In Tierra Whack’s World, Balenciaga Crocs & Silver Bobs Are Essential

On “Hungry Hippo,” a standout track from Tierra Whack’s cult-classic EP, Whack World, the artist croons in a feathery falsetto, “He likes my diamonds and my pearls. I said ‘thank you, I designed it.’” The line captures the ethos of 28-year-old Whack, known as much for her eccentric style as her similarly inventive music. Whack World felt new in both sound and format when it dropped in 2018; each song on the 15-track EP clocked in at exactly one minute, shifting dramatically between genres in a way that still felt cohesive, leaving listeners with just enough to keep wanting more.

Six years later, Whack is back with her first full-length album, World Wide Whack, out March 15th via Interscope, in which she once again pushes the boundaries of genre while showing off her talent for world-building. At a recent pair of listening events for the album in Los Angeles and New York, Whack proudly played her new album for fans from around the world while standing next to a massive blow-up version of herself—or rather, of her character, as she refers to it—in a silver bob, spiral glasses, and a billowing silver clown suit, Missy Elliott-style. With this release, Whack introduces a more layered version of herself than the enigmatic caricature presented in her first project. This time, she’s delving deeper into topics like suicide and the discomfort of being launched into the public eye.

Whack World was like the first date. In World Wide Whack, I’m not holding back at all,” she says on a recent afternoon at the W offices, perched behind a desk. “I’m giving everybody my everything. No secrets.” When I meet the Philly native, she’s got the same Hi-C red hair and glasses that she wore during her listening events (red is becoming her signature color, she notes, adding that she’d like to launch her own frames line soon). Carrying a purse made of Levi’s jeans, Whack details her plans to design a handbag line, to try her hand at acting (there is a Hulu documentary about Tierra Whack called Cypher), and even spitballs an ingenious idea for a stylist-based reality competition series. Below, she discusses coveting Rick Owens sneakers, her inspiring hot dog-shaped bags, and sketching her own fashion looks.

What was your style like growing up?

It was middle school when my mom started giving me freedom. We had to wear a uniform, but I would always find ways to customize it, add some color. My backpack, socks, everything had to match.

Who are some of your style icons?

Tracee Ellis Ross and Erykah Badu were always my top two. With Erykah, you never see her in just a shirt and pants. She has accessories, layers, and it looks so effortless. Kelis, too—people forget Kelis is a style icon. The colors, the patterns. She’s just so edgy.

What’s your approach to getting dressed?

I’m always dressing for comfort, and I always end up getting lucky, hitting it on the nose, whatever the event is. It’s in my spirit, my nature. I can feel or sense when it’s time to wear certain outfits or put certain patterns and colors together.

You design your own clothes sometimes.

I can’t sew, but I make sketches and I ask my friends, “Can you make something like this?” I have the vision, and I find the hands to do it for me.

You were just at Paris Fashion Week—what shows did you see?

We went to Off-White, Yohji Yamamoto, Vetements. I didn’t know that ‘vetements’ actually meant clothes. We were running around Paris shopping, and we kept saying, “vetements.” They were looking at us like we were crazy. We were standing right in front of clothes asking, “Where are the clothes?”

It was my first time in Paris. I was hanging out with my good friends, Willow Smith and Alton Mason. It was a vibe. To be honest, I was afraid of fashion week. But everyone was nice and very welcoming. I felt like I belonged.

What are some of your favorite places to shop?

When I’m in New York, I love Dover Street Market, because they got a mix of everything. As far as brands I love—Comme des Garçons, Acne Studios. Margiela. I love Charles Loverboy, I’ve been on him for a while. Vivienne Westwood, Rick Owens.

What was your first major fashion purchase?

The Rick Owens Geobaskets, in 2018. I still have them to this day. I felt like I made it, I wanted them for so long. They’re all dirty now, they’ve been through a lot. But I like them better that way, broken in.

What’s your approach to creating looks for your videos and shows? They’re always so unique.

Vibrant colors make me feel happy. Light, bright—I feel like I stand out. It’s just good energy surrounding it. I’ll get my nails done in the middle of December, and the nail tech is like, “Why are you getting this bright color? It’s time to tone it down.” We don’t ever tone it down over here. Keep it up! Keep it up! Keep it fun.

You’ve been compared to Missy Elliot—has she influenced your style?

That’s a huge compliment. Definitely, yes. Music, of course, visuals, thinking outside the box. Doing something daring, pushing the envelope. Her, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Eminem—all my wackos. Can’t forget Outkast. That’s my personal top five. André would have on a football top with some tights and cutoff shorts. He was doing that way before anybody else was even thinking about that. And usually the people who are dressed the craziest are the most chill—like Teezo Touchdown.

Are there any designers you’re hoping to work with one day?

I would love to work with Hermès and Comme des Garçons. I have so many of their pieces. They go for it each time.

You currently have a partnership with Nuuly, where fans can rent looks from your closet and from your tours. Where did that idea come from?

There’s this picture of Michael Jackson with his red and gold marching band jacket. I always wanted it, but I knew I could never afford it. Back then, I was just thinking about the things that I would do to wear Michael Jackson’s jacket. So I just thought it would be really cool to give fans an opportunity to rock some of my pieces.

What’s the most prized possession in your closet?

My grandma passed recently, in November. My friend made me a hoodie with her face on it. It’s hanging up across my rack, covering all the clothes. It’s the perfect piece. Her face is airbrushed on, and it’s pink. She liked bright colors too, so that was cool. It says “Wilma Whack.”

Do you have any fashion regrets?

No. No fashion regrets at all.

How do you approach integrating accessories into a look?

Sometimes I feel plain and I pop a [glasses] lens on and it brings it all together. And I have a crazy collection of bags—a hot dog bag, a clock bag. I love weird-shaped bags and luggage.

What’s your preferred footwear?

I don’t really wear heels. I like a nice little boot or some sneakers. Or my Balenciaga crocs. They’re so cozy.

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