It really says something about H.E.R that this photo involves a LOT of hoo-ha around her face — bangs, that collar, her glasses — and yet she still looks so present and arresting. Other people might look like they were emerging from a wine bag; she just looks fantastic.

The interview is also a good read, and I actually learned some stuff I didn’t know about her (or H.E.R.).  It’s hard to remember she’s only 23 — she’s accomplished so much so far in her young life, and been a musician basically forever. Somehow, I’d never read about this:

The young Gabi continued to perform and record regularly, signing with Sony Music’s RCA Records as a 14-year-old (via Robinson’s MBK imprint, reuniting her manager with RCA CEO Peter Edge, who’d played a major role in Keys’ success). But she was allowed to develop at her own pace and tried to have as normal a childhood as circumstances would allow.

“It was tough, honestly,” H.E.R. admits. “I would leave school for a few days every month or every other month to travel to New York, and I’d be doing independent study in the studio. There were a lot of sacrifices made, especially by my parents.”

That midtown Manhattan studio was one Robinson outfitted specifically for her, and she worked like an Olympic athlete. “She was in there 24/7,” he recalls. “She must have 400 to 500 songs that the world has never heard from that period. Occasionally I’d have her appear at a showcase to develop her as a performer and keep her sharp.”

Adds longtime RCA marketing executive VP Carolyn Williams: “We joke that it’s the longest-running artist development story we’ve ever had. But as cute as she was when we first met her, she was always super focused. You could tell she knew what she wanted.”

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there —  including about this year’s Oscars — and definitely worth your time if you have some to spare.

[Photo: Arielle Bobb-Willis for Variety]
Tags: Variety, H.E.R