If somehow you haven’t heard of Victoria Monét, you have almost certainly sang along to one of her songs.
The American star has been cutting her teeth as one of the music industry’s most successful songwriters in recent years, with writing credits on huge hits for Ariana Grande (thank u, next, 7 rings) as well as tracks for Fifth Harmony, Janelle Monae, Nas and more. But the last 12 months have seen Victoria begin to step out again as an artist in her own right. There was the infectious R&B jam Monopoly in April last year, before her new single, the sultry and soulful Ass Like That. The latter sets up Victoria’s forthcoming new project; one that promises to place her centre stage.
“It’s your motherfucking moment,” she declares on upcoming song Moment, triumphantly sticking her flag in the ground ready to claim 2020 as hers. Having listened to the empowering and glorious new collection of music – all dripping in soul – you are immediately hit with the sense that Victoria Monét has arrived good and proper. “It does feel a lot like that,” she says. “This project, in particular, I’ve spent the most time on. I took a lot of time away from songwriting – well, not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things – but a solid month to work on my own music and just really dig deep into that world. I was able to let a lot of me out, look into music I personally admire and discover new things with my friends. I’ve incorporated live instrumentation, and it felt like a big musical playground for me and a free space where there were no guidelines.”
Vicotria wears Top, WHITE FOX, Trousers, IZAYLA, Shoes, JUST FAB, Bangles, NOA ACCESSORIES
Victoria’s journey to this moment has been fuelled by a deep-rooted focus to keep pushing forward no matter what the challenge – and she’s faced more than her fair share. Victoria found her way into the music business after reaching out to legendary producer Rodney Jerkins (Darkchild) on MySpace. She had started writing poetry that eventually developed into songwriting, as well as getting clued up on the production world. Jerkins invited her to Los Angeles to audition for a girl group he was putting together and she made the cut. But despite landing a record deal, the group – named Purple Reign – were eventually dropped. However, Victoria saw an opportunity to start selling her hooks to Nas, Diddy Dirty Money and Ariana Grande, quickly forging out a career as a professional songwriter. Shortly after came her own solo music in the form of a handful of EPs, but a deal with Atlantic Records didn’t work out in the long run. Victoria’s work ethic and ambition barely faltered, however, and now she’s ready to unleash the project she has worked her entire career towards.
“I think you’ll really get a sense of me coming into my own,” she says. “I think I’m growing up, I’m gaining a lot of confidence along the way and so I’m a different person. It’s all honest. I just think it’s going to be a real reflection of who I am today.”
Which brings us to the other part of Victoria’s journey. Towards the end of 2018, she came out publicly as bisexual on Twitter. It was spurred on by a personally testing summer. “I literally fell in love with a girl,” she tells us. “And I had a boyfriend at the time, and then we broke up. But this woman ended up getting pregnant because she had a boyfriend in a polyamorous relationship. There were a lot of things that I was personally going through that I didn’t speak about. But at the time, my boyfriend was still claiming that he was still my boyfriend after we’d broken up, and I decided I was really upset about it, and going through a lot emotionally, so I decided to tweet it.
“I was venting about it,” she continues, “and someone tweeted me back saying ‘Did you just come out?’ and I was like ‘I think so.’ But it wasn’t planned, it was a defiant moment. I felt like I should be myself. If I should be successful, I don’t want to be successful based on someone’s imaginary view of me. I want them to know the real me, and if they don’t like it, they should leave now, as I’m not changing. And it triggered a lot of different conversations with my family and friends. Ultimately, I’m a lot more comfortable in my own shoes now that I don’t have to hide any part of me. Not that I ever said I wasn’t bisexual, but I never said I was, which was a cowardly way to live. I came into my own, and I’m going to be true to who I am.”
Victoria wears Top, BELLEN BRAND, Ollie St Sunglasses, GENTLE MONSTER, Snake Ring, ALEX MIKA JEWELRY, Chunky Ring, RCSLA CLOTHING
That was a mantra Victoria fully embraced for last year’s Monopoly; a sultry R&B collaboration with Ariana Grande. “I like women and men,” she sings on the earworm chorus, “Work so fuckin’ much, need a twinny, twin twin.” It was one of the first moments in her career that Victoria was allowed to be unapologetic about her bisexuality, but it didn’t come without some resistance. “My dad was quite sceptical,” Victoria admits. “This was the first time a lot of people had heard of me, and this was their first impression. And my dad was like ‘You might have just messed things up.’ And so, for me, I was really happy to defy his opinion about it, because a lot of people were happy to hear that because they feel that way. Even though there were certain personal pressures and disappointments I would deal with behind the scenes, when I was outward-facing to the world it was a great way to be. I feel unapologetic about it, I feel like it was an important thing to be heard.”
