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Steven A. Clark’s Miami Is Both Glamorous And Grounded

Music
Photo by Ian Patrick O'Connor

The singer-songwriter discusses his new album and premieres the video for “Found”

Steven A. Clark emerges on stage at New York’s Brooklyn Steel flanked by a pair of warm, illuminated palm tree sculptures. While there’s an air of minimalism given the size of the venue, the two faux trees are a perfect embodiment of the Miami that Clark depicts on his captivating new record, Where Neon Goes to Die. They’re glitzy and inviting, but clearly artificial, similar to how the lucid dream-like nature of a trip to South Beach only becomes more apparent the longer you spend there.

Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Clark has been in Miami for more than a decade, and the picture he paints of his adopted city toes the line between outsider’s objectivity and hometown embrace. When he arrived in the mid-2000s, the music scene was heavily rap-centric, with artists like DJ Khaled, Rick Ross, and then-Miami resident Lil Wayne running the show. Clark struggled initially to figure out where he could carve out a niche.

“I didn’t even really know where I fit in or who I was as a musician back then. I loved making beats, I loved writing and singing. I was doing all of that,” he said. “It was definitely a hip-hop thing. I kind of had one foot in hip-hop, the other in R&B. I was still figuring out what I wanted to be.”

But while the bright lights and perpetual party scene drew a young Clark to Miami, his introspective nature kept him focused on his art in the face of ample distractions.

“My first record was called The Lonely Roller. I identify with that a little bit. I’m a quiet guy, was a loner kid in school,” Clark said of his past. “I just wanted some opportunity and to get some new culture. I wanted to be able to be okay with making music.”

Eventually, he found his footing, releasing 2014’s Late EP and 2015’s The Lonely Roller. His projects are earnest and yearning, but also undeniably catchy. The Lonely Roller track “Can’t Have” even wound up being sampled by Miami’s best known musical ambassador, Pitbull, something that Clark says restored his faith in the art he was making and was a “full circle” moment given that affiliates of Pitbull were instrumental in the singer-songwriter establishing himself early on. Clark also found a regular collaborator in rising Florida rapper Denzel Curry, who appears on Neon standout “Did I Hurt U.” Along the way, he continued to hone his skills as a performer, writer, and producer.

For Neon, which pulls its title from a Lenny Bruce quote (“Miami Beach is where neon goes to die”), Clark sought to make an album that could live more in the spaces that are still dominant in Miami’s music ecosystem: nightclubs.

“A lot of my friends are DJs and club promoters, and that’s kind of the life that you get—that’s the music scene basically. I always wanted to just make some shit that my friends could play,” Clark explained of the new record’s more uptempo nature.

A meeting in Miami with famed German producer Alexander Ridha (aka Boys Noize) and a shared love of ‘80s music led Clark to record the album with him in Berlin. He credits Ridha with bolstering the percussion and beefing up some of the original demos, as well as the decision to open the album with “Maria, Under the Moon,” the track that perhaps best encapsulates Clark’s view of Miami and grounds all the shimmery guitars and grand, gooey synths in something undeniably real.

“Maria, Under the Moon,” an oceanside evening fantasy complete with the sound of lapping waves, may seem like another glitzy ode to tropical romance, but it’s actually Clark’s take on a song that had been in his family for years, written by an uncle who died before the album’s release.

“He’s always been like, my No. 1 fan. ‘Maria’ and ‘Days Like This,' if you listen to the lyrics, they’re both in that fantasy escapism realm,” Clark explained. “[My uncle] was a lifelong musician who had it rough at times, and I can feel where those songs came from. Growing up in Carolina fantasizing about those things—the beach, being in love, beautiful women. Those movie scenarios, you fantasize about those, living in North Carolina and watching a lot of TV and movies.”

Another one of Clark’s signature fleeting fantasies is “Found,” which NYLON is premiering the video for below. Directed by Ariel Fisher, who also collaborated with Clark on the visuals for “Feel This Way,” it’s a gorgeous, nostalgically lit tribute to muses that plays like a south Florida-inspired Phantom Thread. In one particularly striking shot, a Hawaiian shirt-clad Clark sits with a woman in a room full of art in front of a horizontal mirror. The visible reflection only shows the singer gazing into the distance, a nod to the isolation that can come from being constantly surrounded by beauty both corporeal and created.

Clark ends Neon with “What Can I Do,” an ode to his mother’s sacrifice replete with a fiery guitar solo and choir backing vocals. It’s a heartfelt, honest note to close the album on, one that recognizes how our day-to-day hardships and flights of fancy aren’t isolated but intertwined, with no place better representing the latter than the Magic City. 

“Miami is a fantasyland. You go there to play, and it’s there whenever you want, pretty much all the time,” he said. “But at some point, you’re going to have to live a real life. Reality steps in. The high wears off.”

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

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Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council www.youtube.com

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Photograph via @kimkardashian.

"#NotOnMyMoodBoard"

Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.

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After delivered the perfect pep talk

When Lena Waithe took over as a guest host on Jimmy Kimmel Live, her first time ever as a late-night host, actress and friend Halle Berry knew exactly how to pump her up. After Kimmel's security guard Guillermo Rodriguez hit the "Berry Button" (a large button on the wall that says just that), Berry came running out in a backless tee and boyfriend jeans to give Waithe a pep talk... and plant one on her.

Berry rolled in as if she'd just jogged from hanging out with her friends to come to Waithe's immediate aid, joking she wasn't dressed for the occasion; but, let's be real, she could wear a paper bag, and we wouldn't complain. Waithe requested the "Halle Berry juice," similar to her 2002 Oscars speech, and Berry immediately had the lights turned down low and jumped into inspirational speech mode.

"I know that you are a force of nature. You are a beautiful African-American queen going after everything that is hers," Berry said before going on to list Waithe's many titles and accomplishments. She jokingly concluded, "And you already winning, girl, 'cause you are dressed way better than Jimmy ever will," before asking if Waithe needed anything else. Clearly, Waithe thought that was all Berry was there to do, because she said no, but Berry insisted she needed one more thing before grabbing Waithe's face and surprising her with a kiss. "Wow," Waithe reacted after Berry pulled away, and honestly same!

Watch the video, below.

Lena Waithe's Guest Host Monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live youtu.be

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