NEW YORK — “I get a lot of free stuff,” admits musician John Legend Wednesday afternoon as he’s being fitted for a new khaki-colored suit at the Valentino boutique on Madison Avenue here. It’s only a few hours before he opens for Alicia Keys at Radio City Music Hall (performances continue Friday and Saturday), and he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll wear it, along with the designer’s pale blue shirt and white “speakeasy” loafers, on stage that evening or save the outfit for the after-party that Valentino is hosting for him at PM nightclub downtown. It’s not the sort of decision that the average up-and-coming musician needs to worry about, but Legend is hardly average.
A 1999 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (he majored in English), Legend has been working with Kanye West since 2001, and he credits his friend’s recent career rise with helping his own album of soul music, “Get Lifted,” succeed. (Legend also played piano or sang vocals for artists like Lauryn Hill and Keys.)
Though he insists he doesn’t get caught up in the celebrity aspect of it all, Legend can’t say he minds being dressed by Valentino. When he first moved to the East Village in 2000, “I was poorer, you know?” he says. “My style wasn’t different, it was just cheaper. I’d go to Zara instead of Valentino.”
“But my style is very real, it’s not very Hollywood. I’m not overly showy,” he adds. He likes to wear sports coats, buttoned-down shirts and nice, tailored pants onstage. “It makes me feel sexier. You have to feel confident when you perform.
“I always say, if you look like a million bucks, you’ll feel like a million bucks.”