When you ask Leikeli47 where she’s been: busy. The musician released her debut album, Wash & Set, last September, but its breakout single “Attitude” has been a hit since last summer when it was officially released on the second season soundtrack for HBO’s Insecure, and when it appeared in a popular iPhone commercial. But things are only heating up for the star, who dropped a fashion-filled video for “Attitude” earlier this week.
Leikeli has always had a notable sense of style (which she describes as “comfortable and dramatic”), but as her popularity grows it is becoming clear that she may soon be a bonafide fashion icon—especially with her trademark masks, a similar style of which recently appeared on the runway at Gucci. “It definitely wasn’t something that you saw a lot of before I started adorning them,” she mused. “Ever since I’ve been on the scene I’ve definitely seen a resurgence of masks just everywhere.”
Though she’s got a lot going on right now, from an upcoming show at the Brooklyn Museum, to shooting a new video, to being in the studio, L’Officiel USA was able to catch up with the artist to discuss fashion, performing for Missy Elliott, and all things “Attitude.”
I’ve watched the video four times, it’s amazing. Can you tell me about how it was pulled together and what was it like to shoot?
I knew going in that I definitely wanted to do an homage to Insecure. So that’s pretty much how I approached it, just from the fashion down to just the overall cheeky kind of story line. I’m such a huge fan of the show, and of course we all know Issa—the entire Insecure show, everyone involved— gave me a really great opportunity with being a part of the soundtrack. It was only right that I did it that way, it made sense, and I had a ball shooting it.
Were you picking up on any specific characters?
I wore the Best Buy shirt for Lawrence, and then we had on a lot of Samantha B.’s designs, which the stylist Ayanna [James] she put…I want to say both Molly [Yvonne Orji] and Issa. The Crimes hoodies—just little statement pieces. I didn’t go too far, because there’s so much great fashion in there—shout out to Ayanna James, the costume designer [for Insecure]. But I just wanted to take little pieces here and there, especially the ones that fit my personality, because I’m such a tomboy. And with Buffy Khan, who is my co-star and dancer—everything looks great on him. We gave you a bit of ourselves as well. Hence the pinstripes pants that Buffy has on, the loose leg pants, and the Chanel suspenders, the glasses. We wanted to add our own personal touches on there. Also, there’s a line in the song where I reference El Chapo, so I went on a hunt to find the shirt that he had on in his famous interview with Sean Penn, and I found it! That’s the same exact shirt El Chapo had on. The point of reference definitely was in the clothing.
What kinds of things do you look for when you’re putting together looks not just for videos, but also what you’re going to wear on stage, or at events?
For the most part you’re seeing me, it’s straight out of my closet. I’m pretty much a tomboy, but I’m very much a girly girl. I love my pastels, I love my nice little light colors—those fluffy colors. But I’m very dramatic as well. That’s why sometimes you’ll see me in the big furs, that type of stuff. But when it comes down to my personal style, it’s a mood thing, it’s a day thing, it’s an hour thing. I will say, I am very big on drama. I love those statement pieces that you can accentuate with something very simple, and it will just make the whole outfit pop. There are times when I just have on a t-shirt, some sweatpants, some Nike Air Max, and I will throw on a huge Mongolian fur over it, with some bamboos over my mask, and that right there, just the coat can make it pop. But what I also am a big believer on is the attitude.
I noticed a little while ago you switched from wearing a ski mask to a bandana—what sparked that decision?
I’ve always been in and out of different masks, especially early on. I would seem to be captured in the ski a lot, but I’ve always switched it up from the ski mask to the neoprene, to the cotton bandanas. I definitely have been sticking with my bandanas, because they just fit who I am. It’s just the mood that I’m in. They were always my favorite outside of the others. A lot of times ski masks would be worn for other people, because that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to entertain, I’m here to put on, and it’s about the people. So if a supporter says “I hope you wear a blue one tonight!” I would do something like that. But personally, my bandanas were always my #1 choice, in my top or whatever, so I’m glad to see that people are liking it.
Another rapper that is known for her mixing of glamour with a bit of tomboy edge is Missy Elliott, and you recently performed at Essence’s Black Women in Music event during Grammy Week to honor her—you’re a fan of hers, right?
Yes, absolutely. Missy is one of the founders of this creative lane that I’m able to walk down. I’m pretty much a child of Missy Elliott, and what I mean by that is, she has influenced myself, along with other musicians, other artists, designers—she’s just influenced the game, period. But at the end of the day I’m the first and the only Leikeli. I’m definitely myself. I see why people kind of go there with us, because of…I guess the table that we sit at. I’m just a junior at her table. She is the vet. But I’m blazing that same kind of trail. Let’s be clear, I’m nothing like Missy Elliott—she is a one-of-a-kind. She is a one of one. There are things, and those are shoes that I can never fill of hers. I bow down.
What was it like performing for her? Was she there?
She was there and it was super surreal. We get on stage and I have all of these lights, and every time I went to look in the direction of her, it was just bright. And rightfully so, because she is everything. She is the glow. We wanted to honor her in the best way we knew we could do so, and we had a blast doing it. I’m so grateful to Essence for the opportunity. Afterwards we met, I shed a small tear. She gave such great advice. She got up there and gave a wonderful speech. She took photos. She just extended her wisdom, her knowledge, and she was the sweetest person ever. It was just one of those magical nights. I’m just grateful for that, and I hope that she felt the love. I hope she really felt it because it came from the heart.
Can you share any pieces of advice that she gave you?
This is a piece of advice that she gave to entire room: she quoted Maya Angelou in stating that people will always remember how you made them feel. That statement…it rings so true. It’s something that I hold in my conscious every day, and it holds me accountable for how I treat people. How I encounter people. [Not] just in this business, outside in life, period. Her saying that that night, it just resonated, and it was just so appropriate, because it’s the truth.
In a couple of weeks you’re going to be at the Brooklyn Museum for Women’s History Month. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re going to be doing?
Well, I’ll get up there and I’m going to give the best Wash & Set experience I could ever give. I’m just going to run down some songs from my new album, and just go in and out—we’re going to dance, we’re going to have a good time. I’m going to be up there for quite a minute, so I want to definitely have some fun with it.