Or is she? “Oh, I don’t know,” she says with a flip of her hair, still damp from a dip in her manager’s mom’s pool this morning. “But some buttons, when you press them, beep three times. Others just beep once. See?” She dials 2 and the phone chirps back with one beep and a flash of a yellow light. When she presses 3, however, it responds with a beep-beep-beep and three flashes, as it does with the 9. “The 3 and the 9,” she confirms, grinning proudly at her discovery and revealing the dimple on her left cheek that punctuates her lightly freckled face.
Just then, a snippet of the Back to the Future theme song plays—someone just unlocked one of the safes. The framed poster depicting a stunned Michael J. Fox stepping out of a flaming DeLorean swings open to reveal more clues and we gather to check it out. From the other side of the room a boy shouts that he’s unlocked the phone. “I want to know what he pressed,” Tinashe mutters, shooting a playful side-eye in his direction.
While escaping rooms might not be Tinashe’s forte, she’s developed a lengthy résumé over her 23 years. Born Tinashe Jorgenson Kachingwe in Lexington, Kentucky, to a mother of European descent and a Zimbabwean father of the Shona tribe, she spent much of her childhood channeling her boundless energy into modeling, acting, dance, and tae kwon do. When she was eight, her parents, both professors, moved the family to Los Angeles, and by 14, she had found her calling in music, having been selected by pop singer Vitamin C to join a girl group called The Stunners, which opened for Justin Bieber’s My World Tour in 2010. Shortly after the tour, Tinashe left the group to start a solo career. She set up a makeshift studio in her bedroom and learned how to produce and engineer songs via YouTube tutorials. Before long, she’d cranked out three mixtapes and a string of videos. In 2012, she signed a deal with RCA and then put out another mixtape. But it was the inescapable, platinum-selling hit “2 On” from her critically acclaimed 2014 debut, Aquarius, that truly jump-started her career. Since then, she’s sold out a headlining tour; hit the road with Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj; performed a tribute to Janet Jackson at the 2015 BET Awards (after being hand-selected by the iconic singer to do so); modeled alongside Cody Simpson, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Baldwin for a Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply campaign; and even created an eye shadow palette for a collaboration with M.A.C.
Bodysuit and boots by Emilio Pucci.