In an interview with Rolling Stone, Abel Tesfaye, better known as the Weeknd, described an extremely awkward interaction with Taylor Swift, who he says spent at least 15 minutes casually stroking his signature hair.
Describing the time he met the "Bad Blood" singer, Tesfaye was impressed with her knowledge of his work. “She actually schooled me on my own shit,” he told Rolling Stone. “She was like, ‘I’ve been listening to ‘The Morning’ [from House of Balloons] for years—it’s one of my favorite songs ever!’ I mean, she might have just Googled it. But she seemed genuine.”
But something seemed off about their conversation.
“But the whole time she was talking, she was kind of, like, petting my hair?” he recalled. “I think she was just drawn to it—she must have been a little gone off a few drinks. And of course I’m not going to be like, ‘Hey, can you stop?’ I mean, it felt good! but when she started petting my hair, that’s when I was like, ‘I definitely need a drink.’”
One of his trademarks, Tesfaye says his hair is partly inspired by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. “I want to be remembered as iconic and different," he said. "So I was like, 'Fuck it — I'm gonna let my hair just be what it wants.'”
Signature hairstyle or not, that doesn’t give anybody—even Taylor Swift—license to treat Tesfaye’s hair like it's some cat. The interaction speaks to a larger, complicated history of fascination with black hair and the entitlement in touching someone's hair without permission.
To explain to Swift why this isn’t good etiquette, check out these public service announcements:
And for more political context:
Seems safe to say that if you ever feel inclined to touch a black person's hair without permission: Just don't.