“I’m gonna sleep so good on that plane,” Chlöe says as we slide into the middle row of a Suburban after her all-day photo shoot for Cosmo’s first-ever digital cover. “I’ll tuck my hair into my hoodie and wear big shades and a mask.”
We’re headed back to her hotel, where she’ll grab a quick bite (vegan chicken tenders with barbecue sauce, expertly ordered en route with a few click-clacks of her jeweled coffin nails) while we talk before she jumps into another Suburban to catch a flight back to Los Angeles…where she’ll go straight into hair and makeup for yet another event. But lest you think her energy’s fading, let me assure you: She remains every bit as bubbly and kind as she was at 10 a.m. this morning. When the car goes pitch-black and I can’t read my six pages of printed questions (I’m a Virgo Moon, leave me alone), Chlöe quickly offers up her phone flashlight. It’s clear she’s used to making this on-the-go thing work.
Because if there’s one certainty in Chlöe Bailey’s life these days, it’s that the 24-year-old is perpetually booked and blessedly busy. The Donald Glover and Janine Nabers–created show Swarm, in which Chlöe guest stars, hit Amazon Prime Video on March 17. Her deeply personal debut solo album, In Pieces, dropped March 31, nailing every emotion you’d experience sitting with one of your girls as she ping-pongs through heartbreak. (More on that in a minute.) Her new movie Praise This (think Pitch Perfect but for choir competitions) hits Peacock on April 7. And on April 11, she kicks off her 10-stop solo headline tour. So yeah, six hours of uninterrupted rest sounds pretty good, even if it’s under the glow of a “fasten seat belt” sign.
It’s not that Chlöe (who is dropping her last name for her solo career) is a stranger to this kind of schedule—after all, this is the woman who, along with her sister Halle, caught the attention of none other than Beyoncé when they sang a raise-the-hair-on-your-arm version of “Pretty Hurts” in 2013. Two years later, when Chlöe was just 16, they signed to Queen Bey’s label Parkwood Entertainment and effectively became the superstar’s protégés.
In 2018, Chlöe x Halle released their youthful, spunky album The Kids Are Alright, and they followed it up in 2020 with their more mature Ungodly Hour. They acted on ABC’s Grown-ish for four years. They performed at the MTV VMAs and E! People’s Choice Awards. They were nominated for five Grammys. In 2020, they were on the cover of Cosmo together. Most of this, they did as young adults, and all of it, they did together.
Then in January 2021, after sharing an Instagram for nearly nine years, they announced separate accounts. The reasoning was practical: While Halle was away filming The Little Mermaid, they still wanted to do their Lives for fans. But it signaled a shift. In September 2021, with the release of Chlöe’s chart-topping first single sans sister, “Have Mercy”—a self-possessed bad-bitch anthem that was like a megaphone announcement of her arrival into womanhood—Chlöe solidified her bona fide solo artist status.
Career-altering breakout moments are tender for any artist, and Chlöe is using hers to share some of the most delicate pieces of herself—all while navigating the spotlight for the first time without the security blanket of her best friend and baby sister.
So what does that look like? She is still growing into herself but knows who she is right now. She’s vulnerable but still selective about who gets access to all of her. She wants high-profile success but never at the risk of her soul’s health. She is the most vulnerable she’s ever been because she understands that her fragilities—and the bravery it takes to bare them—are what actually define her. As we barrel through Brooklyn traffic, we get into all of it.
When you were on the cover of Cosmopolitan with Halle in 2020, you said that you don’t really communicate what you feel inside. But listening to In Pieces, there’s a real rawness and vulnerability to the tracks. What’s changed?
Those moments where I’ve been scared to articulate what I feel inside, I put it into the music. Now people get to hear my innermost thoughts within these songs, which are all the moments where I’ve been scared to speak up or explain how I feel. There were moments I was heartbroken, not only through romantic relationships but friendships, family, and people I thought I could trust. In Pieces is about how we put ourselves back together after feeling like the world breaks you down. It’s therapeutic knowing that people who inspired some of these songs will hear them. It gives me my power back.
Using your art to reclaim your power must feel incredibly liberating. Beyond In Pieces being an expression of yourself, who do you make music for?
I make music for people who are great at acting like everything’s okay when it’s not and they’re afraid to tell somebody. I’m used to people-pleasing, putting my feelings on the back burner, and being the bigger person. Now I’m learning to just be. It’s been freeing. I’ve grown and evolved so much the past three years, which were the hardest of my life. I had to experience those hard moments so I could create this body of work.
You captured some of those hard moments in “Make It Look Easy.” The lyrics were so uninhibited: “Hate bein’ alone / There’s nowhere to run / So I’ll pretend that I’m all good instead / Yeah, I make it look easy / Yeah, I make it look easy / But there’s so much I’m needing.” Tell me about writing that.
