Queer pop stars are on the rise. Gay phenom Troye Sivan is dominating the charts, unapologetically out Hayley Kiyoko has been dubbed our “lesbian Jesus,” and transgender superstar Kim Petras is thriving in the mainstream.
Joining the collective of openly LGBTQ aritsts leading this industry revolution is Dorian Electra, a gender-fluid singer-songwriter known for unique vocals and a non-conforming appearance. From Electra’s clean-cut suit-and-tie look in the “Career Boy” music video to rocking purple hair and a drawn-on mustache in “Man to Man,” the singer’s modern take on ’80s new wave is fresh and captivating.
Electra’s collaboration with singer Charli XCX in the song “Femmebot” on Pop 2 put Electra on the map last year. That partnership also led to the queer concert series Femmebot Fantasy, a six-show U.S. tour featuring both artists that stopped in Houston—Electra’s home town—last September.
While they currently live and work in L.A., Electra heads back to Space City to headline Going $outh, a South by Southwest (SXSW) kickoff party for queer Houstonians at Pearl Bar on Friday, March 8. Hosted by Houston’s bearded beauty Blackberri, and with DJ Kirby spinning the tunes, the spring-break-themed show features a lineup of national and local LGBTQ pop stars including umru, the Fagedelics, STOO, Wade in the Sonic Joy, Street Queer, and the Houston-based duo Space Kiddettes.
OutSmart spoke with Electra in advance of their highly anticipated homecoming for the Going $outh event.
Lourdes Zavaleta: Dorian, when and why did you decide to embrace your queer identity?
Dorian Electra: I’m super-lucky to have come from a really open family who always supported me and my friends from a young age [when we would] perform dressed in drag. I definitely felt pretty androgynous as a kid, and didn’t face a ton of pressure to conform to traditional gender expectations, so I was able to feel pretty comfortable in my skin most of the time growing up. I knew I had always felt fluid in my sexual orientation, but it wasn’t really until after college that I learned more about gender-fluidity as an identity, and I started realizing how much that really resonated with me. I was really lucky to be welcomed into the queer and drag community in Chicago and L.A.—I learned so much from all of those folks, and they helped make me feel super at home and comfortable with myself.
Does gender fluidity play a role in your work?
It influences so much of my work—the way I choose to express myself through fashion, visuals, and even down to the way I use my voice in my songs. I naturally oscillate between hyper masculine- and hyper feminine-sounding vocals, both in my performance and in the production.
Why is LGBTQ representation in pop music so important?
Queer culture has always influenced pop music and culture, and it’s super-awesome to live in a time when more and more openly queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming artists are being celebrated and able to showcase their work on increasingly mainstream platforms.
“It’s super-awesome to live in a time when more and more openly queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming artists are being celebrated and able to showcase their work on increasingly mainstream platforms.”
Do you have any goals as an openly queer artist? If so, what are they?
I just hope to continue to be myself and share my work with people who enjoy it, and also help support more and more queer and QTPOC artists. I hope that the influence of queer artists can continue to work its way more and more into the mainstream, and help other queer artists be rewarded for the culture and art they create.
Whose idea was it to put Going $outh together?
Trent from Space Kiddettes reached out to me about doing a show, and the lineup sounded amazing—including umru from New York City (who I’ve played a lot with and who has produced some of my upcoming music), Fagedelics (an LGBTQ rap duo from Dallas who I met on Instagram and played with before), and other awesome Texas-based queer acts that I’m super-excited to meet.
Pearl Bar has been the venue for a few of your Houston shows. Why was this spot chosen again for Going $outh?
Julie Mabry at Pearl Bar is a longtime family friend. I’ve known her since I was I was about 7. She used to date my mom, actually. [Julie] is so amazing, and doing so much to make Pearl Bar a space for not only the lesbian community, but for the broader queer community. Julie and all of her staff have so much great energy, and it’s awesome to reconnect with her and collaborate on events.
Is there one thing about your homecoming that you are most looking forward to?
Seeing my family, pets, Houston friends, and eating at Little Pappasitos. You just can’t get the same kind of Tex-Mex anywhere else in the world.
Besides performing, what’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in Houston?
Watching movies with my mom. Sleeping in. [Laughs] And thrifting.
What can your fans expect from Going $outh?
A really great time!
What: Going $outh: A Queer HTX SXSW Party featuring Dorian Electra
When: Friday, March 8, at 8 p.m.
Where: Pearl Bar Houston
This article appears in the March 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.