Ferndale Pride performer and Detroit-based Reginald Hawkins is living a double life. By day, they're a college student worrying about a looming lab deadline. By night, they're becoming a pop and dance music sensation, expressing their gender non-conforming self online and performing at shows with Big Freedia at the Majestic Theater.
"It's kind of crazy because I had school," they humbly told Pride Source as they reflected on their most recent show with icon Big Freedia. "I had my physics lab, so I had to go rush to get all my shit done for the show, then I did the show."
Hawkins, 21, is in their last year at Wayne State University, where they study public relations and music technology.
"I just really want to be a pop icon," they said. "Like, that's really what I see myself as. I don't think I've ever imagined life as anything different. I feel like everything [that] I'm doing is on a path to get to this bigger goal that I see for myself, as far as my career."
They admit they've been working towards that goal all their life. In fact, they've been "doing music" and singing "since [they were] young."
"I started writing music in seventh grade and recording when I was 17," they explained.
Always "booked and busy," Hawkins performed in talent shows and sang the national anthem at school events and basketball games.
"I remember performing in my very first talent show in the fifth grade," they said. "I sang Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep,' and after that, I just kept doing it and doing it."
It seems they were made to be a star.
"I had three grandmas, so I would listen to what they were playing all the time," they said. "Black singers, Black female singers, specifically, from back in the day. Listening to them today, they really inspired me vocally."
As Hawkins grew, their music interest evolved. Early Y2K sounds and late 20th-century house music started to grab their attention. The club scenes they began to experience in college pushed them to explore dance and house music. Soon, they were performing and creating original content.
"I did my first [live] performance in 2019 of my original music, and from there, I started doing my own shows," they reflected.
It paid off. Earlier this summer, they released their highly emotional EP "Black Popstar," which came to them after overcoming COVID obstacles.
Hawkins said it was the increase in virtual interactions that made them transition their work "to a digital space."
"[I] had to present myself online," they explained.
A quick scroll on their Instagram reflects the dedication they put into crafting their identity. Up and down their feed, there are pictures of Hawkins and their friends, as well as shots of them performing on stage. The feed reflects a social person and an active performer. More than that, it shows Hawkins' style.
As a gender-fluid, non-conforming artist, they express themselves through style — clothing, in particular. Shrugging off limitations, they choose to dress in whatever they want, no matter what society says. For them, clothing is an extension of who they are as an artist.
"When I go shopping, it takes a long time because I'm looking at the whole store," they said. "I'm not looking at the men's section or the women's section. I'm just looking at clothes to see what looks best on my body. To see if it fits my personal style. Like, finding what I like rather than trying to dress like a man or woman should dress like."
Their visuals for "To Each His Own" and "Tricks in the City" exemplify these ideas. In one scene, they're in a gold-chained crop-top, and in another, they're sashaying across the screen in a pair of baggy joggers.
"I feel like what I dress like emphasizes [how] I feel about myself, as far as being sexy and being this androgynous person," they explained.
Everything about Hawkins screams originality. Even the places they choose to find their looks. On a typical shopping day, they said they could be found at a thrift store.
"I'll go to Salvation Army and Value World…," they said. "I don't even remember the last time I went to the store and bought anything. Well, maybe a bag or some shoes, but even those, I will still thrift it out. Like, that's really where I get most of my clothes from."
Hawkins is always striving to be seen as iconic, from their clothing choices to their performances. They're trying to be "memorable," to create an "experience," and to "connect with the audience."
Confidently, they share how they see their immediate future: "I just want to make pop music and dance music and be able to be a global touring artist," they said. "I want to tour, go to the studio all day and collaborate with other great artists that I feel inspired by. [Really], I just want to be a pop girl, putting on big productions."