Dua Saleh is the recipient of the GAY TIMES Honour for Rising Star in Music.
Saleh has seamlessly made huge strides in both music and acting.
Revolting against the binary, they have fluidly intersected genres and created their own music that crosses over a glitchy alt-pop sound to sultry afrobeats and, more recently, emo genre. Saleh delighted fans in 2023 with their return to music under new record label 2023, Ghostly International, with single ‘Daylight Falls’.
Their unexpected venture into music at the age of 22 was enriched and influenced by Saleh’s formative years. They were born in Kassala, before the Second Sudanese Civil War, ahead of fleeing to the States as a refugee of war.
“In Arabic, a lot of the sentences strung together are naturally prose or poetry,” they told GAY TIMES exclusively in their Honours cover interview. “I think Sudanese people are wordsmiths even if they’re not trying to be, there’s a real charm to the language.”
They also recalled how the imam’s prayer calls introduced them to pentatonic scales, which they now draw on when making left-field R&B.
This poetic quality is evident in their work that integrates English, Spanish, Arabic and patois, enmeshing their experience of spoken word to explore the musings and complexities of non-binary identity and sapphic romance.
The LA-based star has released three EPs Nūr, Rosetta and Crossover, all of which have received widespread critical acclaim and racked up more than 81 million streams cumulatively. The EPs were followed up with the album Crossover, which sits alongside an impressive portfolio of remixes and collaborations including Travis Scott, Bon Iver and Sampha.
This was followed by their acting breakout role in the third season of Netflix’s acclaimed series Sex Education. They starred as Cal Bowman, a new student from Minnesota. Like Saleh, Cal is non-binary and throughout the third and fourth seasons their character navigates gender dysphoria, microaggressions and chosen family networks.
It is their unapologetic commitment to be themselves and carve their own path that they have been celebrated by young Black, Muslim, gender non-confirming and queer people.
They are aware of the importance of this responsibility: “To have a nonbinary Sudanese person who was a refugee on the cover of GAY TIMES, for example, is really incredible. Not to make it about my identity points, but I am hyper-aware of how shifts in history are propelled by moments like these. And as much as I might shy away from it, it’s good to be there for your people, in whatever capacity it is.”
GAY TIMES Honours 2023 celebrates the individuals and organisations who have had a profound effect on the lives of LGBTQIA+ people over the past 12 months.
This year’s line-up of Honourees acknowledges people making huge impact in music, TV, film, community and drag.
The new digital edition of GAY TIMES Magazine spotlights this year’s winners and is available to read now on the GAY TIMES app, Apple News +, Readly and Flipster.
To follow all of the action from GAY TIMES Honours 2023, check out our Instagram @GAYTIMES.