15 Minutes with Chlöe Bailey

A protegé of Beyoncé, the singer and actor now has a pivotal role in Donald Glover-directed series ”Swarm,” and drops her debut solo album this month

One half of the R&B sister duo Chlöe x Halle and a protegé of Beyoncé, Chlöe Bailey is no stranger to fame. But with a pivotal role in Donald Glover-directed series Swarm, her debut solo album with an accompanying tour, the artist looks set to be one of the standouts of 2023.

The series follows Dre [Dominique Fishback], a young woman whose obsession with a pop star takes a dark turn. Chlöe stars as Marissa, Dre’s loving and devoted sister who is an aspiring makeup artist but is fighting her own demons.

LAMag spoke to Bailey ahead of the release of Swarm about the dark series, her upcoming debut solo album and candidly about learning to ignore the toxic noise of social media.

LAMag: How did you react to reading the script for Swarm for the first time?

Chlöe Bailey: I broke down in tears and my mouth was wide open. One, I didn’t expect that to go down the first episode or two, there was so much of myself within Marissa that I resonated with and parts of me that I’ve been scared to show in any other way than the music I could show and share it with Marissa. I think this role is meant for me.

As you said, you’ve only really shown that side of yourself through your music. Were you then nervous to then take that to another platform like this TV show?

To be honest with you, no. It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done and it was the most freeing. When we were in production shooting for two weeks I had the time of my life. As heavy as the content is and as heavy as it reminded me of things that I still have to heal from, It was just a dream to be a part of this was such an amazing cast to have Donald [Glover] direct this pilot episode. And to be around such incredible Black women like Janine [Nabers] and Malia Obama and to really just show sisterhood and how sometimes when you’re too dependent on somebody, it’s not really healthy for either of you. 

Was this a project that made you look at your own fame and fandoms in a different light?

With this, and I promise you wholeheartedly, I completely removed Chloe the artist and Chloe musician from this because I don’t see this show as that, I see it as Dre who lost the thing that is most important to her and kept her sane, literally. The only thing she had she lost and she’s doing every and anything to get that back and to honor her so I didn’t group her with the rest of the fandom. This is just a girl who is going through something mentally and this is her way of expressing herself as wrong and as demented as it is in her twisted mind. She was fighting for her sister and she was connecting with her sister for the love that they’ve always had of Ni’Jah since they were little girls. It really isn’t about a specific fandom or anything, this is about Dre and her journey and what she used as her voice and what she used to justify her actions.

How hard was it to separate yourself from the character because it’s so closely linked to your real life?

It wasn’t hard at all, Marissa is Chloe. What I love about Marissa is that she’s like the sun and the pick me up in the episode and despite all of the mishaps Dre has she’d always be there to pick her up when she’s down, she does her makeup and you almost think Dre is her child and Marissa is her mother and that’s not the case. But as much as Marissa was holding Dre up, Marissa was failing to hold herself up and I think the weight got too heavy for her. I think with how things left off with the two sisters in a way it is Dre apologizing to her and fighting for her and getting justice for her for all of the nasty trolls who were talking shit about her online and defending her honor.

You’ve toured with Beyoncé around the world a couple of times and you must have seen crazy fandom firsthand. 

I love performing and I love tours and the energy is like my medicine and without that exciting and energetic energy, I can’t do my job properly. I need those fandoms and our fans and things like that because that’s what fuels my spirit and it allows me to give the energy back, so without them, I wouldn’t be here.

What has been the best piece of advice you’ve had to deal with fame yourself?

My grandma always gives me the best piece of advice. If nobody listened to me or my music or anything or cared, I’d still be doing music, because it’s a form of therapy for me. So, I think the best piece of advice that she’s given me is to fight for myself. Because by fighting and believing in myself, I am building a shield of armor and I am able to walk into my purpose and truly do what I’m destined to do and be a vessel and not let people’s outside opinions kind of tarnish and contaminate that. 

For a while I stepped away from social media completely, I would just take my pictures and send them for people to post but then I started missing Instagram and I was missing DM’s from my friends and things like that so I brought that back. I like Discord but I don’t have Twitter on my phone anymore because that’s where you see all of the negative things directly on your face. In the beginning, it was easier to brush off but as you continue to see yourself trending every week and not for the most positive reasons…when you click on your name when it’s trending all you see are negative things it starts to wear you down and you start to believe the things that you see. I started noticing that it was making me now do the things that people online were accusing me of which was not being myself.

You’ve just announced your solo headlining tour with a show in L.A., how exciting is that?

It’s so exciting! It’s scary because I will be performing songs that nobody’s even heard yet. I believe the first date is April 11 and the album drops March 31 so that gives 10 days in between for people to have time to digest the music. But I’m happy I get to connect face to face with them so they can feel how I felt with these songs and feel my heart and feel my pain. In Pieces, what it means is that, no matter how put together I seem, my heart and my body I’ve been worn down and broken in pieces. However, I will constantly put myself back together again… it’s a double entendre.

You’re also about to drop your debut solo album In Pieces. Are you nervous?

I get nervous leading up to anything. like any time I go on stage to perform and now there’s this baby I’ve been birthing for three years! People are finally hearing my artistry as a cohesive body of work. Before it was just like one-off songs and that’s cool and all, but I am a very experimental and artistic artist and I just felt like it’s so unfair to try to have people guess what kind of artist I am just off a few songs. So I’m so happy that the opportunity presented itself where I’m finally able to drop this project and I am so proud of it. 

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