At the Altar of Chappell

Kneel before the sanctum of Chappell Roan, whose dauntless disposition and lewd lyrics will have you surrendering to her musical prowess. With millions of streams under her already blinged-out belt and an ever-growing cult-like fan base, the Missouri-native is putting the world under her spell, one earth-shattering note at a time

This feature appears in V141 Spring 2023 issue, now available for purchase

Chappell Roan’s story starts with a middle school talent show in Willard, Missouri, circa 2011. She still goes by her real name: Kayleigh Rose Amstutz. Christian rock is the genre of choice around town, but she has a taste for hip-hop, listening to synthy Drake songs on her iPod in secret. She’s also a self-confessed shy girl. Still, something compels her to sign up for the talent show—to sing. On the big night, the school auditorium is transformed by a flurry of shiny streamers and a hand-lettered banner. Willard’s a small town; she knows almost everyone in the audience.

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But while quiet Kayleigh Rose may be nervous, on stage, she’s Chappell Roan—her fearless, popstar alter ego—and she’s about to put on a show like nothing Willard’s ever seen. She’s anxious but poised as she takes the stage. Before she even realizes it, she’s singing. “Everyone was like, what the—?” Roan recalls. “And I won the talent show.”

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Motivated by the win, she began putting herself out there as much as she could—performing at farm festivals, auditioning for American Idol and The Voice, and posting original songs on YouTube. It was this last avenue that paid off—at 17, Atlantic Records discovered her channel and signed her. She dropped her debut EP and moved to L.A. a few years later. Roan quickly immersed herself in the city’s vibrant music scene—and discovered a liberation she had never felt in Missouri.

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This newfound freedom inspired the burgeoning songstress to write the sparkly breakout bop “Pink Pony Club,” a ballad that chronicles the tale of a girl who chases her dream of being a stripper. Released in 2020, the song was a revelation, featuring Roan’s tearfully sincere vocals over an irresistible beat.

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Then, at the height of the pandemic, the rising artist was dropped by her label— a particularly devastating blow after the success of “Pink Pony Club” inspired her to take her music in a new direction. “I felt really bad, but it also lit a fire under my ass,” she admits.

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The next two years saw her taking on odd jobs—from nannying to selling donuts—while trying to figure out her next move. In 2022, she returned as an independent artist, embracing her new, bolder persona in electrifying singles from her album-in-progress. On bewitching tracks like “My Kink Is Karma” and “Naked in Manhattan,” Roan offers an unapologetic take on being a queer woman in and out of love. She thrives on the forced creativity of the DIY-pop scene, attracting the kinds of fans who’d hype you up in the club bathroom and tastefully drag your ex in the group chat. That’s by design—Roan describes her genre as “slumber party pop,” evoking images of girls giggling, gossiping, and dancing around the room.


The Chappell Roan of today is a far cry from the Midwestern teenager that first got discovered off YouTube. She is a queer cowgirl, all glitter and excess. Most importantly, she’s happier than ever. “[Chappell Roan] is what I envisioned a pop- star being like when I was little. Like, I’m living out the dream of my childhood self,” she says, almost in disbelief. The journey to get here wasn’t always easy, but Roan’s dazzling arrival proves it was oh-so worth it.

Stream Chappell Roan’s latest and greatest below, and stay tuned this Friday for the launch of “Kaleidoscope” the burgeoning artist’s first release of the year.

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