Hal Baddie is hacking the cis-tem
Taken from the autumn 2022 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here.
It’s the crack of dawn when I log on to my Zoom call with Devin Halbal, the New York multi-hyphenate known to her 380.6k TikTok followers as @Hal.Baddie. The sun is still on annual leave, but the second Halbal enters the chat from Denmark, wearing a baby-yellow tee with her brown curls framing her face, an immeasurable amount of sunshine is bestowed upon us. At just 24, she has captured the hearts of her followers – or ‘dolls’, as she calls them – with her humorous videos that blend spirituality, wit and travel vlogging with an effortless style. She proves time and time again to be a master wordsmith. Her phrases, including “Met Gala Behaviour” and “Elevate, Activate, Appreciate”, are embedded in the Gen-Z lexicon. Through her videos documenting her adventures as a trans woman travelling alone, she inspires a new generation of dolls to live, love and laugh their way through their best lives. Over Zoom, we spoke about travelling solo, the perks of being a Cancer and how to create a positive social media experience.
So, I have to start this with a doll check-in.
Hal Baddie: Doll check-in!!!
How is the doll doing today?
HB: I’m doing great. I went for a walk and had some juice; I’m not too hungry today. But how are you, what is your doll check-in today?
The doll check-in is, I’m up, it’s early, my ring lights are on, OK! The baby hairs are laid; we have on just mascara and a gloss. I am feeling blessed and highly favoured. We are the same age, and I think our world would have been a much more iconic, positive place if we’d had someone like you growing up. I want to know: did you always think you would be a star?
HB: I always kind of knew it. Growing up, people always gravitated towards my energy. I was always very outspoken, and I always knew there was something special about me. In some way, shape or form, I [knew I] was destined to do great things, [but] I didn’t know what that would look like. Even though I was a doll, even though I was on my LGBT, people knew there was something special about me.
It’s giving Mariah Carey, “Make It Happen”.
HB: Period, thank you, LOL!
I know you’re a Cancer – happy belated birthday. I just want to confirm, is your birthday July 16th?
HB: Yes! Wait, when’s your birthday?
July 16, 1998!
HB: Oh my God, that’s so cool! Twin dolls. Happy belated birthday to you too.
Are you a Cancer Sun, Aries Moon, Virgo Rising?
HB: Let me check – my sun is in Cancer, the moon is in Aries, and the rising is Aquarius. I don’t know what any of that means. All I know is Cancers are really sweet and loving, and I believe that.
I’m curious, what is your favourite thing about being a Cancer?
HB: As a Cancer, I know that kindness is important, and I feel this innate love for myself and others. I’m very connected to my feelings, and I do believe that is because of my zodiac sign. I think the stars align and that it rings true. Also, when it comes to being a water sign, I love water, I love swimming, I love the beach, and I think maybe that’s my Cancer energy jumping out.
You turned 24 this year; I’m wondering what ‘behaviour’ is in the pipeline?
HB: Let’s see… Hopefully, more high-fashion behaviour, more doll behaviour, maybe show behaviour? Let’s see if a show will be manifested. Talk show host behaviour! I would love to have an educational talk show where I go around the world and show people how fashion is made. I think it would be the first of its kind to see a transgender woman talk about fashion, history and art. It could be a cultural reset, and we must have diverse representations of trans people in the media. Also happy behaviour, joyful behaviour, nature-girl behaviour. I think it’s important for trans people to see themselves and for others to see them in educational experiences outside of transness.
Google is free!
HB: Google got it. But that’s what I’m hoping for, an educational talk show. A trans moment, a TS moment!
We are smart and educated, and it’s essential for people to see that we are more than Ryan Murphy.
HB: Right. Also, I want transgender women to make space for themselves and, [as] you said, also be smart. We haven’t seen trans women speak out on education outside of transness or trans trauma. I can be trans and speak on 18th-century art in France. I used to be an art educator at a museum, and it was interesting because I was the only bitch up in that museum that looked like me and was actually passionate about art. We need more bitches like me in all types of spaces: art, education, history, publishing. Stay tuned, stay tuned!
