trousers World of Kismet

stockings Wolford

shoes Acne Studios

jewelry Arto

belt & wings Stylist’s Own

photography Sandra Myhrberg

fashion Amy Ta

Exploring Boundaries: An Interview with Nao Mali about his Multifaceted Artistry in Music, Fashion, and Fearless Expression

Written by Frank-Adam Hagman by pari

Nao Mali, originally from Wisconsin and raised in northern Sweden, effortlessly combines smooth R&B vocals with dynamic rap, crafting a unique pop sound. With impeccable style and a talent for imaginative songwriting, their artistic fusion mirrors a profound passion for both music and fashion.

Beyond their musical accomplishments, Nao Mali is a highly sought-after stylist, making their mark in global fashion campaigns. Notably, they featured prominently on H&M's Times Square Billboard, showcasing their influence and presence in the fashion and beauty world.

In their latest single “FAG” Nao Mali boldly merges heavy metal guitars with a pulsating club beat, delivering explicit verses that challenge conservative detractors. The reappropriated chorus transforms a homophobic slur into an unexpected anthem: “I'm a fag / That's a fact / I walk fast / Never look back.” This daring composition showcases Nao Mali's fearless creativity.

FAG” marks the start of Nao's collaboration with creative director Martin Falck for the upcoming album, SCANDAL. The track also showcases Vixen, the shred queen and lead guitarist for Halsey and Rina Sawayama.

This summer, Nao Mali captivated audiences on Sweden's grandest stages during Daniela Rathana's “School of Rathana” tour. Adding to their success, Nao delivered unforgettable solo performances to sold-out crowds at Stockholm Pride and the main stage of Copenhagen Pride. 

You went under different names earlier in your career, what about Nao Mali stuck?
I decided on Nao Mali because it felt neutral and fresh to me. I needed a name that was fluid and gave me the opportunity to be whatever really. I played around with the letters in my last name Malinao, and that’s how came up with the name Nao Mali.

How has fashion influenced your music?
I have the most fun being an artist when I get to create looks for photoshoots and performances. So fashion is absolutely a big driving force for me making my music.

You’ve been on tour with Daniela Rathana this summer, what was the best part of that experience?
This was the first tour I’ve ever been on, so it was scary as shit not gonna lie. But of course, I couldn’t say no to singing backup for (with no exaggeration) the best singer and performer we have in Sweden. Getting to know Daniela, her band members, and the team has been so much fun. This has for sure been a life-changing summer for me. But the best part of this experience is obviously seeing Daniela excelling on stage, front row deluxe, hitting every note effortlessly.

You have earlier said that music for you is like a playground where you can create new worlds and discover new parts of yourself. What has Nao Mali taught you personally?
That it’s okay not knowing fully who you are yet! Allow yourself to try different things out until something feels right.

Favorite song lyric of yours?
“I’m f*cking freaky funky, gender f*cking I create my own niche” from my song Pretty / Ugly has been the lyric that’s been stuck in my head since I wrote it, and has helped me to accept and embrace my weirdness.

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
I think it’s a bittersweet situation, especially TikTok blowing up. I believe it’s a blessing for many new artists to get discovered and all. But my passion is to create music and art, not to make TikTok videos.

What advice do you have for young queer people starting to realize their creative potential?
My advice would be to allow yourself to get inspired by other creatives without getting jealous or comparing yourself to them.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Trust the process.

Cheesy question but I must ask - What is your dream collaboration?
Robyn for sure!

balaclava World of Kismet
tops  Anna Lastro
skirt Milkwhite
stockings Wolford
shoes EYTYS
jewelry Arto

knit World of Kismet

shirt Stylist’s Own

shirt around waist HOPE

jeans & shoes EYTYS

necklace Acne Studios

earrings Arto

jacket Deadwood


skirt Rave Review

stockings Falke

shoes Acne Studios

jewellery Arto

faux fur piece Tim Maksimovic

top & jeans Stockholm Surfboard Club

jewelry Arto

top two Anna Lastro

knit World of Kismet

shirt Stylist’s own

shirt around waist HOPE

jeans & shoes EYTYS

necklace Acne Studios

earrings Arto

wings & belt Stylist’s Own

trousers World of Kismet

stockings Wolford

shoes Acne Studios

jewelry Arto
jewellery Arto

photography Sandra Myhrberg

fashion Amy Ta

makeup Alicia Hurst
hair Isabell Larsson

nails Paloma Gonzalez
assistant Filippa Finn

post production Rebecka Barlach

jacket, necklace & charms on bag Stylist's Own
top Stockholm Surfboard Club
skirt World of Kismet
stockings Swedish Stockings
shoes EYTYS
sunglasses Acne Studios
bag Little Liffner
gloves Handsome Stockholm
rings Artoown