Intro and Interview by Naydeline Mejia
Allie X is a new indomitable force in the land of pop music and is making waves as one of the most exciting rising artists to emerge in the past few years – embracing drag and identity exploration as a core part of her musical practice. You might know the haunting whistle from her hit song “Paper Love” – basically a siren song for millennial babes who continually fall for bad boys.
Oh-so mysterious as she is, the “X” in Allie X’s name represents the unknown variable in algebra and is the identity she takes on to describe her journey toward self-discovery. The Canadian singer-songwriter is classically trained in musical theatre and the arts, started her career in Toronto as an indie performer – and has released three albums under the pseudonym “Allie X” since moving to Los Angeles in 2013.
Throughout the Super Sunset era, her sophomore EP, Allie explores her journey of moving to and living in LA through embodying three different personas: the nun, the Hollywood starlet, and sci-fi girl. The nun represents the rawness and spiritual side of being an artist; the Hollywood starlet reflects the fraudulence of trying to make it in the music industry; and the sci-fi girl, the persona Allie says she most closely identifies with, embodies the emotional disconnect and weirdness she has within herself. Ms. X is also a well-known artist and figure in the queer community thanks to her outspoken advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and frequent experimentation with radical looks. Allie X co-wrote seven songs on Troye Sivan’s album Blue Neighborhood, including “Youth” and “Talk Me Down”.
During our conversation, Allie tells me about the dating scene in Hollywood, venturing outside of traditional femininity, intimidating men with her attitude and looks, and why she thinks more girls should experiment with drag. We learned that, one, we should never water ourselves down in order to make other people comfortable, and, two, no person that finds our strong personas and appearances intimidating is worthy of our time.
Salty: In your EP, Super Sunset, you explore three different personas: the nun, the Hollywood starlet, and sci-fi girl. You said in an interview with The Verge that the Hollywood starlet represents “the fakeness when you’re trying to make it” in Hollywood. She’s kind of delusional, and representative of the grandeur and fraudulence of fame. Do you find this translates into the dating scene as well? Is it difficult to date and find genuine connections in Hollywood?
Everyone is so focused on themselves and money and fame. It’s hard enough to find real friends, let alone a romantic partner you can trust. That being said, I did happen to find a diamond in the rough.
Salty: In your opinion, what makes your relationship work?
I am in a long-term relationship and I have no idea how that happened. I’ve never dated anyone for a long period of time, or even dated much at all to be honest. I think I found someone who isn’t scared of me and doesn’t play games. Someone who doesn’t think I’m “weird,” and shows so much love over and over again, so that I never have to feel unsure about where I stand.
Salty: You said in an interview with Teen Vogue that you’ve always felt more comfortable doing radical looks and being androgynous. You also said you just recently started getting in touch with your feminine side. Do you think there’s a lot of pressure on women to be feminine? Do you find that men are intimidated by you because you venture outside of traditional femininity?
The simple answer is yes, but it’s more complicated than that. Very few men, or boys, have ever been attracted to me or pursued me as a love interest. Whether I have done radical looks or not, I project some sort of energy that is perhaps intimidating or too masculine or not flirtatious. Now that I’m older and have been with someone that makes me feel more “womanly”, I do feel like I’m getting more in touch with my feminine side. Like the side that wants to nurture and comfort others, that enjoys showing the curves of my body, and that likes to double cleanse my face, then put on an oil, then an essence, THEN a moisturizer—it feels good. But yeah, [femininity] it’s never come naturally to me. And my looks and attitude have bothered and intimidated most men I’ve dated.
I mean it’s not like I’m going out to straight clubs looking like I do, and putting it to the test these days, but the guys I’ve dated in the past often had problems with how I dressed or performed or how I did my makeup. Even when I did MUCH less radical looks I still had guys making me feel like I should “tone it down”, be sweet, be pretty—these are not qualities that come naturally to me!
Salty: Why do you think people you have dated in the past have been intimidated by your attitude and looks? Do you think straight men are reluctant to date strong women and women who don’t fit their idea of femininity? If so, any tips for filtering out weak men when dating?
I do think straight men are reluctant to date women who don’t fit their idea of femininity. I know some straight men that like strong women, you know, that want to be told what to do. And I’ve met some straight men that think they are feminists, but in practice not so much.
Salty: My favorite persona from Super Sunset has to be Hollywood starlet. Where do you find inspiration for your many characters and looks?
The starlet kind of happened when I shot with Vijat Mohindra and put on that big blonde wig for the first time. I just felt so smiley and my body language changed. I was like, “Oh hello! Who are you? Let’s have fun with you.” And did I ever! The characters seem to just emerge from the songs and from the bodies of work. I love world building, I do it with all my songs—always writing within a concept. It’s fun to let your imagination go, and get acquainted with those that occupy the world you are building.
“I have come quite a long way from where I started … I’m feeling more feminine; I feel like this has come alongside a happiness and calmness that I have allowed into my life. I no longer want to be the tragic, tortured person that I wanted to be for most of my life. I want to happy. I want to make others happy.”Allie X
Salty: What would you say to a young girl (or anyone, really) who wants to experiment with more radical, androgynous, or gender-nonconforming looks, but doesn’t know where to start or is afraid of how others might perceive them?
