Hide & Seek

Hide & Seek

In an era of oversharing, H.E.R. keeps her identity discreet, her sound strong, and her fans craving more.

In an era of oversharing, H.E.R. keeps her identity discreet, her sound strong, and her fans craving more.

Photography: Britt Lloyd

Styling: Kate Iorga

Text: Lara Johnson-Wheeler

A version of this spread appears in the pages of V113, The Music Issue, on newsstands now. Order your copy of the issue today at shop.vmagazine.com

The beauty of the artist who goes by H.E.R. is such that one might well question her desire for anonymity. When her debut, H.E.R. Vol. 1, was released in 2016, it quickly made iTunes’ Best of 2016 R&B/Soul Albums list. But much to the angst of the Internet, the identity and face of the singer behind it remained a mystery. This riddle has since been solved, turning the name of a 20-year-old woman into public knowledge. Still, H.E.R. prefers to let her music serve as her persona, an anomaly in our social-media-driven age of likes, follows, and over-the-top sharing.

“I think it’s rare to come by artists that are mostly about the message and not about the looks and the associations—who they’re with and how many followers they have,” she says. “For people to love the music just because they love the music and not because of who I am or who I know, that’s important.” Bare-faced in a blue Champion hoodie, slide sandals, and socks, she is about to be styled up in Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and a series of sunglasses to conceal her countenance. The paradox of her approach is fascinating: hiding one’s identity can make people even more preocccupied with it, but she seems unbothered by the competing forces at play. Her demeanor is down-to-earth, and she exudes a relatability that runs counter to the notion of a mysterious R&B star.

Ultimately, keeping a discreet identity contributes to the authenticity and relatability H.E.R. wants to pursue in her music. “When I decided to name my project H.E.R. and totally be H.E.R., it became a chance to represent everyone. That wasn’t exactly the plan when it started, but that’s what it turned into,” she says. “In the beginning it was about exactly how I was feeling, but I realized I’m not alone. Everyone can relate to certain challenges as a young woman. It made sense to be so simple and general that anyone could feel like, wow, she gets me.

“Being a woman is important,” she continues. “More women need to stand up and represent that strength and not feel the need to be perfect, but show that it’s okay to be whatever you want to be, however you represent a woman.” The concept of being a woman in 2018 is in a state of flux. Her stage name, an acronym for “having everything revealed,” indicates not only the dichotomy in her disguise, but also alludes to pressures modern women face—pressures the artist is trying to avoid in a world of exposure and social-media celebrity.

Delving into identity politics and body politics may seem like contentious territory, but H.E.R.’s music opens up questions beyond the everyday assumptions one might make about a young woman in the industry. When asked, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” she answers without hesitation. “Absolutely,” she says. “Everybody has their own definition of being a feminist. And it’s whatever makes you feel empowered. And how you make the people around you feel empowered. To me, that’s what a feminist is.”

JACKET AND PANTS GUCCI, BRACELET AND RING BULGARI, SHOES JIMMY CHOO
Credits:
MAKEUP MARIA ASADI HAIR VIRGINIE PINTO MOREIRA PRODUCER HARRY FISHER PRODUCTION ASSISTANT THOMAS ABIBU STYLIST ASSISTANT JUSTIN HAMILTON LOCATION SHOREDITCH STUDIOS

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