WEEKND UP­DATE

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Fashion - Brooke Mazurek

The Weeknd hates giv­ing in­ter­views. In the past, they’ve re­quired the 27-year-old Cana­dian singer-song­writer to make him­self avail­able back­stage or at his condo, only to have his body lan­guage scru­ti­nized and his hair­style wo­ven into elab­o­rately clumsy metaphors. Be­fore re­leas­ing Star­boy, the hugely suc­cess­ful 2016 al­bum that es­tab­lished the Weeknd as one of the big­gest pop stars on the planet, he chopped off his fa­mous dread­locks and stashed them away in his man­ager’s safe. But his new, softer coif, which plateaus ever so slightly above his fore­head, still at­tracts an­noy­ing ques­tions that he would pre­fer not to an­swer. In­stead he of­fers glimpses into his psy­che by way of e-mail. Ask the press-shy cinephile about his fa­vorite movies, for in­stance, and he will opine about his fa­vorite vil­lains. “The last one I was re­ally in­fat­u­ated with was Heath Ledger’s Joker,” he writes. “David from the new Alien saga who has no re­morse for hu­man life” also piques the Weeknd’s in­ter­est. He adds that when he was 10, Nas and Puff Daddy were his style gods for their “hair­cuts and baggy clothes,” and that up un­til a few years ago he loathed wear­ing suits. He’s got­ten good at it lately, though. In May, when he and girl­friend Se­lena Gomez made their de­but as a cou­ple at the Met Gala, it was a cus­tom Valentino tuxedo, ac­ces­sorized with a di­a­mond-and-sap­phire Cartier woman’s brooch, that landed him on nearly every best-dressed list. On the rare oc­ca­sion that out­siders make their way into the Weeknd’s or­bit, what they of­ten dis­cover is a man more earnest and kind than the one whose lyrics can seem ripped from the pages of a Bret Eas­ton El­lis novel. While his mu­sic is rooted in ex­pe­ri­ence, he of­fers up a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion for the dis­par­ity be­tween his lyri­cal and real-life per­sonas: “I’m not in a rush to let peo­ple know ev­ery­thing about me. Mys­tery is al­ways great.” But by “great,” maybe he means im­por­tant. Be­cause be­fore the Weeknd be­came the Weeknd, he was mys­tery in­car­nate. Born Abel Tes­faye in Toronto to Ethiopian-im­mi­grant par­ents who fled the coun­try in the late 1980s to es­cape a civil war, he was raised by his mother and grand­mother in the sub­urb of Scar­bor­ough. At 17, he dropped out of high school and moved into a onebed­room apart­ment in down­town Toronto with his best friends, La Mar Tay­lor and Hyghly Al­leyne. Rent was paid mostly with wel­fare checks, food was some­times shoplifted, and co­pi­ous sub­stances were con­sumed, all while the fu­ture star crafted what would be­come the avant-R&B tri­fecta of on­line mix tapes: “House Of Bal­loons,” “Thurs­day,” and “Echoes Of Si­lence.” Even be­fore the Weeknd’s highly ex­plicit and in­ti­mate mu­sic re­ceived an en­dorse­ment from fel­low Cana­dian Drake, his de­ci­sion to up­load his work to YouTube un­der his stage name helped him amass a cy­ber fol­low­ing that had no clue what he looked like.

If his as­cent to su­per­star­dom seems some­what ef­fort­less, it’s by de­sign: The Weeknd’s ap­proach to his mu­sic’s sonic com­plex­i­ties is a closely guarded se­cret. “Abel is al­ways go­ing to be that guy, the one not giv­ing away too much in­for­ma­tion,” says Tay­lor, now his creative direc­tor, who col­lab­o­rated with the stage de­signer Es Devlin on the shapeshift­ing light sculp­ture that floats above the stage on the Weeknd’s cur­rent world tour. “Abel worked on the set de­sign as I imag­ine he works on the mu­sic—com­pos­ing every nu­ance in scrupu­lous de­tail,” Devlin says, adding that the Weeknd has synes­the­sia, which al­lows him to “see spe­cific col­ors in the mu­sic. Cer­tain chords are a pre­cise shade of blue, oth­ers are blind­ing white.”

Hav­ing achieved A-list sta­tus, the Weeknd is grap­pling with the no­tion of be­ing both known and un­known in a world where fans ex­pect more ac­cess than ever. So how will he pre­serve his mys­tique?

“Luck­ily the only thing the world de­mands of me is mu­sic,” he says. “I don’t have to give them any­thing else for the rest of my life.”

Still, he en­gages with his 14 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers and even re­sponds to in­ter­view ques­tions. Per­haps the key for him will be to do so only up to a point. Asked if he would ever tin­ker with his pub­lic per­sona for his next al­bum, he ex­presses in­ter­est. “Kind of pulling a Ziggy Star­dust. Maybe I’ll re­tire from be­ing the Weeknd,” he says be­fore back­track­ing. “Or maybe I’ll just give him a break.”

“I’m not in a rush to let peo­ple know ev­ery­thing about me. Mys­tery is al­ways great.”

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