Meet the First Superstars of the Beyoncé Generation
New York magazine|May 2–15, 2016

Meet the first two superstars of the Beyoncé generation.

Jada Yuan

You were not expecting this, but here you stand, transfixed, in the doorway of a Hollywood rehearsal studio, your throat clamping up and your chest tightening, watching 16- and 17-year-old sisters Halle and Chloe Bailey sing a single word, “Hallelujah,” in gorgeous, repeating crescendos, like a church choir sending a dying loved one off into the light. Those harmonized “Hallelujahs” aren’t even a song, just their way of saying grace. You are not religious. But you will start to cry. And as soon as they spot you, it’s over. “Hi! I’m Chloe,” says Chloe, rushing out from behind her piano to give a stranger a hug. “I’m so excited! We’re going to have so much fun!” She means it; Chloe is a grin embodied. She gasps. What’s wrong? “I like your sneakers! Blue is one of my favorite colors.” Halle, the younger sister, follows Chloe’s lead, flashes a sweet smile, puts down her electric guitar, and gives a more timid hug. Meanwhile, Chloe has moved on from complimenting my sneakers to raving about the vegan place, Gracias Madre, where we’re having lunch after rehearsal (the sisters are both vegan) and how she’s already dreaming of her order and how it’ll probably have pesto, which is maybe her favorite thing to eat, and she does an enactment of the exact look of joy that’s going to cross her face when it touches her mouth. Halle, her brow furrowed, lost in concentration, adjusts her reverb, then looks up with a shy giggle when she realizes she’d sort of drifted off.

At first glance, they’re practically twins, with glorious dreadlocked hair and complementary outfits. But they sing so differently: Chloe has the more classic R&B voice, rich with vibrato, while Halle’s is tremulous and piercing with jazz inflections, as you can tell from watching them side by side in close frame singing heartfelt covers of Top 40 hits on their YouTube channel, Chloe x Halle, where they’ve been posting since 2008, way back when they were 7 and 9. In fact, pointing out their differences seems to be the second-favorite preoccupation of their YouTube commenters, right behind debating which one of them is the next Beyoncé.

It’s fitting, then, that Beyoncé is now their mentor. Just two years ago, at ages 13 and 15, the sisters posted an earnest piano-and-voice YouTube rendition of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” that went viral. Now they’re one of three young female acts signed to her Parkwood Entertainment label—with a contract for up to six albums, reportedly worth as much as $1 million—and on April 29 they released their first EP (five undeniably hot indie R&B songs), the majority of which is self-written and self-produced. The biggest ringing statement of support, though, was their prominent appearance in perhaps the most-talked-about musical event of the year, as members of Beyoncé’s black-girl squad in the hour-long visual album Lemonade. With that project, abundant with black female pride and largely devoid of men and white people, Beyoncé seems to be embracing her role as a spiritual and musical godmother to all young black women of America—showcasing their talent and resilience, celebrating natural beauty, and lifting up women as a whole. But she’s also very particularly lifting up Chloe and Halle. “Just being in the midst of Black Girl Magic was amazing,” says Halle.

It’s not just Beyoncé. Michelle Obama, too, has become something of a patron, urged along by daughters Malia and Sasha. Chloe and Halle were featured on the First Lady’s all-star charity single for girls’ education and have performed live onstage for her twice, once as the opening act to her keynote discussion at the SXSW Music Festival in March with Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott and a week later as the last-minute opening act for the White House Easter Egg Roll. The First Lady insisted that the latter event’s entire schedule be rearranged to accommodate the sisters after meeting them at SXSW. “The people who were running the Easter Egg Roll told us that they already had the whole show together with all of the artists that they wanted,” says Halle, “and then Michelle told them, ‘I have these girls coming in, Chloe and Halle. Make room for them.’ And they were like, ‘What? Now we’ve got to change everything!’” That weekend also happened to be Halle’s 16th birthday, which the sisters spent helping their parents meet Barack Obama while he was still president and getting a surprise visit from Beyoncé and Blue Ivy, who cheered them on from the wings. “Everything seemed so surreal that for two split-seconds I started tearing up,” says Chloe. Halle, ever the cooler customer, kept it together. “I was like, ‘Chloe, this is not the time to cry!’” she says. “I was on cloud nine. Greatest 16th birthday ever!”

Vision-boarding has become something of a Bailey-sisters New Year’s tradition. They make at least one each at the start of every year and save the old ones for comparison. “It’s things that we’d like to speak into existence or for our life to be like,” says Chloe, who spends the whole year collecting clippings—dreaming big about how to visually express her dreams—while Halle plays fast and loose with whatever magazines they have lying around the house the day of.

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