The Weeknd takes performance art to another level.
The musician (whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) released his first No. 1 single, “The Hills,” in 2015 — and as his songs rose on the charts, so did chatter about his look. During his November 2015 Rolling Stone cover story, he revealed that even Taylor Swift was obsessed with his hair during an encounter at a Grammys afterparty.
“She was like, ‘I’ve been listening to ‘The Morning’ [from House of Balloons] for years — it’s one of my favorite songs ever!’ I mean, she might have just Googled it. She seemed genuine. But the whole time she was talking, she was kind of, like, petting my hair?” he recalled to the magazine. “I think she was just drawn to it — she must have been a little gone off a few drinks. And of course, I’m not going to be like, ‘Hey, can you stop?’ I mean, it felt good! But when she started petting my hair, that’s when I was like, ‘I definitely need a drink.’”
One year later, the Grammy winner surprised fans with a new look to go along with his third studio album, Starboy, cutting off his signature sky-high dreadlocks.
“He cut his hair for the new album, to give it a fresher look to match the feel of the album,” an insider told Us in 2016. “It was a deliberate decision like a lot of artists do. New album, new look. He has been trying not to be photographed to unveil it all in a very deliberate rollout.”
While it would be several more years before The Weeknd dropped his fourth album, he opted for an even more dramatic appearance change for 2020’s After Hours, which featured his bloody face on the cover of the album.
“I feel confident with where I’m taking this [new] record,” he told CR Fashion Book in February 2020. “There’s also a very committed vision and character being portrayed, and I get to explore a different side of me that my fans have never seen.”
During several appearances in 2020, including at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, the singer sported a massive bandage on his face. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, when the bandages came off in January 2021, The Weeknd appeared to have extreme plastic surgery in his “Save Your Tears” video. According to a source, however, the look was “strictly performance art.”
The source explained, “The Weeknd is wearing prosthetics as part of the character he’s been playing since November 2019 when he launched the After Hours era.”
Scroll through to see The Weeknd through the years: