Even before she’s transformed from her lowkey, off-duty vibe upon her arrival to our recent shoot and into Lion Babe, her vibrant on-stage persona, singer Jillian Hervey possess a soulful allure that commands attention. This morning, she’s at a dimly lighted speakeasy in the East Village to model her favorite looks from Azeeza’s latest collection. Hervey’s been friends with Chicago-based designer Azeeza Khan for several years, ever since the designers created a custom look for a Lollapalooza performance by Lion Babe, the electro soul duo consisting of Hervey on vocals and producer Lucas Goodman.
Both the Lion Babe persona and the duo itself were formed organically. Having grown up with her actress and singer mother, Vanessa Williams, and her music manager father, Ramon Hervey II, Hervey was always encouraged to pursue the arts. She turned to dance as a way to stay on that path but do her own thing. “I was always really interested in developing myself as an artist. The music really came via the dance, because I met Lucas while I was at the New School and was looking for someone to score one of my dance pieces.”
What started as a dance film evolved into the duo’s first music video for the song “Treat Me Like Fire,” and the two found that their sensibilities meshed in a unique way. “I’ve always liked old jazz, soul music, and unique voices, while Lucus comes from a rock family and loves ‘90s hip hop and soul. The resulting sound is contemporary soul mixed with elements of hip hop and funk.”
One of Hervey’s style signatures has become a mane of lioness-worthy curly hair, which she first did as a way of expressing her wild sense of freedom. Now, the voluminous hair has become one of her performance staples. “It accentuates the movement of what I’m doing on stage. Someone in the back of the room can clearly see what I’m doing—it’s about an impact.” With her fierce talent and self-awareness, it’s hard to imagine Hervey not making an impact in anything she does. On today’s set, she embodies the confidence and charisma of Azeeza’s opulent-yet-understated dresses, and she could just as easily be commanding the room at a holiday party or taking to the stage to perform. “I love these dresses—they’re elegant and beautiful,” she says. “They’re also comfortable, which is important to me. I need to feel effortless.”
Back in her off-duty ensemble that she arrived in—her hair tucked into a baseball cap—she’s out the door and heading to the studio where she and Goodman are finalizing their latest project. Dressed down and incognito, Hervey embraces the same soulful elegance and effortless glamour that she breathed into Azeeza’s dresses—a true star, no doubt.