Going Platinum: Kim Petras

For our platinum birthday, we give the gift of girlpower with six standouts from our 20 years of sonic discovery.

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Fine china is the norm, but for V’s platinum birthday, we give the gift of girl power. In our week-long series “Going Platinum” we highlight six standouts form our 20 years of sonic discovery. Ahead, V speaks to Kim Petras about everything under the sun—from the inspiration behind Clarity to her refusal to be defined.


Tell us a bit about the process of working on Clarity.

 It started at the end of last year, while I was on tour opening for Troye Sivan. It was really cool, but at the same time, I had just gone through a really tough breakup. I would come on stage and sing these super hyper pop songs, and come off the stage in tears. Even though my career was going better than ever, and it was my dream to go on such a huge tour, I felt empty. I feel like I wrote my first songs from an insecure place. I didn’t feel like anyone would like me. I waited my whole life to drop my own shit as an artist. I thought, ‘Am I pretty enough to be a pop star? Am I talented enough? Is my voice good enough?’ I feel like all of these [initial] songs were like a superhero version of myself–an imaginary version. I was writing “I Don’t Want It At All” which is a very bratty, rich girl song with three roommates [while sleeping] on a futon. It was definitely not my real life, but with [Clarity], I found the confidence to pull the curtain back and be completely honest with my fans. I wanted my fans to feel they could relate to me. My fans gave me a lot of confidence to be [honest]. I also think creating characters can be true to yourself because you’ve created those [personas]. I don’t necessarily think I was fake.


I think it’s interesting that you said you weren’t necessarily worried about the audience understanding or relating to the music because you felt great being honest. I actually think that since you’re being honest, the audience can immediately relate. 

Totally, which is really amazing. It’s definitely a big departure from the prior sound, so I was happy that people were down for that. I also feel like [Clarity] is opening me up to a whole new audience. In general, I don’t ever want to do the same thing. Right now, I am working on Turn Off The Light: Volume 2, which is going to be sick.


Considering Clarity, what do you feel are the most honest points?

“Clarity” and “All I Do Is Cry” were the first songs I wrote, all while on the road with Troye. I do feel they’re all honest. But I think “Blow It All” and “Got My Number” are the songs closest to who I am, and what it’s like hanging out with me. I am not usually depressed, but it was my break-up moment. I’m a different person every day. Today, it would probably be one of the up-tempo songs.


What do you feel is the biggest challenge of today’s music industry?

There are a ton of challenges. The streaming era is changing everything. Everyone is panicking. Major labels are finding and fighting for a new path. The new up-and-comers don’t want to go to major labels because you can’t release a song if Taylor Swift’s album is dropping that week. I have seen so many friends’ work get shelved. They’re not able to release the songs they want and they’re really proud of the work they do. Especially being a writer, I have seen many people not able to release their favorite tracks for years. It’s scary. I chose to be on my own label and I’ve been performing at every single gay club building my fan base. I think it’s challenging for a lot of artists [to stand out]. You have to have an identity. 

I see so many unique and amazing people slowly become the “LA pop girl group” that everyone becomes. I’m really scared of that. I feel like that’s challenging as an artist. It’s probably a challenge that women, in general, don’t get Grammy’s. I think only 10% of last year’s nominees were women. I’ve also had a lot of unique struggles because I am transgender. I’ve had a lot of meetings with labels where the only thing they’re able to talk about is me being transgender, not even the music.


The music should be first.

A room full of people discussing, how do we market it? How do we keep it a secret? Debating if it’s possible to be transgender and lucrative, which was really annoying.


Has that happened lately, or just in the beginning?

It was maybe two years ago when I was shopping for deals. Really religious people at major labels in LA have said, ‘you’re going to hell if you work with Kim Petras’. It’s not like bullshit labels. That’s been a big struggle. Other than that, it’s a really exciting time.


What do you find most exciting?

I think this is the first time doing this independently would even be possible. Being a transgender artist wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. Now is the time. [The climate] is opening up and more and more artists are doing their own thing. They don’t fit into any kind of norm. Those are the people that are winning big–Lizzo, Megan the Stallion, Cardi. All of these people are themselves. They’re doing their own thing and don’t fit into categories. Right now is the moment for that.

Kim wears dress and shoes Marc Jacobs, bracelet Cartier
Kim wears dress and shoes Marc Jacobs, bracelet Cartier
Kim wears dress and shoes Marc Jacobs, bracelet Cartier
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