Introducing the Drag Rapper Du Jour
Iggy Azalea on lame fake lesbians, hip-hop homophobia and safeguarding her gays
Let’s get something straight: Iggy Azalea is not a “fake lesbian.” In an era where pseudo bisexuality is all the rage, and though her YouTube breakthrough was basically an anthem for female genitalia, Australia’s rising rap star (real name Amethyst Amelia Kelly) refuses to admit that she kissed a girl and liked it.
Doing it her own way, songs off Azalea’s long-awaited debut, The New Classic–the autobiographical rags-to-riches “Work,” and the boasting liberation single “Fancy”–showcase a fierce fighter who’s resilient, empowered and ready for rap domination.
CA: After several delays, how does it feel to finally get this album out?
IA: Definitely a relief. I think people’s interest and support of “Fancy” came as a bit of a surprise. I didn’t anticipate it being as embraced as it has been on radio, so I think I’ve been very lucky in my situation leading up to my album. I’m very happy at the moment to be putting (the album) out and feeling like, yes, it’s finally out, but also, I have a song that’s doing well and getting radio play, which is something that I never usually get, so I’m very excited.
You’ve been embraced in the gay community since the beginning, when you released your mixtape, Ignorant Art, in 2011.
Well, I am a drag queen, so ... (Laughs)
Do you call yourself a drag queen?
I always call myself a drag queen. My hairdresser always says, “You’re a big drag queen. You’re in drag makeup, drag hair...” And it’s true! I can’t help it!
The New Classic embraces themes of empowerment, independence and perseverance. Was that intentional?
That’s the general gist of my album, yeah, but I didn’t go into it thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna do these themes.” I just said, “I’m gonna write about my life.” And reflecting on it, and in retrospect, it makes sense considering it is my life, and my life is a shit fight. (Laughs)
You’ve been very open about your life being a “shit fight,” saying you were ostracized and that you felt like an outsider. Does that have anything to do with why you’re drawn to gay people?
I don’t think so. I think I just love that gay people generally have great taste and are fabulous ... and I think I’m the same! (Laughs) That’s what I think we have in common the most, but we definitely do have being ostracized in common too. I relate to that as well, and I’ll talk about certain things like that and draw comparisons over time. But I just know so many gay men–Marco Marco, who does my costumes, and my hairdresser–that I think are so creative and totally get it, I guess. They get how it’s cheeky or how it’s poking fun, whereas sometimes other people can take longer to catch on. For some reason the gay community seems to be straightaway, like, “We get what you’re doing here,” so I think that’s why I’ve worked and aligned myself with so many gay men more than anyone else. They understand it and I don’t sit there all day long explaining to them, “This is what it needs to look like, blah, blah, blah.”
Who was the first gay person you connected to on that level?
My choreographer. I still have the same choreographer that I had when I was 17. His name is Victor Jackson. He’s really amazing. I remember the first time I ever met him: He was my stage coach and he was teaching me how to have confidence on stage – little things like stage blocking and always making sure you’re in the middle of the stage for the chorus. I didn’t know that when I was 17 and that’s when I met him. I remember the first time I met him and he was like, “Just do what you would normally do,” and I did it and he was like, “Oh my god, you’re such a drag queen.” And he’s been my friend since then. He still choreographs everything I do. He does my stage shows, all my music videos. He chooses all my dances – and he just gets me. He’s the first gay guy that I was like, “Yes, you have to stick with me for life.”
You watch RuPaul’s Drag Race together, don’t you?
I love RuPaul actually! I met him the other day and we’ve kept in contact. It’s so funny because my makeup artist can’t make it on my tour because she teaches makeup classes as well and she’s doing a course at the same time I happen to have my tour. I’m like, “Oh no. Who’s gonna do my makeup?!” I said to my hairdresser, “I need a drag queen makeup artist! I don’t want one of these usual makeup artists that put makeup on models.” I call it “casket ready.” I don’t need someone who hates makeup that does, like, runway makeup. I said to my hairdresser, “Who do you think does the best makeup?” He said Raja Gemini, so I’m getting Raja Gemini.
What exactly is the difference between a drag queen makeup artist and a regular makeup artist?
