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Fear. When we let it take control, it constricts us, diminishes us, stops us from uncovering our true voice and vocation.

Here is FKA twigs talking, in an interview with Allure magazine, about fear and how it restricts true self-expression: “Imagine if you were an artist that wasn’t being herself. Imagine you didn’t know how to do your own makeup, your own hair, didn’t know how to put an outfit together, didn’t write and produce your own music, direct your own videos. They’re not artists. They’re vehicles, vessels. Imagine how hard that must be.

For twigs, the biggest fear is not being authentic. Like Kate Bush or Björk, Benjamin Clementine or Tom Waits, she is one of those rare artists who are so completely, utterly themselves that they defy neat categorisation. Since making her debut in 2012 with the edgy, oddly intimate electronic soundscapes of EP1, twigs has continued to push at boundaries in her music, videos and live shows.

She has since released two more innovative EPs—EP2 and M3LL155X, pronounced ‘Melissa’—as well as a critically acclaimed debut album, LP1. Her ambitious, theatrical 2015 show Congregata, was as much dance/performance art as traditional concert, and from the start, her videos have been striking and original, showing the emotional vulnerability that has become her trademark.

In the video to Papi Pacify, a song about an emotionally abusive relationship, a male dancer holds her tightly, putting his hand both over and in her mouth in a way that is both suffocating and erotic; in Pendulum, the camera slowly pans out to show her suspended in a Japanese rope bondage known as Shibari. In M3LL155X, we see her heavily (prosthetically) pregnant and prostrate on a bed, a deflated blow-up doll; in Two Weeks she is regal, while quietly promising ‘I can fuck you better than her’.

“Twigs is in complete control of her career, and the record label seem to recognise the long-term value in helping to preserve her visions and creative freedom,” says the British artist Matthew Stone, a friend and frequent collaborator. “Lots of creatives who desire commercial success tailor their output in an attempt to reach a broader audience. This logic operates from the feeling that once they have established themselves, they will be able to claw back their authenticity and express their true voice from a position of established power.

“Twigs has done the opposite, in that she has established her audience on the basis of her unflinching commitment to her deepest-held creative ideas and dreams. She set the tone at the very start, and it means that from here on, she will be supported in doing whatever she wants. We can all learn from that type of determination and self-belief.”

The daughter of a British/Spanish mother and a Jamaican father who she didn’t meet until she was 18, Tahliah Barnett grew up in a rural area in the west of England. Though her mixed heritage would excite little attention in most UK cities, in Gloucestershire it made her feel different, alien: a feeling that she says has followed her into adulthood.

She didn’t have a lot of friends as a child, preferring to play with her imaginary kangaroo or create her own fantasy worlds. Later, she won a scholarship to a private school in the genteel spa town of Cheltenham. It was a stressful time—“kids, everywhere, aren’t always that nice”—magnified by a sudden change in her family’s financial circumstances.

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Neue Luxury • Issue 09 • Performance • Feature • BY Sheryl Garratt SHARE

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