In the back of a four-door Kia, the 22-year-old singer and social media starlet Harry Hudson drinks a #50ShadesOfGreen juice from Kreation, Ryan Seacrest's favorite juice chain. The driver, Harry's 26-year-old brother Remy Hudson, believes he has spotted the rapper Chamillionaire outside a UPS Store. Harry begs his brother to turn around. Wearing a Keith Haring "New York" shirt and his hair in a ponytail, Remy makes an illegal U-turn. He swerves into oncoming traffic and then speeds down Glencoe Boulevard. "[Chamillionaire's] my idol," Harry says.
This year, Harry has become a teen idol in his own right ever since his best friend Kylie Jenner started snapchatting him lying on her couch and sitting in her car. His infamy grew in February, when the youngest Kardashian-Jenner cast Harry as the lead star in her "Snapchat movie." The minutes-long Snapchat story told a fictional tale of Harry cheating on his girlfriend (played by Kim Kardashian) with Caitlyn Jenner. "We came up with an idea: Let's be kids and have fun," Harry says. "There was no process about [the Snapchat movie]—we were just bored in New York." Little is known about Harry; his Twitter and Instagram consist of inspirational quotes and black-and-white selfies, making him the biggest enigma in the Kardashian-Jenner Expanded Universe. The mystique has made Americans wonder: Who is the boy who bravely rides in Kylie Jenner's passenger seat as she Snapchats and drives?
Harry lacks a Snapchat of his own. "I don't even know what [being 'Snapchat famous' means]," he says. Harry is much more interested in music than the Internet. For the past year, he's been writing and recording an album. His latest single, "Stop," combines a sound reminiscent of The Weeknd with an emo country twang; Harry lists Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and, of course, Chamillionaire as his biggest inspirations.
As we pull into the UPS Store parking lot looking for the rapper, Harry blasts Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me." He wears a T-shirt referencing Simpson's 2005 album that says, "Didn't Steal Your Boyfriend," with a yellow jacket and torn jeans reminiscent of mid-2000s Abercrombie. (That's a compliment.) "A lot of people hate on [Simpson], but she had hits—let's be clear," Harry says. The car stops. Harry climbs over me, pushing me out of the vehicle, and then he runs to the UPS Store.
Harry looks through the store's glass window, but the rapper isn't there. He returns to the car, dejected. He slumps back into the back seat and stares out the window. In the sunlight, Harry's freckles glow; his skin is translucent. "Guys," Harry says, "I want to cry at some point today." Harry tells me he loves crying and thinks more men should do so regularly. "I usually go to the SoHo House and cry," he says. "They have great food and great service." He's joking about this, but there's a truth to every joke. On his head sits a snapback says that says, "Lose myself / In the dark / Just to find / My way out."
"I wear this hat every day," Harry explains. "It makes sense."
For lunch, Harry goes to Mendocino Farms, a bourgie California version of Panera Bread in an outdoor mall. Although the shopping plaza contains a Chipotle, it also has awnings and blasts Frank Sinatra. Harry sits outside at a metal table next to a bench covered in fake grass. At the table next to him, a woman's fake boobs burst out of her sequined American flag Guess tank top. While she adjusts her breasts, Harry puts his hands in a prayer position and says grace. In between bites of barbecue kettle chips, Harry takes his elementary school portrait out of his wallet.
"This is when I was innocent," Harry says. "Imagine me being this young and seeing my babysitter fuck mad dudes."
Harry's parents divorced in 1995 when he was two. The family lived in Edgewater, NJ, and Harry's mom gained primary custody. He describes his family as "lower middle class" and says his mom struggled to support him and his older brother Remy. Since his mom worked a low-paid job all day at the Star Alliance, the world's largest airline conglomerate, Harry spent most his time at home alone. He remembers little else about New Jersey. "Growing up was difficult times," he says. "I blocked everything."
When Harry was 12, his mom chased a guy across the country, packing up her belongings and moving her two sons to Redondo Beach, CA, and then to the San Fernando Valley. "My mom fell in love, and literally dragged us to the Valley," Harry says. Harry hated his stepfather ("Fuck that dude," he says) and struggled to make friends at school. Everyone thought he was weird. "I had no friends," Harry says. "I never went out, ever. I was a homebody." At night, he remembers suffering from frequent dreams about getting cancer. "I knew it was coming, but I didn't know when," Harry says.
