In Conversation with VINCINT
With the release of his new music video for Be Me, VMAN caught up with VINCINT to chat all things Queer Eye, Pride, Black Lives Matter, and Celine Dion.
Earlier this summer, the most recent season of Queer Eye premiered on Netflix. With it, came a new song written and performed by queer pop-star-on-the-rise VINCINT. The track, Be Me, is an ode to accessing your own inner strength when you need it most. More recently, VINCINT also teamed up with the Fab Five to film a video for the song, directed by Jake Wilson, while in lockdown, which premiered on his youtube channel today.
Since his breakout performance on the reality competition The Four, VINCINT has steadily carved his way forward in the pop music scene. Earlier this year, he released his debut EP The Feeling to rave reviews. He sits poised to be the next big name in the pop music game.
VMAN caught up with VINCINT earlier this summer to chat all things Queer Eye and Pride. Since our first conversation, a nationwide reckoning on systemic racism began. Pride came and went and a global pandemic drug on. Our conversation, which we initially tried to keep light, inevitably turned more serious.
As a gay, Black singer, VINCINT sits squarely at the intersection of multiples identities which, for better or for worse, have dominated the national conversation this summer. In the interview below, he opens up about celebrating Pride while in lockdown, the responsibility he feels to his communities, and finding the moments of joy in otherwise dark times. Oh, and Celine Dion.
Check out the new video for Be Me and read our interview with VINCINT below.
VMAN: You’ve joined the ranks of artists like Betty Who and Carly Rae Jepsen with this song for Queer Eye. How does that feel?
VINCINT: They are the literal queens of pop and the gays. So we love. We Stan. We’re very excited about that.
What was the inspiration for the song?
It’s from the show. I love the show. I used to watch the original one. Your girl knows all the terms. So I sat down and watched a couple of episodes and of course I’m sitting on my couch crying because that’s what we do. I thought to myself that I need to find a way to make this song an anthem for people who don’t need an anthem. The song speaks about how you don’t need to be anyone else, but yourself to do the things that you want to do. You’re well capable of doing it. You just have to believe that you can and that you don’t need someone to come and rescue you. You are the rescuer.
Yes, the Queer Eye guys come in and they do their thing, but they’re just giving you what’s already there. They’re just polishing it for you. That’s what I wanted the song to speak to. I want it to be one of those moments where it was like, “Great they’re here, but I already had it in me to do it too. They’re just helping me level up.”
Does that message resonate with you personally?
You know, I think we’ve all had our day where we break down and think, “Oh, this is never going to end and I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I recently had mine and I relistened to the song. I don’t really listen to songs after I write them. I tend to leave them to the side because otherwise I get lost in it. But I needed something to lift my spirits, so I listened to Be Me.
It was one of those moments where I was like, “Okay, I needed to hear this because I felt like June, the one month that we all look forward to, when we can just go out and be ourselves with people who are just like us, with no fear, and no hesitation of being exactly who you’re meant to be, is not happening in the way that we want it to happen. I needed to understand and realize that while I go out to be myself and I go out there to have that kind of kinship, that I’m not alone. I can be okay with being by myself for this period of time.
It was one of those moments where it’s like, “Pride is going to be on your computer this year, but even though you’re not with everyone, you are still as strong and powerful as you would be dancing in a club or dancing on a float in the middle of the parade.” It’s not the end of it. It’s just a different version of it. I think it helped me. It really brought me out of a moment.
I know Betty identifies as queer, but what does it mean for you to be the first openly gay man to record a song for Queer Eye?
I think it’s great that Carly and Betty did it and it’s wonderful to have allies a part of our community and to see them taking charge, but I would love to see us supporting us more. I don’t want to come off preachy, but if it does then welcome to church! It’s one of those things where every gay man loves or stans the pop queens, but when an LGBTQ artist comes out and they make good music and they’re trying hard, it’s so hard for them to get a grasp. It’s so hard if you’re not a girl, if you’re not a white girl. And no shade towards women because women go through enough with men in general. But it’s hard. It’s hard to not see the support from your community that you think you deserve and that you want so desperately.
I would love to see it turn around and to think my people have my back. But I think this, the Queer Eye song, does that for me, especially because when it happened to me, without me knowing it, it felt so validating. And I am not one to look for validation, but it feels so good to be a part of a show that I’ve loved for so long and people that I look up to and I see doing these amazing things out in the world. That’s great. We would love to be part of that.