Regular makeup artists don’t even believe in makeup; it’s so fucking weird to me. Like, you’re a makeup artist but you hate makeup? I see this hierarchy among makeup artists, and with fashion magazines too, and they’re anti-drag makeup. My makeup artist really does do drag makeup too, and I always say she’s a big drag queen as well. It’s heavy and thick and more theatrical–it’s all those things–but just because you go extra on the makeup or you can do it more theatrical doesn’t mean it can’t look good. There’s actually more skill involved in doing a nice contour and a transformation and doing theater makeup or stage makeup. It’s much harder. I always try to book my makeup artists for my shoot and they’ll be like, “Oh no, we don’t want you to have such heavy makeup.” I always laugh and say to them, “Do you know how much fucking makeup I was wearing in that picture, bitch? Stop trying to be so uppity about it.” It’s like if you do draggy makeup, it’s “eww.” If you do all moisturizer and five licks of mascara, then, “Ooh, that’s a makeup artist.” I think it’s complete shit. And if they don’t let me have my makeup artist, I just show up with my makeup done. Be like, “Hey, I’m here. You’re not touching my face.”
When it comes to the gay rights movement, the world is obviously evolving. Do you feel like hip-hop is keeping up with that evolution?
Yeah, I think so. I saw Le1f, the rapper ... the gay rapper.
The one gay rapper.
The one gay rapper–as if there aren’t more! (Laughs) I did see him perform on David Letterman the other day and thought, “Wow, I don’t think I would’ve seen that six years ago.” I think it’s the same thing with accepting people of different nationalities who are from different parts of the world. It takes consumers to make them see that they have a place, and I don’t think people that hold the keys to the castle are just gonna fucking hand them over and let you in – whether you’re gay or whatever! You have to just get out there enough and then be like, “I have an audience, so fuck you.”
Have you ever experienced first-hand incidents of homophobia within hip-hop?
Definitely. I mean, I’m around a lot of guys who are ‘hood guys, and I have the gayest hairdresser of all time. He likes to dress in themes, so there’s definitely times when it’s never kind of said, but when I’m like, “Mmm, no. It’s gonna be trouble to bring you around these people because they’re gonna fucking say shit.”
Aww, so you’re the mother hen to the gays.
Yeah, pretty much. But sometimes I’ll be surprised as well. Sometimes, especially with my hairdresser, Sami (Knight), who’s just so flamboyant, which is why I love, love, love him, there are guys who I would think would be so anti-that and they’ll be like, “I love Sami. He’s so cool, he’s so fun to have a conversation with, and he’s awesome.” So there are times I’ve been surprised, but also times when I feel very protective over him.
So, there’s “Pu$$y,” of course, but then on “Drop That,” a song off Ignorant Art, you say, “I ain’t gay, so problem is, I’ll have to pass.” Do people assume otherwise?
I think they do because I will do songs and I’ll talk about women, and also, there was such a big trend of people being fake bisexuals. I don’t know what that was about. Like, “I’m such a bisexual woman,” and I’d be like, “But you had boyfriends your whole life; you’re not gay. Why are you pretending to be? What’s with that?” I know I talk about women a lot and I think women are beautiful and I like talking about them, but I didn’t want people to misconstrue that and think that I was being a fake lesbian. It wasn’t a, “Don’t think I’m gay,” but more so me being like, “Hey, I’m not a fake lesbian.” Straight’s cool too, you know! It’s almost like gay nowadays is so trendy that people want to be gay and then they don’t. I’m not gay. I love gay people, but I’m straight. I don’t wanna kiss girls. I’m not into girls. I appreciate women, and I like rapping about them, but in case you thought I was a lame person pretending to be gay, um, I’m not.
I appreciate anyone who stays true to themselves regardless of their sexuality.
I agree. I just hate when people do it to try to be trendy, and I see it so much in songwriting and it’s like, you’re not even bi-curious! You’ve probably never even been with a girl in any capacity! But somebody’s written this lyric for you and you think it’s cool so you’re saying it? It’s corny and it’s lame.
So, I take it you’re not a fan of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”?
I don’t know. I don’t wanna get into Katy Perry. First of all, that song is catchy as hell; I can’t front. And second, I love Katy and she wrote songs on my album so I don’t want to start naming people. Especially not Katy, because she’s my friend and next thing you know I’ll be getting a phone call.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.