Go for it girls! We see a lot of boys doing drag. Imagine if drag became a popular form of expression for high school girls, for instance. I want to see more girls pushing the envelope on society’s ideas about gender. Having that form of expression be cool and acceptable would make space for those of us that don’t fit the norm, to feel accepted and comfortable.
Salty: Can I just say that I think you are a total boss! You have complete creative control over your career and are hand-picking everything from songwriters to your hairstylist. Why is it important for you to remain an independent artist and how do you hold your own in an industry dominated by cis, straight men?
Thanks for saying that! I kind of am; I can give myself credit for that. I am a control freak and have a hand in everything—marketing, music production, campaign rollout, producing photoshoots and videos, finding my glam team, stylists, photographers (pats self on the back). Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a control freak, but I just am and it’s really the only way I see my project working. I’m not pumping out Top 40 hits; what I do is more nuanced and it appeals to the fan base I do have because of all the personal detail—at least that’s what I think. The “big guys” in the industry have never immediately believed in me, and a lot of them still don’t. I’ve always had to show them, and I will continue showing them. I honestly try to ignore the male gaze of this industry, even though it is very present. That’s one of many parts that’s amazing about not being signed to a major label; if I was, then you’d get the radio and marketing team that are built into the label. My whole team—made up of women, gay men, and respectful straight men—is handpicked by me at this point and I am surrounded by people whose energy makes me feel good.
“That’s one of many parts that’s amazing about not being signed to a major label; if I was, then you’d get the radio and marketing team that are built into the label. My whole team—made up of women, gay men, and respectful straight men—is handpicked by me at this point and I am surrounded by people whose energy makes me feel good.”Allie X
Salty: Do you think that in today’s climate, artists, particularly those in mainstream pop music, have a responsibility to take sides on social and cultural issues? If so, what issues are you most passionate about?
I don’t think it’s the responsibility [of the artist] to take sides, but I do think it’s important to be educated and informed when expressing an opinion. And I do support the artists that are outspoken and educated about what they are talking about. I speak rather often about LGBTQ+ rights, and I am also very passionate about health and alternative health choices.
Salty: Why do you think many members of the LGBTQ+ community have gravitated toward your music?
Because they have taste! [laughs]
No, the way I answer this question is this: the LGBTQ+ community is just where I’ve always fit in, in and outside of music. When I was being ignored and made fun of by straight boys in my youth, the gays were lifting me up—or we were struggling together and lifting each other up [laughs]. When I saw Cabaret for the first time, it moved me and I felt such a connection to the queer emcee character. When I went out on weekends in my early 20’s, I was going to gay clubs. When I am crying, I’m calling my gay friends. When I’m crying-laughing, it’s with my gay friends.
Salty: I know you work closely with Troye Sivan. I’ve been following Troye from his YouTube days, so I’m so glad to hear about this collaboration and friendship. I know Troye experiments a lot with makeup and more traditionally feminine silhouettes in his music videos, kind of redefining gender roles in music and society in that way. Are there any other artists today that you think are redefining gender roles and what society deems as feminine and masculine?
Troye is a great example of a person who is working to redefine gender roles. He is very masculine and feminine at the same time—sexy to girls and boys. He represents a new kind of millennial pop star. There are many others. I love seeing Miss Fame, Aquaria and Violet Chachki so much a part of the fashion world; I believe Miss Fame and Aquaria are signed as actual fashion models, which feels very new and progressive—so that’s exciting. I love Hayley Kiyoko and what she stands for. I toured with her last year, and she is a total sweetheart. King Princess is great, and also feels very effortless and millennial. Obsessed with Pabllo Vittar—again a new type of artist.
Salty: Which women in music, today, are you most excited about?
Mitski is a wonderful voice in music. MUNA I really love. Robyn, Grimes, Bibi Bourelly, Janelle Monae, Lizzo, Charli XCX, and many others. I like the ones that are pushing culture forward.
Salty: I know the “X” in your name represents finding your truth and this artistic and personal journey toward self-discovery that you are on. Where are you right now in your artistic and personal journey? Will we meet Allie, sans the “X”, sometime in the near future?
You’ve done your research! Thanks for asking. I have come quite a long way from where I started. I mentioned earlier that I’m feeling more feminine; I feel like this has come alongside a happiness and calmness that I have allowed into my life. I no longer want to be the tragic, tortured person that I wanted to be for most of my life. I want to happy. I want to make others happy. That’s pretty good right? [laughs] I don’t know if I’ll ever lose the “X”, but I have evolved a great deal. By putting an “X” in my name, I have given myself the freedom to keep learning, questioning, and evolving for my whole life. I love that freedom, and I want my fans to feel the same thing.
Salty: What’s next for Allie X? Any creative projects in the works that you want us to know about?
I am actually in the studio right now finishing something I’m very proud of. 😉
Salty: We can’t wait to hear it!
Written by Naydeline Mejia
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