Kim Petras’s debut album, Clarity, which she released this past June, received high praise from critics. Reviews of the LP compared her to a range of notable acts, from Robyn and Lorde to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. But if you’re not very familiar with the 27-year-old rising artist, you may not know that she’s actually unsigned. And yes, there’s a reason for that. In a recent interview with V magazine, Petras opened up about her issues with major labels and her experience shopping for deals as a transgender artist.
First and foremost, the “Broken” singer takes issue with labels because she says, they tend to transform their artists into someone else completely. For her, that’s always been a big fear. “I see so many unique and amazing people slowly become the ‘LA pop girl group’ that everyone becomes,” she told the mag. “I’m really scared of that.”
It became abundantly clear that she didn’t want to attach herself to a label when she was first shopping around for deals. Petras called these industry meetings “really annoying,” describing them as “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.” Part of that, for Petras, was that being a woman in the music industry can be difficult. “I think only 10 percent of last year’s nominees were women,” she said. And on top of that, being trans meant she faced an additional set of challenges. “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,” she said.
The transphobia continued when music labels refused to work with her and implored others to do the same. “It was maybe two years ago when I was shopping for deals,” she said. “Really religious people at major labels in LA have said: ‘You’re going to hell if you work with Kim Petras.'” Fortunately, she didn’t need them to become the success that she is today. “I think this is the first time doing this independently would even be possible,” she said. “Being a transgender artist wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. Now is the time.”
Petras understands the importance of standing out and having “an identity,” and according to her, it’s all around us. “[The climate] is opening up and more and more artists are doing their own thing,” she said. “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.”