• Golden Globe Awards

Pharrell Williams: The Multi-Talent Turns 50

Music. Films. Fashion. The record producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and composer has been a leading name in the film and music industry since the early 1990s.
“Do what you love, love what you do,” has been Pharrell Williams’ motto since he was a teenager and played in a school band. He never had a career plan, did not grow up in an artistic family, had no specific musical influences. As he told the HFPA: “I am like Mr. Magoo. I don’t know where I am going and lucky enough to have landed to be here. What do I know, I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia. There wasn’t a music industry there when I was there and there was no film industry, so the only thing I can keep doing is relying on my instincts and just keep moving forward.”
And forward he moved. After stints in bands that he formed (The Neptunes, N.E.R.D.), he released a solo album in 2006 and began collaborating with various artists like Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Kanye and Nelly. He got into film and contributed hits to soundtracks.
Who does not remember “Happy,” the lead single from Despicable Me 2? In fact, no one can help singing and dancing along to this mega hit, which was nominated for a 2014 Oscar and was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. This also marked the year when he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has won 13 Grammys in various categories, including Record of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. And if this were not enough, he was a producer on and was nominated for Best Score for Hidden Figures, in 2017. He also wrote the scores of both Despicable Me films and of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
He gets his inspiration on airplanes, and also – as he explains in detail – in the bathroom: “Most ideas come in the shower, sometimes when you are flying. The shower, by the way just to be clear, is more because of the constant flow of the rain, sensory deprivation. It’s why most people sing in the shower, because of that constant flow of that one sound, takes part of your attention, and the other part is allowed to roam freely. That’s for everyone. I just zone in on the music.”
Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia as Pharrell Lanscilo Williams, he is the oldest of three sons. His mother is a teacher, his father a handyman. His family story is unusual: in the early 1830s, his fourth great-grandparent, Ambrose Hawkins, traveled from America to Liberia as part of the US settlement program for formerly enslaved people, instigated by President Monroe decades earlier: under the program, the American Colonization Society wanted to deal with what they called “the problem of too many free Blacks”, by moving 12,000 Black people from America to West Africa. Ambrose decided to return to America, however, and his descendant Pharrell was born on April 5, 1973.
Williams, who has been interested in all art forms, has also been known as a sharp dresser since early on in his career. In 2005, he co-founded the streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear. Three years later he co-designed sunglasses and jewelry for Louis Vuitton, which led to his being appointed creative director just six weeks ago, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Virgil Abloh.

Fun fact: during his time as a hip hop performer, he had three nicknames – Pha-real, Lil’ Skateboard P and P. Willy. As a child he was enamored with the idea of robots: “I always thought about robots. That was my thing. When I danced, I thought I was a robot, and I drew robots all the time, yellow ones.”
He has been married to model Helen Lasichanh for ten years. They have four children, three of them triplets. Currently, he is working on the score of the upcoming Mufasa: The Lion King. And his plans for the future? “Not knowing that answer is what drives me every day to continue. It’s only when you know, that it’s over.”
At 50, Pharrell demonstrates that his creative flow will not stop for a long time coming.