The Weeknd is nominated for six Video Music Awards at the 2020 awards, which airs Sunday—but when his appearance on the red carpet was shown live on MTV, fans had questions. Although the red carpet was not filmed live, The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, had what looked to be a bloodied, beaten-up face. He was also photographed at VMAs rehearsals with the same jarring look. So, um, what's going on here? Did he have some kind of accident?
Turns out: no. Actually, The Weeknd has been wearing makeup to appear beaten-up for months. Back in March, he worried fans by appearing on SNL with the same makeup; it's a reference to his recent work, including his "Blinding Lights" music video, in which he's beaten to a pulp by bouncers, drives drunk, and finds himself bloody and worse for wear. "I don’t want to ever promote drunk driving, but that’s what the dark undertone is," he told Esquire.
But even more so, it's a reference to a short film The Weeknd made for his latest album, After Hours. In the short film, he walks around a city with what looks to be a broken nose and swollen eyes. His makeup look at the VMAs is significantly more similar to the After Hours short film look than the bloody makeup seen in Blinding Lights—and he's also wearing the red suit he wears in the After Hours video.
Later on at the Video Music Awards, as The Weeknd accepted his first award of the night for Best R&B, he eschewed commentary on his face in favor of an important message: "It's really hard for me to celebrate right now and enjoy this moment, so, I'm just going to say, justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor."