“I spent ages trying to fit in but, I was EXHAUSTED…"
Chris (AKA Christine and the Queens) welcomes her audience at the Hammersmith Apollo, enticing them to also 'break down the walls', to be free. In an industry that still can’t seem to face shaking off the 'skimpy limits' that define the image of a female artist, she’s a breath of fresh air – playful in her embodiments of masculinity, flexing her muscles and essentially doing Nick Cave or Mick Jagger more boldly than Nick Cave or Mick Jagger.
In the middle of the US leg of the Chris tour, she invited questions from her fans via a Reddit thread. The usual wide-eyed questions followed: 'what advice do you have for a young producer/director/dancer/singer-songwriter', and excitable pleads for extra tour dates, like 'please tell me you're going to play Portsmouth'. But then there were the soft and tender, offered from behind freshly registered usernames. These asked Chris about her dreams, the songs which make her cry, and how she came to be so 'unashamedly herself'.
I wanted to know who were behind these shyly offered questions, what these self-declared outsiders were looking for or had found in their love for Chris. In the days leading up to the London dates, I stalked their comments on Twitter and Instagram, looking for wounded souls who would be attending the shows for reasons a little deeper than simply loving that thing Chris does with G Funk. I stole questions from the Reddit thread, and outside the Hammersmith Apollo invited her freezing cold fans to come a little closer.
Nelly, Amilie & Pauline
What is the most freeing thing you have accomplished this year?
Amilie: For me this. I’m really stressed and it’s difficult for me to go to a show, and I do it for Chris. I discovered her in 2015, in a situation that was hard for me. She saved my life. I suffer from depression and many other difficulties, like bulimia and anorexia. Chris saved me because I don’t have anything. I am découragé, I do nothing.
Nelly: She can’t go to school, she can’t have a job. Because of her sickness, she can’t have any work.
Amilie: Yes. I learnt to live, but Chris… she helped me énormément.
Victoria, George & Kurt
Salut! What advice do you have for someone who wants to get that Big Chris Energy?
George: It should come naturally, just literally do whatever you want and make sure you’re not focusing on other people around you judging you.
Kurt: Dare to be ugly, dare to be manly, dare to go against boundaries. What helps me is knowing that when I break boundaries I’m helping others also break boundaries. If I walk out in the ugliest sweat pants and I have my belly showing out, whatever, I’m basically showing a lot of confidence and other people will also feel inspired.
Victoria: For me I just went through phases and through them I then found… me. And the phases were embarrassing, and then I learnt what was me, because I could let go more.
Would you say there's definitely a community of Christine and the Queens fans?
Kurt: The ones who go to the concerts… you immediately feel like there’s a family there. When I went to the concert in Stockholm there was a bunch of us who just immediately hung out for the rest of the night. It felt really felt safe and we spoke about Christine and our different things…you know what Chris stands for so you know that the fans also probably stand for that.
I know she welcomes the audience by saying, “This is a safe space, you can be who you want to be”. Is that valuable to you?
Kurt: I mean, I’ve never danced so much except for at Chris’ concert, that’s never happened before! In Stockholm I would basically look over and see like a third of the LGBTQ community of Stockholm. I mean, I just hang out with gay people in Stockholm, but you could look over the crowd and be like, 'maybe 40 or 50% of the people here are straight', which is not common. It's just fun, you feel safe in that environment.
What is the most freeing thing you have accomplished this year? Has Chris' music helped you with that, has it helped you to accept yourself or to feel free?
George: I think separating myself from social media, and also going to see a Dr about issues I’ve had has been massive for me. I feel like her music was always there for me when I needed it, and then when she released Chris there was just a sudden click, like I just need to do what I need to do to make myself happy. I’m getting there I suppose.
Victoria: She helped me come out this year to my friends for the first time.
Kurt: I think she just motivates me to be myself more, to be proud myself as a woman. I’ve always felt that the definition of a woman was very narrow, and I didn’t fit into it and didn’t like it. Seeing her actively trying to change that saying, 'this is what a woman can be as well', made me feel like, 'Okay! I can still fit into the category of being a woman'. She hasn't made me accept anything, but she has led me to realise I'm a lesbian. Because when dudes do shit I don't care, it bores me, but when she does whatever a dude does I'm immediately like 'okay, let's go, I'm on it'. So at first it was kind of like, I was very much attracted to her, but then I listened to more of her music and it pulled me in, and also the cinematic references in “5 dollars”, the whole American Gigolo then onto Girlfriend like Querell, Jean Genet references, and I'm like, 'who the fuck knows Querell by Jean Genet? Who is she?'. I kept getting stunned by her. So yeah, first it was just me realising I was a lesbian and then, wow okay, she's the best pop star of all time.
Jess & Serena
What do all fans of Chris share?
Serena: What I've noticed is that we've all come from unhappier places in our lives. You can see the impact she's had on us in different ways. I don't know what it is about Chris fans, we're all a bit anxious.
Jess: I suppose that's what makes us more confident, the nervousness and then forgetting about it when you have Chris. What's nice about the chat is we don't just talk about Chris, it's also work, life… sometimes at night it gets weird and we talk about our dreams.
Lisa & Ellen
What do you like about Chris?
Ellen: She's different. It takes courage to be different, you know?
What is the most freeing thing you have accomplished this year?
Lisa: The most freeing thing? I've driven tanks, for my fiftieth birthday. And I loved it.
Ellen: That was something women couldn't do when Lisa was in the army. That was my birthday present to her.
Kerry & Helen
What would your advice be for someone who is very afraid of the opinions of other people? A young fan wrote to Chris that, 'I want to be unashamedly myself, but it's very hard'.
Helen: And it is, it absolutely is, because we can't get away from other people's opinions, we want to be liked, we want to be loved, we want to be respected and admired; it is part of being a human being. I think from what I've learnt, of having tried to conform for most of my life to what I thought I ought to be, is discovering that actually you have to be true to the part of yourself that feels the most comfortable. For somebody young now coming up, it's having to trust really, having some faith to express how you feel in your being. And it will change, it won't be static, it's a constant evolving process; today this is how you feel, tomorrow it might be different. And sometimes we all don't feel confident in who we are, sometimes we have anxieties and worries about how others see us, but it's about actually coming back to that part of yourself, that somewhere at core you want to say, 'this is who I am'.
What's the most freeing thing you've accomplished this year?
This year? Or the most freeing thing I've ever done? In my recent years, being able to really boldly come out as a lesbian at sixty.
Some of the fans that I spoke to earlier were saying that she's really expanded the idea of what a woman can be for them, that 'woman' can mean so much more.
Helen: I think that those of us who have grown up much earlier on before we even heard of the idea of trans have had difficulty with managing our masculinity and femininity and balancing it in society. It's a very difficult issue, but it's really good to see someone like her being able to be figure-head somehow.
Kerry: I would be absolutely thrilled if her being able to be gender fluid and play with masculinity and play with femininity meant that young people coming through felt that it wasn't struggle and that they could play with it. I want society to change and not for people to feel they have to change. We need to be hungrier, and hurting more.