’re pledging allegiance to. I think this hate-fueled campaign awoke all of the people who feel cheated by the system and need someone to blame that isn’t their America. It awoke all of the rightists who have a deep fear of anything different from them, it awoke people who had been feeling ashamed of the hatred in their hearts and had to be “politically correct” all the time around their friends. Most people who voted for him didn’t even claim to, just silently checked off his name in the booth. He gave hatred validation and is their champion: he’s delivering on all of the things he promised them, so they rise and unite in this hatred and the society falls victim to daily terrorism and tension among its people, keeping us distracted from the real problems that lie in our very flawed system.

Many have said that the Women’s March turned into a protest against President Trump…do you agree? What did you take away from the event as a whole? 

It was, in essence, a gathering of people who opposed the hate-fueled rhetoric of the administration, the propaganda, the lies, the dismissal of scientific facts, the attack on women, the attack on the LGBTQ+ community, and the attack on our freedoms and rights. If you are pro any of those things, you’re technically considered anti the administration. I think the reason it became centric to hating on him is because everything that’s happened lately is related back to give him more publicity. Almost every speech he’s made, almost every press conference Spicer stands at that podium for relates everything back to his likability and poll numbers and how much everyone actually loves him. So when things are organized in opposition, the media takes it all and makes it about him, and I think that’s why there’s such confusion right now, because he does not care about the people, he cares about his popularity and the success of his businesses. He’s a trained celebrity who understands how to manipulate people for profit; he uses these things to promote himself. I’m actually a huge fan of changing every single “anti-Trump” sentiment to “pro-human rights” because they are synonymous.

In your opinion, how can the world move forward under this regime of narcissism and alternative facts?

I think education and organization is the only way we’re going to have a good chance of fighting this regime. The power of a book, the power of knowledge and words, I feel, are the only things that can truly change a mindset and a belief. Organizing, coming together, and actively working to oppose the things that are happening is also incredibly important. We can’t just watch from the sidelines-we need to be proactive!

Traveling has helped you experience the world from a different, much more simple perspective. Can you tell us about how it has enlightened you? What do you appreciate the most about your life?

Traveling has given me the opportunity to understand just how small this world is and just how similar human experience is. We are all little beings walking around with the ability to feel and think. What we feel affects the way we think, what we think affects the way we feel. I’ve met people I couldn’t even communicate with because of language barriers but I could look in their eyes and feel love. I’ve met people who look absolutely nothing like me but whose beauty I can recognize because they are human and have a beating heart in their chest, just like me. When you can experience different cultures outside of your own, you understand their validity. When you explore other forms of life and systems, you understand that there can be and are different ways to live. When you see how many of us there are running around aimlessly on the same planet of gaseous stardust, you notice just how small you are. In the life I was given, this is what I’m most grateful for. For truly being able to experience this phenomenon that I wouldn’t have if Fifth Harmony didn’t have the support we did around the world. That, and my ability to use my voice on a platform that reaches people beyond my immediate circle.

Who is Lauren, what separates her from the group and others currently in music? 

I’m still trying to figure her out, actually. I’ve recently woken up from a stupor of pure absence of self. I had to abandon myself to be able to truly do this life of fame in the music industry. I was walking around like a zombie for so long and distanced from myself for so long, that I’m just now noticing that I didn’t take any time to think about who Lauren is and develop her. I know she’s passionate, I know she has a lot to say, and I know she’s working on herself and evolving every single day. So I’ll get back to you about this one through my music, hopefully.

For people who have never heard your music before, how would you describe it…without using genres?

I’ve only currently released a song with Marian Hill called “Back To Me…” I don’t know if I even have a genre I can use because I love music in so many different ways. I think I’m just trying to connect right now. When I listen to a track I need to feel it, otherwise I just won’t do it. My individual music will only resonate with my soul, no more songs handed to me to sing.

What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done for you?

