the hidden wardrobe of kelis by giselle defares
Only recently I witnessed the magnetism of Kelis. Sure, I bopped along to “Milkshake” and ”Bossy,” but I never delved deeper into the artist. Procrastination - or should I say utter boredom – let me into the dark abyss of YouTube videos. I found the dance scenes from Honey – the only high point in Jessica Alba’s career – and that was the point of no return. From there, I started to look for the cheesy videos of Sean Paul. One thing led to another and I stumbled upon “Trick Me” of Kelis. Here was an artist with a strong self-image who didn’t put on airs to be anything other than she really is. Or does she?
When I think of Kelis, authenticity comes to mind. Yeah, the word is flung around when it comes to most artists. What does it really entail? It’s often linked to the persona they show the world. The etymological definition of authenticity, or authentikos in ancient Greek is ‘ to refer to a first cause or origin.’ In other words, the pure form is not influenced and therefore valuable. The weight that is put upon artists to be authentic is quite paradoxical when you look at our digitally networked society which is dominated by constants streams of information, mass production and consumerism. However, when you look at the illusion of authenticity – of artists- and the inevitable tendency of conformism perhaps there is no such thing possible. Is authenticity then still applicable when it comes to the artist Kelis?
There is a sharp dichotomy between artificiality and authenticity. Is the opposition between the two even real? How can you define music and the artist as authentic since its literal artificial. It’s essentially work – the music and the persona - created by the artist itself. Perhaps authenticity can be seen as an important yet dispensable theme. As an artist, Kelis seems authentic, because she transforms her style in a constant manner. Like Kelis, we can always define who we are and we can always reinvent ourselves. Kelis uses fashion as a form of expression, it’s her tool with which she is able to reveal her ambivalent feelings and tensions. In the end, does it really matter? The dichotomy between the artist and the persona can easily coexist.
Original, creative, curious: all words that describe Kelis’ body of work. She brings her fusion of music and style to a new generation with her latest album “Food”. The New York born R&B singer has been around for a while. Her beginnings in Harlem, NY perhaps explain her resistance to conformity. Kelis has a creative ethos with which she experiments, invents and transforms herself. That’s her core. In 1999, she broke out with her fabulous curly colorful mane in her first video “Caught Out There”. She has unleashed five albums, full of gems, where her sultry, raspy voice perfectly aligns with her dreamy r&b music. In her album “Food”, she combines her love of music with her love for cooking - she trained as a chef at Le Cordon Blue - and named her songs after her favorite dishes, such as the lead single “Jerk Ribs.” The multi talent even has her own show on the Cooking Channel Saucy and Sweet, that follows her life in and out of the kitchen.
In her web series Wardrobe Junkies Kelis gives us a peek - an episode is approximately two minutes- into her massive vintage (designer) closet. Her clothing choices over the years seemed chaotic and irrational but nevertheless fashionable and innovative. Fashion and style can contribute towards individual freedom and in principle do not have to be coherent in their ambiguity. The enjoyable web series shows the contradictions and tensions in the wardrobe of an eccentric artist.
Let’s all succumb to the vintage power of Kelis.
Watch her series Wardrobe Junkies here.