Bebe Rexha Talks First-Ever VMAs and Her Aaliyah-Inspired Style: Exclusive

Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Bebe Rexha attends the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 28, 2016 in New York City. 

Bebe Rexha, the rising solo artist featured on G-Eazy's "Me, Myself and I", made her first appearance at the 2016 VMAs last night wearing a custom diamond two piece ensemble by designer Bryan Hearns with thigh high suede Balmain boots. 

Billboard spoke exclusively with Rexha, who turns 27 on Tuesday (Aug. 30) about her sartorial choices, what late singer Aaliyah’s music and style mean to her, and the one trend she will probably never revisit again.

VMAs 2016: All the Performances Ranked From Worst to Best

Congrats on presenting at the VMAs this year! What does this experience mean to you?

I was born and raised in New York, so that culture is ingrained in me and has shaped all of my music coming out in the fall. Presenting at the VMAs, a show I watched as a kid all my life, is kind of an epic moment for me. And honestly I’m just really grateful to be around so many talented people and having that experience to be inspired by all.

 

Amazing moment hearing one of my idols perform MM&I tonight. ---- @britneyspears

A photo posted by Bebe Rexha (@beberexha) on

 

Your style has a '90s and early 2000s Tomboy feel to it. Any trends from that era you’re particularly drawn too?

It’s so interesting because I feel like everyone is onto this new wave now. During the "No Broken Hearts" video, I became obsessed with the whole TLCAaliyah, Missy Elliot, early Britney Spears, and even Busta Rhymes vibe. I love the fashion, colorfulness and gaudiness of certain things. I definitely try to incorporate that whole vibe with a new modern twist by mixing it in with high fashion stuff. I’ve been wearing big chunky diamond chokers for a long time and now I see everyone wearing them and I'm thinking ‘what’s going on?’ I remember when we were first starting the trend, and everyone was so into the late '90s plastic lace chokers, but I wanted to go to 2000. Big diamond chokers, baggy pants, crop tops, and the whole Aaliyah thing right before she passed. And it’s funny that everyone has kind of come around to that.

This week was the anniversary of Aaliyah’s death. What does her music and style mean to you?

She was sexy in a cool way. It was tomboy, girly, and it was her swag more than anything that was sexy and I loved that about her. It's very similar to Rihanna. From her music to her style she was effortlessly sexy and it felt very authentic. Like when she would wear jogger pants with a fitted top; her music was soft and still wanted to make you move, which I love. I recently got in the studio with Timbaland, it was an incredible experience because he was really involved with Aaliyah.

Generally speaking, New Yorkers are known for wearing all black, but your sartorial choices are quite colorful. Why do you think you’re into colorful clothes?

I used to wear black all the time. I think it's a phase for me right now and it reflects where I am in my career and where my head is at. I have one life to live and this world is a colorful place and I get to choose how I want to be seen. Maybe I’ve been in L.A. way too long.  

Next Up: Bebe Rexha on Her Dreams and Childhood Influences 

What are some style staples you can’t live without?

In my book bag, I have at least four pairs of sunglasses on deck, including a pair of black Céline sunglasses and a pair of orange Fendi ones that are fun. I always have a little makeup bag filled with different kinds of chokers, and my nameplate necklace is a very important staple for me. I never take my nameplate off, its very New York City, Sex and the City. On the road I have my Louis Vuitton book bag, and it was expensive, but I think its important because sometimes I can start looking really disheveled at the airport, wearing a pair of baggy sweat pants, a baggy t-shirt and sneakers, even if they're cool (like my pair of white Dior ones with white studs). The book bag always elevates the whole look. 

Are there any style moments that you look back on and think ‘never again?’

Yeah I think really early on, when I had my black hair, maybe four to five years ago, I was into a lot of black and sometimes I think it got a little too dark. I feel like anytime you look all the way back you go ‘Ugh. What was I thinking?’ Corsets are great, but I would wear lace and leather, and it didn’t look too great. So I won’t go back there again. And if I do it, I’ll do it the right way. 

2016 MTV VMAs