September 3 2014

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Beauty And The Beat: Canada’s Grimes Brings High-Impact Beauty To The Stage


Although she has an ethereal, high-pitched falsetto voice that falls somewhere between Mariah Carey and Enya, Grimes—a.k.a. Claire Boucher—is tougher than she sounds. “On tour I skip rope,” she boasts. “When you stop for gas, you can get in 100 skips. As far as how much energy you’re using per minute, it’s apparently the highest!” Boucher will have plenty of opportunities for high-impact cardio next month, when she embarks on a multi-month tour in support of her new electropop album Visions, out mid-February. In the interim, she’s focused on cultivating a special brand of samurai hairstyle that’s causing a few unlikely problems at the Canadian border. Here, the Montreal singer-songwriter shares her beauty tips for the road, including the best places to buy extensions and why a blue dye job just may be the only way to stop a tattoo habit.

It’s hard for anything to compete with your voice, but you manage to do a really great job of creating a strong visual aesthetic to go with your music. Is it something that you’re conscious of?

I definitely think about that a lot. I really like doing the visual thing, and I’ve always been really into fashion—I read! I like performers—I love Michael Jackson and Beyoncé—and we live in an age of entertainers, not musicians. I like the idea of there being a really strong image to a musical product, because it implies that you work really hard; it creates something more interesting.

One look that sticks out for me is a performance last year where you had waist-long blond extensions.

Oh man, those were great! They were, like, four bucks, and were almost the same color as my hair. Whenever I get weird hair extensions I try to get them in places with large African-American communities [because] you can get really good wigs and extensions for nothing. I ended up giving those to a friend, but I want to get some when I go back—you can’t really bring them on the road because they get messed up right away.

And now you’ve dyed your bangs peroxide blond while keeping the rest of your hair dark. Is changing your hair a big mode of self-expression for you?

Yeah, it’s the only way I can not give myself tattoos all the time. I’m addicted to changing my appearance—I just can’t stop. It’s actually a problem, because my hair is completely destroyed and I’m now trying to get it blue, so I’m bleaching it again.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just change your nail polish?!

I like things to be extreme, and it’s a bit more of a commitment than lipstick or clothes. I can roll out of bed and wear my p.j.s all day and I’ll still have blue hair. I first dyed my hair when I was 11—I was playing Anne of Green Gables and I dyed it red with Kool-Aid—and that was the beginning of the end, because I haven’t seen my real color since.

Have you moved on from Anne, in terms of coif inspiration?

I shaved the back and am now growing out the front to look like a samurai, like the guy in the movie House of Flying Daggers, I believe; he has this crazy topknot. The front needs to be long, because I’ve been having a lot of trouble at the [Canadian] border—whenever I declare everything, they always circle the top part, as if I’m bringing in weed!

Your video for “Vanessa” features shots of women with makeup smeared all over their faces. It’s almost grotesque. Was that intentional?

Honestly, we had a really limited time in the studio and we had no budget, so I was like, “Well, I have lots of makeup!” I wanted to take these traditional, beautiful things, and make them uncomfortable. It wasn’t necessarily a feminist statement, but I knew it would look super fashion-y—and I wanted to turn that around on itself.

Any plans to top that video?

So far we’ve shot two [off of Visions]. One of them involves many topless men, who are actually my brother’s friends. [For the other] there’s a really cool styling collective called Trusst Club; they have a really amazing aesthetic, and we did some really crazy stuff!

Photo: John Londono

Beauty And The Beat