That’s one of the newer songs on there. Something was missing on the album, but I didn’t know what it was until I wrote that song. Usually, I’ll go in the booth and freestyle and do a bunch of takes. But this one, I wrote freely on my notes on my phone in less than five minutes as the beat was on loop. It was just me and my engineer, and I cried while writing it. I cried recording it too, because I was healing from something that I don’t think I’ll ever open up or share about. It was a moment that could rock your entire world and make you rethink everything. I’m in my healing era right now, but in the middle of that storm, that’s where this song came from.
What were you feeling? Were those tears of relief or sadness?
I wouldn’t say I was depressed because I’ve been there and know that feeling. But I definitely wasn’t happy. I was in a state of confusion. That wasn’t even too long ago, which is crazy. It’s so important for us to talk about mental health, seeing someone or talking to someone, and getting help outside of ourselves. Sometimes we can’t carry the load all on our own.
I know you and Halle support each other down. How has she been a part of helping you carry that load, especially in the midst of everything you have going on?
She shows up for me in every way. We’re constantly on FaceTime, texting, and sending each other funny memes to lift each other up in this lifestyle and this world that can sometimes feel suffocating.1 I’m proud of us—what we’re doing together and separately. We’re still attached at the hip, but I think neither of us really knew who the other was without the other one.
1. Halle isn’t the only one in her family keeping Chlöe’s spirit lifted. They have a sibling group chat with their older sister, brother, and godbrother. “It’s called the Shade Room,” says Chlöe, “because we’re quite shady in there.”
She once said that being without you was like missing her right arm. Have you had similar feelings as you establish yourself outside of that partnership?
I’ve had to learn who I am individually. We both had separation anxiety when she traveled to London to film The Little Mermaid. It was really scary for both of us because she’s my other half. Halle always says that I play a mother role. It’s funny, when we look at baby pictures, even though I was just 2 years old, I was the one feeding her with her bottle, rocking her in her chair, burping her—as young as I was. Even up until now, she’s like my little baby.
Seeing you two now, it’s hard to believe that y’all basically started out as babies in the industry. What has the transition been like from child star to a full-grown woman in the spotlight?
Because it’s all I’ve known, the transition has felt like every other girl my age and how they’ve grown up. I can’t be selfish and say, “Oh, but mine’s under a microscope”—that’s the case for every young Black woman. All of us have to deal with growing up under a microscope and being ridiculed no matter what we do. I don’t single myself out. It just seems like it’s happening a lot to me because I’m on a public forum as a Black woman. So it doesn’t feel different. All of us are going through this.
I know in Hollywood, Black artists tend to have a special place for one another. Who’s had your back? Obviously Beyoncé, but anyone else?
Beyoncé, yes. Missy Elliott. She exceeded my expectations of what one of my biggest inspirations could be like. Knowing how incredible her soul is on top of that made me love her even more, if that was possible. She’s a chameleon, so innovative, and constantly pushing boundaries. Not only is she a Black woman and a Cancer like me, but she’s been able to make her own mark as a solo artist while also doing so for many other artists. You have to be skilled to do that.
You’re a bit of a chameleon yourself. I’m thinking now of Swarm, where you did your first-ever sex scene.2 What was that like?
Shooting such an incredible script among such great company was the best time of my life, to be honest. I fell even more in love with acting because that set was where I was comfortable shedding a skin that I used to cover up. When you’re used to constantly trying to be perfect and not letting people see your flaws, it can become almost permanent. So when it comes to acting and letting your guard down and being raw in front of the camera, it’s hard to release. I was finally able to shed that working on Swarm.
2. The series opens with a scrumptious sex scene between Chlöe and Damson Idris that sent Black Twitter into a tizzy for an entire weekend and made people (read: me) want to text “U up?” to their exes.
You can definitely feel that in the performance, which is quite different than the one you give in Praise This. I was literally dying laughing watching an early screener. Culturally, it feels very specific. How do you think it will resonate across audiences, or do you think it wasn’t intended to? Sometimes art is for a certain group.
Me and my castmates wanted to represent Black people organically and not make it feel fake or corny—we wanted it to feel like us. That’s why I’m so happy [comedian] Druski and [rapper] Quavo were part of it, because it grounded the film. It had every type of person in Atlanta3 and it represented us in such a diverse way, because there’s never one type of Black person. I love how you also get to see the diversity within the choir groups and the teams too. You had the gay group, the white boy group, the Black girls who were saving themselves for marriage. Even people who aren’t spiritual can find a piece of themselves in the film. It’s a crazy full-circle moment because the very first thing I auditioned for and got was Little Lilly in The Fighting Temptations.4 We shot that in Atlanta too. So Praise This is like my own little version of it.
3. Chlöe grew up in Atlanta before moving to Los Angeles when she was 15 years old. While she was filming Praise This, she had lunch at her favorite childhood Thai restaurant. “It was still standing and looked exactly the same,” she said. “It was such a nostalgic vibe.”
