Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
Black girl groups have always been trendsetters and innovators in music. Groups like TLC, SWV, and Destiny's Child brought powerhouse vocals, moving lyrics, and fresh fashion and beauty looks to the industry. Their success undoubtedly paved the way for the next generation of vocalists. Now, FLO is next up to carry the torch. The UK-based group—which consists of Gen Z songstresses Renée Downer, Stella Quaresma, and Jorja Douglas—brings effortless vocals and a nostalgic Y2K vibe to the scene.
Their debut single, "Cardboard Box," has taken the internet by storm, becoming the unofficial breakup anthem of 2022. But their success doesn't end there. This year, they've released their highly-anticipated project titled The Lead, become the first girl group ever to receive the Brit Awards' Rising Star award, and made their American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They've even managed to rack up some cool cosigns from fellow R&B artists like JoJo, SZA, Brandy, and super producer Missy Elliott.
As they rise to stardom, it's clear the girls have been appreciating every moment together and are excited about all that's to come. Ahead, Stella, Jorja, and Renée discuss their rise in the music industry, approach to beauty and fashion, and hopes for the future.
How would you describe FLO's sound, and how will it continue to evolve?
Stella: Our sound is very empowering, strong, and sexy sometimes. It's nostalgic in many ways, but we're trying to bring in elements of newness moving forward. There are a lot of different things that make our sound, but people seem to be liking it.
How do you feel about people saying FLO is bringing back R&B and the appreciation for girl groups?
Jorja: The love and appreciation for girl groups is nice. The R&B part? I don't think it's completely true because I think of [artists like] Summer Walker. She's done that. There are people that are doing their R&B thing, and the genre is very much alive. But, we are trying to make it more mainstream and cross over as much as possible to get R&B into more people's heads.
Stella: Especially in the U.K., it's underappreciated.
Renée: It's just so underground. It's not mainstream.
Jorja: It's there, though. That's the worst part because it's actually there. People are saying we're bringing R&B to the forefront, but there are people older than us who have been doing it longer than we have.
You ladies have also been seen in the studio with Darkchild. He's produced everybody from Janet Jackson to Whitney Houston. What excited you most about collaborating with Darkchild, and how did it come about?
Jorja: When we were in L.A. doing Jimmy Kimmel's show, our A&R passed us his phone, and Darkchild was on FaceTime. Then, he was in London, and someone reached out to us about doing a session with him. We were like, "Oh my god. Of course."
Renée: What excited me most was getting to hear all these stories because I always want to know everything. Aside from making music, hearing his stories and knowledge is the best.
Speaking of collaborations, everybody keeps saying you're destined to collaborate with Missy Elliot. What is it about her that you love the most?
Renée: There is no one like Missy Elliot. She is so unique and cool. No one can replicate that. She's inspired us so much. We would love to have her on a song and be a part of that.
Jorja: It'd be something very colorful and crazy funky. It'd be a vibe that makes people smile as soon as they start watching it.
Congratulations on winning the Rising Star title at the Brit Awards. What's another award you hope to win?
Jorja: I don't want us to go for the Grammy in the Best New Artist category. Obviously, I don't expect it to be next year or the year after, but I want the next award we win to be that top award. We've gotten a nice introduction and one of the highest honors for any upcoming artist. Now, we need to show people why we deserve it and then get an award for Best Group, Best R&B Album, or Best R&B Song.
If you had to rank your favorite songs on The Lead, what would they be?
Renée: For me, it would be "Feature Me," "Immature," and "Summertime." Then, "Cardboard Box" and "Another Guy."
Stella: Yeah, I think I'm the same. I never really loved "Summertime" until everyone said, "I like it."
Jorja: I'm the same, but I might change "Summertime" and "Immature."
How would you describe the group's style?
Renée: It's still evolving. You know how when you're a kid, you have an aspiration for how you want to dress? We're still in the middle of that. We're working with stylists and are able to wear nicer things, but I'd say it's not our identity yet.
Who are your style and beauty icons?
Renée: Rihanna. She's just dope. Everything she puts on…you can't do it better than her.
Stella: I don't think I have an icon. I have pages I look at when I want some inspiration.
Jorja: I don't think I have one either, to be honest. It's more about the era for me. I love the whole Y2K era, but the black side of Y2K. It has inspired me.
How would you compare the fashion and beauty in the U.K. versus the United States?
Renée: You know what? I think there's something about the U.K. that can't be replicated. Obviously, I'd say the fashion in America is a lot better. There are a lot of cool designers out there. But there's something about the U.K.'s fashion scene that no one else can do. When you see someone wearing something, you can kind of tell if they're British or not by the way they wear it.
Jorja: It has that edge.
Whenever we see you ladies, your hair is always laid. What are your secrets?
Jorja: We have hairdressers who do our hair when we need them. I can't even remember the last time I did my hair, which is crazy because I grew up doing it since my mom was not good at it.
Renée: I always carry edge control and a toothbrush with me.
What are some ways you maintain your skin?
Stella: My skin is not the best right now, so I have a routine. When my skin looks good, I don't do anything and hope for the best.
Renée: [Moisturize] your skin! You've got to take care of your skin and make sure it's not dry.
If each of you could give your younger selves a piece of fashion or beauty advice, what would it be?
Stella: Stop making your eyebrows so dark.
Jorja: Stop plucking your eyebrows.
Renée: Stop wearing what everyone else is wearing. The trends were mad. I look at pictures, and I'm like, What was I wearing? I only wanted these things so I could be included.