Sasha Spielberg On Her Not-So Glamorous Childhood, Adult Acne, and Buzzy Lee’s “Spoiled Love”
The musician opened up about Buzzy Lee's debut album, Spoiled Love, adult acne, and gratitude.
Welcome to A Lot of You Have Been Asking, NYLON’s beauty and wellness series exploring how some of today’s most promising emerging talents are navigating life right now — from moisturizer recommendations to candid conversations surrounding mental health, and everything in between.
The concept of feeling stuck in time, floating through weeks and months without being allowed the privilege of actually moving forward with your life, is one that a lot of people, to varying degrees, have become familiar with this year — potential stifled, progress halted. It's a concept that Sasha Spielberg, the artist behind the recording moniker Buzzy Lee, has experienced especially intimately, as she's held onto her highly anticipated debut album, Spoiled Love — a soft, glistening reflection on love lost, gained, and lost again — far longer than she ever anticipated.
It's left her in a strange space throughout these months of forced stillness, unable to fully move past the years (and people) that the album calls back to. In the meantime, she's figuring things out, stripping back, and hoping for the best. Because really, what else is there to do?
Speaking with NYLON ahead of the album's January 2021 release date, Spielberg opened up about Spoiled Love, feeling less-than-glamourous growing up in a glamorous family, the over-the-counter supplements that miraculously cleared her adult acne, and the simple power of making a gratitude list. Read on for highlights of the conversation, below.
How are you feeling leading up to the release of your debut, especially during this weird time?
It doesn't feel like a debut, because my EP felt like an album. I feel like I treated it like an album, like a proper LP, but this is technically my debut. It's terrifying to think of it as that, because I become so precious with stuff that it's almost like I need to record it and then put it out immediately, but this has been an interesting year that I've sort of sat on this album.
Did you go into recording this record with a different approach than your first release?
This record was recorded over three seasons, and so within those three seasons, I was with my ex, and then we had broken up, and then I was with a new guy, and then he and I broke up. I went through two breakups over the course of the record, but the record begins with my own anxiety, and the first song really is me cradling my anxiety and singing it to sleep. Then it takes a journey where I reflect on my ex, and then it ends with a family member. I don't know, it's kind of like a web of all these different people in my life, but then it also includes my own ailments.
Quarantine's been such a time of reflection. Did you feel the need or the want to go back and change anything?
Oh, of course, and I'm very avoidant, so I didn't want to listen to it over quarantine. I didn't even want to hear a snippet. If someone asked me to play it for them, I would say, "I'll send it to you. I can't listen to it," because I knew that with all that downtime, I would find some fault and I'd be like, "Oh God, I want to just rerecord that part." I am a perfectionist in that way, and so I avoid any... I don't want to pick up on any errors, and so I avoided, I avoided, I avoided, but then I had to listen to my test pressing. I was forced to sit with the record, and that was a really illuminating experience where I was like, "No, this is a capsule. Truly, this is exactly what it is. There's no changing what this has become," and I am so happy with that.
You you grew up in a family with a lot of attention, and around a lot of glamour. Did that affect your relationship with beauty in any way?
I grew up with a very beautiful mom and a very beautiful older sister who I didn't feel I looked anything like. I felt she was like Grace Kelly and I was Crispin Glover, and I think I then rebelled in that way, where I saw that my sister was so effortlessly beautiful, and so beautiful in the way that most of the world sees beauty, and I felt a little more awkward and unconventional. I would wear bras that didn't fit me, because I didn't care if I had quadra-boob. I hated makeup, but then I would secretly put on makeup and try to make myself beautiful. I never could tan. Do you remember the '90s and 2000s? [Laughs]
I would just burn and then not even color, and my sister would just be tanning, and she was blonde. Then instead of that, I just was like, "All right, I'll go into my pale, weird self and put on eyeliner and have a more gothic look. I feel like I rebelled against any beauty routine. I had acne forever, and I just didn't do anything about it, because I was sort of like, "Whatever, Mom." My mom was always trying to help me. I feel like I sort of had so much resentment, because I just couldn't be effortlessly stunning, and so I definitely was more of a rebel where I didn't want to partake in any beauty regimen, but then as I got older, I started getting really into it.
When do you feel like you started to lean into beauty? Are there certain products that you remember easing into it with?
I was really obsessed with eyeliner in college. I'm also a crazy perfume addict. I really am obsessed with perfume, because I discovered that perfume could make me feel so beautiful. I think that was sort of dipping my toes into the world of beauty, and when I was 18, I found this perfume that I fell in love with. It's Saks for Her by Bond No 9. I had all these samples of it. Everyone stopped me and would tell me how good I smelled, and that felt so good, and it actually felt so good that I was being complimented on something I exuded. I found that's when I started dipping into, this is so lame, but beauty coming from the inside and exuding something. I really didn't start taking care of my skin until probably I was 25, 26, three years ago.
What was the impetus for that?
