The Weeknd is one of the biggest musicians in the world, known for his genre-crossing sound and gifted songwriting. Though the singer had a difficult time between leaving home and scoring a record deal, he remains close to his mother and her side of the family, which might leave people wondering about the identity of The Weeknd’s parents.
The Weeknd’s parents are Samra and Makkonen Tesfaye. The couple split shortly after The Weeknd was born, and the singer’s relationship with his father was practically non-existent while growing up.
Read more below about The Weeknd’s childhood, his absentee father, and which parts of his upbringing he credits with helping him succeed in the music industry.
Refugees, Roots, and Rebuilding
The Weeknd was born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye in Toronto, Canada. Though the singer was born in Canada, his parents were Ethiopian immigrants who claimed refuge in Canada due to the treacherous political situation known as the “Red Terror” and the hunger crisis that afflicted the African country in the 1980s.
The Weeknd’s father abandoned the family when Abel was young, leaving The Weeknd to be raised by his mom and grandmother. His mother, Samra Tesfaye, held down multiple jobs, working as a nurse and picking up catering shifts, along with attending night school while trying to provide for her infant son.
The Weeknd has never forgotten the sacrifices his mother made for him, telling Rolling Stone magazine, “I’m a mama’s boy. Everything good, I get from my mother.” Despite the admiration, with his mom juggling multiple responsibilities, the singer was mostly raised by his maternal grandmother, who had joined her daughter and ex-son-in-law in Canada.
The Weeknd’s family held close to their cultural roots, with The Weeknd learning to speak Ethiopian’s native language, Amharic, as his first language, then English as his second. His family also immersed themselves in the music of their home country, and The Weeknd credits that as a big inspiration to his unique sound.
Not only that, but the family continued to be practicing members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and The Weeknd had a strict religious upbringing, including a mostly vegan diet, which The Weeknd still follows to this day.
Fatherless and Fearless
Not much is known about The Weeknd’s father, Makkonen Tefaye, other than he started a new family after leaving The Weeknd and his mother behind. During the same interview with Rolling Stone, The Weeknd discussed his father, saying, “I saw him vaguely when I was six, and then again when I was 11 or 12, and he had a new family and kids. I don’t even know where he lived — I’d see him for, like, a night. I’m sure he’s a great guy. I never judged him. He wasn’t abusive, he wasn’t an alcoholic, he wasn’t an a***hole. He just wasn’t there.”
Despite his close relationship with his mom and grandmother, The Weeknd dropped out of school and left home at 17, where he became homeless and fell into heavy drug use in the years leading up to the release of his first studio album.
When describing the decision to leave his family’s home, The Weeknd said “We grabbed our mattresses from our parents, threw it in our friend’s shitty van and left one weekend and never came back home.” The Weeknd spent half a decade being homeless, living out of a van or crashing on couches to get by.
Success and Sentimentality
Despite his tumultuous upbringing and lack of relationship with his father, The Weeknd went on to international success and superstardom. Though it’s not known if he has forged some sort of relationship with his father since becoming famous, both of his parents have been spotted hanging out backstage at his concerts, where Drake, the rapper responsible for taking The Weeknd mainstream, posed for a photo with The Weeknd’s parents.
You can see The Weeknd discuss his mother and her thoughts on his career in the YouTube video below.