Culture

10 Things You May Not Know About Grammy-winning Artist The Weeknd

Did you know The Weeknd didn't graduate high school? Was his latest plastic surgery look a dig at ex Bella Hadid? Learn more about the "Blinding Lights" singer in honour of his birthday.
Reading time 8 minutes

Since breaking into the music scene, The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Makonnen Tesfaye, has attained mainstream popularity while still maintaining the mysterious persona fans first fell for during his early career. Since releasing music anonymously in 2010, the Toronto-born singer garnered a following for his somber lyrics in songs like "High for This" and "Coming Down," which touch on substance abuse issues, a concept further referenced in his "XO" embossed merch.

However, like his hair, the once strictly R&B, now fully pop, artist has evolved his lyrics to also deal with matters of the heart, chronicling his past relationships with supermodel Bella Hadid and singer Selena Gomez. Recently, the singer took to the Super Bowl LV Halftime Show stage to perform songs from his newest album, After Hours, which features his record-breaking hit "Blinding Lights." Despite the single topping the charts longer than any other song (surpassing the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" which held for 18 weeks), The Weeknd was effectively shut out by the Grammys this year. Rumours circulated that he was given an ultimatum between performing at the Super Bowl or the Grammys, which were originally scheduled just a week apart until the award show was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, prior to the schedule change, when he chose to do the Halftime Show, officials for the Grammys allegedly made the decision to preclude him from inclusion in this year's nominations. Neither party has confirmed these allegations, but many fans continue to claim injustice on his part.

While he may not be receiving a golden gramophone this year, in honor of the artist's 31st birthday, L'OFFICIEL takes a look at 10 facts you should know about The Weeknd.

1. He comes from a family of immigrants

The Weeknd's parents emigrated to Canada from Ethiopia in the 1980s when the country was amidst a civil war. He grew up outside the city of Toronto in the suburbs of Scarborough which was filled with fellow East Africans, and people from India, the Middle East and the Carribean.

This multicultural exposure led him to become trilingual -  “Ethiopian — Amharic — was the first language I learned to form sentences in because my grandma, who raised me with my mom, would not speak English,” he  said to Variety. “Because of television and being in Canada, I learned English too, but I went to French-immersion school, where you’d get in trouble for speaking English, and I couldn’t speak it to my grandma, so it’s almost like English is my third language, even though now it’s my first.”

2. He had a rocky childhood

Despite what this picture may portray, he did not actually graduate from high school. At age 17, the future pop star dropped out and convinced his friend La Mar Taylor to join him. Homeless for a period of time, he admitted to teling various girls he loved them so that he'd have a place to stay. He also spent nights in jail around 18, which he admitted as a wake up call. He admitted to Rolling Stone that he still feels insecure when “talking to someone educated,” and  later began doing crossword puzzles to improve his vocabulary.

3. He worked at American Apparel 

Abel worked folding shirts at an American Apparel retail store in downtown Toronto in 2010. It was around that time that he began writing and recording songs, and posted his first three songs -- "The Morning," "What You Need" and "Loft Music" on Youtube. Audio only, with the singer's likeness nowhere to be found, he was completely anonymous - his co-workers would listen to his music without reealising it was his! 

4. Drake helped launch his career 

Oliver El-Khatib, now rapper Drake's co-manager, posted the Weeknd's songs on the blog of Drake's label, OVO (October's Very Own), and he became an instant hit. Drake recruited Abel to work on his 2011 album, "Take Care," where he also appeared on his track "Crew Love." The pair remains close knit. "We're definitely a family. It's definitely a Toronto thing," Drake told MTV in 2012.

Most recently, upon hearing of The Weeknd's grammy snub this year, Drake took to Instagram to defend him: “The other day I said The Weeknd was a lock for either album or song of the year along with countless other reasonable assumptions and it just never goes that way,” he posted in November, adding that the award “may no longer matter.”

5. His trademark hairstyle was a pain

HIs trademark dreadlock hair, which was inspired by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, led him to sometimes wake up with neck pains. But he decided to keep it on anyway, as a signature look of his. However, he said to Rolling Stone in 2015 that he'd "probably cut it" if it started interfering with his sight.

6. He cites Micheal Jackson as one of his major inspirations 

The artist is continually inspired by the original King of Pop.His music video for "I Feel it Coming" was inspired by Michael Jackson's video for "Billie Jean." He also told Variety that "Dirty DIana" inspired a lot of his music, where Jackson sings about trying to resist temptation for something or someone that isn't good for him - a theme often explored in The Weeknd's music. 

7. He originally wanted to be called The Weekend 

Initially, the artist wanted to be called The Weekend, but there was already a rock group in Ontario with the same name. As a result, he dropped the last vowel and opted for The Weeknd instead.

8. He has a $3 million car collection 

Part of his reported $3 million car collection includes: a Ferrari LaFerrari, a Porsche 918, a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, the $1.2 million orange McLaren P1 as seen in his “Starboy” music video, and more.

 

9. He is a grammy-winning artist 

His most recent album "After Hours" was snubbed at the Grammys this year, but in total he has already won three Grammys and earned 9 nominations since 2014.

10. ...Was his plastic surgery look a dig at his ex Bella Hadid?

The unsettling plastic surgery look in his "Save Your Tears" music video was planned over a long period of time to convey The Weeknd's feelings about Hollywood culture. There is speculation as to wether it is a dig at ex Bella Hadid, but nothing has been confirmed.

related posts

Recommended posts for you