When jotting down ideas for a story, I usually identify the subject, before “getting to know them” as part of my research process. This week, after identifying Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd as one of my subjects, I felt like I was only learning about the Starboy singer and his style of music, for the first time. In all honesty, I didn’t recognise Abel much, until his relationship with budding model and younger sister to Gigi, Bella Hadid. However, I can’t take full responsibility for not knowing much about his journey, the mystique has been a personal choice for Tesfaye. “We live in an era when everything is so excessive, I think it’s refreshing for everybody to be like, “Who the fuck is this guy? I think that’s why my career is going to be so long: Because I haven’t given people everything”, he told Rolling Stone. Those that “know” him better are also aware of his troubled past, filled by dysfunctional relationships fuelled by a drug addiction. He claims that he is more in control of his life now, more than he was three years ago, and brands are willing to give him a chance.
Abel seems to be well on his way to becoming the defining male pop star of our generation, even gaining recognition from the New York Times, “He’s on his way to becoming one of the biggest male pop stars in an era dominated by divas,” predicted Time pop critic Nolan Feeney. Before we knew it, The Weeknd had been enthroned the dark prince of emotional R&B, all thanks to the creepy, “psychosexual narco” content reflected in his music. He was also the perfect artist to contribute their skills to the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack with his highly seductive ‘Earned It’ track, which went on to get more than 2 million downloads. The Toronto native is reportedly worth $30 million, while he landed on the #30 spot on Forbes Celebrity 100 list, with the 25-year old Grammy winner pulling in an additional $55 million in 2016.
Just last month, athletic wear brand, PUMA announced The Weeknd as its latest Global Brand Ambassador and creative collaborator. The PUMA x XO collaboration that is being tipped as “a fusion of PUMA’s sport-inspired designs and The Weeknd’s street –motivated aesthetics” will launch commercially in 2017. According to Vogue, Abel’s range is likely to “bring a health goth vibe to athleisure while evoking dark and moody tones,” proving there’s no downside to a little darkness.
Abel has evidently gone mainstream and is doing away with his initial “Mystery” strategy, while actively building his fashion credentials. He has recently been announced as the face of H&M’s Spring Menswear line, taking over from David Beckham. Yep, the Toront-born Ethiopian pop sensation is collaborating with the fast fashion brand as the anchor of its “Spring Icons Selected by The Weeknd”, launching in March 2017.
Learning of his recent split with girlfriend of almost two years, Bella was a bittersweet moment for me. I am sad to see them separate as I enjoyed their journey as a young “It Couple”, but I am extremely proud of 19-year-old Bella for breaking free of what seems to have been a “dark” relationship with her first love. With all his Oscar/Grammy nods, the number 1 hits, the millions, and the continued success his brand has seen over the year, I hope he can get closer and closer to his light and find true and meaningful happiness. I am routing for Abel, he’s a true Icon in the making. I just wish they didn’t have to be so troubled.