Banks rocks a cat eye. Photo: Williams + Hirakawa
For over a decade, Jillian Rose Banks had a secret. She might have looked like just another University of Southern California Psych major, but the Los Angeles native was privately writing soulful music inspired by candid songwriters like Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill. As a teenager, Banks taught herself to play music in her bedroom with only a toy keyboard. It was a solo form of therapy that helped her work through everything from breakups to her parents’ divorce. She only shared her music with her family and her best friend, Lily Taylor. In 2013, it was Taylor who passed on two of Banks’ songs to Katy Perry’s DJ, Yung Skeeter. He immediately signed on to manage the 26-year old singer. Banks was born.
With a sultry, powerhouse voice, emotionally raw lyrics, evocative music, and screen-siren looks, Banks’ has become the Next Big Thing in music. Her new album, Goddess, was released in September, and since then her songs have been everywhere from Grey’s Anatomy to Divergent. She’s received fawning accolades from the press and this month, she will be featured in an ad campaign for Coach. The singer is on a world tour that is just kicking off in Europe, will head to Australia, and ultimately, she tells me, end up in “space.” The girl is having a moment, but she has a sense of humor about the whole thing. Photo: Williams + Hirakawa
One of the things that has captivated fans most is Banks’ determination to do things her own way. Hating the disconnect of social media, she posted her phone number on her Facebook page and up until recently, she responded to all of her fans’ messages and texts. “I love them. I wanted my own way to connect with people who connected to my music,” she says.
The November Coach campaign featuring Banks. Photo: Mikael Jansson
That determination to play by her own set of rules and maintain a sense of individuality in the spotlight is a recurring theme for Banks. When I ask her what is means to be a goddess—her album title, she answers candidly, “It’s those moments where you just don’t give a f***. You are you—and you are on a mountain.” Despite her empowering message, Banks wasn’t always so confident, admitting to paralyzing stagefright, one of the reasons that kept her songs hidden for so long. However, she has found her confidence, realizing that if she stays true to herself she doesn’t have to hide behind an image, or her bedroom door. “I think life is a constant push and pull of being sure of yourself and not being so sure of yourself,” she explains. “ I am most confident when I am fully me. When I allow myself to love what I think. When I free myself to do what I want despite what others are saying. That’s power.”
Photo: Williams + Hirakawa
On stage and in her videos, Banks exudes a sultry, evocative persona, dressed in black with a deep lip or dramatic eye. “I’ve been more into a cat eye as of recently,” she says. “A little flicker on the side of my eye to guide my face.”
To perform, Banks relies on a few beauty must-haves. On the high-end she swears by Decleor Neroli Oil for creating dewy skin, “Perfect for when I travel a lot and my skin gets dry. The smell relaxes me. I use it on tour almost every day.” She’s also a fan of drugstore beauty finds like a basic brow brush, “My eyebrows are a little crazy sometimes so I brush them up.” And CVS Oil Free Facial Moisturizer: “It’s cheap and makes me smooth and doesn’t make me break out.” For daytime, she is a fan of Chelsea Girls lip gloss from Nars, “It is a nudish pink, perfect to put on when you are feeling like you want to be barefaced with juicy lips”—which pairs well with the black lace dresses, bustiers, and capes she likes to wear on stage. “I am always dressing based on my mood. Every mood is a part of me, so they all have a common connected flavor,” Banks says. “On stage I like to feel my most powerful, my most womanly, my most black and my most witchy—my most fragile and my most freckled.”