I have adult acne, but I have cleared it over quarantine for the first time since I was on a bunch of pills when I was 18 to 24 for acne. Spironolactone, doxycycline, birth control — so I didn't have to take care of my skin. I didn't wear sunscreen. I didn't put any products on, because the pills took care of my acne, so I didn't think I needed to do anything else. Then my acne came back about four years ago, and it came back with a vengeance. It was so bad, so I started seeing someone who was going to help me with my skin, but then I would leave that person with my face was just completely bludgeoned, it felt. It was just like, I couldn't leave the house. Then I was told that I really needed these facials, and then my skin was just getting worse and worse. It's been really bad until, really, truly until March where I discovered this secret power.
I started this thing called Indole-3-carbinol. It's the same as DIM, and it's the chemical that's released from broccoli, from the gasses of broccoli and cauliflower, and [the brand] Thorne makes them. They're just supplements that you don't need a prescription for. I take two a day. It has completely cleared my skin. Completely. I am so upset that my skin is finally clear and I cannot see a single person.
How do you think that your relationship with beauty has evolved since you have been involved with music and, specifically, more on your own with Buzzy Lee?
I still don't try really with makeup and beauty stuff. If I'm doing a shoot, I find that if I have someone doing my makeup, I never like the photos after. And I love makeup, but when I do it myself, there's a messiness and the sort of like, 'Oh, I did this and I'm proud of the work I've done on my face,' in all the YouTube videos I've watched to really harness my craft of putting on cat eye. But I really liked the messiness of doing my own makeup, and I like researching things to do and acne patches to take on tour, I usually have the best skin on tour.
I think it's because I'm not trying so hard, I'm not focusing on it, I'm feeling so fulfilled every night. And I think that really helped, but in terms of makeup for Buzzy, I definitely can be a chameleon and I don't know how to say no. If I'm doing a shoot and my eyebrows are really done, it's so hard for me to be like, 'Oh, can you remove this just a bit?' Now in quarantine, no one's doing my makeup, I'm not doing any shoots. So I really loved doing everything myself.
What are your go-to's when you're handling your own makeup?
I have my Fit Me by Maybelline, it's a foundation powder. And then I do that just around my face, and then I do Cloud Paint on my cheeks, just the slightest, by Glossier. I do Boy Brow by Glossier, too, and the Stila Liquid Eyeliner for a cat eye. And then I do Charlotte Tilbury Bond Girl lip color and Kevyn Aucoin mascara, and that's it. If I ever have to go leave my house during quarantine, to get gas or to pick up a book, I go all out and I do mascara and I make my eyes look really pretty, and I do boy brow, I make my hair look great and I wear a cool outfit. And then I get home from my outing and I just take everything off, and I'm just in my sweats all day.
How have you been handling quarantine in general?
It's been a ride. [At first] we are forced to pause, and everyone is forced to pause. I was meditating, I was cooking, I was baking, I was walking. I didn't leave my house, I was not seeing a single person, except my boyfriend. The first month of quarantine was really, I don't want to say great, because I know for so many people it wasn't. So then I definitely felt the guilt and the shame and the feeling like, 'Okay, I am so lucky. I shouldn't be enjoying this, I should be struggling.' But then, month number two to wherever we are now, I've been on such a roller coaster of emotions and deep anxiety, just all of it. Again, going with the guilt that why should I be depressed or anxious, I'm so lucky in this time. So it's just been a ride.
How are you combating those feelings?
I was meditating a lot in the first three months and walking, but now I've been making gratitude — this is so LA — I've been making gratitude list every morning.And there are some days where I wake up and I'm like, I don't know what I'm grateful for. And I'm like, I truly don't know, and I think one day last week I was like, I know I'm grateful for the big things, like a roof over my head, like loving family, but I was in such a bad mood that I could not conjure up anything except cozy clothes. I was like I'm just grateful for sweat pants and I wrote that down, that was all I wrote on my list, but then the next day I wrote 10 things. Sometimes if you're in a mood and you can only come up with one, one is great. One is enough.
So I don't know, I've just been writing, I've been practicing, I've been trying to meditate, I've been trying to be super loving to myself.
Did you grow up doing those things, or is that something that you picked up later?
Oh my god, no, but my mom now meditates. But this is new for her. No, there was no meditation ever growing up. There was a lot of talking it out. If I'm crying on my bed, my parents sat at the end of it, and we would just talk everything out. And so that's been, I guess the way I've dealt with things, through talking.
Because Spoiled Love is such a personal record and it's about a time that you're more removed from now, do you feel like you can't fully move forward until it's released?
Completely. My release was going to be like, okay, this is my parting ways with everyone in my past, it's really very much ridding myself of their energy. And so for the past year, I feel like I don't hold on to their energy and I try to not let it affect me, but knowing that it's still unreleased, it has been a bit taxing. I really just hope anyone responds to it. I just hope it does something positive for someone, truly that is all I hope for. I have deep anxiety about releasing it, because I've been so precious. But I have to just trust the universe.
Buzzy Lee's upcoming album, Spoiled Love, is out everywhere January 29th, 2021. The album's first single, “What Has A Man Done,” is available to stream now.