FKA Twigs is AKA Tahliah Barnett. The nickname ‘Twigs’ comes from cracking her joints in a noisy fashion when warming up (she danced professionally throughout her teen years.) 'FKA,' meanwhile, stands for 'Formerly Known As.' She says, “I begged my mum to take me to ballet class for years, but she was a dancer and she didn’t want me to get like, sucked into that whole world. But she gave in when I was eight, and I got into ballet and jazz. Eventually I realised that I couldn’t really be a ballet dancer, so I just took it into my own hands to discover the style of dance that suited me.”
Born and raised in Gloucestershire, her family didn’t have much money when she was growing up but she still won a scholarship to a private school. “My life was really weird. At home we had nothing, and then I was going to a private school. I was always the poor kid, even though I very much tried to pretend to be the other way. Always well presented. Always really active in the school, doing fashion shows, plays, involved in every single aspect of the school. Overcompensating, I think, for the fact that I knew I wouldn’t be going on the ski trip every January. I guess it was character-shaping.”
She says she's got a melancholic disposition. “ I don’t know if I’m a tortured soul, but I was born heartbroken. I remember feeling it when I was so young. I was like, ‘Mum, it hurts.’ But I don’t feel like a fragile person. I’m a sensitive person. ‘Fragile’ implies that if you flick me I’ll break like a twig. But if you flick me I’ll just say, ‘Oww, what did you do that for?"
She danced in pop videos for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran and Jessie J. The song was Price Tag, where she was dressed as a marionette. “ I would go out, and somebody would be like, "Oh, I recognize you!" I'd hope it was because they’d heard my music, but they’d say, “Are you that girl from the Jessie J video?” I'd always say "no," and they'd be like, "You're lying!" I'd say, "No! It's not me." They'd say, "You look just like her." And I'd be like, "I know. So many people say that! It's weird!"
She’s self-taught. “ I think there’s this perception that if you’re a studio geek—if you know loads about production, or you know loads about cameras and can direct all your stuff, or if you’re a songwriter who knows loads about lyrics and stuff—then you can’t get your nails done and you can’t get your hair done and you can’t, like, dress like this. And I just realised that that wasn’t true."
Despite her success, she’s still not flush. " Magazines were ringing me up: 'Front cover! Do this! Wear Jean-Paul Gaultier! Put on this Balenciaga jacket!' But then I'm going home and saying, 'I don't think I can eat next week.' It’s hard for my stepdad to understand why I'm working so hard. Sometimes I have to ask him to put fifty pounds in my bank account the same month I’m in Vogue.”
Whilst remaining coy about her relationship with Robert Pattinson, she revealed something very sweet in a recent interview. “That side of my life [the paparazzi] is nothing to do with me. That’s, like… That is the… side of life of the man that I love. And… when that started happening I had to… Because that is the opposite of who I am as a person, and it was weird… Then I had to sit back and have a conversation with myself and I had to say: that is something really horrible. No, not horrible, I don’t find it horrible, it’s something that’s very challenging. I look uncomfortable because I am uncomfortable. But then it’s, like, is this person in my life worth that? And he is, without question. Do you know what I mean? In comparison to how happy I am. And how I feel with him. It’s 100% worth it. Does that make sense?”