Harry turned to his brother, Remy, for comfort. Every day after school, they made lanyards (their mom never bought a TV), and Remy gave Harry advice. "He was very protective of me," Harry says. "It's more of a father-son relationship."
Each Christmas, Remy dressed as Santa Claus and gave Harry presents. "He was the one who found out Santa wasn't real when he was four years old, but he played Santa year every year till I was 12," Harry says.
"More like 15," Remy says. "You really extended that one."
"I just wanted to keep the fairy tale alive!" Harry yells.
I don't believe in gender. I don't believe in sex.
Harry refused to accept reality. When adults told Harry to do something, he told them no. "He's a wanderer," Remy says. He remembers Harry constantly running away from home. Although he always returned, Harry's rebellious personality remained constant.
Harry never had male friends until high school. His freshman year, he bonded with two boys. One day, his buddy bought a MacBook. Harry came over, and they downloaded Garageband. The guys went into the bathroom and started recording freestyle raps. "It was about letting what you needed to let out," Harry says. They started recording on a daily basis. "Everyone else was going to parties, but we were making music in the bathroom," Harry says. At home, he started falling in love with rock 'n' roll loners. "Kurt Cobain said he wanted to be a rock legend; that was his purpose in life," Harry says. "He wanted to be a rock god and then die. Then he killed himself—that's why he's my favorite artist."
In December 2011, Harry says, the vice president of Death Row Records, John Atterberry, called Harry and his friends to his office. He wanted to sign them as a group. Harry claims Atterberry heard him sing in his office and told him to sing instead of rap, but Harry considered singing too feminine at the time. "I'm a rapper," Harry remembers saying. "I'm a man." The next week, a gunman shot Atterberry on Sunset Boulevard.
The death ruined the record deal, but a couple weeks later, Harry says, a producer invited him to work as his intern songwriter in Sweden. Harry had never left Los Angeles County alone—he was 18—but he agreed to go. When he arrived, the country was covered in snow. "It was winter time in a summer town," Harry says. "[It was] the most depressing place." The producer brought him to a studio that was inside old church where a priest had once performed exorcisms. Harry lived in an attic that lacked hot water and heat.
Back home in the Valley, Harry vowed to avoid Los Angeles. His experiences with the music industry taught him that everyone was fame hungry, fake, and tacky. "I despise social media," Harry says. "Everyone is trying to look rich." The Valley, as he saw it, was more "real."
"I hide in the Valley, in the crevices," Harry explains. "Wherever nature is, I'm there."
In the nature of Calabasas, CA, he started attending house parties. Harry rarely spoke to other kids—he still suffered from insecurities—but occasionally he bumped into Kylie and Kendall Jenner at parties. Sometimes, Kylie would speak to him. They slowly became casual friends.
Harry still spent most his days writing music. Now, he prefers to write outside. "I like views a lot. I like being in nature. I will go with my notebook and [write songs] and relax and mediate." Two years ago, when Harry was 20, he says a major label wanted to sign him. After a meeting with the company's A&R guy, Harry suffered an asthma attack. In the middle of the night, he struggled to breathe again. His mom drove him to the emergency room, and the doctor treated him for asthma.
While Harry lay in bed, the hospital's head doctor coincidentally walked by; he didn't work in the ER, but he had left something in the wing. He stopped by to talk to Harry since he was the only kid receiving medical treatment. He listened to Harry's breathing. "That doesn't sound like asthma," the doctor said. He gave Harry a CAT scan and then came back with the results. Harry's childhood dreams had come true: He had cancer.
The doctor gave him three months to live. On the verge of death, Harry decided he needed to stop worrying about peer pressure and focus on what he wanted. As his mind frame changed, he saw a cancer specialist, who put him on chemotherapy treatment.
"Chemo's bullshit," Harry says. "I feel like there are so many ways to go around [curing cancer]."
Harry admits that chemo works, but he believes his new positive point of view saved him. Doctors told him to eat fruit and vegetables, but he declined. "I ate Taco Bell every day during chemo," Harry explains. "If you spoke about food as the negative, the food would turn into a negative. It would be bad; that's the truth. I put positive energy [into Taco Bell]." He also refused doctors' orders to wear gloves and a mask outdoors since his immune system had collapsed. One night, Harry went to Universal City Walk without protection, pissing off his family and medical team.
