SO2 - Chloe x Halle: The Now & The NextSunday, March 28, 2021
For pop culture enthusiasts and avid music lovers across genres, it's been quite the Disney, fairy-tale story of triumph and success in witnessing the emerging global star power of 22 year-old Chloe Bailey and her sister, 20 year-old Halle. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, this dynamic duo — better known as the indomitable Chloe x Halle — continues to showcase a penchant for the creative arts and experience what can only be described as a meteoric rise on the global music charts since they were discovered on YouTube a few short years ago.
With their triple Grammy-nominated album, Ungodly Hour which includes hits such as Do It and Forgive Me; intense artist development under the watchful eye of music icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and her Parkwood Entertainment label; on-screen roles in cultural staples such as The Little Mermaid and Grown-ish; and mesmerising live performances from transformed tennis courts to virtual performance stages, there seems to be no slowing down for these talented multi-hyphenates. Chloe x Halle have had a pretty busy (last) year — and 2021 is shaping up to be next-level for the LA-based superstars. That social media visibility, however, has not come without its own glaring challenges — with intensified scrutiny centred on how they celebrate body positivity, blackness and bridging the cultural gap between performance and reality.
Amassing millions of followers on their shared and private platforms across Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, it's become more than just the music for Chloe x Halle. They have grown to use their celebrity status to inspire and empower with great intention: to lead the next generation of young black women not just in the United States, but throughout the African diaspora in regions such as the Caribbean and the UK. Particularly during a heightened period of intersectional awareness brought on by the global conversations on racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, online women's fashion publication Hypebae sat with the influential sisters for a candid conversation — with Chloe in the US and Halle in London taping The Little Mermaid — to talk about the now and the next.
In this exclusive interview, the R&B duo get deep into the ways that their magnanimous forms of artistry place a magnifying glass on the authentic lived experiences of young black women.
Tenille Clarke (TC): Let's talk about the big news about 63rd Annual Grammy Awards — congratulations on the three nominations! Halle, when you guys found out the news, what was the initial reaction?
Halle Bailey (HB): Thank you! Oh my goodness, we were just stunned. It's definitely a blessing and we are so shocked every time we get a Grammy nomination. We were just screaming and happy and filled with joy.
TC: Chloe, obviously you've been both nominated before, with two nods back in 2018 for The Kids Are Alright. What makes this 2020-2021 nomination season different?
Chloe Bailey (CB): Well, this one honestly feels even more special because even though I loved our first album, this one has just been our baby because it's about us stepping into our own and owning who we are as young women, our sexuality and all of our insecurities. So this one really means a lot… we put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it and even though it took eight months, we were just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. There was a lot of crying and a lot of tears, so knowing that it's been recognised in this way shows that all of our hard work is paying off. It really means so much to us. This time it's three (nominations), and I actually think we'll take one this time — we're hoping and praying.
TC: So many people around the world are definitely rooting for you! Representation really matters and it has shown in the musical inflections of your work to this day. Halle, I know that Billie Holiday has been one of your biggest vocal inspirations, and for the general public who may not know, she was actually the first black woman to work with an all-white orchestra in the 1930's, touring the segregated South — it's a cornerstone of her legacy. In making those historic parallels, did you understand the magnitude that your career accomplishments, such as the lead role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid would have on your fans and followers?
HB: Absolutely! I understood that about Billie Holiday from the moment I witnessed her amazingness through her records. Her voice is just like an angel, and I was so inspired by her and what she stood for, and how she defied everything and went against the status-quo as a black woman. She wasn't afraid to speak up and sing in her truth — no matter how many places she got kicked out of or wasn't welcomed. She was truly an inspiration to me as a young black woman, and with everything that has been happening for my sister and I now, we are very conscious of this kind of, I guess, power that we hold where people are looking to us to see what we are going to do. Every decision that we make is completely loving and positive while we continue to break barriers for black women. It's truly what we deserve… we should not be held back by anything or any person in society who says we can't do something. It's simply not true. So even with everything that's happening with our music, and with (my role in) Disney, it feels so surreal to us but it's also like okay, now that we're given this platform, it is our duty to continue to show love and stride in positivity and keep our heads up no matter what is going on. It's something Chloe and I really hold on to.
TC: And Chloe, how important is it for you to use your art to inspire the next generation of young black women, not just in the US, but around the world?
CB: I think it's so important for us to truly be authentically ourselves throughout the music and letting that inspire all of the beautiful black and brown young girls around the world. We understand because it's truly who we are and we know the trials, tribulations and things we all go through and we put that pain and heartache into the music so I'm hoping that by us leading by example we inspire these beautiful women around the world. I think that's why we wrote the song Baby Girl — when you go through the hardships in life… when nothing feels like it's working… when everything feels like it's closing in around you, you just have to remind yourself that you are special, and I'm hoping that people are receiving that message through the music and applying it. Sometimes, I have to go back and listen to these same songs we wrote, just for myself and just to get me out of the little funk I'm in, and I hope that it's doing that for others as well.
TC: Even as I think back to your music and watching you both open for the OTRII Tour in Miami in 2018, I'm amazed by the growth. You both describe your musical style as “confetti”, and the live performance definitely felt like a burst of different influences in your live music. Having Beyoncé as your mentor and her being one of the most prolific living entertainers, what are the two most important things that Beyoncé has taught you about your art being a form of black expression?