Victoria pinpoints damaging stereotypes around female bisexuality as one of the main reasons she wanted the world to know about her identity in such a clear-cut way. “Because I’m really feminine, a lot of people would assume that either I like women for some weird fantasy, or that I’m just straight and if I get drunk enough I’d kiss a girl, and all these little stereotypes that people portray and project onto you,” she explains. “But I’m just glad that now there’s this song where there’s no confusion because I said it clearly, I’m not trying to hide it all. I think it was a really good thing for me to be able to release and get past and let people know.”
As clichéd as it sounds (but clichés always ring true), it’s why her new project is her most personal to date. Being open about who she is has made her a better songwriter; a more honest storyteller. “If I fall in love with a woman, I don’t want to have to change the lyrics to ‘he’ just because it’s more acceptable and relatable,” she agrees. “I want to be able to say what’s really happening, and I think with this project I was able to. You’ll get everything that I actually feel.”
Victoria is proud that she is part of a new wave of queer female musicians creating incredible art and being visible role models for the generations to come. She’s acutely aware of the power of representation. “When I was in church, it was this sinful hidden thing, in which you’re aware that people feel that way but no one would ever say it,” she says. “It felt like you’d be shunned from the world, the music industry and your family, as people would make it seem like, ‘If you’re like this, you’ll never get people to buy this music, you’ll lose all these fans.’” She pauses. “But all of this stuff over time, people one by one got brave and everyone saw they were just fine. And it gave other artists and creators the courage to be honest. Hopefully, this cycle keeps going, because I know there are some people who may feel and identify this way, but aren’t ready to let the world know. Maybe it’s not necessarily the world’s business to know, but at least they’ll feel a little bit more comfortable being themselves.”
The increasing amount of LGBTQ representation in music and other forms of entertainment doesn’t just feel like a moment, Victoria suggests, but rather a movement. “There’s going to be this domino effect of people who start to be open and honest about themselves,” she says. “I think now it’s the media’s turn. We’re standing with numbers and we can’t be defeated as there’s so many of us. It definitely feels like a comradery and a group effort and I believe more people will feel more comfortable as time goes on. Even if you look at the number of TV shows that give you some representation, people don’t have a choice but to see it now. You can’t hide us anymore. Entertainment alone is saying, ‘We’re going to be who we are, you’re going to have to deal with it, you can’t box us out of this, we’re amazing creators and we’re here to stay, and we’re going to let you know that.’”
A prime example of that is an extraordinary group of queer songwriters – which includes Victoria – who are writing hits for some of the biggest straight artists in the world that millions of people are connecting to. Does she see that as proof that music created by LGBTQ artists can and should have a broader appeal beyond LGBTQ audiences? “Oh, for sure, 100%,” she says. “I think that even some straight audiences admire us even more because of our courage and bravery. They would look at us, and think, ‘Oh shit, you’re really defiant, you’re going against whatever the masses are saying, you’re not scared of it, you’re so willing to be yourself no matter what happens, I love that about you.’ And I think that should be celebrated. I don’t think our success should be defined by how we identify, it should be defined by the actual art. You’ve just got to love what’s been created. I think music should be viewed in that way. If you don’t identify or feel the same way, it shouldn’t matter if the art is amazing. If you do feel the same way, then great, you may support it even more.”
Victoria Monét’s journey to this point hasn’t always been easy. She has overcome more than most to achieve her dream. “This music industry is like a mountain hike, there’s going to be dips in the road, but the goal is to get to what you originally saw when you were at the bottom of the mountain,” she says as we start to wrap up our conversation. “You’re trying to get up there to the top, and if you stop along the way you lose all of the footing that you gained over the years. It takes a lot of time, and you have to fight through those hard pockets and keep going. I’ve seen people come here, and get chewed alive and they’ve turned around. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. It’s like the Olympics, you’re here with the best of the best, and it makes you better and makes your skin tough, but have to keep going if you saw something for yourself when you started. It’s about not stopping no matter how much time it takes. It’s been a long time for me, and sometimes I go out with my mother and she’s like ‘Victoria, come home, it’s okay, we have your back.’ But if you believe you have a purpose to do something, you have to go do it and keep it up.” In 2020, Victoria’s persistence, hard work and commitment to her craft is about to pay off. There’s no doubt she has earned this moment.
Victoria Monét is the fifth artist to be featured as part of a new collaboration between GAY TIMES and Apple Music called Elevate; a campaign to support and platform LGBTQ music talent as they break through into the mainstream.
Victoria Monét’s new song, Moment, is available to stream on Apple Music now.
Photography Jakub Koziel
Fashion Lateef Abdullah
Words Lewis Corner
Hair Davontae Washington
Makeup Grace Pae
Producer Faithlynn Blak
Photography Assistant Nicol Biesek