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Interview with singer/songwriter and performer, Clara Pople!

Just a week after the launch of her debut single, ‘It’s the Girl’, Britain Uncovered met up with London-based singer/songwriter, Clara Pople, to discuss her views on body confidence, the ways the body positivity movement isn’t necessarily as inclusive as it could be, her experience performing naked during a life drawing class in the summer, and more!

Singer/songwriter Clara Pople in Canada Water, London during her Britain Uncovered interview in October 2022
Clara pictured during our recent conversation in London

Britain Uncovered: Hi Clara! We’d just like to start by congratulating you on the release of your first ever single last week, and we’re so pleased to see that it’s been met with such a positive reaction. We’re looking forward to hearing all about your music career to date and how it led you to perform naked at a Hacknakey event back in the summer – and it will be interesting hearing your views as to whether or not life drawing classes such as these can be beneficial as it relates to normalising and desexualising the human body.

Clara: I definitely think that we are still too prudish about nudity. Even with my Mum sometimes, if I come downstairs without clothes on, she’ll say, “Put clothes on.” And I’ll think, “I don’t understand why that is a problem for you.” But their generation in particular – along with my grandmother, who was a war child – have probably never done anything nude, ever. But I do think it needs to be okay to be both sides of yourself – which is clothed and unclothed – because it means you can then accept yourself.

But what puts me off a bit about the whole ‘Free the Nipple’ thing, or body positivity in general, is that to me, it’s not about loving what you look like; it’s about accepting that that is a form of you. Because loving yourself is a whole different ball game. It’s quite hard to do, and I think being naked doesn’t help. Taking off my clothes doesn’t make me love what I look like, it just makes me accept that I can be naked or clothed. I think it’s also dangerous to use phrases such as ‘self love’, because people might think, “Well you must really love yourself.” But I’m like, “No, it’s not that. It’s simply that I can accept that side of me now.”

BU: It’s been really interesting speaking to people in the past about the pros and cons of body positivity versus body confidence, but based on your perspectives, it definitely sounds as though your attitudes are more in tune with the latter mindset?

Clara: I think body positivity versus body confidence is probably a necessary argument to be honest, because going straight in with body positivity is impossible to do. It’s giving you an unachievable goal, and I definitely think that’s why I sang naked – to get further and further towards accepting what I look like.

But I feel that the whole ‘self love’ movement is a little bit dangerous, because you can’t just go from being anxious and depressed about who you are as a person to suddenly thinking, “Okay, I’m going to love myself, I’m going to take my clothes off in front of people and that’s it, I’m done.” It’s a process just to accept yourself. If you manage your expectations and if you tell yourself, “I’m aiming to accept myself,” then from there you can move further. But having self-love as the goal is unachievable.

Singer and musician, Clara Pople, posing outdoors during a promotional photoshoot
Accepting yourself is the main objective, Clara tells us

BU: So what advice might you give to someone who is at rock bottom or who is just starting out on this journey; someone who wants to reach those levels of self-confidence and acceptance that we were alluding to?

Clara: For many years, I was a traditional adolescent hating what they looked like and doing the whole ‘trying to lose weight, trying to change your face, trying to change your hair, trying to change all aspects of your appearance’ routine. It’s taken me a really long time to realise that you can’t really change what you look like at all. Even if you lose loads of weight or even if you change your hair, you’re basically just hiding from what you look like, to be honest. Because if you start changing things, then you look like you’re hiding.

But my advice would be that it’s too difficult to appreciate what you look like, so if you can’t do that, then just accept it. And try to block out those thoughts that come in. And when you see yourself, know that it’s completely out of your control, and that in reality, it’s such a small part of life, and that being absorbed with what you look like is a complete waste of your headspace. But you just have to accept it, and come to terms with the fact that it’s out of your control – and that you have to make do with what you’ve got!

And I think once you have accepted yourself, you feel a lot more at ease. Your attitude will become, “Oh, actually there’s nothing I can do about what I look like, so let’s just move on.” My advice would be to think about the things that matter to you. If you like singing, then sing. Or if you like drawing, then draw. Do the things that give you joy.

BU: That’s a really good attitude to have, and being able to accept yourself and feeling content and at ease in your own skin will likely be hugely beneficial in the long-term – and it’s great to hear that you’ve reached that stage. But in a society that's still very much looks-driven, combined with a media that often fails to present a diverse array of body types, do you personally think that we're all still too fixated on people’s appearances?

