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5 LGBTQ artists paving their own lane to mainstream music success

LGBTQ artists

While there have always been LGBTQ+ artists in popular music, there is a new generation of openly queer artists who are increasingly entering the mainstream.

The expression of queer identity in music has evolved dramatically over the last few years, with a new wave of artists proudly asserting their identity and challenging the boundaries of musical genres to create stunning and innovative work.

Here is a list of LGBTQ+ artists who are challenging and resignifying the norms around gender, sexuality, and empowerment for those within the LGBTQ+ community.


MNEK is a singer, songwriter and music producer from South London whose collaboration list racks up to an impressive CV, writing songs for the likes of Madonna, Beyonce, Rudimental, Dua Lipa, Kylie Minogue, Gordon City, Duke Dumont, Oliver Heldens and more.

MNEK has 8 years of experience in the industry and has collaborated with some major artists. Now, he is looking to shape and make an impact on pop music, but this time, solo. The release of the 23-year-old’s debut solo studio album Language signals that the artist is destined for pop superstardom.

The broad application of the title of his debut album, Language, speaks to the way MNEK is neither interested in conforming to any singular idea of himself as both an artist or a person nor does he figure these two identities as mutually exclusive.

For MNEK, every individual has their own mode of communicating to others, their own language of love, their own language in which to express their race, gender, and sexuality — for our identity is performative, the ‘norm’ is in itself, an effect of multiplied performances. He will be touring the U.S. in February.

Dizzy Fae

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The Minnesotan artist, Dizzy Fae, has made waves with her stunning and haunting music video for the track, “Her/Indica.” The orange-hued video is a tender depiction of the artist’s first time falling for a woman.

Though her mixtape, Free Form, is lauded by music credits for its genre-defying style and experimental form, Dizzy is actually a classically trained musician who grew up listening to opera and classical music and later transition to jazz and also acquired the skill of learning the trumpet.

Indeed, she credits her classical training to shaping both her life course and the music she makes today. At the same time, these music genres echo in her tracks along with the synths and electronic sounds that culminate Free Form into an evolutionary sonic journey.

Just as much as her new mixtape, Free Form, chronicles her journey of self-discovery as an artist, it also chronicles her journey in finding her sexual identity. In speaking to Gay Times UK, on the source of inspiration for the track “Her/Indica” and her sexual identity, she said,

“It might or might not have been real love, but it was something that helped me love myself, which is very fun and very beautiful, I identify as queer. I believe that queer is the blanket for it all. It’s knowing who you are, and being okay with who you’re not.”

Dizzy is a part of a growing generational group of LGBTQ artists. She is ready to make a dent in the music industry while flying the rainbow flag and being an important public face for queer women of color. She declared in an interview with Out Magazine,

“If I can be anything, it’s that person that someone can look at and be like, ‘I feel you’,”

King Princess

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King Princess, born Mikaela Straus, grew up surrounded by music. With her father being the owner of a recording studio, the Brooklyn artist and multi-instrumentalist spent her early years at the music studio writing songs that garnered the attention of record companies.

Though she warded off early record deals to focus on her education, King Princess ultimately launched her music career later while she was in enrolled in college at the University of Southern California.

In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, she noted that she wrote “Talia” 20 minutes before class and recalled that the melody to “1950,” what would later be her debut single, came to her whilst in the shower.

She posted her five-song EP Make My Bed, on SoundCloud: a record that took a life of its own and eventually traveled to the ears of Harry Styles who then tweeted a line from the track, “1950.” After that, King Princess became the first signee to Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records, his new label under Columbia.

King Princess is assertive about her sexual identity. Her debut single and queer love song, “1950” is accompanied by an adorable and super-8 style music video.

According to the 19-year-old indie-pop singer, “1950” was inspired by one of her favorite books, 1952’s The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, which later became the Todd Haynes film, Carol. It’s a song laden with longing, hidden desire and the unrequited queer love that was particularly characteristic of the historical period.

Khalif Jones (aka Le1f)

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Khalif Jones, better known by his stage name, Le1f (pronounced “leaf”), is a rapper and producer born and raised in Manhattan. Le1f studied ballet and modern dance, but ultimately notable figure in New York nightlife scene.

The New York-based MC has received critical acclaim for his self-released mixtapes, his debut album Riot Boi, he now runs the hip hop label Camp & Street, a subsidiary of Greedhead Music. As an openly gay rapper, he’s garnered attention for his subversive music and performances.

His music defies and pushes the boundaries of a genre; rendering his music to be queer in both its lyricism and production. The emcee knows how to make a statement as his lyrics are critical and politically charged.

Yet, he is also aware of how his identity as an openly gay Black rapper is typically figured in the media and how non-normative gender identities and sexualities are viewed within the black community. In speaking to Noisey, he claimed,

“I think as a black man and a gay man talking about politics, the tropes get identified as anger just off of what culture decides happens when black people talk about politics.”


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I hope a nigga doesn’t, but i wish a nigga would. 📸: @katekillet

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Shamir grew up in Sin City. After emailing a few demos to a small Brooklyn-based label Godmode, he received an email requesting him to come to New York City straight away. An EP, Northtown, followed, and soon after Shamir signed a multi-album deal with XL, home of FKA twigs, The XX and Adele.

That was 2015 and Shamir was 19-years-old. Though his breakout experimental electronic pop debut, Ratchet catapulted him to stardom, Shamir was ultimately dropped from the label for not meeting creative expectations and changing his musical style.

Looking back at that time, Shamir describes that he went along with the ride of fame and success and insists that the reset to his career is freeing.

In 2017, the gender queer artist released Revelations and in 2018, Resolutions whose indie-rock vibes are a departure from his debut album that blended house and electronic beats with striking sometimes soul-baring lyrics. In discussing his sexual and gender identity to The Guardian, he explains,

“I never felt like a boy or a girl, never felt I should wear this or dress like that. I think that’s where that confidence comes from because I never felt I had to play a part in my life. I just always come as Shamir.”

Shamir’s story is a testament to his perseverance, an example of how to stay true to one’s artistic integrity, and a guide on how to be open to the different platforms that come with exhibiting one’s art.