It's impossible to know if Harry's positivity actually kept him alive, but it's verifiable that few of his friends visited him at the hospital. Many kids stopped speaking to Harry, and he started to bald. "I wore a beanie low because I had no eyebrows or hair," Harry says. His friends may have taken selfies with him in the past, but they weren't "real."
Harry thought all California teens were fakers—then Kylie and Kendall Jenner started visiting him at the hospital. Every day, Kylie tended to him at his bedside, and she even started cancelling events to see Harry. "Those two are a blessing," Harry says. "[They] are like my sisters. They dropped so many things just to be there and be a positive thing in my life." Around Kylie, Harry felt like he could be himself—she didn't judge him.
"I consider [her] real," Harry says. "Being real will attract real around you. Everyone is fake till you keep it real."
Along with Kylie, new friends started coming to the hospital. While Harry slept, they played video games in his room. He would wake up and find them there. At his chemotherapy group, he met elderly people on the verge of death. They told Harry to do whatever he wants in life, and he took the advice to heart. "[Cancer] made him more secure about himself," Remy says. "He's opened up way more. He will try more things. Before, he wouldn't do anything."
Last year, Harry says, he dated a 30-year-old woman with a child. He's currently single. Although he says he only dates women, he presents as gender non-conforming. In one of Kylie's recent Snapchat stories, for instance, Harry rocks polka-dot-painted nails. ("Nail day with Harry," Kylie's caption read.) Over the weekend at Coachella, he wore a peach-colored jacket, matching Kylie's peach wig, and two dresses. At his concerts, he performs in a crop top.
"I don't believe in gender. I don't believe in sex," Harry explains, conflating the two. "I can wear a dress, and when people ask me, 'What's your sex?' I say, 'No comment.' There should be no label on life."
Remy is driving down Venice Boulevard. His friend, JJ, sits next to him. He wears a baseball cap and rocks a beard. JJ met Harry and Remy on separate occasions, but it took several months for him to realize they were brothers. Now he hangs with the Hudsons all the time. Last Coachella, JJ texted Harry, asking him where he was. "With The Weeknd," Harry texted back. "He's on stage," JJ wrote. "That's where I'm at," Harry sent him back. JJ says this is standard Harry.
In the back of the Kia, Harry chugs a gallon of distilled water. When Harry had cancer, he only drank Smart Water, but his friend, who works at NASA, told him distilled water is the best drink for cancer patients. "There's nothing. There are no minerals. It's just pure water," Harry explains. "This makes me feel light. I pee all day."
JJ starts recording Harry on Snapchat. "Stop!" Harry yells. He points at JJ's cell phone. "This is our society now."
Harry's phone case shows Albert Einstein holding a sign saying, "Love is the answer." At one point during the drive, Remy passes EO hand sanitizer around the car. He bought it at Whole Foods. "It's so great," Harry says. When we arrive at the beach, Harry runs down the end of the Venice Beach Boardwalk up to a railing that protects people from falling onto the rocks. He climbs over the railing and stares into water. "I picked up a guitar a couple of weeks ago," he says.
Right now, he lives in the Valley, bouncing between Remy's house in Studio City and his friends' homes in Calabasas and Sherman Oaks. He's currently obsessed with California's blooming yellow spring flowers. "I'm on this yellow wave," he says.
On the beach, Harry finds a flower patch filled with yellow daisies, which he dives into and then rolls over. Laying on his back, he closes his eyes. "Get up!" Remy yells. As Harry looks into the sky, a swarm of bees descend onto him. He jumps up and they fly down the boardwalk. "This is the scariest thing!" Harry yells. He trips on his feet and collapses onto the sand. "I can't think straight," he says. "Bees are not the wave."
Harry removes his inhaler and takes two puffs. He has landed in a strange part of the beach, where water flanks the sand on three sides. Across the coast, clouds hover in the middle of the hills, making the hills look like they're floating. The wind nearly knocks off Harry's hat, and he rushes to hold it down on his head. (He's self-conscious about his hair since it's yet to completely grow back following the chemo.)
Harry walks to an electrical fence and leans against the wire. Two crystals hang around his neck. "They keep you balanced," Harry explains. "I have a crystal healer. I go to her every Sunday. She balances me out every day." At one point, Harry looks me directly in the eyes.
"I'm weird, if you haven't noticed."