Chlöe Bailey stars on In The Know’s digital cover for January 2022.
Since spending the last year breaking out from her Grammy-nominated sister act Chloe x Halle, Chlöe Bailey’s solo debut has been as critically acclaimed as it has been publicly criticized. The subject of debate: Her new, hyper-sexualized image. One undeniable fact is Chlöe has our full attention — a feat many a new artist would kill for. Every move the “Have Mercy” singer made in 2021 was a viral one, from breaking the internet with her #BussItChallenge on TikTok to her jaw-dropping Nina Simone cover on ABC’s Juneteenth special. And let’s not forget the now-deleted Instagram post featuring the artist licking a lollipop to celebrate 4 million followers. All that buzz aside, with her debut album still underway, our bet is her next move will be her best move yet.
The 23-year-old Atlanta-born LA-native who was discovered on YouTube and recruited into Beyoncé’s camp by age 17 is proudly putting her self-love on display. As she comes into her own and embraces her sexuality, it seems the whole world has an opinion about it. But she isn’t letting that slow her down.
If 2021 was about declaring her independence by breaking out of every squeaky clean box she’d been previously placed in, 2022 is primed to be the year Chlöe comes into her own artistically by letting us all in on who she really is — through her music.
While Chlöe is learning how to live on her own for the first time as she works hard on finalizing her debut solo album, Halle, her younger sister, best friend and forever collaborator, is still just a few floors away. “It’s been so empowering having my sister next to me,” she says.
Both sisters have come a long way since being discovered, and Chlöe’s first solo VMA performance last year earned her comparisons to Queen Bey herself. It’s the megastar’s mentorship and representation that has meant the most to Chlöe, though.
“I can honestly and genuinely say it was Beyoncé who made me look at my body and say maybe it is okay to have my body. Maybe it is okay to have a plump butt. Maybe it is okay to have to shake and jump to fit in my jeans,” Chloe shared with In The Know. “During the ‘Bootylicious’ era, I would go and see her flaunting her curves and be like, ‘She looks damn good!’”
In her cover interview for In The Know’s January 2022 digital cover, Chloe opens up about her insecurities as she steps into the spotlight solo while learning to celebrate both her body and sexuality — no matter what anyone has to say about it.
Elaine Welteroth: When we first met, you were probably 16. I almost can’t even believe you’re 23 now! There’s a lot that happens around that time in a young woman’s life, and that’s not even accounting for a global pandemic alongside a global rise to fame! You’ve had such a transformative year, but you’ve also described this period as having some growing pains. What do those growing pains look like for you?
Chlöe Bailey: How I would characterize my growing pains is it’s very hard for me to speak up for myself. I think being with my sister, it’s easier to speak up. But when it’s just you on your own, you feel like sometimes your voice is too quiet to respect or hear, so sometimes you tend to back down.
But we have to love ourselves enough to not be silent, whether that’s in music or creative or even on the business side. I can truly give a lot of credit to Beyoncè because she inspires me. Yes, as a musician and an artist, but as a businesswoman. And how she’s not afraid to say, “I want this, I don’t want that.” I’m still learning that.
“I’m learning that we have to appreciate who we are completely.”
There are so many highs and, at the same time, so many lows. And I think the beautiful thing about life is that it’s really, truly all about your perspective. Anytime I feel really overwhelmed if I focus on the bad things and the things that made me sad, and brokenhearted, I have to pray a lot to kind of keep myself centered.
And I just throw myself into the music. That’s been really exciting and fun because I’ve been so vulnerable and open. It’s been a complete form of therapy. And so because of that, I’m afloat, and I’m good. And I’m grateful that I even have an outlet. Because sometimes when people feel overwhelmed, they don’t have an outlet where they can truly express themselves. When I feel this way, I just throw myself into work, and I’m Gucci.
Elaine: You know, one of the things that I love so much about you is your vulnerability. There’s a whole culture out there promoting this aloof attitude, like, “I don’t give a fuck what people think about me.” It’s an air of confidence people project that they’re just kind of bullet-proof when it’s just not real. But you live at this beautiful intersection between certifiable bad bitch energy and also this ability to own your insecurities.
Chlöe: Thank you. Yeah, I feel like it’s important for us to be raw and vulnerable and not afraid to say those things because we’re all feeling them. And we’re living in a world where the more perfect you seem to be, the better you are. And that’s completely not true, because I can assure you the grass is always greener on the other side. So, I’m learning that we have to appreciate who we are completely. And, yes, you can point out the things that you don’t like and feel bad about, but for every one of those, point out five things you do like about yourself. I think it’s important to always kind of flip our perspective.
I’m not the most confident person. Every day, I’m constantly thinking, “Oh, what’s what’s wrong with me?” So we’re all going through that. But I have to remind myself that it’s bigger than me. Now I can easily say, “Oh yeah, they can talk about me. I’ll just put it in my songs again.” You know? If no one ever said anything negative about me, I would have never made “Have Mercy.” I would have never made half the records that are going to be on my album.
Elaine: Bloop! I think that true artists play a really important role in society, which is that they hold up mirrors to all of us, making us reflect on what we think and why. And you are one of those artists. You are a provocateur.
Elaine: You are! Whether you intend to or not, you’re challenging why it makes us uncomfortable for a woman to be overtly sexual. So, I wanna ask you, what is it like to embody that mirror in a sexually repressed society?
Chlöe: Well, one, that’s incredible that you think that’s what I’m doing, but there are so many incredible women I have looked up to that have done that long before me. Donna Summer, Kelis, Beyoncè, Nina Simone. There has never been a point in time that a society has ever been comfortable with the woman being powerful in the skin that she’s in. So I just have to give kudos to every woman who’s inspired me, every one of my peers right now who’s saying, “I love my body. I feel sexy.”
