“Ever since I was young I knew I was special.”
FKA twigs has just been named Creative Director for Women for Nike’s Spring Campaign 2017, which is apt for a woman whose image has been entwined with athleticism, despite being primarily identified as a music artist.
Born Tahliah Debrett Barnett to a Jamaican father and English mother with Spanish heritage. She moved to South London when she was 17 and earned her keep as a backup dancer, appearing in music videos for well-known pop artists.
At 18 she began working with London producers seeking her own sound. She released her music debut EP1 in 2012 and appeared on the cover of i-D Magazine.
Though her music sits in a genreless space that some critics define as alternative R&B (which twigs’ finds perplexing), it’s had huge appeal and has gained her a slot at Glastonbury, a MOBO award and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon, a show which is routinely watched by 3 million viewers per episode.
FKA twigs’ growing collection of distinctive music videos are a massive part of her appeal; hypnotic, seductive and visionary, the videos have an uncommon way of celebrating womanhood and allowing a space for vulnerability. Papi Pacify is particularly resonant; twigs features in a monochrome video with a man holding her from behind, thrusting his fingers into her mouth. With sensual overtones, there’s also a pulsating violence that speaks to the trappings of domestic abuse.
FKA twigs’ style and body do not fit into the perimeters of what our media purports as being ideal. Her dreams of being a ballet dancer were squashed from a young age when she was told the shape of her body was wrong. Now, her small strong frame pops into obscure shapes which meticulously punctuate the beats of her music with a ferocious energy. Her music is reminiscent of Bjork; there’s an ethereal nature to her melodies which is further aided by the ambitious art videos she churns out alongside them. As twigs has directed or co-directed most of her videos, it’s through her own lens that her body is viewed.
After speaking with her for the Evening Standard, Charlotte Edwardes said: “Interviewing FKA twigs is like interviewing a cloud — magical to look at, but when you try to grasp it, it’s intangible.” Twigs agreed to be interviewed by Edwardes to promote a two night show , ROOMS, back in October. ROOM ruminates on astrology which twigs seems to genuinely finds fascinating.
Twig’s merit as a dancer is probably the most digestible of her output and forms an essential part of her brand. It’s an integral part of her live performances, helping her to express her avant-guard artistic sensibility. Her unique sound and movement partnered with her cvideos make her an artist worth noticing. Nike certainly have.
She should also get a shout-out for her cameo in The Shoes, Time to Dance, aka Jake Gyllenhaal going batshit in Hackney.