And then to actually be a part of the music video. For me that says, great, I’m not speaking into a void. I’m being heard and it lets me know that somewhere else along the line, that I can do the same thing for someone else. If I get that opportunity, if another artist comes to me and is like, “I would love to do this with you.” Immediately yes, because if I don’t help you, who’s going to do it? If a platform like Queer Eye and Netflix don’t hop on and help you, then who’s going to do it? So this kind of starts the wheels going where they did this for me and then I can help someone else. It carries on.
It’s no secret that Pride looked a lot different this year. Do you have any words of advice for younger queer people on how to keep celebrating Pride or how to find their community right now?
Don’t let the idea of a Pride festival and a Pride parade be the only thing that pride is to you. For me, and I think fo most people, Pride is finding a community, whether it be virtually or in person, I think it’s so necessary that if they have the ability to reach out and find an online group or find friends. There are people all over the internet, especially in your town, even if you think they’re not there, they’re there. Try to have some sort of celebration of you, even if it’s by yourself, throw some fucking flowers to the pedals in the air, dance under them, turn on some music because just because it’s not happening for all of us at the same time, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Pride began with people of color and trans women of color fighting for that moment for you to stand in your room and celebrate who you are. Even in the midst of people who don’t celebrate you for who you are. This is your moment. And it’s your time to be excited about you. It’s the time where you fall in love with you. Whoever that may be. It’s important to understand Pride as an internal thing, more than it is external. The shows and us being on stage and all the drag queens, it’s great to see, and it’s cute and it gives you life and you can be sassy with your friends. But that’s not the true meaning of Pride.
It’s freedom of expression and finding out who you are and loving that, and then finding others who also have found the chance and the purpose in themselves to love themselves and be a part of that community and finding that with each other.
Next, I was hoping to give our readers a lighter glimpse into VINCINT. I’m going to shoot you a few quick questions. First, To bring it back to Queer Eye for just one more moment, if the Fab Five gave you a makeover, what would you need the most help with?
It would probably be my wardrobe. When I’m on stage, I have fancy stuff and I’m like, “Oh, this is nice. I’m a pop star!” But when I’m not on stage, I wear very loose things and I’m very, very laid back cause I’m home and I want to relax and I want to be lazy and unproductive. Yeah, it would probably wardrobe because I think the rest of me is snatched. It took me a long time to get here. I probably need Tan’s help…a lot.
If someone hands you the aux cord at a party, what are you putting on first?
He’s a new artist, but I love him. His name’s Jordy. The song is called Just Friends. I have been obsessed with the song since before it came out. He sent it to me and I was like, “Oh, this is pop music and this is what I need to hear in my life.”
If it wasn’t that, I’d probably put on Get Me Bodied by Beyonce, cause I need that. And I think everyone needs that moment of shaking your ass for just like 20 minutes. That’s the extended version.
What I love most about your music is that it covers a wide range of emotions. Laughter turns to crying turns to laughter while spinning in circles with a glass of wine in your hand. What other artists that you listen to give you that feeling?
Anything by Robyn, because I need that in my life and she helps me escape my own head, which is what I need often. Betty Who, like you said, is a great person and one of my best friends. Her music is that for me where I can dance and like shed a bit of like anxiety. That’s what I need in this moment. Kim Petras’ Malibu. I have sung that song at the top of my lungs every day since it came out.
The world is so dark right now. Everything that we’re seeing is so dark. I need that moment of freedom where I can just literally just let go and like, it’s okay to spill your wine while you dance. Let it, let it drop. Get another glass, do what you need to do. I’ve been writing new music for the summer and I have a song that’s coming out and it’s that moment of escapism. It’s a getaway and that’s what I want. I think everyone kind of needs that right now.
Do you remember the first album learned all the words to?
Literally, whenever anyone asks me this question, my gaydar starts to blink all different colors. It’s A Decade of Song by Celine Dion – the greatest hits. And it’s simply because my mother played it every day in our home. And I was like, “Oh, I’m going to be the next Celine Dion and I’m going to learn everything that she does.” And I did.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
The mess that is my life? No, but my relationships and I mean that in every sense of the word – relationships with family, friends, romantic. They all just kind of gets me. I have the most eccentric people around me all the time. And so there’s always something happening and they’re always telling me about it, which I’m like, “You probably shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to use it and it’s going to be embarrassing, but I love you and I want you to know that it’s coming from a good place.” But they give me the ammunition. They give me the material that I need. It’s great to have that kind of energy around you all the time. And in my own life, I think I kind of had that same kind of energy, whereas it’s like with everything I do I kind of live my life like I’m in a movie and it’s probably not the best thing, but it’s worked for me for 26 years.
