January 2016. There’s a bench at the top of Primrose Hill, in London, that looks out over the skyline of the city. If you’d passed by it one winter night, you might have seen him sitting there. A lanky guy in a wool hat, overcoat and jogging pants, hands thrust deep into his pockets. Harry Styles had a lot on his mind. He had spent five years as the buoyant fan favorite in One Direction; now, an uncertain future stretched out in front of him. The band had announced an indefinite hiatus. The white noise of adulation was gone, replaced by the hushed sound of the city below.
The fame visited upon Harry Styles in his years with One D was a special kind of mania. With a self-effacing smile, a hint of darkness and the hair invariably described as “tousled,” he became a canvas onto which millions of fans pitched their hopes and dreams. Hell, when he pulled over to the side of the 101 freeway in L.A. and discreetlythrew up,the spot became a fan shrine. It’s said the puke was even sold on eBay like pieces of the Berlin Wall. Paul McCartney has interviewed him. Then there was the unauthorized fan-fiction series featuring a punky, sexed-up version of “Harry Styles.” A billion readers followed his virtual exploits. (“Didn’t read it,” comments the nonfiction Styles, “but I hope he gets more than me.”)
But at the height of One D–mania, Styles took a step back. For many, 2016 was a year of lost musical heroes and a toxic new world order. For Styles, it was a search for a new identity that began on that bench overlooking London. What would a solo Harry Styles sound like? A plan came into focus. A song cycle about women and relationships. Ten songs. More of a rock sound. A bold single-color cover to match the working title: Pink. (He quotes the Clash’s Paul Simonon: “Pink is the only true rock & roll colour.”) Many of the details would change over the coming year – including the title, which would end up as Harry Styles – but one word stuck in his head.
My bedroom is upstairs, 16 steps above Yasmine’s. From here, I have a better view of my little sister than a fan’s front row view at a show (don’t be jelly). For many of you, Yasmine is a star, idol, or role model that you’ve only met through pictures, videos, and songs. What you don’t see are the simplistic, spontaneous, low maintenance, and nurturing aspects of her personality that I get to observe in our day-to-day life.
So here I am, reporting from the frontlines, the secret life of Yasmine Yousaf.
Photo by Hayden Belluomini
Yasmine wakes up at approximately 7AM everyday since we’ve been home focusing on our upcoming body of work (which is about 90% completed, no plug intended). In my groggy state, I can hear her pouring dog food into our dog Scarlette’s metal bowl downstairs in the kitchen. After Scar inhales her food in less than 60 seconds, she takes Scar for a hike. Yasmine never leaves the house without making her bed.
When they return, Yasmine gives our pitbull a detailed body wash on our balcony, where she carefully scrubs in-between the the crevices of her paws with baby shampoo. The dog wash is also an opportunity to for Yasmine to inspect our dog’s butthole to see if she has any funny things happening down there. For someone who doesn’t fancy children, my sister shows such care for our baby.
Following Scarlette’s bath, Yasmine takes a shower while listening to whatever song she is obsessed with at the moment. Sometime she’s listening to Bring Me the Horizon, lately she’s been jamming Twenty One Pilots. The shower does not surpass more than the length of 2 songs, as she is concerned about water wastage in California.
When we leave the house for the studio, she is barely wearing makeup and is usually dressed in a black tank and baggy drop-crotch pants. Almost every day she wears these clunky Doc Martens which are tearing at the soles. They’re the shoes you see her wearing in almost every live show photo for the past few years. She simply will not give them up.
The second we get in our Prius, I get a whiff of her woodsy, spiced, natural men’s cologne. I enjoy the scent so much. On the Los Angeles 101 freeway we listen to our catologue of demos and make notes on how to improve the songs.
Once we settle down in the studio, we talk about our where our heads have been and how we can articulate our feelings into song. When we’re done purging our thoughts and picking each other’s brains, she puts on her glasses and then taps away on her computer tirelessly for 5-10 minutes. When she feels like she’s ready to present her lyrics, she grins to herself and says, “I think I have an idea.” Sometimes she laughs at her self and says, “this is going to be really stupid.” I usually love what she thinks is a ridiculous idea.
