“I Just Wanted To Be Myself And Talk About Queer Shit”: How King Princess Found Her Place
"Because we have so few out gay artists who are as unapologetic about their sexuality as they are about their music, it's important for me to be loud and open."
“You sound gay as fuck!” King Princess tells me before hanging up the phone at the end of our interview.
It’s an accurate assessment, and one that sounds totally natural coming from Mikaela Straus. If there’s one thing to be gleaned from a chat with Straus, it’s that she’s not afraid to tell you how she feels.
And why should she be afraid? At just 19 years old, the young singer has been hailed as a “prodigy in the making” by her label-head Mark Ronson, and her Make My Bed EP was one of 2018’s most hyped debuts after the runaway success of its single, ‘1950’.
The EP is a delicate and personal exploration queer love and heartbreak, presented with a maturity that speaks far beyond Straus’ years. At an age when many young queer people would be struggling with identity and acceptance, King Princess has found herself a role model in the LGBTIQ community.
Music Junkee spoke to Straus about her rapid musical ascension, the knotty concept of identity, and how she finds her place within the queer community. When she tells us: “We’re a fucking legacy, baby. We’re a part of some real shit. It is a privilege to be in this community. It is iconic.”, we believe it.
You released your first single just eight months ago. How has it been adjusting to your new life in the spotlight, as someone that’s been tapped as one of the biggest up and comers in music?
It is not easy. I’ve been planning my ‘reign’ for many years but then I put that shit [‘1950’] out and it blew up and I don’t think anyone can anticipate what it does to you to all of a sudden be in public. To feel like you are now belonging to the world and not only yourself.
I think that’s challenging and people don’t talk about it a lot, how it’s really fucking hard. To a certain extent, it looks really great on the outside but the stress, the anxiety, and the pressure is also really taxing. You have to prepare for that. I don’t think anybody has the ability to be fully prepared for it before you’re living it.
You’re the first signing to Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records; he’s referred to you as a “prodigy”. How does it feel to have someone as well respected and knowledgeable as Mark Ronson backing you and saying you’re the future of music?
Well, it means the fucking world to me. When I met him and he was saying that shit I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I was freaking out and having panic attacks because this shit is crazy. Now that he’s just Marky Mark in a way it’s like, ‘Shut up dad! You’re embarrassing me’.
You wrote and produced all the tracks on the EP and it shows in how personal the stories of the songs are. Do you ever find yourself writing something thinking ‘That’s a bit fucked I don’t wanna share this with the world’?
I think the only way to put out music that has integrity, and that is honest, is to be that open. I really believe that.
I believe that you can’t put out music that is compelling and connects with the people without it being personal. But I also do worry. I put out some real shit where people know shit about me. They know I’m sensitive.
The EP is a celebration of queer love and identity. At just 19 years old, you have a confidence in your identity that a lot of young queer people have yet to find within themselves. Where does that confidence come from?
I’m really confident in who I wanna be with, women typically. I think queer identity is interesting because it exists on multiple levels.
It’s like you could be extremely confident with who you wanna sleep with, but not feel comfortable with being outward about the other aspects of queer identity, which is that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, and you’re part of a community.
“I just wanted to be myself and talk about queer shit.”
We carry the weight of our ancestors on our shoulders, that is tough. Knowing what you want is just the tip of the iceberg and I think what I’m still working on is being that representative of my identity that I would want.
I think that I figured out I was gay really young, so that was helpful. It was a kind of trial and error, learning how to come out in different ways. I figured out that being loud and being agro about it, that’s my tea. I’m not going to be quiet about this shit. I’m done with straight people fucking walking around all day, telling me they’re fucking, and I’m tired of it. I just wanted to be myself and talk about queer shit.
For me, that part happened pretty young but I’m still working on it every day, figuring out how I fall into the history of my community and how I want to be received by the kids and parents.
Is it important for you that you’re using your voice and platform to talk about queer things and be a figurehead of the community?
Yes, and I think that a lot of people approach it different ways. There are certain people who find that it’s not important to them to let the music be queer itself, which I do.
But because we have so few out gay artists who are as unapologetic about their sexuality as they are about their music, it’s important for me to be loud and open about my sexuality and my gender orientation, which is fucking confusing as fuck.
You think about who you wanna fuck but you don’t think about your body and the way you present yourself.
The gender thing is so hard now, I didn’t think about it for so long. You think about who you wanna fuck but you don’t think about your body and the way you present yourself and how the clothes you wear affect your confidence walking down the street. I think that’s something I’m even new to and learning about every day.
It’s so hard but also it’s amazing when you find your community and the people around you who give you the space to play dress up and experiment. That’s the great thing about the queer community. It’s about choosing your people and choosing your family, when you find that you find comfort in your community.
You made your live debut back in June at The Troubadour in Hollywood. Since then you’ve pretty much been on a world tour, how has your live show developed over the past few months?
Oh my god. I wanted to shit my pants before every show on the first tour. It was so fucked up dude. I was having the worst time of my life because once I was on stage, it was fine, but before, it was like, oh my god, I wanna die.
Now I’m having a blast, the confidence that you get from playing fifty shows is crazy. I was hoping and telling myself that it would happen. I would say, I’m going to get up on stage and do my thing and not wanna shit my pants. Now it’s actually happening and I’m like “fuck this is sick!”
Patrick Campbell is a writer and DJ based in Sydney. You can follow him online @Tildaswagton.
Spotify Presents Front Left Live was Spotify’s first live playlist event in the Southern Hemisphere. A free event held at Carriageworks in Sydney, it celebrated the flagship Front Left playlist.
King Princess 2018 Australian Tour Dates
- Friday, November 2 — Forum, Melbourne
- Saturday, November 3 — The Triffid, Brisbane
- Tuesday, November 6 — Metro Theatre, Sydney