How are you holding on to your creativity these days?
I think I’m always in a state of nostalgia and happiness, so I kind of don’t let it go. Even when it gets really crazy as it is right now, I don’t let myself get too sad if I don’t need to be. When I need to be sad, I’m sad, but I don’t let myself fall down the rabbit hole if I don’t need to. And I don’t want to be sad when everyone is sad, you know? I have to believe that there is some sort of light at the end of any kind of tunnel because damn it sucks to be sad when everyone else is sad. I’d rather make people laugh and dance and maybe cry a little bit, but wiggle your hips while you do it.
You say your relationships inspire you and feed your creativity, but who keeps you grounded?
My mom, She’s a nut job. It’s great. She keeps me so grounded because she doesn’t let things go overboard in her mind. Even if things are running rampant everywhere else, she was like, “No, this is what you should focus on. And this is the end goal.” And the end goal for her is always like peace of mind. That’s a good thing to listen to and I need that kind of like mantra in my life.
Who would be your dream collab, living or dead?
Can I give two?
You can give as many as you want.
Firstly, Celine Dion because…Celine Dion, but also Beyoncé. I have loved Beyoncé since I saw her in my aunt’s living room, sitting on the couch and the Bills, Bills, Bills, video came on. I said, “Oh, I’m supposed to be that. Alright, got it.” Like after I left my Celine phase, I was like, “Oh, you’re not a French Canadian white woman and you’ll never be,” but then I saw Beyoncé and I was like, “but you could be that. You could definitely do that.”
She doesn’t even need to meet me. I don’t need to meet her. She could just say “ooh” on the track. Just like a word, like she did on the Savage track. She could go “ok” and I’ll be like, “Great, Beyoncé is on the song. Love you all. I am retiring.”
And not that pleasures need to be guilty, but what would say your guiltiest pleasure is?
Oh wow, I’m going to sound like trash and that’s ok for me. I have drunk so much Sutter Home Moscato because I am a trashcan and I love it. It is a bottle of liquid sugar. There is nothing sophisticated about it.
I think the natural follow-up question to that is if you’re the friend that Betty Who sings about on her track You Can Cry Tomorrow where she says, “I bought a bottle of Moscato, you’ll be drunk until tomorrow.”
Probably. That has happened many times so I’m going to say yes to that. That’s what I’m going to say yes to.
What’s the last thing you think about before you go to bed? Or the first thing that you think about when you wake up?
The last thing that I think about before I go to sleep is a song idea. I don’t know why, but as soon as I’m ready to knock out for the night, my mind’s like, “Oh great. We’re going to write a song” and I’m like, “Tight.” And so I’m up for maybe an hour after that then I fall asleep and then I’ll wake up the next morning and completely forget what I was doing the night before. Like thank God for voice notes. But, I’ll wake up and probably the first thing, like the actual first thing that I think about is “I would like to eat everything that’s in my kitchen.” I control myself, but I think about it. Like, I make breakfast in my mind before I make breakfast. I picture it all on the countertop.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
I don’t need your judgment, I’m going to say that right now.
This is a judgment-free zone!
It’s a bowl of Honey Smacks. I know everyone’s going to be like, “Ooh, you’re going to get sick.” And I don’t care. Yeah, it’s a bowl of Honey Smacks, which is very healthy, and some water, God, this is such a boring breakfast, but I love it. And then after that, I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m going to go order a pizza because I’m a trashcan, but I love me and that’s okay.” Yes, I’ve done that before. I’ve literally ordered a pizza at 9:30 in the morning.
It sounds strange, but I forget all the time that I’m an adult and that I can do whatever I want to do. So I’m like, “Oh, you have to eat this breakfast because that’s what you should do,” and then I go, “No, no, no, you pay all your own bills, order this fucking pizza and have a good time.” And so every now and again, I do that.
You mentioned you have a new song coming out. What’s on the horizon for VINCINT?
Obviously, there’s this amazing thing that’s happening with Queer Eye. But I’m also writing all dance, pop, love music. It’s so strange because I’m not in love, but I wake up every day now and I’m like, “Wow, I really want to write about romanticism and sex.” I usually want to write about heartache and being sad, but I’m sad even though it’s like the saddest time ever right now. I feel this urgency in my own self to write about what it felt like when I was a teenager – that excitement of going out with your friends and meeting someone new and having that experience in that relationship and seeing where it turns and seeing how it evolves. So that’s where my mind has been. And I have a song coming out this summer that is going to be one of the moments of just, like, a getaway.
