With Her Bold Debut Album, Joy Crookes Goes Under the Skin

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Crookes showcases that beauty in her music videos, which are just as vividly realized as the music. (“I always wanted to do that, I just didn’t have the money,” she says of the audibly extravagant production on some of the album’s tracks.) In the video for “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” a song written in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests as an expression of frustration with the emptiness of certain corners of online activism, she rides a motorcycle in traditional Bangladeshi dress while henna painted in the Louis Vuitton monogram pattern decorates her arms. In the final set-up, she wears the billowing white sari conventionally worn by widows as an intentional subversion of the idea that a woman should ever feel defined by a man, whether in life or death.

For Crookes, the idea of representation for the sake of representation feels increasingly redundant—instead, she deploys her South Asian heritage carefully, always to make a less-expected kind of statement. “There’s a lot of Desi-inspired ware in that video, but not just because of the aesthetic,” Crookes says. “I’m trying to make a point. That song is about people who are complicit, and I’m addressing my community there. I’m looking at the British-Bangladeshi community and reminding them that we’re part of the problem as well.” The gorgeous sunflower-yellow lehenga and chunni she wore to last year’s Brit Awards carried a similarly incisive message. “It’s about rewriting narratives,” Crookes says. “When I wore that to the Brits, yes, it was beautiful, but my point there was there aren’t any South Asians in this music industry. It wasn’t about representation—it was a bit of a fuck you.”

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That’s not to say that when it comes to her day-to-day style, Crookes doesn’t like to have fun. She laughs uproariously when talking about her relationship with her stylist, Matthew Josephs, perhaps best known for his work with FKA Twigs (“We definitely don’t take things too seriously,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll pick something up and be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’”), and is just as restless when it comes to fashion as she is with her sound. “My thing right now is I want to be a brown Audrey Hepburn,” she says. “I love pearls and I love my penny loafers. I feel like I’ve worked really hard to be proud of my femininity, and there’s so much power in femininity that I denied because of trouble or traumas that have happened to me. But yeah, I think style is political for me, and there’s always a lot of intention behind it.”



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