Encounters: Tiptoeing (and Tweeting) Through the Tulips With DJ Khaled


Ivan Berrios, 25, Mr. Khaled’s photographer, and Chris Smokes, 30, Mr. Khaled’s lifestyle consultant (asked how he got that title, Mr. Smokes said, “I kind of created it myself”), picked up a pair of carnation-pink headphones and contemplated how to shoot them for the coffee-table book they’re planning. Mr. Khaled’s hairstylist, “JC Tha Barber,” showed them a trailer for his reality show. A chef poured a viscous yellow sauce into small plastic cups. Above her, frosted glass cabinets offered a window into the dichotomy of a new father who makes a living making party music: Ciroc vodka, whey protein powder, baby formula.

That incongruity extended to other parts of the home. A Baby Einstein toy sat on an immaculate white couch. Gucci shopping bags shared a shelf with board books. In the master bedroom, a bassinet stood next to rubber-banded wads of cash and seven gleaming watches. Mr. Khaled strapped on one from his collection, a rose-gold, diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe, to give a tour of his backyard.

“Where my phone at?” he called over his shoulder, stepping out onto the lawn. Someone said it was inside. “How’s that make any sense?” Mr. Khaled replied, incredulous. “Tell Kiko to come over here and Snapchat.”

Mr. Khaled squinted up at the sun and unbuttoned the leaf-printed shirt hugging his middle. “I’m going to have to do a Don Johnson,” he said.

He bent down to caress the yellow petals of a marigold. “I always feel my flowers, I touch them and I tell them I love them,” he said. “This flower right here, I remember when it wasn’t looking as beautiful. I see them grow and I put that in life perspective. If you take care of something, look what happens. It’s like eating healthy, it’s like working out.”

In the courtyard was a waterfall-laden garden of hydrangeas and poppies that Mr. Khaled called Jerusalem, “because I feel like I’m not in America right now,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the Holy Land.” In the backyard, a lemon tree bore fruit that looked ready to pick. “Sometimes you got to do what you got to do,” Mr. Khaled said, reaching up to rip a lemon off its stem. A thorn stuck his thumb, and he started bleeding. He called over his shoulder again: “Can someone get me a napkin?”

Mr. Khaled’s free-form manner is part of his appeal to marketers trying to reach millennials who roll their eyes at traditional, polished media. He has acted as a spokesman for Ciroc, the ride service Lyft and Silk’s plant-based milks (“I do plants,” he said in a 2016 Silk ad, holding up a smoothie of almond milk and bananas).

While new endorsement offers come in “all the time,” he said, he works only with companies that accept him as he is. “I only know how to be me,” he said. “Say I misspelled something on Snapchat or social, that’s just me. If it’s me loving my flowers, me in the studio, me with my son, I’m just being me. I don’t know what else to do.”

But of course authenticity, as just being oneself is called these days, requires a lot of effort.

Back in his house, back on Instagram, Mr. Khaled watched a day-old video of himself dancing at a radio station, jovial and blustering.

“People don’t realize the work behind the scenes, they just get to see the victories and the finished product, but it’s a lot of work and not everybody can handle it,” he said, eyes fixed on the screen. “A lot of people can’t handle success, either. I can.”

Even while holding a watering can.

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