Why British Singer FKA Twigs Is Our New Spirit Animal

FKA-twigs

She may still be a relatively unfamiliar name to some, but singer FKA Twigs doesn’t actually care too much what you think. But for a good reason!

The British musician has been described as an “avant-pop auteur rewriting the sound of modern music” by Dazed Digital, but some of you may be familiar with her for an entirely different reason. She is currently dating fellow Brit Robert Pattinson, and has been on the receiving end of some disgusting online racist remarks because some Rpattz and Kstew fans can’t seem to get over that that union has well and truly ended.

She is part Jamaican, part English and part Spanish. Her real name is Tahliah Debrett Barnett and she came up with her stage name from her dancing days as she was known for cracking her joints (the “twigs” part) while warming up. FKA stands for “formerly known as”.

She grew up in the UK wanting to be a dancer and performer, but at some point lost her way, and a lot of it had to do with constantly feeling like her body wasn’t the right shape for this, her look wasn’t the right look for that. In an interview for Rookie Magazine she expands on this a little.

“I don’t have a ballet dancer’s body. My bum sticks out, my pointe isn’t great. I’m sure if I were brought up in New York or London or another city in which they cater to people of different ethnic origins, it wouldn’t have been a thing. I would have just been able to dance and look beautiful within my ability. But I grew up in the country, and back then, when I was 12, you had to be, like, white and blond and a rake and not have an ass and have a pelvis that could tuck under for days. And my body’s just not made like that.”

“I spent the years between 13 and 16 going to London to do dance jobs and modeling jobs that were based on dancing and music. By the time I got to like 15, 16, I was very disillusioned about what I wanted to do. I was feeling really lost…”

FKA-twigs-robert-pattinson

“I am very petite, and my build is very athletic, from dancing and running. In the ’90s, you had to be this size zero to be considered beautiful, then in 2010 it was like ‘real women have curves,’ but I wasn’t like that…I only figured out in the past year that I’m not skinny, and I’m not curvy, I’m just really strong. That is me, and that’s really beautiful as well. People don’t really talk about athletic women. It’s a whole segment of women who are completely missed out.”

Once she started getting into music after college, she learned a lot not just about how to produce music, but how the perception of women in the entertainment industry can be so stereotyped. This is why she is our spirit animal, because she refuses to be anyone but herself and doesn’t conform to the norms.

“I think there’s this perception that if you’re a studio geek—if you know loads about production, or you know loads about cameras and can direct all your stuff, or if you’re a songwriter who knows loads about lyrics and stuff—then you can’t get your nails done and you can’t get your hair done and you can’t, like, dress like this. And I just realized that that wasn’t true,” said the 26 year old.

“There has been this whole idea for a few years that to be a female artist you have to be like 21, but I don’t really feel like that. I feel like I know exactly what I want, and no one can tell me to do anything I don’t want to do or pose in a way I don’t like or make a song or write something I don’t want to. I guess I got to the point where it’s all me, and only I am to blame, and that feels really great.”

She was bullied and ostracized as a kid, mostly due to the color of her skin, which is why when certain musicians came on the scene, it was a powerful representation for her as a young woman.

FKA-twigs

“In my last year or so of secondary school, when I was about 16, Beyoncé came out with ‘Crazy in Love,’ and Christina Milian came out with ‘AM to PM.’ Before that, it was about Britney, Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera—all these really cute white girls who defined what the boys were fancying. Then that year, there was this boom of all these light-skinned black stars, and all of a sudden I was the s**t. I was hanging out with the popular girls; and I was the most desirable thing on earth. I always called bullshit on that.”

Speaking of not trying to conform to the industry pressure, when she first came to America, her manager insisted she change her appearance, because apparently looking like everyone is the secret to success (note: heavy sarcasm used in that last sentence).

“Something else I’ve learned, though, is that you can’t please everybody. Not everyone is gonna find you attractive! I’m not the most beautiful girl in the world—I’m just not, and I’m never gonna be, and I don’t even know how to help you with that! I’m small, and my eyes are too far apart, and I’ve got two weird front teeth. When I first came to America, my manager was like, “We’ll have to get your teeth fixed.” I saved up all my money to get these veneers, and I had all the initial work done—they have to do all this work on your gums—and then I was like, Oh my god, what the f**k am I doing? This is an awful, terrible idea!” In the end she didn’t get the veneers, and all the weird, unique, and imperfect girls in the world can now breathe a sigh of relief.

One of the things she says feeds into this notion of wanting to look perfect is social media, in particular, Instagram. Glamour Magazine recently published the results of a body image survey they undertook with 1000 American women aged 18-40. It’s the same survey they did back in 1984 where the findings were that 41% of women hated their bodies. What’s even worse, the survey in 2014 came back with a figure of 54% women hating their bodies. Why is it a higher figure? Experts say this is largely due to social media and the false image of perfection it often portrays.

FKA-twigs

FKA Twigs wants to nip this in the bud now!

“You just have to be yourself. It’s really not that hard! You just need to stop going on Instagram so much, because that shit is not real. I do not look like that in real life! It’s a professional photographer and Photoshop! I want everyone to know it’s not real. But even on my Instagram, people will say ‘Oh my god, you’re so perfect, I wish I could be you.’ I tell them that I’m not perfect, it’s not true. I hate the way young girls think sometimes, it’s so depressing.”

As for the barrage of racist tweets she received after the news of her and Robert Pattinson dating, she was disgusted sure and expressed that from her twitter account. But growing up as the only mixed-race girl in a Catholic school, she has a very mature outlook on racism and discrimination based on appearance.

“I never really saw anything wrong with how I looked, it was more that certain people pointed things out to you about yourself. Either your hair’s different, or the colour of your skin, or your features. Half of my life I’ve had people staring at me because they think I’m funny-looking and ugly. The other half of my life 
I’ve had people staring at me because they think I’m fascinating. Everything neutralizes. It’s more of a statement on society and how weird it is.”

Here ‘s a young woman who doesn’t follow the leader and uses her background as a platform to share messages that resonate with other girls just like her. What she is saying in these interviews isn’t necessarily anything new, but it is very much needed on a larger scale. Hearing how she approaches the music industry, a professional known for its homogenization and sexualization of its female artists, shows we should always be questioning the representations being pushed on us, and maybe dare to operate outside the boundaries of “normal” every now and then.

FKA-twigs

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.