Clara: Yes, I did. But in the past two or three years, the body positivity movement has been so great. All of these curvy ladies and men are being promoted, and everyone is accepting that being curvy is a normal thing. Our perspective of body size now is shifting. It’s not skinny or fat – everyone in between can be just as beautiful.

What I do find still a bit perturbing about the media is that models are still beautiful, whether they’re curvy or not. Their faces are beautiful, and if they’re born that way, that’s great for them - but what about the rest of the people who aren’t born with beautiful faces? So we’re still not representing everyone here. It’s all races and sizes, but it’s not all looks. We’re not celebrating ‘ugliness’ yet, so it could be better.

But a lot of my friends are a lot more comfortable with not having to starve themselves, and the fact that there are curvy people everywhere makes me think that we’re definitely moving in the right steps. But a lot of people are still quite obsessed with what they look like.

An image of singer/songwriter and performer, Clara Pople, used to promote her debut single, "It's the Girl"
Our perspective of body size is shifting, Clara explains

BU: It doesn’t help when you have people in the media such as Piers Morgan reacting to a recent Cosmopolitan magazine cover with comments such as, “I think it is irresponsible of Cosmo to be celebrating obesity in the middle of a pandemic where we know obesity can kill you.” And sadly, these attitudes and beliefs that we shouldn’t be celebrating plus-size individuals and people of all body types do still seem to be out there.

Clara: We have to do the research before we can accuse people of being obese. Take Lizzo, for example. She is unbelievably healthy and fit – she’s just big. And I’m sure she eats a lot, but she’s fitter than me or a lot of people I know. We’re just very different sizes.

BU: Turning our attention to some of your early beginnings as a singer and musician, are we right in thinking that you were classically trained and that you ended up at the BIMM Institute in Manchester? What was it that first appealed to you about singing, and has it been a lifelong passion of yours?

Clara: Yes, I’ve always sung! For a long time, singing has been the only thing I can do. I studied French and Spanish for a year but realised I wasn’t doing enough singing, so I went to BIMM, and then within the past two years, I’ve learned to write songs and play instruments, which I couldn’t do before. And then I came to London, still with the mindset of, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing: I can’t write a song, I can’t perform. Am I singer?” People keep asking me and I’m not really sure.

And then very, very slowly, I’d eventually learn to play a chord, and then I’d learn to write a line, and then I decided to book a gig and did a really terrible 20-minute set. But it was fine; it was a milestone and then I can move on and do better. I just keep moving on like that, all the while thinking, “What am I doing, I’m useless”!

BU: Tying this in with the image side of things, as a performer, growing up and being on stage in front of a lot of people is something many in your position might find fairly daunting. Based on what we have been told in past interviews, many performers within the theatre world can become very self-aware and self-critical – but did you find that you had the same challenges, and did you have any struggles in that regard?

Clara: I think I loved singing so much that it was just a consequence of performing. I didn’t get nervous, but eventually – like now – the joy I get from doing it outweighs the nerves. So I think that level of confidence that singing has given me has probably also given me the confidence to take all my clothes off, because what I’m doing is the thing that I love; so I don’t care if I’m naked or not!

Singer/songwriter Clara Pople performing naked at a Hacknakey life drawing class in August 2022
Clara performing at a recent Hacknakey event in London

BU: How did you end up getting involved with the Hacknakey life drawing classes, and what led to you performing naked during a session back in August? Had you been involved with the events beforehand, as an artist/attendee, or was the session you performed at your very first time visiting?

Clara: My friend had been one of the musical guests there in the past, but she had performed clothed. And they were looking for singers, so I said, “Yes, I’m available.” But I didn’t realise we had to be naked, because when my friend did it, she wore clothes. You don’t have to be naked, by the way, but I think it’s better because it’s something you haven’t done before, and also it’s quite cool for people drawing you to have movement as well. And it’s interesting how they interpret what you’re singing. It’s a really cool product that you get at the end.

Anyway, my friend messaged me asking if I wanted to do it: “Do you want to sing naked?” I think with getting naked, there’s no right time to do it, and there’s no preparation for it. You just have to go for it. You can’t plan to do it, because really every part of you is saying, “Don’t do it.” And then I did it!

