It's hard to think of many albums that were as highly-anticipated in 2020 as Ava Max's Heaven & Hell. The singer released her debut album on Sept. 18, and her fans sent it straight to No. 1 worldwide on iTunes. It wasn't a surprise, since the Avatars (as they're called) had been waiting on the record ever since her first single, "Sweet but Psycho," dropped in 2018. The track took the pop music world by storm, going triple-platinum in the United States. Max has been growing her fanbase ever since, hooking in listeners with her classic dance-pop sound and wowing them with her edgy and eclectic looks on Instagram. Her asymmetrical hair practically became an end-of-year pop icon in itself.
Below, Ava Max reflects on her most iconic Instagram photos, breaking down some of the coolest, most meaningful moments she's shared. Whether she was suffering through a boob tape snafu during a photo shoot or celebrating the worldwide success of her album, Avatars gladly followed Max this year on all of her journeys. Now, they're getting a behind-the-scenes look into her life as a superstar and at how the coronavirus pandemic has made her appreciate even the least glamorous parts of her extraordinary life (yes, even the aforementioned boob tape snafus).
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dealing With Boob Tape
Elite Daily: Tell me the story behind this photo shoot, and why the boob tape sucked so bad?
Ava Max: Oh my god, it hurt so freaking bad. That was for the "Kings and Queens" cover, and we just needed it. I remember there was this top that was see-through, but it was pulling my boobs down, so I had to tape them up! But my nipples felt like they got ripped off after that tape. It hurt so much.
ED: Are there any wild moments, or things you've done to achieve the perfect fashion look in your photo shoots?
AM: I think it's all about quirkiness and character and being not so serious. If you are going to be serious, do a crazy pose. I don't like things that have been done, so I don't like copying people. I know other people like to go with what "the trend" is, and I am not one of those people. I want to do something really original, every time.
ED: How has COVID-19 changed the way you do your photo shoots? Is it more difficult?
AM: I think a lot. Like, not a little bit, but a lot! All I've been doing has been virtual. Sometimes I style myself, and sometimes I don't, but I do have an amazing stylist. It is easier. I don't like shopping and trying on clothes. That's not fun for me.
ED: In the caption, you mentioned you will never complain about the pain of boob tape again because you miss photo shoots so bad. Are there any other less glamorous aspects of pre-pandemic life that you now realize you took for granted?
AM: I took traveling for granted for sure, because I was so jet-lagged and tired. I was in the U.S. a lot. It was a lot of Europe, a lot of Australia, a lot of Asia, and also the U.S. I remember walking around Paris like a zombie. I had to work, but I didn't sleep on the red eye. Like, was I in real life or heaven?
ED: Heaven or Hell, the real-life story!
Growing Up With A Strong Support System
ED: Your Mother's Day photo is so sweet. When was it taken?
AM: My mom is the best and this was ... when she had three jobs at the time in the U.S. Because she's from Albania, she didn't know the language. I remember her not being home a lot, but she always ended up dressing me up before she left for work. And this was how she dressed me up.
ED: You mention growing up surrounded by four strong women in your caption. Who were they, and what was that like?
AM: [My mom], my aunt, and my two grandmothers — one on my mom's side and one on my dad's side. They are just so strong. My aunt, my mom's sister, is so strong. She lost a daughter who was 10 years old — one of my cousins, who passed away in a car crash. She still, to this day, is one of the strongest women that I know.
ED: Did you talk to them early on about wanting to be a singer?
AM: I did not at that age, but I think a little older. Around 8, 9, or 10. I think I was 5 there. But I used to sing around the house a lot.
ED: How did these women support your dream of being a singer?
AM: My mom was singing opera a lot around the house, so my mom was one of the biggest influences of my music ... I think I got my voice from my mom, for sure.
Going No. 1 On iTunes
ED: When Heaven & Hell went No. 1 worldwide on iTunes, who did you call to tell first?
AM: My mom. I was with [her], and we were just so excited. All these years of hard work are just paying off. That was just crazy to think about, because it was 15 years in the making.
ED: Did you have any doubts about the album and its impact because of the pandemic?
AM: I think [I focused on] keeping my head [up] in the beginning of the pandemic ... I felt really low, and I was nervous and anxious like everyone else. It was a tough one, for sure. It was not easy thinking about the whole world locking down.
ED: The wig you wore in this photo was major! Do you have a favorite hair color from this era?
AM: This summer, I dyed my hair orange. Then I started wearing an orange wig because the orange dye kept washing out and I just kept having to dye it every time, but when I dyed my hair that color, I fell in love. So, honestly, orange.
Feature images: Ava Max
In Elite Daily’s I Can Explain… series, we’re asking celebrities to revisit their most memorable photos and tell us what really went down behind the scenes. Read more here.