Lights is a multi-tattooed, sci-fi–loving 22-year-old who also happens to be pop music’s latest rising star. Her ridiculously catchy ’80s-influenced, synth-based songs have been featured in Old Navy commercials, and her debut, The Listening, netted her a 2009 Juno for new artist of the year in her native Canada. (The CD was released stateside in October.) And to think it was only a few years ago that Lights, whose given name is Valerie Poxleitner, was playing guitar in a metal band and dreaming of being the next Tom Morello. “I had a massive Rage Against the Machine moment,” she acknowledges. Lights moved out on her own at a young age—she was just 18 when she settled herself in Toronto—and it was a struggle at first. She marked the transition with a tattoo of two sparrows on her stomach. “It was a symbol of freedom,” Lights says. “But sparrows always know how to get home no matter how far they travel.” When the tattoo healed, she went home and showed her parents—after administering a sedative. “I gave them each a glass of wine,” she laughs. Her own brand of pain reliever? Star Wars. She watched it when she got a laser gun tattooed on her belly to distract herself from the ouch factor. Derek Lewis of Hartless Design in Toronto gave Lights her most recent ink: a Twinblade of the Phoenix from World of Warcraft. “I enjoy fantasy games,” she says. “I can do crazy things like fight dragons.”She may be young, but Lights is light years beyond most 20-somethings when it comes to facing her fears. Suffering from arachnophobia, she took herself to the pet store and bought Lance, a tarantula that is now her roommate. “One of the big advantages of having a tarantula is you can scare people when they come over,” she says mischievously. “I’ll disappear into my room and come out with the spider on my chest.” Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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