Photo by Jack McKain
While Yasmine is recording in the vocal booth, everyone on the other side of the glass is usually blown away by the insanely high notes she can hit. We sometimes joke around and call her a robot when she records doubles of her vocal because they sound so perfectly on and consistent.
If we take a break to order lunch or dinner in the studio, Yasmine almost always offers to pay for everyone’s food. I can tell she doesn’t think twice about expecting anything in return; she’s simply generous. For a snack, Yasmine nibbles on dried mango or roasted hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s.
That brings me to Trader Joe’s. Did you know Yasmine used to wear a tropical button-up shirt and bag groceries at TJs?
On the way home, we stop by her old employer to pick up chicken thighs to cook a Friday night family dinner.
Yasmine makes a killer sweet potato, kale, and almond butter soup. Rustic meals are her specialty, with roasted vegetables infused with fresh rosemary from the bushes in our neighborhood. I feel like a little child waiting for her to finish cooking. If she’s in a beer mood, she loves to enjoy La Fin Du Monde, otherwise she is usually drinking a Malbec from Argentina to accompany our dinner.
Settlers Of Catan is Yasmine’s favorite game (warning: a highly addictive board game that severs friendships and brings out the worst in people). Occasionally she likes to rally a small group of friends together on a weekend night to “settle” around our dining room table.
Photo by muthafuckin me. taken with an iPhone 6.
If she goes out on a weekend, she sometimes comes back home within in an hour, preferring to be in bed, with her head in a book.
In her room she has worn-out plushy Minion slippers, a Funnasyi stuffed animal from fans in Tokyo, juxtaposed with her elegant but aged Steinway piano from Craigslist, and flowy, white curtains. Her room is like Nickelodeon meets Pottery Barn; a blend of juvenile souvenirs and French-country sophistication.
When we grew up in Chicago, we shared a room together. I always knew when Yasmine was asleep because she went in and out of purring like a cat, and snoring like someone slurping the remains of a milkshake. I was on the top bunk, only a ladder away. Now it’s 16 years later, and I’m lucky to only be 16 steps away.
While I can usually tell how long it’s been since she washed her hair, or what her footsteps sound like, I’ve never felt like I’ve had enough. I’ve never been sick of being around Yasmine, despite living together since birth, creating music together, and touring the world together. I still can’t tell when she is PMSing though. I wish I had a sixth sense that could detect hormonal changes.
I’m taking this day, Yasmine’s birthday, to reflect on the power of simplicity in her lifestyle, yet the deep and complex nature of her thought process. Thanks to all of our fans who have paid attention to the details, admired her little quirks, and look past pictures and videos in search of other aspects of her personality.
PS: I am not a stalker. I am just Yasmine’s #1 fan.
Protesters took to the streets Wednesday in at least 10 cities to march against president-elect Donald Trump - and numerous college students and faculty leaders took to social media to announce support groups and even postponed exams.
Protests were underway in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore., St. Paul, Minn. and several other cities. An estimated 2,000 protesters shouted angrily in downtown Seattle, expressing their frustration at the Trump victory over Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won 228 electoral votes to Trump’s 279.
Police in riot gear struggled to hold back scores of protesters in some of the cities as protesters chanted “Not My President” and “No Racist USA.” The protests were mostly peaceful. Seattle police said they were investigating a report of a shooting near the site of the protest in that city, but it may not have involved protesters.
In Los Angeles, protesters poured into the streets near City Hall and torched a giant Trump effigy, the Los Angeles Times reported. Later in the night, hundreds marched onto the busy 101 Freeway which brought the highway to a complete standstill. The California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department —who urged protesters to remain lawful and peaceful — responded and were seen leading demonstrators away from the busy highway. At least 13 people were later arrested, LAPD Officer Tony Im told the Los Angeles Times.
(Photo credit: Tim Durkan, Your Take; Alba Vigaray, EPA; John Roark, Athens Banner-Herald via AP; Nick Oza, The Arizona Republic; Paul Chinn, San Francisco Chronicle via AP; Karen Ducey, Getty Images)