Alter egos are prevalent in music. Many of the greats across genres, from Beyoncé to the Beatles, have taken on multiple identities to experiment with their sound, or to deliver a side of themselves that’s unexpected. With an eye to the debut of her first solo album, singer, songwriter, music producer and actress Chloe Bailey—one- half of the Grammy-nominated sister group Chloe x Halle—has chosen the mononymous moniker Chlöe.
This persona, Chlöe says, is the one that makes her feel most self-assured. But only one part of tapping into that version of herself is about music; the other is her look. That’s why you’ve seen the 24-year-old pose for the cover of one of her singles in panties and a badass floor-length puffer coat from Charles & Ron; rock a Laurel Dewitt crystal wig and metal bustier for the ’gram; and pop out on stage in a chain-adorned, hip-hugging —and baring—Usama Ishtay jumpsuit. From head to toe, these are the costumes that empower the budding star to be sexy, bold and daring in her performances.
“That’s what I’m striving to be, if I’m 100 percent honest,” she says—noting that her public persona is a stark contrast to the “shy” and “very insecure” person she can be in everyday life. “As much as people think I’m so confident, 80 percent of the time I feel the complete opposite of that,” she admits. “That’s why I put so much of myself into my music. That’s where I feel like myself and where I belong in this life—whenever I’m onstage. The girl I see and I watch sing back, she intimidates me. I’m like, Who the hell is that?”
Growing up in Atlanta, Chlöe wasn’t intimidated but rather was inspired by her fashion influences, which included Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu. When she and Halle started performing together, showing off commanding voices despite their tiny frames as teens, they were trying to find some sem- blance of equally bold style—at that time, a shared one.
“Back then, our look was very Atlanta, very Southern coun- try and very Siamese twins,” Chlöe jokes. “I look back at photos and videos and cringe. It’s so fun to see the evolution and how we were once just like, ‘Okay, as long as it’s color coordinated and we have matching things, then we’re good.’”
Moving from covering hit songs on YouTube (while wearing Abercrombie & Fitch shirts) to gracing big stages around the country, the duo tried many looks along the way. There was the ornate face jewelry they accessorized with for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs); and the Chinese-inspired cheongsam dresses they wore in a photo posted on Instagram, when they had a shared account. They even braided their locs together during the Sugar Symphony EP era.
It wasn’t until the sisters put out their second studio album, Ungodly Hour, that they began to develop a standout style that showcased who they are as artists. During the pandemic, they famously performed on their home tennis court, in front of bold backdrops, wearing ruched neon catsuits and eye-catching red ensembles from Delia Alleyne. And when they performed the title track of the sopho- more project at the 2020 VMAs in metal bodysuits and thigh-high boots from Sho Konishi, it was clear that Chloe and Halle were no longer the little girls people thought them to be. That messaging, however, was more a result of circumstance than a crafted PR push. According to Chlöe, she and her sister were forced to discover their individual identities—musically and style-wise—when they found themselves separated for months.
“When sis got the role of Ariel [in the upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid] it was so exciting, but it forced us to be in two different places, which was very, very scary,” Chlöe recalls. Filming Grown-ish in Los Angeles while Halle was on set in London, and unable to travel due to COVID-19 safety protocols, Chlöe began making new music as a form of therapy.
She initially thought the tracks would be the start of the pair’s third album, but they ultimately laid the foundation for her own solo project. While there’s no release date yet for the endeavor, which she reveals is already complete, the first three singles—“Mercy,” “Treat Me” and “Surprise”—have been well-received. Chlöe has also been working with different stylists and designers, including William Ylvisaker, Zerina Akers and Jennifer Udechukwu, to carve out a visual look and feel for this new era.
Udechukwu, a Nigerian-American sartorial star, has dressed Kelly Rowland and Marlo Hampton; she was also a stylist assistant for Kollin Carter, known for his work with Cardi B. “When I started working with Chlöe, I could tell she didn’t just want something average,” Udechukwu says. “She loves glitz and glam, things that make her stand out. My goal with her, and every client I work with, is to stay true to their personal style and elevate them. Sometimes I push them outside of their comfort zone, but it’s all about balance.”
This article excerpt appears in the September/October issue of ESSENCE on newsstands September 6.
Photographed by: Eric Johnson
Styled by: Corey Stokes
Hair by: Fesa Nu using “Loc it” & “Bomb Hair Mist” by Akhir K Essentials
Halle Makeup by: Christiana Cassell
Chloe Makeup by: David Velasquez
Nails by: Tiffany Everett
Set Designer: Sinclaire Reddings
Set Design Assistants: Jeffery Taylor
Photography Assistant: Austic Price
Lighting Technician: Dara Dryer
Photography Producer: Monika Martinez
Styling Assistants: El Lewis and Luigi
Tailor: Fhonia Ellis
Production: Perris Cavalier and Taylor Brown at The Morrison Group; Bré Kelly, Nnenna Anyaugo, and Bailey Nolfe
Shot at: DWH Studio With Special Thanks to The Candler Hotel
Videography: Winston Saddler