When Claudia Valentina was young – well, younger, she’s still only 19 – she’d demand people refer to her only via her chosen nicknames. Her preferences were telling: one nickname was Chanel, reflected now in her luxe, opulent imagery, the other Supergirl, which chimed with the “big boss energy” she says she’s possessed since childhood.
While the pop-star-in-the-making confirms Claudia is her real first name, she’s coy about where Valentina comes from. “I feel like it goes with the persona,” she tells me via Zoom, dressed in a lockdown-friendly comfy sweater and jogging bottoms. “I came up with it a long, long time ago, so now I just feel like it is my name.”
That Claudia Valentina persona – an alluring mix of kohl-eyed, fuck-it-all superstar and you-hurt-me-fuck-you vulnerability – is showcased on her self-titled debut EP. While the first single – the pensive piano ballad Seven – leans more towards the latter, the highlight is 4:15, an undulating electro-pop banger about a no good ex who’s constantly crawling back. It’s so good, Valentina – who co-wrote it with the duo behind BTS’ recent US number 1 Dynamite – had to wrestle it back from Selena Gomez.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Valentina was born in “very quiet and super chilled” Guernsey, that small dot of an island near Normandy, which is famous mainly for its robust cattle. Growing up, she took classes in just about every creative discipline, from ballet to drama. Having landed a part in the Billy Elliot musical aged 10, she and her mum moved to London for a year. “I just knew I was going to make it and do this and nothing else,” she says of her youthful ambitions. “I was going to do anything in my power to make it happen.” By the age of 12, she and her mum were living in LA. “It was only meant to be for a short while but everyone gets sucked into the Hollywood dream and I definitely fell head first into that trap,” she smiles, recounting endless auditions and knock backs. “It made me pretty tough.”
Having focused on her one real passion – music – she landed a session with songwriter and Max Martin affiliate Johan Carlsson, who’s written for the likes of Ariana and Katy Perry. Valentina, ever ambitious, was keen to follow in the footsteps of those two superstars, but Carlsson offered some crucial advice to then 13-year-old. “I just wanted to release whatever I made with him, because I thought I was already Beyoncé,” she laughs. “He was saying ‘you need to relax, don’t sign with anyone, just get into as many writing sessions as you can’. He told me not to speak to any labels or managers until I was 18.”
So she worked and worked, flying between LA and London (where she also had to finish school), before 4:15’s brush with Selena Gomez suddenly put her on every label’s radar (she eventually signed to Republic). “[Gomez] had the song for a long time and we were all waiting for her to release it, and I was fine with that, but then she didn’t end up using it,” Valentina shrugs, before raising a cheeky smile. “So I listened to my version again and realised it could work for me, actually.”
While Valentina’s been hard at work during the ups and downs of lockdown, it’s also offered her time to press pause for the first time since, well, birth. “It’s been nice to be able to stop and take a step back,” she says, before framing that rest in the context of her work. “Just to look at everything from a bird’s eye view and just focus on the details of things.” Rest, it seems, is not just for the wicked but also the mediocre. “I like to think big,” she states. “I like to make everything I do as big as possible.”