Photo: Ira Chernova
Shea Diamond, Keeana Kee, MUNA On Life As Out LGBTQ Artists
Here's the deal: The future is female. It may not look that way now, but the time is coming when this will be a woman's world. Arguably nobody knows this better than singer/songwriters Shea Diamond and Keeana Kee and pop trio MUNA, who are already living their truth as musicians and out LGBTQ women. But we're not quite there yet.
As we wrap up Pride Month this June, we asked these three artists to tell us a little about their experience as out LGBTQ musicians and how it impacts the music they create, their audiences and their relationships within the music industry, and why it's important for them to live out loud despite the challenges that may arise.
It's an exciting month for Diamond. We're just one short day away from hearing her debut EP, See It All. Produced by Justin Tranter, the album will include tracks such as "Good Pressure," "American Pie" and "Keisha Complexion," which was released in April. For Diamond, getting to this point was challenging.
"Access in the music industry for so long has been based upon discriminatory factors," says Diamond. "If you're black you need to be less black, heavyweights better lose weight, gays better hide it, and trans people if you get spooked ... forget about it!"
Kee has faced similar discrimination in the music industry.
"I've experienced getting refused to work with some producers after they have found out that I'm gay," Kee shares. "They would either get disappointed by losing hope to date me or be ashamed to having their name associated with a gay artist. It's tough."
Kee broke onto the music scene with "Coconut Rum And Coke" featuring Maffio in 2017. The tropical hit with a reggae flare grabbed people's attention because it was infectious — you can't get the song out of your head once you hear it. And Kee isn't willing to compromise who she was in her music. The track's music video portrays Kee's love interest as a woman, a courageous step for an artist even in 2018.
"It's a huge risk to present yourself as non-traditional," Kee shares. "It can be fatal for the artist's career."
The good news is we're seeing more out artists now than any time in history. In addition to Diamond and Kee, Tegan & Sara, Brandi Carlile, Kehlani, Angel Haze, Mary Lambert, Syd, Sophie, Hayley Kiyoko, and Kelea are all carrying the torch for LGBTQ women. And though some artists — Melissa Etheridge immediately comes to mind — have careers that transcend their sexual orientation, for those whose stars are still on the rise, such as MUNA, being out members of the LGBTQ community can be a mixed blessing.
"Our choice to be openly queer has put us in the press a bit more, but at the same time you could argue that it has led to our actual music being discussed less than our sexual orientation," say MUNA collectively, who recently released the EP About U: One Year On. "At the end of the day, we are grateful to live and create openly and we couldn't imagine it any other way."
"My debut premiere in the Huffington Post was written in the separate 'Queer Voices' column," adds Kee, who just released a new song, "Let's Make Love." "Even this is a sign that we are not treated equally."
There may be biases in the music industry and how the media covers LGBTQ musicians, but because of the transformative power of music, artists of all stripes have always had strong LGBTQ fanbases. In fact, walking the line between creating music that speaks to a wide audience while still appealing to an LGBTQ fanbase is a craft MUNA has given a lot of thought to.
"Our choice to use the second person ('you') in most of our love songs comes from a desire to obscure gender in an effort to bring people into empathy with each other regardless of orientation," says MUNA. "Yet at the same time we encourage our queer fan base to claim these songs as their own."
Despite the challenges, for these LGBTQ women, the choice to live and create out loud is something they are proud of. And it's an invaluable gift they have given to all their listeners.
"As members of the LGBTQA+ [community] we get an amazing opportunity to inspire," says Diamond. "I'm a part of something bigger than myself. I have a rare opportunity to highlight the trials [and] successes [and] amplify voices and diverse stories of our community."
"I was warned that coming out as gay will definitely make it harder for me to succeed in nowadays' music business and I had to prepare, but I wanted to be myself," adds Kee. "I write my own music about my own feelings, so why would I lie about who I am? If I want the world to believe me and my music I gotta be real. It was my decision to stay true to myself and I am grateful I did."