It’s hard to believe The Weeknd has only been famous since 2013. After all, the “Blinding Lights” artist, whose real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, has transformed himself so many times over the years!
At first, The Weeknd made minor changes to his look. Take his haircut in 2016, for example. The Toronto, Canada, native debuted a shorter hairstyle after years of having dreadlocks that he typically styled half-up, half-down. “He cut his hair for the new album, to give it a fresher look to match the feel of the album,” a source revealed to Us Weekly at the time, referring to his 2016 studio album, Starboy. “It was a deliberate decision like a lot of artists do. New album, new look. He has been trying not to be photographed to unveil it all in a very deliberate rollout.”
Fast forward to the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards and The Weeknd was back at it with yet another new look. This time, however, it was far more jarring than getting a trim. The singer’s face appeared bloody and bruised. Three months later, at the American Music Awards in November, The Weeknd upped the ante and added bandages reminiscent of a post-op plastic surgery patient.
Lastly, for his “Save Your Tears” music video, which dropped on January 5, The Weeknd was completely unrecognizable as a result of CGI and extreme prosthetics. If anything, he looked more like Jim Carrey in 1994’s The Mask than himself.
Of course, the Grammy Award winner didn’t actually alter his face in the name of art, but the results were still shocking, nonetheless. To date, The Weeknd has never explicitly explained the story behind his stage makeup. However, Prosthetic Renaissance, a special effects makeup studio, took credit for the pop star’s exaggerated facial reconstruction on its social media accounts after the music video debuted.
That said, the songwriter did reveal the meaning behind his song “Blinding Lights,” which is where the first phase of the look originated. “‘Blinding Lights’ [is about] how you want to see someone at night, and you’re intoxicated, and you’re driving to this person and you’re just blinded by street lights — but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you’re so lonely,” The Weeknd told Esquire in an August 2020 interview. “I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving, but that’s what the dark undertone is.”
Hmmm … so his performance art is a warning against drunk driving? If that’s the case, the extreme plastic surgery element is still confusing. Who knows? Maybe it’s a warning against both! Here’s hoping fans will get an explanation one day.
Scroll through the gallery below to see The Weeknd’s total transformation over the years.