Billie Eilish knows that great art sometimes comes from the darkest places. And on Thursday night (Jan. 4) at the Palm Springs Film Awards, the 22-year-old singer accepted the Chairman’s Award in honor of her Golden Globe and Grammy-nominated Barbie soundtrack hit “What Was I Made For?” with an emotional speech dedicated to anyone struggling with thoughts of despair she knows all too well.
“I would really like to say that this award and any recognition that this song gets, I just want to dedicate to anyone who experiences hopelessness, the feeling of existential dread and feeling like, what’s the point, why am I here and why am I doing this?,” Eilish said while accepting the award alongside her brother/producer, Finneas, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The pair picked up the honor — marking the first time it’s been given to a musician — after a tribute from Barbie director Greta Gerwig. “I think we all feel like that occasionally, but I think if somebody like me, with the amount of privilege that I have and the incredible things that I get to do and be and how I have really not wanted to be here… sorry to be dark, damn, but I’ve spent a lot of time feeling that way,” Eilish continued.
The singer — who has openly and frequently discussed her mental health struggles — also shared a message of hope for others who have felt similar despair. “I just want to say to anyone that feels that way, be patient with yourself and know that it is, I think, worth it all,” Eilish said, adding that “it’s good to be alive now” after not feeling that way for “a very long time.”
Eilish shared that Gerwig approached the siblings about contributing to the hit movie’s soundtrack at a point when the singer was “in a dark episode and things didn’t make sense in life. I just didn’t understand what the point was and why you would keep going. Just questioning everything in the world.”
But after she and Finneas sat in a theater and screened around 35 minutes of footage, Eilish said she was overcome with emotion watching Margot Robbie’s Barbie saying and feeling things “that I really, really, really resonated with and felt so close to. I felt so seen, and I did not expect that.” The result was the hushed, emotional ballad whose spare, thoughtful lyrics plumb existential questions in a most elegant way. “I don’t know how to feel/ But I wanna try/ I don’t know how to feel/ But someday I might/ Someday I might,” she sings on the track.
“I think that this movie is the most incredible, most empowering and beautiful and funny and just unbelievable piece of art in the world, and I’m so, so honored to be a part of it,” Eilish added before turning the mic over to her brother, who used his time to pay tribute to their parents, Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell.
“Our parents were theater people before they were our parents. They met on a flight to Alaska to do regional theater in 1984, and in the ‘90s they got married to each other and decided to start a family,” he said. “They decided that it might be a good idea to move from New York where they were doing plays to Los Angeles to maybe do some things that would make some residual income like film and television. That didn’t work out at all, and I think it underscored as children that it was okay to have dreams that didn’t pan out the way that you thought they might. And it also underscored that the entertainment industry, like all industries, is fairly unfair.”
Despite their struggle, though, Finneas said the siblings were not raised by “bitter people who hadn’t gotten to achieve their dreams. We were raised by people who did nothing but encourage us to believe in ourselves and pursue the dreams and passions that we had. I don’t particularly know how they were able to do both of those things, but they were, and we’d be nothing and nowhere without our parents, and I love them so much.”
“What Was I Made For?” is nominated for best original song at Sunday night’s (Jan. 7) 81st annual Golden Globe Awards, as well as record of the year, song of the year, best pop solo performance, best song written for visual media and best music video at the upcoming (Feb. 4) Grammy Awards.
Watch footage of Eilish’s speech below.
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.