You can find the singer and bassist Adeline Michèle, whose forthcoming debut solo LP is titled [ad•uh•leen] (in case you had any trouble pronouncing it), under a lot of musical genres: disco, considering her decade-long status as the frontwoman for dance group Escort; soul, considering she grew up on the stuff—Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Aretha Franklin, Prince; R&B, considering “I could win a quiz on ’90s R&B!” she says over the phone from her home in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. “There were so many sounds in my head [that] I wanted to express in this album. Some of it is very esoteric, some dreamy, synth-y, dirty funk—it’s also dancy, like disco, but deep dance. Can that be a genre on iTunes?”
It’s not, but funk is—and it’s a fitting classification not just for the musicality of the Paris-born New Yorker, but also for her eclectic style, a perfect reflection of her French Afro-Caribbean heritage.
Take, for example, this summer’s Afropunk Festival, where the singer, songwriter, and producer—“it’s important we start associating beat-making with women!” says Michèle, who cowrote and coproduced this 14-track record with Morgan Wiley of Hercules and Love Affair fame—wore her hair in braids that were covered in colorful plastic barrettes. “I had to make a hair statement,” she says of the homage to the above-the-neck traditions of the Bana tribe in Ethiopia that played well with her Technicolor glitter eyeshadow. “And while it [was primarily] inspired by Africa, there are little girls with barrettes across continents—all women can relate to that, no matter their [race] or hair type.”
A fan of wearing wigs, berets, headpieces—see the Swarovski-encrusted Jennifer Behr barrette Michèle wore on her wedding day this past September—and, of course, her natural cloud of curls, the performer refuses to limit herself to just one style. “The only rule I have for myself, which is a lot like my music, is that two things don’t have to be declared to go together just to go together. I can love disco and R&B, and I can wear a little sequin dress with sneakers and ponytails and feel sexy—I did it just last week!”
Another out-of-the-box look she donned in the past couple of days, at a fundraising event no less? Metallic red glitter lips. “They’re so fun! All week I was looking for the right inspiration, and when I arrived at the venue, which was right next door to the Donna Summer musical, there she was in a poster, wearing glittery red lips, looking like the disco queen that she is.”
But if you think glitter and disco go hand in hand, you’re, well, not entirely wrong. “Though I don’t want to admit it, when I wear sequins and glitter, I feel disco—but it’s really the attitude and the sexiness and the confidence and the freedom of expression that gives you that vibe,” she says, recalling Diana Ross’s The Boss vinyl cover, where the icon is wearing a plunging khaki shirt, blue cotton skirt, and no glitter whatsoever. And it’s the same kind of magic conjured by, say, the iconic French girl red lip. “It’s not what’s on her lips that makes her sexy,” she says. “It’s everything that’s not on her lips—it’s the red mark on her cigarette, really.”
The point is, for Michèle, beauty is more than just what’s visible on the outside—a thought that drives her wellness routine. The former gymnast has grown into what she calls a “fitness obsessive,” and yet, she doesn’t belong to a single gym in the city. “I do calisthenics, and I like to work out using my elements, at home or on the playground, because bars are great for engaging your abs.” She also eats organically and shops where she works, at the Park Slope Food Coop. “I believe that if you want to make things better, you have to give up some privileges,” she says, “and walking into an organic food store that you’re willing to pay anything for doesn’t help the people that can’t afford it. If everyone puts in a little bit of their time, everyone can get amazing produce for less.”
Beyond eating fresh and local, she swears by natural beauty products, like the Nubian Heritage conditioner she uses for her hair or the rose and coconut oil she uses to hydrate her skin. She picks up her favorite body product only when in France or Tahiti: monoi oil, which comes from the tiare flower, a fragrant gardenia known for its softening and lushly scented effects. Perhaps that’s the je ne sais quoi that’s got heads turning. Best to file it under: all of the above.
[ad•uh•leen] is out November 9; see her live on November 13 in Brooklyn.
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