Fans are constantly doing incredible things but I remember this one time, a fan gifted me a trip to Italy because she knew how much I wanted to go there and her father was a travel agent of sorts. I haven’t followed up with that because I haven’t had the time to actually use it but I was so, so grateful that she even thought of doing that for me.

When you were auditioning for “The X Factor,” what was going through your mind? Did you ever think it would turn into this amazing journey?

When I was auditioning, I was in the cattle call audition so I remember being surrounded by around 10,000 people with my sneakers inside my backpack just in case I had to switch out of the heels. I went through three rounds before getting to the producers and I remember the whole time my only mentality was that I was going to make it through. Every time I opened my mouth to say or sing anything, even though I was nervous as hell, I made sure that I was giving my absolute all. It was my first time auditioning for anything and trying to get my foot in the industry door, I didn’t have any connections or know anyone at all in the industry and at 16, I felt like this was the once in a lifetime opportunity that people like me who wanted a career in the arts could only dream of receiving. So I treated every single moment with reverence and attention. I think that’s why I was so devastated when I got cut as a solo artist because I knew I had given my absolute all and the thought of that not being enough was truly heart-breaking. So when they called us back and told us we could move on as a group, I was apprehensive at first because although I was grateful for the opportunity, I definitely had never envisioned myself and my artistic path having anything to do with a pop girl group. Sometimes life hands you things you can’t control though, and I believe firmly that it’s to teach you all the lessons you need to know before you’re really able to fulfill your personal legend. I am beyond grateful for my experience in Fifth Harmony because I have learned so much and have also gotten to where I am because of the hard work we’ve put into this. I’d be nothing without them and where this journey has brought me.

Where do you think you’d be if “The X Factor” never existed?

I’d probably be in college right now in my junior year, maybe studying Political Science or Humanities and Music in some sort of way. I probably would’ve become a writer of some sort because I think that’s the art I have the most confidence and strength in. Definitely in college, though.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment thus far?

My biggest accomplishment thus far would probably be having been able to travel as much as I have. That was a dream of mine since I was a little girl and to be able to travel the world and perform while doing it has been an incredible accomplishment for me. I’d say the accolades, but the more life happens, the more I realize that trophies aren’t what make things worth while, they’re the experiences that allow you to be in a place to receive them. 

If you could say one thing to your pre “X-Factor” self, what would it be? 

I would say to shut out the noise and listen to your heart more. Your gut instinct is really good and you should trust it.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have of you?

That I’m defined by my role in my group. I’m so far beyond that small bubble of pop world, as are all the girls. I have so much more to offer and say than I’ve ever had the opportunity to. But I’m not too worried about it because soon enough, people will understand that.

Philanthropy has been a huge part of your career. Can you tell us about some the causes closest to you?

Chime for Change is a beautiful cause I contribute to often, the ACLU, UNICEF, A21, Planned Parenthood; there are sooo many, wow, but those are a few of my favorites. I love organizations that empower children and women and work to create safe environments for them to prosper and have a proper chance at life and education. All of those organizations work tirelessly to aid so many people all over the world; it’s refreshing to lose myself on their sites. I hope to work more closely with them and build relationships so I can really get first hand involved in the work they do.

What are you looking forward to the most about 2017?

Self-exploration and discovery. I truly can’t explain how amazing it feels to start breathing life into myself again and to do things for myself that make me happy and feel whole. I’m excited to write more, and paint more, and read more, and exercise more, really get in tune with myself so I can start to realize the potential I see inside of myself. I’m also very excited for the new Fifth Harmony project; we’re working on an album right now where we had the opportunity to finally write a few songs, so that in itself has been an incredible start. I’m excited to see where this next chapter takes us.

PHOTOGRAPHER: Jason Barbagelott
STYLIST: Van Van Alonso
HAIR STYLIST: Grissel Esparza
MAKEUP ARTIST: Nicole Chew
MANICURIST: Sarah Chue
RETOUCHER: Alexander Jamall
STUDIO: Fixe Studio
Interviewed by Alexander Jamall & Rebecca Besnos

Post expires at 7:24pm on Tuesday January 2nd, 2018