He Once Worked At American Apparel
Photo by Cassidy Sparrow/Getty Images for Remy Martin
Back in 2011, when The Weeknd's debut mixtape House of Balloons broke the internet, rumours swirled that it was recorded by a guy who worked at American Apparel. His co-workers would claim to know the mystery man behind the music. Abel would later confirm he worked for the indie-sleaze clothing retailer in a New York Times Magazine profile, recounting folding clothes at the store in anonymity as his tape blew up.
He Was Once Homeless
Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic
In January, The Weeknd recounted a period in his life when he was 19 years old and facing a bleak situation.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, he stated, "That was likely the darkest period of my life. I was essentially homeless and had abandoned my studies."
The "Save Your Tears" singer expressed his uncertainty about achieving success as a musician and even surviving to see another day. "I didn't know if I could make it as a musician. I didn't know if I would live to see the next day."
However, he remembered being able to attend a screening of James Cameron's blockbuster film "Avatar" at the theater, which had a significant impact on him. "I somehow managed to see the movie in the theater, and it was such an escape from my actual life that the movie is permanently etched in my memory," he explained.
Fast forward to 2023, and The Weeknd penned a song for the new "Avatar: The Way Of Water" movie. The track was nominated for an Oscar this year. How far he's come!
His Records Hold Records
In 2021, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was named the new No.1 Billboard Hot 100 song of all time, surpassing Chubby Checker’s 1960 hit “The Twist” with over 90 weeks on the singles chart.
"Blinding Lights" is also the most-streamed song on Spotify, with more than 3.335 billion streams to its name.
The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” has been named the new No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 song of all time, surpassing Chubby Checker’s 1960 hit “The Twist” with 90 weeks on the singles chart.
The 17-time Juno winner is the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three positions on the Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart. "Can't Feel My Face", "Earned It", and "The Hills" stacked the top of the chart on September 8, 2015. When you're stacking the top of the charts, you're instantly in Beatles territory. That's the mark of a superstar act. The Weeknd's records hold records.
'Earned It' Never Hit No. 1
The Weeknd's breakout track "Earned It" was the lead single from the soundtrack to "Fifty Shades of Grey". It was nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar and won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance. Critics loved it, fans ate it up, and the soundtrack was a hit buoyed by singles like Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do". But "Earned It" peaked at No. 3 in May 2015.
As of Feb. 16, "Earned It" has notched Diamond Certification from the RIAA. This marks The Weeknd's fifth Diamond single following hits such as “The Hills,” “Starboy” [feat. Daft Punk], “Blinding Lights,” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” He's now the fourth artist to ever earn five or more Diamond certifications.
The Weekend Was Taken
He left high school before grad and his dropout status inspired his moniker. The man formerly known as Abel Tesfaye was on a never-ending weekend. But he couldn’t use the stage name the Weekend because that was already the name of a pop-rock band in London, Ontario. So he dropped the ‘e’ and went with the Weeknd. Also, Canadian producer Jeremy ‘Zodiac’ Rose claims he came up with the Weeknd. We’re not here to confirm the origin of the name. We’re just here to tell you that the Weekend was taken. So take that at face value.
He Was A Secret
Like HRH Bieber, the Weeknd first turned to YouTube to share his songs, beginning in 2010. But after all that flap about choosing a stage name, he posted his work anonymously. So mysterious! The spotlight found him in 2010 when Drake mentioned him on his blog. Oh, 2010, with your blogs and your Angry Birds and your planking. How is it that you were a scant 13 years ago but you feel like a distant galaxy? Anyway, the Weeknd kept uploading material, including the mixtapes House of Balloons, Thursday,, and Echoes of Silence. All the while, he maintained a level of mystique not seen around these parts since the Guess Who dropped their debut.
'Beauty Behind the Madness' Sold Lightning-Fast
"Earned It" dropped in December 2014, plus it was on Beauty Behind the Madness, which came out in August 2015. August. That's the eighth month of the year. Beauty Behind the Madness was only on sale for four calendar months, and yet, it was still one of the bestselling records of 2015. It's right up there behind Taylor Swift's 1989, Adele's 25 and Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late. With the No. 1 singles "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills", the record won the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
The Donald Makes Him Dip
The Weeknd and Ottawa rapper Belly cancelled a 2016 "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" appearance in May 2016 because Trump was also booked to appear on the show. "I just didn't want to feel like I was a part of a celebration for somebody who has beliefs that the majority of us don't agree with," Belly said in a statement.
