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Monday 21 October 2019

The rise and rise of 'Twiggy Stardust'

FKA Twigs was an obscure singer until she began dating Robert Pattinson. Now she's on everyone's lips

FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs
Race row: FKA Twigs snapped in New York with rumoured squeeze Robert Pattinson.
FKA Twiggy.

Ed Power

This time last month few of us could pronounce FKA Twigs' name - let alone tell you anything of substance about the British singer. Now, she's the hot new celebrity on the circuit, garnering headlines by dint of the outrageous costumes she sported attending London fashion week and, oh yes, her rumoured relationship with world's most eligible ex-vampire, Robert Pattinson.

It is an exceedingly unlikely transformation for an artist whose music can feel deliciously obtuse, with its weird tempos and absence of conventional choruses (her hit 'Two Weeks' is feverish and dream-like and probably won't be sharing airtime with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift on mainstream radio in the near future).

Nonetheless, Twigs - real name Tahlia Barnett - has very much arrived as a 'sleb'. This was confirmed just a few days ago when Barnett, who is black and from Gloucestershire in southern England, was targeted by racist trolls on social media, outraged by her supposed relationship with Pattinson.

"I am genuinely shocked and disgusted at the amount of racism that has been infecting my account the past week," she said in a statement reported around the world. "Racism is unacceptable in the real world and is unacceptable online."

She must feel as if she's banged her head and woken up in an alternate dimension. Eighteen months ago Barnett was working at Selfridges' department store and supplementing her income with the occasional gig as a backing dancer (you can see her, giving it her everything, as an auxiliary hoofer in 'Pricetag' by Jessie J, as well as vids by Kylie Minogue and Ed Sheeran).

When I spoke to Barnett - her stage name comes from the way, since childhood, her joints have snapped "like twigs" -  ahead of her planned appearance at September's Electric Picnic festival (from which she had to withdraw after her voice packed in at the 11th hour) her celebrityhood was still a twinkle in TMZ's eye.

At that point, if she was known at all, it was as an arriving force in avant-garde pop, an artist drifting between Massive Attack and Rihanna, with tunes that were sinuous but rather odd with it.

She was friendly, if a bit skittish - it was almost as if she sensed the fame that was about to come her way and was wondering if she was quite ready for it.

In view of the subsequent racist trolling it was, depending on your view, either ironic or highly appropriate that we discussed race and her feelings of outsider-dom growing up black in rural England (where, she stated, multiculturalism was viewed as something people got up to in London and Birmingham).

"You're a white Irish guy," she said to me. "Imagine how it would feel going to school in Nigeria. London is multi-cultural, Birmingham is multi-cultural, Manchester is multi-cultural. Gloucester was not multi-cultural. You're going to be self-conscious - your hair is a little 'wayward', you have big eyes, big lips...everyone is staring at you. You're like a little creature everyone's gawping at. I remember in primary school someone not wanting to hold my hand in case the colour came off."

Halfway through our chat, perhaps a bit bored, she started to flit through a repertoire of funny accents. She abandoned her poised British estuary lilt for the bumpkin burr of her native Gloucestershire and was overcome with giggles. She came across as sweet and rather wide-eyed - you wonder how someone so young could possibly be prepared for the fiery media baptism just around the corner.

In another interview, she spoke about her personal life in the context of her lyrics (which can be bracing in their sexual frankness).

"I'd rather be experimenting with intelligent sexuality, which I don't know yet, I'm only 26. I've had two or three serious relationships, I haven't been married, I haven't had that ultimate relationship where something clicks and I'm like, 'I get it now!' I'm still learning."

You hope she has learned enough to withstand the trial by social media that seems to have become her fate over the past several weeks.

Irish Independent

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