CB: Yes! So the most important thing that B has taught us… I feel like she has really led by example to us, ever since we were young girls and before we were signed under her, we have always been inspired by her and everything that she did — from girl power, presentation to being her own boss and manager and just taking control of her own professional career — she has always inspired us in that way. One of the things she told us that really stood out to us and we articulate it through our music was to not conform ourselves to the world, but let the world catch up to us. And I feel like now the world is catching up — we didn't have to change our sound or simplify any of the chords or the weird experimental sounds we like and people are still enjoying the music. That really makes me happy. So hearing that from a legend like her, it really gave us some confidence through our own art because you know, we're just in our home, writing and producing our own songs, doing what makes us feel good and hoping that people like it. We're happy that people actually do! (laughs) We didn't have to change any part of ourselves for them to.
HB: Well, for me and my sister and everyone, I feel like you learn so much from Beyoncé just by watching her, how she moves and what she does even when she's off the stage. She's such an inspiring being on the whole and she has taught us and so many young black girls and women around the world that you can own your sexuality and your power. You can be strong, beautiful, vulnerable and everything in between, at the same time. So for me, I think she's really taught me that it's really okay to be everything that I am, even if it's a lot — to accept and embrace those characteristics as a part of me.
TC: Definitely, and those mantras seem to be all around you. You both seem to have your eyes to the sky and your ears to the ground. Who are some of the other incredible black female artists you have on your playlist right now?
CB: Oh wow, well the legend Donna Summers, I've been listening to [her] so much, and I've always been incredibly inspired by Kelis. I think she is so underrated… her musical catalogue is absolutely genius, as well as Missy Elliott being another female producer — she's also a Cancerian Queen which I always get hyped about because I'm a Cancer too! All of her cool, ahead-of-its-time beats and production have always inspired me.
TC: That artful and art-filled inspiration also moves into television, with your roles in Grown-Ish. You both portray roles that are strong and kind, but also vulnerable and independent — quite a balance to strike on-screen. You've also used those words in past interviews to describe your mother. As a black woman, what kind of influence would you say Ms Courtney has had on your career as actresses?
HB: Wow, that's a great question! Our mama is our world and ever since we were younger, she's always been just this huge personality and this joyous spirit. She's loud, funny and has the brightest personality and we've always just been used to her being this outrageous energy. We would watch how people would gravitate towards her, and just her love and light because of the person that she is. So as we grew into the young women that we are now, of course we have different personalities — I'm a bit more chill and Chloe is a bit more chill and sensitive too — but she's really taught us a lot about ourselves and learning how to be open to certain people. And with acting, it's a beautiful thing because you're learning how to tune in to certain emotions that you normally wouldn't show the world, so for me I feel like I'm learning a lot about it now. At times when you're vulnerable by yourself, it's easy to feel those things and when you have to do it in front of a crew of 50 people, it's nerve-wrecking! But I'm very grateful for the example of my Mom for showing that it's okay to be you, and it's okay to be vibrant and open because you are yourself people will gravitate towards you as long as you are authentically you.
TC: That's beautiful! For me, I just would like to continue to see Black Girl Magic in continued motion for this year, being able to make new rules, redefining our space and amplifying our voices. What is the message that you really want to send to black women as they look forward to 2021?
CB: The message that I would like to send is that I am proud of all of us collectively, because this year hasn't been easy. It has even had us question our own existence because we aren't 100% accepted in today's society. And I would just have to say this: you don't need outside people's validation. Know you are beautiful, own it, claim it, feel confident in it. It's easier said than done — because even I as a 22-year-old young woman…I'm still learning that on my own. There will be days where it's tough and hard, but we got this and we can do this. Keep your head held high and also be proud of yourself for what you've already gone through.
TC: And Chloe, we both know that it's been a lot! Halle, what's it been like working with (wardrobe stylist) Zerina Akers?
HB: Ohhhh we love Zerina! It's a beautiful thing to be able to work with her because she's another young black woman who is continuously breaking barriers and you know, for me it's always really exciting to see other creatives express their outlet. With her, it's cool to see how she comes up with these outfits and wardrobe and it just pours out of her so amazingly. I just love to see when black women have their 'one thing' and how the creativeness just flows out of them in that one element. We're used to seeing it in music, but when you see it in a different way — like clothes or art or paintings — it's fantastic to see how God can really move through somebody like that in every way. She's just amazing and she elevates every look that we do!
TC: I love that for both of you, that sisterhood that you share across the arts with others. Chloe, to wrap up, what has been that one moment that you can hold on to in the last year that has shown you that it only gets better from here?
CB: Gosh, I love your accent, I keep hearing it more and more – it makes me happy! (laughs) The moments for me, for one… definitely the Grammy nominations, and also anytime we did our performances at home on the tennis court-turned-stage. Every time we had different sets and productions, it just showed me how you can physically turn something so small into something great, and whatever you imagine it to be, it can be. We brought the album to life in our backyard and even though during the pandemic we can't do concerts, I always felt like we had a new show every time we had a new set. The lights, the fog, the smoke… there's so much that our incredible creative team did that I'm really proud of. Every time I think about that, I say to myself “2020 was a good-ass year for us with our music”.*
Originally published in Hypebae Magazine
Text: Tenille Clarke
Tenille Clarke is an avid storyteller, seasoned publicist and cultural enthusiast from Trinidad and Tobago who often writes about her ongoing love affair with travel, entertainment and culture through a Caribbean lens. Follow her digital journey @tenilleclarke1 on Instagram and Twitter.
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