at college, pop icon annie lennox was told to become a teacher

The former Eurythmics star, who has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, tells i-D about dropping out of college, the wisdom of ageing, and her women-focused charity The Circle in her Notes on Being a Woman.

by Charlotte Gush
09 March 2018, 11:15am

It’s not easy to get an interview with Annie Lennox. A globally recognised pop legend, famous for massive hits like 1983’s Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) with former band the Eurythmics -- as well as her iconic, androgynous bright red buzzcut -- Annie doesn’t often perform these days, and turns down most interview requests. Having moved away from making music, she is now an activist and campaigner for the rights of women and girls around the world, through her NGO The Circle.

i-D caught up with Annie and she told us about leaving Aberdeen at 17 to apply for music college in London in 1971, and the bad career advice she was given before dropping out in her third year. From learning to drive in her 30s, to the heart-bursting love of motherhood, the wrinkle-loving wisdom of age, and the struggle of women around the world who cannot access education and healthcare, these are Annie’s Notes on Being a Woman.

The best thing about being is a woman is to have been able to experience motherhood, which is common to billions of women universally and throughout all human existence.

Becoming a mother is a profoundly life changing experience. It makes you realise how precious life is in an unprecedented way. It blows your heart wide open.

The hardest thing about being a woman very much depends on where you come from geographically and most especially, what your background, culture, values and life expectations are. In contrast to billions of women around the planet, I have never been denied an education; access to medical, sexual and reproductive health care; access to rights of property ownership; protection from violent assault; freedom to pursue my dreams and ambitions etc. If you come from a country or family that is resourced, and you have access to education, then you can have more freedom of choice and opportunities for a more enriching life, but life for a girl or woman without resources or education can be extremely restricting.

I was fortunate to have had music lessons since I was seven, and though I didn’t realise it at the time, this actually laid the foundation for my future as a singer songwriter and performer. I auditioned for a place at the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music in London in 1971 when I was 17. The College told me I’d be far better off pursuing a teaching diploma, as there were so few places available for women in the performing field! The Academy offered me a place. I eventually dropped out at the end of my third year, thinking I’d most likely have to go back to Scotland and teach music after all. I never would have imagined the future musical journey my life would take. Now there are lots of women in all aspects of music making and performance. It’s changed significantly since the 70s, but in some countries it would be unheard of for a woman to have led the kind of life I’ve been fortunate to experience.

What love feels like depends on what type of ‘love’ you’re trying to describe. Eros is erotic, sensual, seductive, somewhat addictive and conditional, whereas Agape is profound, unconditional, expansive, giving and compassionate... I guess a blend of some of both is a pretty good thing!

The best advice someone ever gave me about human bodies is that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

When I was 16 I wrongly believed that some young men were gallant knights in shining armour and I was going to be rescued by them.

The film that taught me the most about being a woman is the part in South Pacific where the women are washing their hair...

Something unexpected I’ve have found about being a woman is a compellingly strange propensity towards all things shiny and glittery.

I’m happiest when I’m in bed and just about to fall asleep.

My favourite song about being a woman is She, sung and recorded by Charles Aznavour. A beautiful love song, written in honour of women.

I admire the women who have to toil in fields or factories, trying to scrape a meagre living to feed their families. Women who work in jobs of domestic labour, where they earn a pittance and seem to be almost invisible. I admire women nurses, midwives, doctors, surgeons, firefighters, lawyers, human rights advocates and mothers... most especially single mothers, who raise their children by themselves.

The best thing about getting older is that you start to care a little less about the trivial superficial things you used to care a lot more about. And that situations that often seemed to feel like the end of the world when you were younger, turned out in the end to be learning curves and transformative experiences

The biggest lie about getting older is that wrinkles are something to be petrified of!

I feel like a grown-up when I’m driving my little car around town by myself. It still gives me a feeling of accomplishment, as I only started to drive when I was 36!

Hoda Katebi asks: Who does your feminism include? Eve Ensler, Zainab Salbi, Malala Yousafzai, Helen Pankhurst, Jude Kelly, Livia Firth, Laura Bates, Bianca Jagger… Each one of these women are dedicated and committed to the cause of supporting the human rights of girls and women around the globe.

My question for the next woman doing this column would be: How would you define the word ‘Feminist’?

Annie Lennox
notes on being a woman