“I’m gonna be me, and it’s gonna work”: Kat Cunning is carving out queer spaces

By Kyle Russo

Actor, dancer, Broadway star and alternative pop artist Kat Cunning learned a lot from their time at college. As part of an intense dance conservatory that had them in the studio for eight hours at a time, they became familiar with giving their life to their art and exploring new outlets of creativity.

But the most important lesson they learned was much more simple.

“I’m gay, I learned that real quick,” Cunning said at a press conference hosted by the °1824 division at Universal Music Group on April 27. Some audience members chuckled and nodded understandingly in response.

Now, Cunning has a number of songs and an endorsement from The New York Times under their belt. With the release of their first EP IDOL HANDS coming this summer, they’re devoted to being unapologetically themself.

“I’m gonna be me, and it's gonna work,” Cunning said.

As a nonbinary person in an industry dominated by cisgender men, Cunning understands first hand the importance of diversity in music, and the impact that seeing queer musicians in the mainstream can have.

Specifically, Cunning is grateful for people such as Lil Nas X leading the way, they said. They’re excited to see someone with such a huge budget and widespread success taking risks to help venerate queer experiences and culture.

“I know his last video was so divisive but I’m just over here like ‘Yes, put blood in your shoes! F*** the devil! Please, for the mainstream!’” they exclaimed.

Another part of that veneration for Cunning is owning their sexuality. With such a large breadth of ages of fans, it’s not difficult for them to encounter an angry parent scorning them for posting a half-naked photo on Instagram. But for Cunning, sexuality isn’t a negative thing.

“I really, really believe that our culture needs to work on a healthier relationship to sex, which will lead us to a healthier relationship to consent, which will lead us to a healthier culture,” they said.

That translates to being political, too, Cunning said. Although they had opportunities to be a strictly political voice, they opted to just be themself as visibly as possible. To occupy space as a queer person is them doing their job.

“It’s radical for a female bodied person to say they love themself,” Cunning said. “It’s radical for anybody to express self love when it's not attached to something commercial.”

Above all, Cunning is a storyteller. On stage, in front of the camera, in the studio - everywhere, art is their sweetest devotion. If not a musician, Cunning said, maybe they could be a poet.

“Hopefully I get so rich and famous that I’ll be like ‘I don’t tour anymore,’” Cunning quipped. “I just write musings on life, and then people can turn them into mugs, or whatever they want to do with my thoughts.”

IDOL HANDS is set to release July 16. In the meantime, you can stream Cunning’s latest single “Could be Good” wherever you get your music.