His Bandaged Face Is A Statement On Celebrity Culture
Since last March, he's been doing this thing where he appears in public with an apparently bloody, swollen, bandaged face. He performed on "SNL" and appeared at the AMAs and the VMAs in various states of recovery. Then, last month, he released the video for "Save Your Tears," which showed him "post-plastic surgery" with a botched face (built from prosthetics). Finally, on February 3, a reporter from Variety asked him what it symbolizes as he rehearsed for his Super Bowl performance. He replied, "The significance of the entire head bandages is reflecting on the absurd culture of Hollywood celebrity and people manipulating themselves for superficial reasons to please and be validated."
His Masks Made a Million
The Weeknd is a philanthropist. For example, he has donated generously to the University of Toronto over the years to support their Ethiopian Studies program. (He's Ethiopian and digs the language and music.) He quietly donated $300,000 to Global Aid in Lebanon and $500,000 to organizations working for racial equality. There's a bunch more but the generous deed we're focused on here is a line of non-medical face masks. They're marked with the 'xo' logo employed by the Weekend and his record label. The masks made a $1-million profit. He donated $500,000 to MusiCares and $500,000 to his hometown front-line hospital staff at the Scarborough Health Network. What a great Weeknd.
He's A Bona Fide Humanitarian
In 2022, The Weeknd was granted the CMW Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award in recognition of his extensive involvement in charitable endeavors. This accolade is given to a Canadian artist, duo, or group who's displayed a commitment to social activism and humanitarian causes.
As a recipient of this award, The Weeknd was granted the opportunity to allocate a $50,000 donation to a charity of his choice through The Slaight Family Foundation.
The Weeknd was clearly moved by receiving the reward, stating: “This a Canadian award sits deep with me. Allan and The Slaight Family Foundation are known across the country for their generous philanthropy, and it means a lot to be acknowledged, and is an honour to be recognized along with the legendary Canadian artists who received this award before me.”
His Grammys Are Worthless
The Weeknd was widely expected to receive multiple Grammy noms this year for his latest album, After Hours. He has three Grammys already — two for Beauty Behind the Madness and one for Starboy — so you know the Grammys know who he is and how to nominate him. The Weeknd picked up multiple AMAs and VMAs this year for the critically acclaimed hit record, so you know it's award-worthy. So when the Weeknd was totally snubbed by the Academy this year with zero Grammy nominations, he posted on social media, "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…" There was widespread outrage. Elton John posted, "In my humble opinion… 'Blinding Lights' Song of the Year, Record of the Year #GrammySnub". The Weeknd told Billboard, "Look, I personally don't care anymore. I have three Grammys, which mean nothing to me now, obviously." This is such a bummer secret. Here's the Weeknd in happier Grammy times at the 2016 event with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Bella Hadid.
He Put Millions Of His Own Money Into His Super Bowl Performance
Photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Despite not being paid for this 2021 Super Bowl performance (because the NFL doesn't pay any of its halftime performers), The Weeknd spent $7 million of his own dollars to ensure his halftime show would be what he envisioned. That's according to his manager, Wassim Slaiby.
As for where all that cash went? Some of it might've gone to his hand-embroidered, crystal-laden Givenchy outfit, which took 250 hours to make; and some of it might've gone to the dozens of Weeknd doppelgängers who joined him on the field.
He's About To Star In His Own HBO Series
Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp
The Weeknd is developing a series with HBO called "The Idol". The multi-talented artist will be starring in and co-writing the show, which revolves around a female pop singer who falls in love with a mysterious Los Angeles club owner that leads a clandestine cult.
Reza Fahim and Sam Levinson will also be co-creators and executive producers alongside The Weeknd, while Joseph Epstein will be the showrunner and another executive producer. The show is reportedly set to premiere this June.