Stage Persona: Using Fashion to Build a Character
We love a good stage persona don’t we? But how do you create one and how does fashion fit into the whole scheme? Well, here are some names that might make you think about it before we dive into the details: Freddie Mercury, Lady Gaga, Elton John and you might be able to guess a few more names.
First of all, what is a stage persona? It is a stage presence, a brand you create, a character that you put on while you are performing, or giving interviews, or doing photoshoots, basically everything that’s required for a celebrity. Maybe think of Hannah Montana for this (just kidding, but not totally). The stage persona we are talking about is the flamboyant one. It is not the media trained “normal” character. And who is a better example of this than the one and only Freddie Mercury?
Freddie was the one for the books with his sequin jumpsuits, colorful pants, leather pieces and anything extraordinary. The way he talked, interacted with fans all added to this persona he created. This way, the star attaches himself to another person that he does not have to be all the time. But it is enough to make everyone think that he is. Freddie is this diva that likes to make fun of everything, the one who is not afraid to challenge norms. However, he would not be able to build this extravagant image without his iconic wardrobe. You might be saying that one of his most iconic looks was the Live-Aid, jeans and white wifebeater. But do you think that it would create the same sensation if it was his look since the beginning? Probably not. And Freddie is obviously not the only person with the flamboyant stage persona. David Bowie, Prince, Elton John and a Turkish artist called Zeki Müren are close contenders when it comes to looks that make your eyes question if that is really happening.
I would also like to add a woman to this list by talking about Lady Gaga. She is the epitome of creating a stage persona. The wigs, the artistic image of her videos, the answers she gives to interviewers, the costumes, everything she does is a part of her image. She stripped out of that image recently but especially during the “Fame” album era, she had created an entirely different person. She was this untouchable woman that wore dresses made out of meat, had herself carried inside an egg to the Grammys and had everyone shook with her never ending Met Gala looks.
One of the common traits of these created from zero stage personas is the new names. When you think about it, it’s actually a perfect idea. Lady Gaga is not the same as Stefani Germanotta, Freddie Mercury is not Farrokh Bulsara. They are a part of this other person that they wear when they need to.
The second part is not creating a persona out of nothing but rather changing the image that you had before. Here we can take a look at some newer stars such as Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd and even the golden boy Harry Styles. Taylor and Miley were both the good girls of our generation. One being arguably the biggest Disney star and the other a country princess. Their clothes accompanied this image too. Fairytale dresses, boho looks, country outfits and not much of daring looks. Miley created a whole new persona starting with the Bangerz album. Her VMAs outfit had everyone shocked. And from that point onwards her whole wardrobe was probably thrown to trash. Getting replaced with sheer dresses, rocker pants and Moschino-like fits. This Miley had something to prove, she was no longer the cutie of Disney. The long brown hair was out, short blond was in. All of her looks built this new persona for Miley. The girl that did not care, the girl who did what she wanted and defended what she believed in.
Similar transition happened with Taylor after the Kanye and Kim scandals. She hid from the public eye for a year and returned with a brand-new image. It might not have been the exact same shock Miley gave with VMAs but nobody was ready to see Taylor with this black and white reputation image. The colors were gone from Taylor’s outfits, replaced with black sequins, a dark red lip and snake motifs. However, Taylor’s persona strategy did not end here. She changed looks with every album, going back to pastels with “Lover”, trying a fall look with “Folklore” and “Evermore” and finally, creating the iconic looks from all her eras with the re-recording process. Both these girls used fashion to show that something has changed and they are no longer the same person, resulting in a different stage persona.
With the boys, it was not as groundbreaking but still worth talking for. The Weeknd’s change was cutting the iconic hair before the Starboy era. But the persona creation specifically applies to After Hours. And he did that with one single look. The black suit with the red jacket +the bandages. For every performance and music video, The Weeknd chose the same option. This persona was a victim of the Hollywood expectations, which is a theme that Abel talks about in his songs too. This is not a life-time brand image but rather a marketing choice by his team for this album specifically. However, Weeknd likes to change his looks just like Taylor does with each album so we are excited to see new The Weeknd personas.
Lastly we have Harry Styles, who had a drastic image change from One Direction boy band days. In his documentary “Harry Styles: Behind The Album”, he mentions thinking about branding the long hair he had for the last years of 1D. However, this decision changes when he decides to start fresh and cuts the beautiful locks. The brand new Harry Styles is an embodiment of vintage meets modern with the help of Gucci. He no longer rocks skinny jeans with a white tee. Now he wears custom Gucci gowns and Bode pieces. If you look close you can see some inspiration from the aforementioned flamboyant rock stars. His now built brand new image being closer to them, a bit toned down but still the one for the books.
Now, it is obvious that this article followed some big names, some of them being completely different from each other. However, one thing they share in common is that their looks are an essential part to their brand image, to their persona. Whether it’s a significant red jacket or a full sequin bodysuit, they all add on to what they want to portray to the viewer. A dress is never simply just a dress, it’s a statement, a way of conveying a message. And we love seeing the show they put on with them.