I actually went to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and I went to a comedy sketch show where they said, “If anyone wants to promote themselves, they can get on stage and get naked and promote themselves.” But the crux of the show, which is called Spank!, is that you have to take all your clothes off. They do it every year, but usually people don’t get up, and it’s always the comedians who have to get naked. But I thought, “I’ve been naked before, I’ll do it again”! And it got me nine followers, so it wasn’t really worth it.

But something like Hacknakey is great, especially for me, because everyone is forced to listen, because they’re drawing. So they’re concentrating on something else, but accidentally absorbing the music. Which means they’re silent. Which means they listen to me!

BU: How long was your performance at Hacknakey?

Clara: It was half an hour. Fifteen minutes in one spot, and then you move to another spot.

A drawing of singer/songwriter Clara Pople created during her performance at a Hacknakey life drawing class in London
Artwork created during Clara's performance

BU: Whether it was at Spank! in Edinburgh or at the Hacknakey event in London, did you find that being naked affected your performance at all, emotionally or on any level? Did it get you into a different mindset as an artist/performer, help your actual experience, or enable you emote a bit more... or is there an ebb and flow to it, to an extent?

Clara: At the beginning it helped me. In the first set, or the first half, I remember thinking, “God, I sound a lot better than I usually do.” But then in the second half I was getting too aware of my surroundings, and you’re right – it becomes more unsettling as the time goes on. Because when you initially take your clothes off, you’re like, “Screw it”! And then after, say, 20 minutes, I suddenly thought, “Uh oh. I’m fully naked. People are watching me naked.” And then I’d stumble, and things would tumble down a bit. But it does make performing clothed a lot easier, and if you get used to it – like I probably would – then it wouldn’t be any different than performing with clothes on. I’m hoping to get to that point, to be honest.

And we need nudity to be normalised. It’s so stupid, because we started naked. Who ever decided that clothes were suddenly something that we need? I mean, obviously at times we do, but it shouldn’t be so taboo.

BU: Would you say performing naked and doing something that’s out of your comfort zone can makes other aspects of day to day life easier, and gives you a confidence you can take into other aspects of your life?

Clara: Yes, and that’s the confidence that performing naked gives you. I’m not sure what the term is, but I guess you could call it ‘comparable confidence’ – where you’re not confident from the thing that you did necessarily, but you’re confident because you can do everything else now, because you’ve done that.

Artwork of musician, Clara Pople, created during her performance at Hacknakey in East London
Another interpretation from the Hacknakey event

BU: And how did it feel seeing everyone’s drawings of you afterwards? We noticed that you’d posted a few up on your Instagram and they all looked really amazing.

Clara: Good, really good! It’s really cool how people interpret you differently. And also, I don’t really know what I look like naked because I never look at myself naked a lot, so seeing the drawings I thought, “Oh okay, cool. If that’s how you see me, that’s nice.” And they were all so different.

There was this one woman there who was an animator for Disney – who gets given scripts, and has to respond by drawing what they see really, really quickly and is having to do fast drawings all the time. And she said to me, “Drawing a singer naked is the best practice for someone like an animator, because you’re doing something so naturally fluid and it’s really hard to interpret that.” But what she drew was amazing.

BU: And do you think the whole experience is something you would like to try again someday?

Clara: Yes, definitely. It can only get better and it can only give you things. You can only learn from it. It’s not going to get worse, and I don’t think there could be a bad moment. I mean, you might dislike what you look like, but it still means at least that when you’ve got your clothes on, you can take them off.

BU: As we bring things to a close, are you hoping to continue on with these types of performances in the future, and if so, have you got any specific performances or projects in the pipeline?

Clara: Definitely, and yes – my brother’s girlfriend is an artist, and she wants to create a film or music video of me naked, with loads of lights and her art all over my body. So that’s the next thing I’m going to do, which will be really cool. And the lady at Hacknakey is also really friendly and loves my music, so I’ll definitely be doing more stuff with her too.

- Our discussion with Clara took place at Leadbelly’s Bar & Kitchen in Canada Water, London on October 4, 2022 – just one week after the release of her debut single, It’s the Girl. To find out more about this immensely talented performer, please visit Clara’s website at The artist can also be found on Spotify, Soundcloud, Instagram and Facebook, and you can listen to Clara's brand new single below.

- Hacknakey’s life drawing classes, each of which features live music, are held in the East End of London and bring a winning combination of art, life drawing and guest musicians. To keep tabs on its upcoming events, head on over to its dedicated Eventbrite channel run by the event's organiser, Emily George. You can also follow the event over at @hacknakey on Instagram.

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