Exclusive: Sabrina Claudio, Rising R&B Stunner, Steps Into the Spotlight With “Stand Still”

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Sabrina Claudio sticks out like a sore thumb. Nestled in the corner of an English leather couch at the back of the Hudson Hotel’s Library Bar in Manhattan, she’s sitting still as people swirl around her, drinks in hand or shooting pool. Set against the dimly lit, dark-wood space, the rising R&B singer, who just released her second music project About Time this month, acts as the perfect foil to her surroundings, dressed in all white. Still, she looks right at home. She’s practiced at carving out spaces for herself: First in Miami (where she was born and eagerly wanted to leave), then in Los Angeles (where she relocated to pursue a music career just two and half years ago), and now in New York (which she’s only visiting for a whirlwind two-day trip).

It’s fitting, then, that the 21-year-old sought to capture a similar juxtaposition in her music video for “Stand Still,” one of the twelve songs on About Time. On the track, Claudio addresses the way that time stops moving when she and a lover fail to communicate what they want, not realizing that they ultimately share the same feelings. “Time stands still / While we stand here / Don’t wanna fight you / I need the same as you,” she croons with her smooth, haunting voice in an attempt to reassure her partner. Yet, the video, which is premiering exclusively today on Vogue, shows the singer dancing fluidly across a sprawling loft in Downtown L.A. at different times of the day. “It wasn’t interesting to me to do something that was too on point,” she says. “The song is about time standing still and pretty much being frozen in a certain moment, so I wanted to represent the opposite.”

Sabrina Claudio

Photo: Kanya Iwana / Courtesy of Sabrina Claudio

It’s a simple concept, but one that extends beyond “Stand Still.” Specifically, “movement” may seem like a one-off idea explored in a very physical way through dance, but “moving”—both figuratively and literally—is what has allowed Claudio to chase her career and what sets her apart from other singers. As a teenager in Miami with Hispanic roots—she’s half-Cuban and half–Puerto Rican—she grew up listening and learning how to dance salsa and merengue. “Dancing was what I thought I would be doing for the rest of my life,” she explains. Claudio ultimately put dancing aside when she began covering songs on YouTube and Twitter at the age of 14 (a quick search produces covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Willow Smith’s “Female Energy,” and Beyoncé’s “Heaven,” among many others), but salsa and merengue’s sensual rhythms had stuck with her by that point. “I love the type of music that comes out of Miami, but it’s not the artist that I want to be,” she says. “Still, growing up in that environment helped me musically because it influenced certain sounds [in my music]. I would find a random instrumental that I thought was super dope, and I would fit the melody over it.”

Sabrina Claudio

Photo: Kanya Iwana / Courtesy of Sabrina Claudio

It took a relocation to L.A. for her first music project, a seven-song EP of original music titled Confidently Lost, to materialize. “When I think back to Miami, it’s a whole other life for me because I was so unhappy there, and it’s not because of Miami. It was just because of me as a person,” she says. “I was working with people from Miami that were always trying to influence me to go down a different genre [than R&B], and I was always like, ‘If I don’t leave Miami, I’m not ever going to get to do what I want.’ I feel like L.A. is my actual home.” With About Time, she’s comfortably come into her own by writing the majority of the music on the project and conceiving the visuals for her music videos on her own—two efforts that have ultimately rewarded her with a 27-stop North American tour with 6lack this fall.

Beyond her music, moving across the country also allowed her to shed her former image—living in Miami meant exploring different phases without really feeling comfortable in one. “I went through a gothic phase at one point,” she remembers. “All black: black lipstick, purple lipstick. It was very weird, and then I went through a phase where I wore shoes with no less than a three-inch platform.” She now gravitates towards pieces that strike “timeless, sexy, and simple” tones. This means opting for silk slip dresses, body-hugging separates, and gilded accessories from West Coast brands like Reformation, LabNo25, Haati Chai, and Revolve. She observes, “Going from Miami to L.A., it’s such a different scene. In L.A., it’s always dressing to impress. Miami is not, unless you go to South Beach. [Miami] style can be very generic. It’s very casual.”

Sabrina Claudio

Photo: Kanya Iwana / Courtesy of Sabrina Claudio

Claudio also credits her stylist, Kristine Urzua, with cultivating her newfound interest in fashion. Though interestingly enough, she and Urzua do not share the same sense of style. “It’s funny, I always tell [Kristine] that if I didn’t know her, I’d think she’s from Miami. She’s free-spirited,” Claudio laughs. Where Urzua gravitates towards a colorful palette and bohemian pieces for herself—Miami style staples—Claudio prefers to keep it low-key. For her own wardrobe, the singer and her stylist tend to stick to a palette of neutrals. ”Blacks, browns, grays, whites,” Claudio says. “Anything that you don’t really have to think about when it comes to matching or putting something together. Muted colors. I don’t do bright ever in life.”

For the “Stand Still” music video, this philosophy was briefly set aside for a forest green bubble-sleeve wrap top and a sunray-pleated pair of pants, both from Keepsake the Label, which were meant to evoke a high-fashion editorial. “When I told my movement coach what the outfit was, she was like, ‘Really, you want to wear that?’ Because the top and the bottom have so much material,” she recalls. But it’s precisely this outfit choice, with its draping and its flowing fabric, that lets her demonstrate her fearlessness and free spirit. Yes, she may have found a new look to embody her new lifestyle, but her willingness to deviate from it for the sake of exploration highlights Claudio’s defining quality: Whether musically, emotionally, or sartorially, she refuses to stand still.