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photos / Irvin Rivera

assistant / Phill Limprasertwong

styling  / Joey Thao @ Art Dept

hair / Nina J

makeup / Nimai Marsden

story / Koko Ntuen

It’s hard not to listen to Dawn Richard’s musical trilogy — Goldenheart (2013), Blackheart (2015) and Redemptionheart (2016) — off her solo discography and not hear three deeply personal comeback albums. Each record tells a different story and shows the rise and narrative of the pop star’s fantastical journey through the music industry — and life. Each of the albums offer anthems of self-love, encouragement, and defiance. They are songs you play when you have nowhere to go but up and you’re going to get there in soldier-like formation.
Describing the albums’ themes, Dawn explains, “I think that’s important that I put it all out there. I was honest with how I felt. I wrote it down, and then I sung it, and then I put it out and it did what it did. And I think that’s why Blackheart was such a successful album — I think people related with that feeling. Shit doesn’t always go right. To me, that’s why The Red Era is so important. The next one coming up is Redemption, and what it means is, you know, the fall is going to happen. Failure will happen. Shit’s not gonna go right, but your recovery is imperative. The way you recover is what matters. Blackheart was that moment for me. I put it out there and then I moved on. I let it go. I don’t talk about it anymore. I put it there, I addressed it, and then I said, ‘Okay, now, here’s the recovery and the bounce back.’ So now, singing about redemption in this next album, it’s about celebrating our recovery.”
Since 2004, her musical career has been under the collective pop culture microscope in the wake of finding massive success on the reality television series Making the Band, from which the high-profile mid-00s girl group Danity Kane was, well, made. That outfit lasted for over five stormy years, which saw Dawn and members of the group duke it out in front of a vulture-like media animal, their trials and tribulations turned to paparazzi fodder. After disbanding, she was selected by Sean Combs to become a member of Dirty Money, and found success yet again in the trio led by hip-hop royalty.
Through it all, Dawn sang and danced around the world, shining as a background player, talented but under the radar until she broke free on her butterfly-like debut as a solo artist. Her own sonic direction sees her as an dynamic artist, musical genres weaving effortlessly into one another, crashing like beautiful waves.
“I’m just doing me,” she says. “I do what feels good. It’s a representation of who I am as a person; I don’t go into anything more than just leading with passion. Whatever comes out of it, comes out of it. So, no, I make what I like. I make what’s in that moment. It [didn’t] feel like there needed to be lines. Like, if you give ‘em colors, what’s the point of coloring in a line? You have all these colors to work with, why not create something beautiful? Why are you limited if you have all of these colors to work with? For me, if life is your color, why would you box your life? It doesn’t make any sense. If I’m given all these crayons to paint a story about my life, I’m gonna paint as big of a picture as I possibly can with no limit.”
Dawn’s limitless creative instincts have seen her lead the way as a monarch of her own music empire. Her music, her videos, and her style are all part of a magical, visionary, experimental world in which the late David Bowie might feel at home.
“Its cinematic and it’s whimsical,” Dawn shares of her project. “I think it sometimes transcends an actual place here. It’s otherworldly. When people say, ‘I feel like I’m transported to another world,’ that’s the point. It’s to take you away from something and bring you into another element. I think that when you think of music and why you feel the way you do, it’s because it takes you away from your circumstance. I know for me, that’s what music was when I was going through shit. You put on a record and it would [transform] you into where you wanted to be at that time. Music should always be that. It should be the book you read or the movie you watch — it’s another form of escape. That’s what we’re doing. My music is your escape; it’s the opportunity for you to be the dreamer!”
Now, as we enter Dawn’s Red Era, this is the time that leaves the artist and her audience dreaming more than ever, with the enigmatic artist celebrating her journey.
“That’s really what the theme of The Red Era are.It’s a celebration of coming home, of coming of age, of coming of self. I think we’re coming full circle,” the singer declares. “I dealt with that by putting an album out, and now I’m dealing with my last part of this whole story, celebrating and saying, ‘Thank you guys for the ride. You can do this shit too. It’s time for you to celebrate. It’s time for you to step into yourself and have a good time.’ Know that shit’s good. You’re good.”


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