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The first panel of Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter‘s inaugural Pride Summit was all about queer emerging artists, featuring Bayli, Daya, K. Flay, Parson James and Shea Diamond.
Moderated by Terra Lopez, each artist shared how they have navigated the music industry while advocating for themselves and the LGBTQ+ community.
Below, find the best takeaways from each panelist at the event, which took place Thursday at the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood.
Hailing from New York City, Bayli grew up surrounded by LGBTQ+ culture, but encountered pushback as she entered the industry.
“I grew up seeing culture from the gay community, so my sexual fluidity was something I never even questioned. When I started being attracted to people, it was always boys and girls. I never really felt bad about it. When my band got signed, it was something that I brought up with my management and I was told to just not bring it up because it could affect marketing in a bad way. It was definitely something that was very compromising for me. Now that I’m my own artist, I’m allowed to take a stand and I kind of just went full throttle. My lyrics are very much about my personal life and that includes my sexual fluidity.”
Coming out after already establishing herself as an artist with several breakout hits, Daya touched on what joining the community has meant to her.
“[Coming out] has had many impacts on my career and my music. More than anything I feel like I’ve been the same person all along, but in terms of the consumption of my music it’s been a bit different. I was kind of discouraged, honestly, from coming out because I would lose those mainstream radio fans that I gained from my first singles and my first album. So that was a bit difficult to process in my head, because I am who I am and I want to express that and build a community around that with my fans. So, I did it anyways. Fuck ’em.”
Having received the least backlash out of the group for her decision to come out, K.Flay found that being her true self has only enhanced her career.
“My music has kind of lived in the alternative rock space, so I think maybe there were less conceptions that this would have an affect on my career. But yeah, I had been dating my girlfriend for a year very seriously and it felt odd as an artist who’s very authentic in my online persona and in my songwriting to not express that huge part of my life. It feels like my world has expanded in a lot of ways that I sort of can’t even describe. But just the people that I connect with and have been connected to, my songwriting…there’s just an openness that pervades everything that has been exciting and unexpected.”
After facing discouragement about being open with his sexuality, Parson James made advocacy part of his artistry.
“I would definitely say that I’ve gradually been able to fully immerse myself in making my art parallel with advocacy. I’ve been doing this thing in the major label world since I was about 21, and I was definitely discouraged at first. I was told to be more elusive, like you can’t be a truly successful pop star or musician if everyone knows every part of your life; you’ve gotta hide. That’s kind of a roundabout way of saying ‘Please don’t come out,’ I think. At the time, I was at a major label that was run by two openly gay men. It was really surprising that I wasn’t encouraged in that way and I was told to tone things down. I actually was given an example of one openly gay artist that I look up to a lot and to not be as camp as that person. But, in saying that, I never strayed away from the truth. I grew up in South Carolina where I was denied loving myself for a very long time, and when I busted the fuck out of there the last thing I was gonna do was let people sitting in a boardroom tell me that. I was like, ‘I had to cut off my dad’s side of the family, bitch. I’m not doing that here.’ So I made a vow from then that if I was given a platform, it was my duty to speak my truth. It was no question that advocacy is gonna bleed into my work constantly. That’s who I am now, that’s who I am always.”
Transgender artist and activist Shea Diamond first realized the power of music while serving time in a men’s prison.
“I did 10 years in a male institution. That was another part where I learned that there was just nothing but hatred for people like me. So either I was highly desired or I was purely hated, for no reason. In there, I started writing all my feelings down — I didn’t know it would be a song. It was everything from my treatment with the church to how I was rejected by my mother. The last words I remember before I left home, was she told me that I was going to hell and that I was going to die of AIDS. Those were the last words I heard from my mother. And I had time to think about all the hate that was projected all around, not just from her but from siblings, from friends that I was good to. What I didn’t understand was, after I sacrificed so much for all these people my whole life, how could they just turn their back on me because I didn’t identify as male or female? I was a threat to society just for existing.”
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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