What do you think is driving that?
I think it’s my brain being like, “Hi, you can’t sit in this crazy place that you’re in. So, we’re going to go somewhere else, somewhere fun with beaches and drugs and sex, but in your mind, cause you’re, you’re a Christian woman and we love to social distance.”
There will be time for all of those things again one day.
All of these things later. Yes. But right now in my head, that’s where my mind is right now. This nostalgic kind of I don’t want to say bubble gum pop, but I want to say like shiny but rough pop moment in my mind where it’s like…teenager. And that’s what I want. That’s what I want right now.
Is that how you normally write? As a method of escape from your current situation?
You know, it is the hardest thing to write about anything happy. To write a happy song [laughs] like a genuine, honest, good, happy song is so rare, but you can write a sad song in the drop of a hat. But for me, when I write, I try not to be sad. I try to see my way through things, so I don’t get really heavy on myself. But recently writing everything has been kind of flowing out of me, which is strange.
I’ve been having a lot of dreams lately and I don’t usually write about my dreams, but I’ve been having such vivid, visual dreams that kind of like play into stories. And I think it’s also because I’ve been watching so much television. That my mind’s like, “Hi, you’re also in a movie now and get ready.” And so it’s been kind of nice to kind of go to sleep and go on an adventure and then wake up and write about it as if it was real life. Cause we can’t really live right now, not the way that we’re used to. And I think I’m living my own kind of other alternate life in my, in my dreams and writing about it. And it’s nice. It’s strange, but it’s nice.
So, there’s a reckoning happening in the world right now about racial injustice and how it permeates every facet of our society. As a gay, Black singer, I wanted to ask you about your thoughts on it. Honestly, when I was first thinking about what we’d discuss, I thought I’d steer away from the identity questions, given that so much of the press you’ve done in that past touches on it.
I wanted to steer away from it, and I think you also wanted to have something new to talk about, but it’s like, that is something that’s being erased and through all this has made me realize that it should never not be the focus, you know what I mean? It shouldn’t be a glazed over kind of thing, because then it becomes untalked about, and an unspoken thing where it’s just masked over.
And we’re like, “Oh, okay. Do you not care about who you are, what you represent for that community?” Because the blending in was the goal.
Absolutely. I’ve seen other Black artists like Mykki Blanco and Shea Couleé recently post about their mixed emotions around promoting their own work during the current protests. However, both artists also spoke about the importance of highlighting Black talent and success.
It’s funny that you brought up the thing about Mykki and Shae promoting themselves because a few days ago I posted a posted that I’m on the cover of a Spotify playlist. And I had a conversation with my manager and I had a conversation with a couple of friends and I was like, “I don’t know how to feel about promoting this.” It is also the same thing. I feel like every time I’ve had any success, it’s been in the midst of something really terrible happening. And so that’s kind of been a career overshadow thing for me in my head. Like, we’re doing a bunch of things right now, and it’s all very great, but it feels very strange to be thriving in the middle of all the bad things that are happening.
And then a really great friend of mine said to me, “Why do you feel like you shouldn’t be celebrated because everyone now sees how hard it is that we struggle?” And it rocked my world because I wasn’t thinking of it that way. In the sense of, “Oh, It’s okay for me to still promote myself and still be a part of the battle and go protest and be on the front lines.”
But it’s very important and very necessary for me to post the things that are celebrations. And that’s why I did it. And with the post, I said, “Thank you so much, blah, blah, blah, blah. It is very important to me to still show people that there is, we are still winning.” You know what I mean? Because I think people see what’s happening and they’re just like, “We want to help them and we are on the front lines for you and I know that you can’t do it without us. We can’t do it without each other.” And it’s like, yes, that is all true. And some of it is a little bit truer the other parts, but it’s also true that we still win on our own and we still do things on our own.
It’s good for little boys and girls and non-gender-conforming people who look like me to see that it is still a possibility to be successful and to still be winning in the midst of a time where it seems like all we’re doing is fighting for change.
It also strikes me that to be that example, to bear that flag for your community, could feel burdensome.
Yeah, It’s like, I wear that flag every day. I don’t want to like highlighted today cause everyone else now notices the struggle and sees what’s happening. Just see me. As opposed to seeing me now, because you suddenly awoke, you know? See me all the time. See me as I am. [pauses] Who am I, Maya Angelou, what is this?
