Pharrell Williams is one of those rare celebrities who falls into the category of “legend.” With a music career that spans over two decades, a coveted judge seat on one of the most popular shows on television, The Voice, a long-standing Adidas partnership, and a media collective called i am OTHER—oh, and seven Grammys (does a song called “Happy” ring a bell?)—Pharrell is an ever-growing force in our pop culture zeitgeist who shows absolutely no plans of slowing down. His latest venture? The music and style icon recently teamed up with Sephora to release a woodsy, pungent, unisex fragrance called Girl ($135), the same name as his Grammy-nominated latest album.
We got a chance to sit down with the man himself at the Sephora store on Hollywood and Highland and pick his brain on everything from his first cologne to his favorite beauty look on a woman (no judgment if you skip ahead to that part). Turns out Pharrell is every bit as calm, genuine, and introspective as he is a trendsetter and boundary-breaker—which is exactly why his legions of fans adore him, and why they’ll keep doing so for years to come.
Keep scrolling to read our interview with Pharrell!
Tell us a little about fragrance and what it means to you.
Williams: First of all, fragrance is the paint to the air. And I think anyone that wears it wears it because they feel like it may define what they may feel about themselves. You smell something and there’s a sentiment; you smell something and there’s an emotion, a sensation. Girl, the fragrance, may define certain people in who they currently are, or it may define certain people in terms of their aspirations of who they want to be.
That makes sense—you can’t see it, but you can feel it.
Williams: Right. Fragrance is the paint of the air… the music of the air. The paint to the nose, the music to the nose. You can’t see it, but it’s there. It hits you. While that is the case, I think that it also can be an exclamation point to someone’s character, and evoke an emotion.
Was there an emotion you were feeling when you created the fragrance?
Williams: I think I put more intention into it than emotion. It’s something for human beings. While women are obviously my muses, any human being can wear it.
Can you explain?
Williams: I’m all about equality. If you look at the Adidas logo I have, it’s the equal sign—and make no mistake, it’s two yellow ones, because it’s a long road. I’m just trying to use these platforms that are bigger than me to say something. It’s not about having my face on a t-shirt, it’s not about having my face on my sneakers, or on my fragrance, I’m just trying to push things forward. I just try to push equality wherever I can.
How was creating a perfume similar to what you feel like when you’re in the studio laying down tracks?
Pharrell: They’re both concoctions. When the chemists are putting together the perfume notes—the notes, to the nose—these notes are intentions. What is a note? A note is an intention. He’s putting all the intentions into the fragrance. When I’m making a track, I’m putting all the intentions in there. They both intend to connect, conspire, work together, to give you this concerted effort of a composition. To touch you in a certain way.
Do you remember the first fragrance you ever bought or owned?
Pharrell: Yes, my first cologne was Ralph Lauren, my second was Creed. And then I began wearing Fahrenheit—I loved how different it smelled. And then I didn’t wear fragrance again for a couple of years until I came across Comme de Garçon’s Wonderwood.
That isn’t any coincidence, since the brand designed your perfume bottle, right?
Pharrell: Rei Kawakubo is a genius. Adrian Joffe is a genius. Ronnie Newhouse, who introduced me to them, actually got me my first jacket from them. She’s a genius too. She worked on the creative direction of the fragrance. She brought on KAZ. After she saw all the KAZ work in our home, she realized it was a big part of my life, the way I express. All of those great minds conspired to bring this fragrance together.
You seem to possess the remarkable ability of not aging. What’s your secret?
Williams: Well, first of all, my mom and dad. I have to thank them. But also, maintenance! You know? Sustaining what you have. The most important thing you can do to look after your face is… you look after your face. Look at what you have going on; if you have a dermatologist, have that conversation. It doesn’t take augmentation to sustain—but to each his own.
You have to have some sort of routine or tip to share with us.
Williams: For me, I just clean my face like anyone else. I use cold water to close my pores… very basic things. You’d be surprised what awareness and vigilance can do for you—in all areas of your life, not just your skin.
That’s very true. Your skin can be a reflection of what’s going on inside, too.
Williams: Yes. I think the most important part is the awareness and vigilance. There’s no product that can give you that. It’s never going to take care of your face like awareness and vigilance. That’s the number-one thing for me.
Last question: What’s your favorite beauty look on a woman? We have a feeling our readers are dying to know.
Williams: I like it when women are perfectly comfortable in their skin. Whether you wear makeup or not, you’re still shining from the inside. You can be the most socially judged and aesthetically deemed person, but you can have an ugly personality. Or you can meet someone whose face has been mangled in a car accident who has the most beautiful soul. Beauty is on the inside; all else is superficial. No matter how beautiful you are now, you are going to age. And you maintain your beauty by sustaining what you have, but the most important thing you have is what you have on the inside.
Next up,The Surprising Brazilian Beauty Secrets I Learned From My Roommate
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated