When the recently divorced new mother Kelis returned to the music scene, she declared what fashion heads already knew. Publicly addressing her slew of emulators, it was as if the allegorical gates of visual justice flew open. Kelis was speaking the truth and no one contested her. This has generated a wide anticipation for Kelis’ fifth studio effort “FleshTones” led by the dance song “Acapella.”
When we saw the iamkelis.com army of glossy skulls that fenced her, Kelis revived as the piercing lady of unprocessed edge. But nothing could prepare us for what happened next.
Kelis’ response to a PETA attack proved she was our reigning satirist of fashion. Kelis jokes, “And the paint throwing, that’s just ridiculous! What if I was hurling Louboutins and Pierre Hardys at every sad poorly dressed person on the street?” She questioned, “What about art?” This led us to the recent red carpet photo of Kelis at the “First Annual Data Awards.” In a post-baby body that banged, Kelis wore a fleshy jump suit oddly coupled with a black tuxedo jacket. Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo heels were nearly an afterthought to Kelis’ hyper-makeup, an ear to nose connecting chain and her near floor-length grey hair. Honestly, we didn’t know what to say. Heads bowed in somber. Our girl was taking it too far or so it seemed. The Web exploded with criticisms from industry laypersons to aficionados. 83% of Clutch readers voted the look a drab. One reader commented, “It’s statue of liberty meets unicorn.” OK! magazine described the look as “a fishy, Mel B – circa 98, weird attempt at Lady Gaga.” The Gaga comparisons continued over at New York Magazine’s The Cut. In a “Dear Kelis” letter that goes as far to call her an ass, the post read, “You are not Lady Gaga and this attempt at avant-garde fashion doesn’t compare to her get-ups.”
“You are not Lady Gaga and this attempt at avant-garde fashion doesn’t compare to her get-ups.” New York Magazine
Ummm…what? Since when did Lady Gaga become the go-to premier of style? Are we talking about the same artist who put her head in an eerie reef of horsy hay at last year’s “MTV Video Music Awards?” We don’t dispute Gaga is a provocative artist whose unorthodox looks have inspired recent runway. We recognize a source of these comparisons lie at Kelis’ choice to wear the McQueen’s after Gaga wore them in her “Bad Romance” video. Seemingly when Gaga experiments with fashion it’s grippingly revolutionary and when Kelis does it she becomes an ass. Now we’re not defending Kelis but let’s be frank here–Gaga is a new artist. Kelis has been at this since 1999. What makes Gaga exempt from the legions of sycophants who have mirrored the looks of the sartorial influencers? Can you say Madonna?
Kelis did “edge” and “avant garde” before most of us knew what these forms were. It’s authenticity translated so sincerely because Kelis has never really been a manufactured project. When Kelis staged a protest in her debut video “Caught Out There” marching down a street in a technicolored curly afro, she made it okay for the brown girls to be aesthetically unpredictable and to scream, “I hate you so much right now” on and off the track whenever he cheated. We clearly weren’t ready for the mode of wickedness she conjured up in “Get Along With You.” And when Kelis married rap king Nas, she did it unapologetically in an emerald green wedding gown. Let’s discuss who really put high-waisted denim on the map. In 2006, I personally searched the four corners of the earth trying to master Kelis’ “Bossy” look. Oh, and dare we talk of hair? Kelis’ style has progressed throughout the years from urban quirky to an unmatched congruency of high-street fashion. Our very own fashion joker, we can never tell what satchel of riddles Kelis will pop out. We love to decrypt her.
While Kelis’ “Data Awards” look among some of her other fashion misses have made us scratch our heads. Let us remember the best of pop culture fashion is grounded in contention and should forever provoke. Kelis is deservingly iconic and will undoubtedly become a sustained point of reference in our cultural memory. If Kanye West can rant and ruin award show moments, why can’t Kelis be an Avatar?
Take a look at some of our fave Kelis looks