When I hear the word “sexy,” when I want to be sexy, when I want to feel sexy, I don’t really think of that as a bad thing. I don’t think of it as being promiscuous. That’s just being confident. A man can sit up there with his shirt off, ripped, and, like, flex his pecs and all that shit. That’s sexy. But he doesn’t get ridiculed for doing that. It’s when a woman pokes her ass out, when she poses a certain way so her hip curves more, or when she puckers her lips and has her boobs perched up in her bra, that’s when it’s a problem. You know?
Elaine: Do you feel like you are under a different level of scrutiny because of your curvy build as a young Black woman?
Chlöe: Well, it’s not just me. It’s any Black, beautiful woman. Any woman, period. It’s something all of us go through in our life in any field. It’s just more multiplied because of the platform that I’m given on social media. No matter what women do, no matter how talented we are, no matter how screwed on our head is, someone will always have a problem because we choose to celebrate our body and the skin that we’re in. No matter if you have a slim figure or if you have a more curvy figure, you shouldn’t dim your light, period. We shouldn’t form ourselves and do certain things just because of what we think the world will say. It’s not fair to ourselves to do that because it’s more work thinking that way. It’s easier to just be yourself and have fun and be free. It’s more stifling and more suffocating when you’re calculating what you can and can’t do just because other people can’t.
Elaine: I would love to hear you talk about your relationship with your body over time. We see this confident, curvy young woman who’s just like, “Yes, I love my ass!” and so you put it out there. But take us back to young Chloe — did she always feel this way?
Chlöe: Young Chlöe is still very much present in current Chlöe. I remember ever since I was a little girl, I always felt chubby and fat, and I would always be like, “Why do I have extra fat on my bones?” I didn’t understand it. I still remember to this day, the very first time I got stretch marks on my ass and my hips. I was in sixth grade on this field trip at the end of the year, and we were hiking all day. When I got home, I saw these marks on the side of my butt. And I was like, “No! What is this?” I would go online all the time trying to find all the remedies: cocoa butter, shea butter, Bio-Oil. I did everything to try to get rid of them, and they just kept growing, and coming, and growing. And I was like, “What is wrong with me?” None of my friends had stretch marks. I was the only one who had a butt and hips. Like, I look at photos at 8 years old and I still got my same body. I’m like, “What the hell?” [Laughs]
“We have to love ourselves enough to not be silent, whether that’s in music or creative or even on the business side; I’m learning to speak up.”
And, you know, even now, as confident as I might seem, if you ask me my favorite things on my body, I would say my ass. However, I am still pinpointing and dissecting every other part of my body. Even when I was a newborn baby, my head got stuck in my mom’s coochie [laughs], and they had to do the metal prongs to take me out. So, I permanently have dents in my bone on both my arms, and I think my arms are, like, my biggest insecurity. So I don’t think insecurities or pinpointing your body will ever go away no matter how confident you might seem.
But when I make music, and I am on the stage, that’s where I feel 1,000% confident. Any other time, I feel very insecure and small. The music fills me up, but also seeing these beautiful, bright souls liking and being around me. That’s what also fills me up. It’s like, “Okay, I’m doing something right.” It’s a reminder to myself that this is all bigger than me.
Elaine: So you have made a point to call out people for saying that you’re performing this sexy version of yourself for the male gaze. Why do you think it’s important for young women to be sexy for themselves? And why is that distinction important to you?
Chlöe: When I am in my bedroom with the lights dimmed off, with my colored lights on, and I’m dancing my heart out, I am moving just as sexy for myself [as I do on stage]. Self-love isn’t just about looking inside the mirror and saying, “You’re beautiful; you got this.” You gotta feel it. You gotta feel it in every part of your body. You gotta be comfortable. You can’t just say it, because if you say it and don’t believe it, is it really true?
We can love ourselves as much as we want to love someone else. In most relationships, you express love through sex. Why can’t you do that with yourself and love yourself? Why can’t you be sexy for yourself? Why is it only okay when you’re sexy for another person that you’re in a relationship with? Be in a relationship with yourself. That’s what self-love is.
Elaine: I think people are curious about how you approached creating this image of Chlöe, the solo artist. And how, maybe, that character is different from Chlöe, IRL.
Chlöe: I’ve never sat down and been like, “Okay. This is what I’m going to be. This is what I’m gonna do in public. This is what I’m gonna keep private.” I’ve never done that. I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m gonna be myself. If people like it, they do. If they don’t, they don’t.” But I will say, when I am on stage, that person people see, that’s the version of me that is completely unfiltered, completely confident, completely fearless.
Elaine: I know how close you and Halle are, but were there any downsides to having entered this industry with a sibling?
Chlöe: There were no downsides on our side. But I will tell you what annoys me a lot. I hate when people online constantly try to compare my sister and I. It is the most shallow, most disturbing thing. It was very off-putting to know how people would try to put two young Black sisters who love their craft so much and love each other so much, how they try to pit them against each other just because they’re different in some ways. So that’s the only downside.
Elaine: Last question. If you could create a mood board for the next version of yourself in 2022, what would be on it? What are you manifesting right now?
Chlöe: Peace. Just peace. It would be a brain with, like, the no sign on it to be like, “Don’t overthink.”
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Go behind the scenes of In The Know’s cover shoot and interview with Chlöe Bailey below:
If you enjoyed this story, check out In The Know’s December cover story featuring Tinashe!
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