”One of my favourite quotes is by Pablo Picasso. He said, ‘Everything you can imagine is real’”- Hal Baddie
The second Pussycat Dolls album is called Doll Domination, but honestly, that is exactly what you’ve been doing: you’ve been on European tour, getting your first croissant in France, [visiting] ponies in Denmark. What have been some of your favourite moments on your travels, and where in the world are you right now?
HB: Right now I’m in Denmark. I’m going to see some ponies today, and I’m going to a little farm with my friend this weekend, so I’m excited about that. I have loved having a spontaneous life. It’s not for the weak, because I don’t have a daily routine, but I think that’s how life should be lived – going to new places, trying new things, eating new foods. I took a risk when I decided I wanted to be a ‘travel blogger’. I wanted to see the world, and I couldn’t afford to live in New York – it was so expensive. Instead of living with strangers and roommates, I went to go live my life. Thank God, now I can make money off social media. Luckily, that’s how I’m paying for this. My favourite moments have been meeting strangers, [like the] 80-year-old cab driver from Bosnia talking about life before communism. And also people learning about me being trans and learning what trans is. Many people in so many parts of the world know trans through their countries’ perspectives of trans. ‘Oh, trans is not common, it’s not normal.’ But when they see me, I shift people’s perspectives.
HB: She’s a normal doll; she has dreams, ideas and things to say too. I think so many trans people around the world are dehumanised, and interestingly enough – I mean, I’m dehumanised as well. I think that’s a part of being a doll, and it allows people to see that I exist. But I was a little TS girl in Turkey walking around with a selfie stick. Like, she was iconic! You give so much inspiration to young people who want to travel. What is your advice for people who wish to travel alone and build a community?
You give so much inspiration to young people who want to travel. What is your advice for people who wish to travel alone and build a community?
HB: We live in this amazing world with social media. I make friends everywhere, and I’m friendly to everyone. It was out of survival. Because of my experiences, I learned to be very loving. Making friends, I would say, ‘Girl, thanks to the muthafucking TikTok.’ I made friends from Berlin to Denmark and all over the place. People invite me to come over and sleep there, so now more than ever we [trans people] have been able to find community in ways we have never before. And how TikTok works is the For You page is based on your algorithm and sends it to everyone who is within your area if it goes viral. I was in Georgia and these girls would have seen my videos. Or when I was in France, someone in the same exact town I was in was like, ‘Sis, let’s hang out,’ and she showed me around. It was amazing. I’m always open to new adventures; also know your boundaries. I think honestly how I survive is I love alone-time.
HB: Right, the Cancer [energy]! I think the other reason I travel alone is that I’m trans, and I don’t have a boyfriend because many of these boys are colonised. One day I’ll find a man who can travel with me. I would also say, [in terms of] staying open to new adventures, a good way I find community is once I find a restaurant I like I will deadass go back all the time and form friendships with them. Also, let’s just be real – she’s a cute bitch. *SKSKSKSK*
Period! You better let these hoes know!
HB: She may be a clocky bitch, but she’s cute!
So if you are reading this and want to travel alone, have good energy! Be a doll with manners.
HB: With good manners people will gravitate to you!
What have you learned about yourself travelling alone?
HB: I’m very spiritual, and I have this nice connection to myself and the world. I’m always interested in learning. Every day I see as an opportunity to discover something new about myself and the world. And that sounds so fucking corny, but I am forever a student. I get to experience new things every day. I would also say being alone has made me realise I’m smart, talented and beautiful. So many things people don’t feel in their day-to-day lives, you just sit with yourself [and realise]. When you just have you and your thoughts you can realise the beauty of your abilities and capabilities and share them with others. I don’t think I would be having these ideas – “doll check-in”, “slay my loves” – if I weren’t alone and didn’t have that space and time to be creative and not feel judged. I feel like my alone-time has given me the strength and the courage to be myself 100% because I have done the work to sit down and hone who I am. I don’t necessarily have the outside pressures of my friends, family or the outside world bothering me. I don’t think I would be able to be creative for myself, truly.
One of my favourite TikToks of yours is “Some call me delusional, I say I’m a dreamer!” How important is it being a bit delusional to achieve your dreams?
