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30th May 2023

“Whatever genre of music you think there is not queer people in, I promise they’re there…”

Rory Cashin

Trixie Mattel

Trixie Mattel, Michelle Visage and Vanessa Williams give a powerful response to today’s relationship between the music industry and queer artists.

We’re obviously in a very odd time right now, which is why shows like Queens of the Universe can subtly prove to be so important. In an age where Sam Smith, Lil’ Nas X and Kim Petras can get number one songs AND be singled-out for endless online hate and scandalous headlines, reality shows that put a spotlight on the full breadth of the sexual spectrum can manage to be enlightening while also massively entertaining.

Season 2 of the show kicks off this week, with host Graham Norton and judges Trixie Mattel, Michelle Visage, Vanessa Williams and Mel B choosing between the best singing drag acts on the show, before ultimately crowning one of them… well, yeah, the Queen of the Universe.

In the run-up to the release of the new season, we were lucky enough to have a nice long chat with with Trixie Mattel, Michelle Visage and Vanessa Williams, and you can check out that interview in full right here:

During the chat, in which we also discuss the best place in the world to celebrate Pride, the trio’s go-to karaoke songs, and how singing competitions can bring out so many emotions in both the viewers and the judges, we brought up the topic of queerness in modern music.

Considering that that this reality show is the perfect middle ground between singing talent and queer celebration, how did the judges feel about the music industry’s current relationship with queer artists? Michelle Visage answered first:

“Well, queer artistry has always been there, it has always been a thing. They’ve just never been revered and honoured for who they are. They had to repress it and suppress it and not be authentic, because their careers were at risk. This is a very old story, a tale as old as time.

“So the fact that we’re moving forward in so many ways, and yet moving backwards, is exciting and also terrifying. To have a number one song from Sam Smith and Kim Petras, it is like ‘YES!’, but at the same time they’re getting condemned for what they do, in America. It is a mess right now.

“The musical landscape has always been queer. Just not celebrated for it. So it is about damn time, to quote Lizzo, that we do celebrate these queer artists for who they are. And let us not forget that they are able to be out and proud because of their brothers and sisters leading the way. That is what this is all about, and that is what Queen of the Universe celebrates.

“First and foremost their artistry, and then their backgrounds, their queerness, for who they are as human beings.”

Trixie Mattel then added: “As gay people, we love to say we told you say. So when someone like Kim Petras gets a Grammy, those of us are like ‘Yeah, we knew, we’ve been saying that!’ A lot of music has always been queer, and queer people have always been the taste makers and the inspirers in music.

“And it is just being said more now. […] There is a lot more queer people out there. Whatever genre of music that you think there is not queer people in, I promise they’re there. They’ve always been there.”

And finally Vanessa Williams told us: “On the flip side, on my first tour in 1997, I toured with Luther Vandross, who is one of my best, best friends. And he had to hide his whole career. And he was the epitome of R’n’B soul, singing to all of these women that were loving him and dreaming about him, and his reality, he could never be out.

“So I’ve seen the pain and the layers of hiding, and knowing the real person. And again, they’ve always been within our music industry.”

Queen of the Universe Season 2 is available to stream exclusively on Paramount+ from Saturday, 3 June.

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