4. This movie came out in 2003, and it’s also about an unlikely blend of characters in a gospel choir competition. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the lead, and his costar—the adult version of Chlöe’s role (she was around 4 years old when they filmed)—is played by none other than Beyoncé. Call it fate.
And you were balancing that shoot with a few other big projects, right? You were recording the album at the same time?
After leaving set, I would go straight to the studio to create for In Pieces. When I performed at the 2022 BET Awards, I was shooting Praise This, so we’d wrap around 8 or 10 p.m. and then I would be in dance rehearsals till 3 or 4 a.m. I’d freshen up and head straight back to set for the 5 a.m. call time. It was intense for those months but so worth it.
Very worth it. The movie is so good. And I have to ask, because your fans are nosy about your love life. There was some speculation that you and Quavo dated after wrapping. Are you seeing anyone right now?
Sadly, I have not been seeing anybody for almost a year now.5 Your girl has just been working on herself, and I wish I was lying. I tell myself, God, I know what you’re doing. You’re sifting out the BS, so I can find good lovin’. When you don’t know your worth and when you haven’t mastered the art of loving yourself, you question why others would love you. I think that’s why I’m single right now, so I can grasp that concept a little more, because I can’t expect someone to love me wholeheartedly when I’m not there yet within myself.
5. Even though Chlöe is focused on herself right now, the internet immediately began to ’ship her and Michael B. Jordan after she tweeted a selfie with him from the Creed III premiere. As one commenter put it, “Is it me or should y’all date & fall in love?” Yes, that!
What are you like when you’re in love?
I am such a mush ball. I love cuddles. I love showing my passion through our physical beings. I’m such a physical touch and words of affirmation type of girl, and I want someone to be just as madly in love with me as I am with them. I’m one thousand percent a hopeful romantic.
Literally, same. It reminds me of your personality when you’re onstage, which is so commanding and confident. Are you that way in real life too?
I’m the opposite of who I am when I’m on the stage. When I go out onstage, it’s like my dose of medicine. I guess somewhere deep inside, my innermost self is being unlocked and I’m not confined by my worries, fears, or anxieties.
I’ve got to ask the question, and you’ve probably been waiting for it. You’re going to be performing most of your songs on tour, including the one with Chris Brown. There was a lot of conversation about the collaboration when it was first announced. What goes on behind the scenes with a decision like that that fans might not necessarily understand?
I always want to let the music speak for itself. I have the best fans in the world. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I want to make them happy, and I just let the music speak for itself. Like in regular life, I have to use music to articulate things that I can’t verbally.
Well, between the tour, album, Praise This, and Swarm, you’re putting out a lot of work for your fans to dig into. I’m curious what you want to accomplish personally. How would you describe the type of woman you want to be?
Glitz and glam isn’t everything. I want my soul to be happy too. I’m molding myself to be like my godmom6 and Halle. My godmom’s heart is really pure, and she’s so selfless, loving, and smart. In the house, Halle would be the one speaking up for me. I think that’s the Aries in her. Seeing that, I’m like, I’m not just going to fall into a corner and let people walk all over me.
6. Chlöe’s godmother is also her manager. At the shoot, they sometimes walked hand in hand around the set.
What does self-care look like for you in such a busy season?
My New Year’s resolution was to have a better work-life balance. After the hoopla of In Pieces, I’ll get there. I did hot yoga classes twice a day pre-pandemic. I wish I got back into the rhythm of that, but I’ve been so nervous about germs and being in a hot room. Now, I’ve added sleeping and cuddling with my 8-month-old kitten, Apollo. He’s my little angel. Halle and my godmom surprised me with him on New Year’s Eve. He’s Halle’s cat Poseidon’s little brother. Once I got him, it allowed me to enjoy being home more. I don’t know if it’s the Virgo Rising in me, but my mind never shuts off about work. There are days where I put more pressure on myself and days where I’m like, Oh, let me just chill and cuddle with my kitten.
Have you been able to take a moment to relish in all your success? You’ve had a gang of massive wins lately.
When everything truly slows down, that’s when I’ll probably go on a mini vacation. I’ll be able to woosah7 once I know people like In Pieces. But I’m trying every day to take it all in because I know I’ll never get this moment again.
7. As in…finally breathe, relax, take a break.
Stylist: Cassie Anderson. Hair: Akhir Childs. Makeup: Ayami Nishimura for Forward Artists. Manicure: Karen Jimenez for Opus Beauty. Tailor: Susan Balcunas. Story editor: Emma Baty. Deputy editor: Madeleine Frank Reeves.
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Christen is the associate news editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers all things around pop culture, celebrity, and things happening in the world. Previously, she was a features reporter at the Chicago Tribune where she specialized in lifestyle and culture topics like health, dating and relationships, parenting, home, race and more.