The Weeknd

11 Fun Facts About The Weeknd

By: Matt

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, also known as the Weeknd, is a chart-topping musician constantly pushing the boundaries of his own artistry. Known for flipping the script on conventions of music and production, the Weeknd is one of the most critically acclaimed artists of our time. He’s won several awards, including multiple Grammys, and has four number-one Billboard hits.

While many view the Weeknd as the “oddball” of the music world, he’s a fascinating character with a unique backstory and plenty of unique factoids you never knew. Here are 11 fun facts about the Weeknd.

1. Multi-Cultured and Multi-Lingual

The Weeknd grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. A self-described “street kid,” the Weeknd spent a lot of time immersing himself in different cultures. Scarborough is a richly diverse area filled with people from East Africa, India, the Middle East and more.

He is the son of Ethiopian immigrants and was raised by his mother and grandmother. Because his grandmother only spoke Amharic, it was the first language he could use to form sentences. Then, he learned English by watching Canadian television. As if that weren’t enough, the Weeknd attended a French immersion school that only allowed the French language.

Therefore, he’s trilingual!

2. The Anonymous Music Maker

The Weeknd has created music for many years but didn’t explode in popularity until the 2010s. Before that, you may have heard some of his songs on the Internet!

Before he became “the Weeknd,” Abel published music anonymously on platforms like YouTube. One moniker he used was simply “xoxxxoooxo.” He also collaborated with others using the name “Bulleez N Nerdz.” He’s also put out music as “Kin Kane” and “The Noise.”

3. What’s in a Name?

The Weeknd changing name

So, where did the name “the Weeknd” come from? According to the artist, he hated his name growing up and often went by “The Weekend” because it sounded cool. He ultimately chose to adopt the name due to the significance of one weekend in his teen years. The artist uses his name to honor the weekend he left home and never came back.

There are some variations in the story. According to a former collaborator, producer Jeremy Rose, the two used “The Weekend” as a collective name.

Rose states that Abel dropped the “e” when the two had a falling out. However, Abel states that he changed the spelling to avoid copyright issues with the Canadian rock band “The Weekend.”

4. The High School Dropout

The Weeknd often cites the weekend he left home and never returned. That was also the week he dropped out of school. The artist dropped out at 17, convincing friends La Mar Taylor and Hyghly to join him. The trio rented a one-bedroom apartment in the Parkdale neighborhood.

The artist told the New York Times that he dragged his mattress out of his mother’s home. In doing so, she looked at him like she had failed as a parent.

The Weeknd stated that he was self-conscious speaking with more educated people, but he turned to crossword puzzles to improve his vocabulary.

5. Dark Times

The-Weeknd  performance

Moving out at 17 was just the start of a troubled period for the Weeknd. The three friends paid for the apartment with welfare checks, but they turned to theft to survive.

They stole food from a nearby market to get by, eventually turning to drugs. The Weeknd would sell marijuana to make some money on the side, but the friends also did a myriad of drugs during their time together.

He chronicled this darker time in his life in song, most notably in tracks like “Snowchild.” The Weeknd eventually got arrested, became homeless and spent time in jail. He cites that experience as his wake-up call to focus on his music.

6. Drake, a Toronto Ally in the Music Business

Believe it or not, Drake helped the Weeknd launch his music career. Drake is a fellow Torontonian who introduced the artist to his fanbase in 2010. He posted two of the Weeknd’s songs on his blog. After the two met the following year, Drake asked the Weeknd to appear on “Crew Love.”

That exposure made a huge difference, helping the Weeknd gain more mainstream visibility. The support continued. Drake even provided support after the Grammys snubbed the Weeknd with zero nominations for his album “After Hours.”

7. Boycotting the Grammys

The Weeknd has won numerous awards, including three Grammys and several more nominations. But that aforementioned snub for “After Hours” was the last straw for the artist. After receiving no nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards, the Weeknd announced that he would no longer submit his songs for consideration.

The artist cites the lack of transparency with Grammy nominations, arguing that the process relies more on personal biases and politics over actual talent. He also stated that the show needs to address issues with diversity and inclusion, referencing previous snubs for artists of color.

The discussion was controversial, and the Weeknd received both support and criticism for his boycott.

8. The Record-Breaking Success of “Blinding Lights”

You may wonder why The Weeknd (and Drake) felt so strongly about the Grammys snub. Ultimately, it has to do with the enormous success of “After Hours” and “Blinding Lights.”

“Blinding Lights” was the fourth single from “After Hours,” and it was a certifiable hit. Not only did it go to the top of many charts around the world, but it has the distinction of spending the most weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts—a whopping 88 weeks.

In the United Kingdom, it spent 105 weeks on the charts, giving it the longest unbroken run on the U.K. singles chart in history.

9. A Painful But Iconic Hairstyle

One thing fans will remember about The Weeknd’s early career is his signature dreadlock hairstyle. It was an iconic style that helped the artist stand out. He took inspiration from the hair of neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat from the ’80s.

The Weeknd chopped the dreads off in 2016, but the artists likely should have gotten rid of them much sooner. According to the Weeknd, the hairstyle was a literal pain—it often caused him to wake up with neck pain!

10. An Unlikely Friend to Jim Carrey

The Weeknd performed

The Weeknd often speaks fondly of fellow Ontario entertainer Jim Carrey. The actor and comedian was the first person to inspire him to be an entertainer, and that inspiration came when his mother took him to see “The Mask” as his first movie theater experience.

Interestingly, the two would connect through a mutual friend in 2019. After the Weeknd invited him to his condo to listen to new music, the two discovered they resided in the same neighborhood!

Carrey called the Weeknd on his 30th birthday, told him to look towards his house with a telescope and greeted him from afar with red balloons. The two got breakfast, and that’s how the Weeknd spent the morning of his 30th birthday!

11. An Impressive Car Collection

The Weeknd is a known philanthropist who donates to important causes like The National Bail Out Collective, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 Relief Fund and more. But he also doesn’t mind splurging on some great vehicles!

The artist’s car collection is reportedly worth more than $3 million. One vehicle in his collection is the orange McLaren P1 you see in the “Starboy” music video. However, he also owns a Porsche 918, Ferrari LaFerrari, Bentley Mulsanne and Lamborghini Aventador SVJ.

Humble Beginnings to Starboy Celebrity

Many artists have unique backgrounds that shape who they are as entertainers, but the Weeknd’s rise from self-stated “street kid” to luxury car-owning superstar is impressive. The Weeknd is a pioneer in music, experimenting to create truly unique sounds. He’s gone a long way in his career thus far, but something tells us it’s only the beginning!