HB: I mean, I’m somebody that believes that anything [is possible]. One of my favourite quotes is by Pablo Picasso. He said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” It’s like we as people have such amazing ideas. We have the capability to do whatever we want. You can’t do anything if you don’t believe in your wildest dreams, and that sounds fucking crazy but it’s true. Met Gala behaviour is [saying] that you don’t need to be of any socioeconomic status. You don’t need to be of any clout level, you can just be you with no money, no opportunities. The reality for girls like us who aren’t famous, who are trans and who are of colour, is that we don’t have access to the same employment opportunities, the same job opportunities, the same fucking everything that would allow us to be modern-day fashion icons. I’ve always had dreams. I’ve always known I can do whatever I want. I can put my mind to it and make it happen if I envision something.
And the proof is in the pudding. I think that’s what the youngins need to see.
HB: In one of my videos, I say “manifestation is elevation”, and I do believe that.
“Elevate, Activate, Appreciate.” You honestly are a master of language; I know you’re a writer, but rapping could so be in your future. Could we ever get the track “Met Gala Behaviour”, and who would feature on it?
HB: My friend was saying that we need the doll single. We need the doll anthem. I’ve always been very playful with words, so stay tuned.
Who would it be if we could get one rapper on the track?
HB: I’m not sure, I’ll have to get back to you on that. I have some problematic faves…
NEVER THE BLACK CAT, MEOW!!!!!!
HB: PERIOD, I’M WEAK!
“Just know that, as a trans person, you have so much more to you than trauma. You are your joy, your ideas, your happiness.You are your beauty. You’re not pigeonholed by your identity” – Hal Baddie
This issue is all about fantasy. For so many LGBTQ+ people, fashion is such an intrinsic tool to help our self-expression. What are you learning about your style as you continue to come into yourself?
HB: As I’m growing into myself, I feel much more comfortable in more modest stuff. I still feel dysphoric about my arms, and certain things trigger me. I still love quirky stuff – my penguin bag, and random colourful things. I will never be the basic, whatever-the-girls-are-wearing-on-Instagram [person] – like, nope, that’s not me. I love playing with shapes, I love playing with colours. And I hope to continue to, you know, have more high-fashion moments where I’m playing with shapes and making pretty looks that are interesting and architecturally beautiful.
And you’re a Loewe doll.
HB: Oh, yes. I love Loewe!
As you become a bona fide fashion darling, what changes would you like to see in the industry?
HB: We just need more types of dolls in high-fashion advertisements. Like, two girls aren’t cutting it. Also, people who aren’t passing need to be actively centred. Why don’t we have more covers all over the world with trans [people]? Why don’t we see more trans women in airports all over the world in advertisements? I still don’t see that, and that’s an issue. Let’s get it together.
What advice would you give to people looking to create a positive social media relationship with their audience?
HB: Just know your worth and see the value of your ideas. You are powerful, you are beautiful, you are strong. And the fact that you can even acknowledge your identity and be proud and express that is so beautiful and amazing. So just have a great experience, have a great time, and see it as a creative space to explore yourself and your ideas. Just know that, as a trans person, you have so much more to you than trauma. You are your joy, your ideas, your happiness. You are your beauty. You are not pigeonholed by your identity.
That was so beautiful; you’re a true Cancer. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
HB: I feel like that’s up to the universe, but I’m definitely more on my fashion shit. I would love to attend shows in the future. I would love to do that.
HB: Walking! I mean, I’m a 5ft 3in queen, but let’s work. Let’s demolish these beauty standards.
Listen, Loewe make their samples for Kim [Kardashian]!
HB: OK! Work, though, right? I see myself living someplace really quiet and remote with a pet or two, just relaxing and, like, minding my business away from the noise of the world.
And with the ponies.
HB: And the ponies!
Hair YANN TURCHI at BRYANT ARTISTS, make-up VANESSA BELLINI at MA+ using GLOSSIER, nails MARIE ROSA, set design ANNE AUBERT, photographic assistants FRANÇOIS BRIENS, VALENTINO BIANCHI, styling assistants FERNANDO GÓMEZ, CARLA RUIZ, LAURA GIMÉNEZ JIMÉNEZ, hair assistant JASON THOMAS, set design assistant FIRAT, production MARGAUX DENIS at KITTEN, catsuit as before post-production THOMAS GEOFFRAY