“I love subverting notions of beauty and femininity,” Minnesota-born Mette Towley, who goes by METTE, describes her performative language. “I do that in my style and my life. I feel like that is an act of feminism, which I’m really invested in. It’s my true essence to enjoy androgyny, especially in fashion.” Having danced since the age of five, it was her mesmerizing solo in the Lemon music video by N.E.R.D and Rihanna in 2017 that led to METTE’s star ascending and subsequent acting gigs, including Hustlers and Cats. Most recently, she appeared in this year’s blockbuster Barbie, and now the multi-hyphenate has found her sound with the euphoric dance hit Mama’s Eyes.
“It wasn’t until I started understanding how music is made that I finally stumbled into who I am as an artist,” she says. “I was coming into the finale of my dance career and shadowing people that were doing the things I wanted to do, and then a mirroring started happening where I didn’t feel like a part of my humanity was missing anymore. Even when I was dancing, I knew there was more to my connection to music.”
Confronting an antiquated idea of beauty was essential to METTE embracing her identity as an artist. “I used to be so preoccupied with beauty, portraying that in my work and assuming the archetype of the ‘popstar’,” she says. “It wasn’t until Camille, who directed Mama’s Eyes, unearthed some archival images of me as a child that I remembered a piece of myself. I saw the playfulness; I saw the kind of witty, sometimes electric battery-exploding energy in my eyes, and I realized where my focus should be.”
While she defines the music video for Mama’s Eyes as visual art, her new single, Van Gogh, is better described as performance art. “Van Gogh is about looking everywhere for a muse but realizing it lives within you,” says the artist. “Being a multi-disciplinary performer, I have pictures of my life from different decades of my evolution; where I look back at what I was wearing, what I was thinking, who I was surrounded by. I like the idea of exploring different versions of myself as characters.”
“Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen’s [outgoing] creative director, has an amazing ability to capture the essence of feminine power in clothing. I feel most like myself wearing this blazer; like I’m wearing a coat of arms. This is a red-carpet premiere look, or, when I’m feeling over the top, this is a date-night look for a fancy restaurant.”