I’ve definitely had moments and interactions with people where they’ll come to me and pull me to the side, and it’s usually someone older, and they’re like, “This is on you now. This is for you to take care of. You are at the forefront and it is your responsibility. I don’t take that lightly, but I also don’t take on all of it. I think it’s also up to me to carry on a legacy of success and to give my best and to do my best.
But I don’t think it’s my responsibility to be the spokesperson for every Black gay artists or Black gay person or Black person, you know? We are all multifaceted and there are so many versions of Black. There are so many different, beautiful cultures. There’s Creole. There is a Black Hispanic. And so for me to say that I would be this like pinnacle of like Blackness, that would be so egotistical of me. I would never want to put myself in that position or disrespect another person’s story or journey in that way.
I like being my version of what that is. And if someone else relates to that, then great. I love that. I want that to be something that they can do and to take comfort in, but I don’t want to be, I would never call myself a role model for Black.
I’ve interviewed people in the past who talk about finding the joy in protesting and how that can be a big source of fuel during times like these? Have you had any experiences like that?
The most recent moment for me was at the huge march that was in Hollywood in June, just looking around and seeing, without knowing they were going to be present, so many friends marching together. And seeing so many Black people walking and holding pride flags, who may not have been gay, but understood that this community is also here to be a part of this movement with you as we’ve done many times before. And seeing the holding of hands, the crying out of sadness, and also out of happiness, and to know that there was a change being made and that we were fighting for something together. It was overwhelming.
I stood next to my best friend, Nick. We looked at each other and just started crying because Nick is from Fresno, California, and we had never really had a deep conversation about race before. And when all this began, he called me and he was like, “I am sorry because I wasn’t aware. And I didn’t know that I wasn’t aware. And I thought that I was somewhat knowledgeable about this, but I know nothing about it. And I want to research.” And then he hung up the phone and I didn’t talk to him for two weeks.
And then he came back to me and it was like, “I have been reading and getting myself up to date on what is happening in the world.” And I was just overwhelmed with emotion too, because it was this person who I’ve known for four and a half years who did a complete turnaround and was like, “I want to understand what’s happening in your world more than I ever had before and I want to know how I can play a role in making it better.”
And for me, that was incredible. And then I saw other friends making that step towards that. And that for me, that’s Pride. You know what I mean? I have never been more proud to be a part of a community and have a group of friends that I can see actively making a change in their own lives to better themselves and to help better our community that has not had the help from them before.
And for me, that’s a moment. Like that’s, that’s something that was stand out for me for the rest of my life. And I understand now what I read about when I hear about like the Stonewall riots and these were writing about their friends, how it felt to stand arm in arm with them in these places, knowing that they were there for them when shit really hit the fan, you know?
And that, for me, it was life-changing.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’ve felt this Pride was the most authentic Pride in years.
It’s an amazing time. Angela Davis spoke the other day and she said, of all of the years I’ve been doing this, I have never seen the rest of the world take on this as they have in the past. This has never happened before. And for her to say that was really bone-chilling for me. She was like, this is incredible. The world is now in this. It’s not just an American thing. It’s a, it’s a worldwide thing. And so that is incredible.
I also wanted to ask you if there were any organizations you wanted to highlight in our conversation.
I would love to highlight BlackTransWomen.org. I would love for people to donate and to give because I think it’s one of those things where I’ve been kind of having a battle on Instagram and Twitter with people where it’s Black Lives Matter, and then we bring up the trans people who have been killed or injured during all of this and they are spoken about, andI’m just kind of amazed that they don’t understand that when we say Black Lives Matter, it’s everyone that falls under that spectrum, whether you believe that their lifestyles may be correct or not, it is very much so a black life and it matters.
I think it’s very important that it’s spoken about, and that’s not like it’s not. I feel like it’s usually spoken about when someone dies, which is awful because it shouldn’t just be brought up when someone is murdered or attacked, it should be brought up all the time because it’s just, it’s a real-life reality that we live in and that’s ignored widely in common society, let alone in the gay community.
It’s frustrating for me to see it happen. And also, I am to blame as well, because I don’t speak about it enough. I’m sure you don’t, you know what I mean? Like it comes up in context, but it’s not on your mind every day and it should be the same way that my struggles of being a black person are on my mind every day. It’s a life and a life deserves to be cherished and protected. And I want to make sure that that’s a part of this.
Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Yes. Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter.