The Evolution Of The Weeknd's Face Transformation Explained

There's a reason that The Weeknd has asserted himself as a musical force to be reckoned with. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd, has mastered the art of storytelling via absolute banger-quality music, which is made evident through his countless awards, critical acclaim, and passionate fanbase (via Forbes). But recent whispers surrounding the Canada-born musician extend past just his incredible music and contribution to our Spotify playlists.


Indeed, 2020 saw a very different looking version of The Weeknd, and he used the physical manipulation of his face as a form of storytelling. He utilized extreme make-up looks while attending various 2020 award shows to debut a sort of real-life element that accompanies the narrative of his most recent album, After Hours. This arthouse, avant-garde style of musical storytelling is right up the Weeknd's alley, and suggests that the singer is literally living out the narrative that After Hours is telling.

The Weeknd debuted a bruised face at 2020 VMAs in August

The Weeknd didn't debut his bruised face on the red carpet. He first sported the look in the music video for his hit song "Blinding Lights." In an interview with Variety, he explained that, "This character is having a really bad night — all these videos are taking place in one night — and you can come with your own interpretation of what it is... 'After Hours,' Martin Scorsese's film, is the obvious inspiration, with all this madness taking place in one night" (via Variety).


Our introduction to The Weeknd's "character" in real life was at the 2020 VMAs. On Thursday, August 27, he was spotted leaving a VMA rehearsal with his face horribly bruised and bloodied, shocking and confusing fans everywhere. But Metro quickly came to the rescue with an article that explained that the artist wasn't actually injured, but that the injuries were just part of an act. He paired his black and blue face with the infamous red suit and black tie that he is seen wearing in the "Blinding Lights" music video, as well as the After Hours album cover. That particular video begins with The Weeknd bent over in the suit, blood running down his smiling face.

The Weeknd had a bandaged face at 2020 VMAs in November

The Weeknd stepped up his look for the November American Music Awards, where he sported the same red and black suit, but with his face looking a little worse for wear than it did at the previous award show. But rather than keeping us guessing, he gave a pretty insightful explanation to Esquire — and he couldn't help but admit that it has a pretty dark undertone. He shared that "Blinding Lights" is about "how you want to see someone at night, and you're intoxicated, and you're driving to this person and you're just blinded by streetlights, but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you're so lonely. I don't want to ever promote drunk driving, but that's what the dark undertone is."


He was awarded Favorite Soul/R&B album that evening, which he accompanied with an incredibly moving speech that he decided to dedicate to Prince. "Last time I received this award, it was given to me by the late great Prince," The Weeknd said. "And you know, he's the reason I get to constantly challenge the genre of R&B, and I'd like to dedicate this award to him. Thank you" (via ELLE). And in the most the Weeknd way possible, he didn't waste a single breath addressing his bandaged face.

The Weeknd had a disturbing plastic surgery reveal in music video in January

On January 6, The Weeknd posted a completely un-contextualized, zero-explanation photo to Instagram of his face appearing to be heavily modified with plastic surgery. Whether it was some sort of CGI or prosthetics, he certainly fooled plenty of fans. If you're just itching for an explanation, we'll refer you to the corresponding music video, which is for the song "Save Your Tears." And we thought we had left all the nightmare fuel back in 2020.


The Weeknd once told GQ that he has an affinity for dark films, citing work from the likes of David Cronenberg and Brad Anderson as favorites. In addition, in an interview with Vice, the singer geeked out about his love for horror films and a pull towards all things macabre. "I usually don't like to 'spoon feed' my audience," explained Tesfaye in a note to his fans, "because I grew up idolizing story tellers who tell stories using symbolism, so it was in my nature to do the same" (via Genius).

Analysis of his performance art suggests that this plastic surgery look serves as a sort of "final form" (à la Cronenberg's The Fly, perhaps?) and end to the character he's been building. We won't even start to get into the allegations that the look is meant to be a dig at ex Bella Hadid, despite many fans' hypotheses.


The Weeknd looks back to normal in Super Bowl commercial

If you were concerned about any real damage to The Weeknd, fret no longer! His face alterations were confirmed to be prosthetics all along, as boasted by his very proud makeup artist on Instagram. A source told Us Weekly that every bit of his face modifications were props in his performance piece. "This is strictly performance art," the source explained. "The Weeknd is wearing prosthetics as part of the character he's been playing since November 2019 when he launched the After Hours era."


The Weeknd took to Instagram on January 8 to tease his upcoming Super Bowl LV halftime show, and in the commercial, his face looks normal, uninjured, and unmodified. It's a pretty wholesome ad, actually, and a stark contrast to the eerie, dark vibes he's been throwing at us for the past few months. In the ad, fans sing and bop along to "Blinding Lights," which is interrupted by the singer pulling up to Super Bowl security to check in. "Are you ready?" the screen reads, teasing his February 7 performance (via Us Weekly).