Pharrell Williams is the latest star to cover GQ Magazine’s “The new Masculinity” issue, an exploration of identity, culture, and style in 2019.
He talks about masculinity, working through thorny ideas about the patriarchy, about the politics of gender and sexual identity in 2019 and beyond, about past missteps and his personal evolution.
Talking about Pharrell Williams, GQ says:
Pharrell has been an agent of change his whole career. When he broke into the public consciousness, about 20 years ago, as a producer and then as the frontman of N.E.R.D., he looked different from everyone else in hip-hop, wearing slimmer jeans, more fitted skate tees, and mesh trucker hats. That might not sound earth-shattering now, but a whole generation of young African American misfits will tell you that Pharrell Williams was the first time they saw themselves in pop culture.
Here are excerpts of Pharell’s interview:
On opening an art exhibition in Paris, meeting with Chanel rather than just focusing on music
I like to keep things separate. Because I don’t want to get tired of myself. It’s cool to work in different disciplines, but it’s annoying to come off like an arrogant Swiss Army knife. I like to keep things separate so that there’s still that element of surprise. I think that’s important when it comes to any kind of art: the element of Wait, what? Rather than I did this, and that, and this, and that…
On being respectful
Oh, I started bowing almost 20 years ago, when I met Nigo. Because up until meeting him, my greatest references—the guys that garnered the most respect—were the guys with the big Bentleys. My big brother Jay. Big brother Puff. They were not quiet about being successful. They had created this energy of what success could look like for us as African American men. We saw that in Virginia and looked up to that. Like, wow. First of all, it’s possible. Second of all, this is the way you’ve gotta do it. And they had a lot of music to back it up.
On his definition of Masculinity
I think the truest definition of masculinity is the essence of you that understands and respects that which isn’t masculine. If you ask me, when we talk about masculinity, it’s also very racial, this conversation. Because the dominant force on this planet right now is the older straight white male. And there’s a particular portion of them that senses a tanning effect. They sense a feminizing effect. They sense a nonbinary effect when it comes to gender.
Photographs: Micaiah Carter
Styled: Mobolaji Dawodu
Grooming: Johnny “Cake” Castellanos
Set design: David Browne
Produced: Connect the Dots