Unapologetically Queer: An Interview With The Incomparable Dorian Electra

emilytreadgold #1, Features

Dorian Electra is like no other act I've seen, their over-the-top videos and songs are like nothing else in pop music right now, and I firmly believe it's one of best things to happen to music. The first video I saw was "Daddy Like" and I quickly viewed "Flamboyant" and "Career Boy" after, sending me on an obsessive spiral into Dorian's world where tiny mustaches and backup dancers rule and you can come back from the dead in a goth-dominatrix funeral to dance with your sugar babies. It sounds extreme but that's the point, Dorian couldn't be boring if they tried.

I'm so excited that you're from Houston! I feel like people have a lot of pre-conceived notions about Texas. What was it like growing up there for you? 

I was very lucky to be in a super accepting and open atmosphere and community with my family and even the school I went to. I think knowing that I lived in Texas, and knowing that wasn't the norm and trying to appreciate that really helped me be aware of how that's not how everyone thinks. It can be easy to forget that.

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How did you start working with Refinery 29?

Dorian: I would do educational music video series on the history of sexuality and gender. They wanted to do a video for Valentines Day, and they said I could do anything I wanted as long as it was an original video about sex ed. I did my research and thought, 'Oh, the history of the clitoris would be good there's really not a lot of information out there.' Then I did 5 or 6 videos with them and after that, I wanted to transition into doing my own music that wasn't explicit educational. I wanted to build the audience for that and make sure the timing was right. I felt like those videos helped me build a fanbase and be able to play shows. That propelled me into making my own music independently. 

How did that turn in Flamboyant?

Dorian: I wanted to explore different masculine characters or tropes to make the themes accessible and relatable and fun too. Part of it is a personal exploration for me of my own gender identity. Part of it is taking on other characters or historical moments that interest me. The aesthetic is a blend of things I've been into for a long time: medieval renaissance baroque, futuristic pop, and heavy metal and rock n' roll and electronic music. I wanted to blend that together with visuals and sound. It's about being unapologetically yourself and unapologetically queer and being flamboyant.


Was it hard starting out and being, well, that much?

Dorian: I was worried for a while, especially in the pop-music realm, a lot of the aesthetic is more about playing it cool. Everything is a little more toned-down or effortless. Effortless is not my vibe, mine is purposefully constructed looking and very intentionally over-the-top and elaborate. There was definitely a struggle for me to be like, 'Are people going to like this? Are they going to think I'm a clown?' When I put out the "Flamboyant" music video, I didn't expect it to have the reaction it did. It's my most popular video and the reception was amazing. I thought people would find it niche and not like a polished pop-star vibe.

How does being gender fluid inform your music?

Dorian: I feel like, I wish I'd seen more of that when I was growing up. I just feel like it was such big deal if you even heard a celerity saying they were bi or even Pete Wentz wearing eyeliner, that was a big deal. Music industry people get a certain pass, they're allowed to be more androgynous or gender-challenging and be more accepted, but I feel like there wasn't enough representation and everything has changed so much. It's so cool to see so many young people that are out and queer and trans in high-school and younger. I just think having that in music is so important to continue making those kids feel supported. Being authentic and not feeling like, as an artist, you have to conform to something you're not because you're afraid you won't fit in or have industry backing. I am an independent artist and I do think there are challenges with how someone would see me as being viable in a big industry way but I'd rather remain independent my whole life if it means I can be true to who I am.


What has been the biggest challenge for you in your music career?

Dorian: Being independent is hard. I booked my whole tour myself. It took me so many hours and so many emails and spreadsheets. I'm very proud of it and I think that will be the last time I do that myself and I think that was a big challenge. I also felt very welcomed by people and very supported. I feel like I've been supported in an organic way but not in an industry way.

How does it feel to have that organic growth?

Dorian: It's so cool to see things that I thought would be niche have a bigger audience. I wish I could get it out to more people. My last YouTube video got into a really good algorithm and people kept commenting like, 'Thank you YouTube for recommending this, how did I not know about this before I'm nonbinary' or 'Wow I think my sexuality is confused now' maybe people don't know if I'm man or woman or what but they like it. When you put something out that's weird or shocking it can have a really positive reaction.

I've been harassing my friends with these videos so I GET IT, so what would be your advice to someone who is struggling with their identity?

Dorian: I would say take your time, there's no rush for you to feel like you fit into any category. You don't need to rush into any new category or label. Generally being open-minded and knowing that it's okay to feel unsure about whatever it is, the whole nature is to feel uncertain, and nothing is black-and-white. It took me a long time to get comfortable with my own things and if I wanted to use they/them pronouns and why I didn't like that at first and I didn't like the term non-binary at first, and it wasn't that easy for me overnight to say I'm gender-fluid and they/them.

Follow Dorian on Instagram and get tickets to see them in concert ASAP because shows are selling out fast and you do not want to sleep on this.