The Weeknd is one artist who’s always had a complicated and unique relationship to the camera.
At the start of his career, The Weeknd received praise for his 2011 mixtapes, House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, and had already developed sort-of a cult following online. While the music was full of emotion and moody sounds, very few people knew how this Weeknd character looked. The only images released were glimpses of him in the shadows in the most inconspicuous angles.
Luckily, by the time “Rolling Stone” came out from his second mixtape Thursday, we got a full-frontal well-lit photo of Abel Makkonen Tesfaye….kind of.
In a 2013 interview with Complex, The Weeknd explained his shyness towards the camera. “In the beginning, I was very insecure,” he said. “I hated how I looked in pictures. I just fu**ing hated this sh*t, like, crop me out of this picture right now. I was very camera shy. People like hot girls, so I put my music to hot girls and it just became a trend. The whole ‘enigmatic artist’ thing, I just ran with it. No one could find pictures of me. It reminded me of some villain sh*t. But you can’t escape the Internet. There are super fans, and I was really testing their patience.”
Slowly but surely The Weeknd started appearing in his own music videos, leaving the high-top faded haircut behind in favor of a Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired dreadlock do.
“I want to be remembered as iconic and different,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015. “So I was like, ‘Fu** it — I’m gonna let my hair just be what it wants.’ I’ll probably cut it if it starts interfering with my sight. I can kind of see it right now. But if I cut it, I’d look like everyone else. And that’s just so boring to me.”
Eventually, The Weeknd indeed cut his hair and returned to the high-top look for his third album Star Boy. He even portrayed his dreadlocks getting cut off in the music video.
Now, with his latest album After Hours in full swing after its release last Friday, The Weeknd has developed a full persona, or even movie character, that we follow throughout all the music videos for the album. With this new persona, The Weeknd sports a black shirt and tie with a red jacket and fully grown out hair. Let’s not forget the 70s mustache too.
By the time “Blinding Lights” came out, The Weeknd had been beaten and bloodied, even carrying the look into live performances. It’s clearly an aesthetic that’s in-your-face, unapologetic and uncomfortable to look at, which might be the message for The Weeknd’s art and music all along.
When The Weeknd’s latest video, “In Your Eyes”, arrived on Monday, he has now become the violent person in the story by pursuing a woman with blonde hair, knife in-hand.
This is a big leap from the dimly lit “camera shy” Weeknd from 2011.
Considering how epic this After Hours saga has already been, there’s probably more videos to come. Until then, you can check out The Weeknd’s looks over the years below.
1. 2nd Annual OVO Festival 2011Source:Getty
Photo by Clinton Gilders/FilmMagic
2. 2012 LollapaloozaSource:Getty
Photo by Timothy Hiatt/WireImage
3. Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London, Britain 2012Source:Getty
Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images
4. The Weeknd 2013Source:Splash News
5. The Weeknd Performs At The O2 Arena November 2013Source:Getty
Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns
6. The Weeknd Post Grammy Party 2014Source:Splash News
7. “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala 2016Source:Getty
Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage
8. Kendrick Lamar Joins The Weeknd During The “Legends of The Fall Tour” At The Forum 2017Source:Getty
Photo by Rich Fury/The Forum via Getty Images
9. “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala 2017Source:Getty
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images