The singer, actor and feminist talks to Sky News about equality, music and how tough it is to be a mum.
By Gemma Peplow, entertainment reporter
“I feel like every ounce of my DNA is feminist,” states Paloma Faith at the start of our interview.
“It’s sad to me that my mother’s generation spent so much energy in the name of progress and the feminist movement in the ’60s, that it’s so slow… by now it really should be equal but it’s far from it.”
Faith – singer, actress, prime-time TV talent show judge, and feminist, most importantly – is one of the voices backing the Girls Get Equal campaign organised by Plan International, and the question isn’t why she wanted to get involved, she says, but why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t any woman?
Raised a feminist by her “incredibly inspiring” single mum, it’s a subject Faith wishes she didn’t have to speak about, but she does, passionately talking a blue streak, because at the minute, the wheels of change are not turning quickly enough.
The reality is that parity may not be achieved in her lifetime.
“I think at this pace, the gender pay gap would be closed in 118 more years,” she says, statistics to hand. “Facts like that just astound me.
“When you look at the percentage of women in government on a global scale it’s just all very low percentages. In my own industry, for example, I think it’s 17% of the hundred most powerful people in music are female.
“There’s lots of statistics flying around but I think people don’t really realise how terribly grand a gap it is. I’m just really happy to be here speaking about it and getting involved in empowering other girls.”
In an era that has seen a tidal wave of interest in gender equality – with the Harvey Weinstein scandal bringing power and sexual misconduct to the fore and the BBC salary reveal highlighting the gender pay gap – now is the time to speak out.
Rather than getting angry, Faith is impassioned. She wants to use her status to help alter perceived stereotypes of women, to show the leadership qualities and power of women and girls.
To show that girls can indeed run the world.
“I feel like anger is a pretty useless emotion when it comes to enforcing change,” she says.
“I was raised by an incredibly inspiring woman who raised me by herself and as a feminist, and I’ve been sort of grown in a way, cultivated to believe that everything in my wildest dreams is possible.
“I ended up achieving more than I ever thought I would. I attribute a lot of that to my mum, the way she brought me up.”
The Girls Get Equal campaign aims to catalyse change in gender equality, and Faith is on a mission. Cultural norms need to be restructured, she says, and that will only happen when both men and women work together.
In the music industry, sexism is still a long way away from being wiped out, but, perhaps thanks to the confidence instilled in her by her mother when she was young, Faith has never stood for it.
“I’ve managed to navigate my way through the music industry that’s predominantly male and never taken my clothes off to do it,” she says.
“There’s lots of situations in these industries where that kind of thing comes on your doorstep. I’ve never had that happen because I walk into every meeting that I go into – and usually it’s a room full of men – and I speak first and I speak last.”
She laughs. “That’s just the person I am. I’ve never felt like I had to… it sort of riles me up if I ever feel… If I’m made to feel as if I need to apologise or play a certain role.”
Faith, who joins hundreds of youth activists supporting the campaign, says she is inspired herself by roles models such as Malala Yousafzai.
“I wish that young girls would look at someone like her rather than some of the drivel you can see on social media,” she says.
The bombardment of “stuff about appearance” and “what makes someone have more followers… otherwise interpreted as more popular”, she says, “is just not realistic”.
“I think what’s important for young girls is a feeling of empowerment and courage, and also, knowledge is power.”
Faith is now a mum to a one-year-old, and isn’t afraid to talk about how hard motherhood can be. In fact it goes further than that; she says she wishes more mothers would be open about the challenges, that it is a duty to speak out.
“As a relatively new mum I feel like since having a child I have become much more efficient and much more organised and felt much more powerful and capable of achieving anything. Because it’s so challenging to be a mother. I think part of that has been underestimated culturally.
“If it had been spoken about more by women – because we have a duty to ourselves and to our fellow women to speak about these things – then I think the world would be run by more women… because if a man had to do it they’d drop dead, I swear. It’s bloody exhausting. It’s actually unfathomable how women have done it for that long.”
The Girls Get Equal campaign comes just over a year since the first allegations of sexual misconduct against the now disgraced Weinstein were published by The New York Times.
As more women – including high-profile stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie – went public with similar tales, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements took off, calling for change.
Faith says it is important to keep banging the drum.
“I think what’s really important is it doesn’t just become a bit of a media trend. I think it needs to be something that’s ongoing and isn’t something that can last a year or a couple of years.
“I’ve been in music now for 11 years. I remember there was a year when lots of women were doing quite well and they were saying, ‘female artists are taking over the music industry’… and now it’s all gone back to the white male looking at their dirty trainers again.
“When you get one year where women are getting a bit of spotlight that doesn’t meant that it’s all okay and it definitely shouldn’t be perceived as something we’re grateful for because it should have happened a long time ago.
“It’s better late than never but it definitely should have happened ages ago, or never at all been in a situation where it had to happen.”
As well as feminism, Faith is also candid about her political views, and is backing Sky’s leaders’ debates campaign.
“It excites me because what I’ve been saying about the whole problem with young people not voting, for ages, is politics hasn’t moved with the times.
“You can’t get young people to vote unless you start speaking on forums and platforms where they’re at, in a language that’s the language they’re speaking.
“I 100% would back that petition.”
:: Paloma Faith is spearheading the Girls Get Equal campaign, organised by Plan International and launched to coincide with the International Day Of The Girl.