Wonderland.

KING PRINCESS

Bow down, bitches! The singer on her forthcoming album Cheap Queen on the cover of the Autumn 19 issue.

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lime green corset stood up

Jacket BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, top VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP, shoes JIMMY CHOO, sunglasses BALENCIAGA

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lime green corset stood up
Jacket BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, top VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP, shoes JIMMY CHOO, sunglasses BALENCIAGA

Taken from the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy now.

Acerbically funny, enviously charismatic and soul-baring in her songs, King Princess is the kind of pop star we need right now. As her debut album Cheap Queen is set to drop, meet the superstar-in-waiting.

Between delivering one-liners dripping in satire and the follow-up laughter of us both, King Princess takes audible drags of either a joint, or her beloved JUUL. She’s calling from Los Angeles but the image in my head is practically HD as she speaks. It helps that she posts unfiltered snapshots of her life on just about every platform going, but her sometimes matter-of-fact, sometimes brutally poignant lyricism paints a just as honest picture. 

In case you couldn’t tell from her name, King Princess is pretty good at conjuring an image. After signing as the first (and currently, the only) artist on Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records, her February 2018 breakout track “1950” saw her as the moustachioed lead singer of a house band in the video to accompany her ode to unrequited queer love. Since the song’s almost-overnight success, she’s followed up with music to soundtrack her world that’s equal parts camp, courageous and tender.

Before she gave herself royal status, King Princess grew up as Mikaela Straus, a Brooklyn resident and daughter of the owner of Mission Sound studio. Recording there came with a cautionary clause – you might end up with Straus, something of a prodigy, on your song. With a childhood spent adding background flourishes to tracks when her dad needed a hand, and crossing paths with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Missy Elliot and Matt & Kim, she’s had a few years to dream what her own offering might be.

So far, we’ve seen her caress a sex doll in the video for “Talia” (in place of a girlfriend who left her), she’s watched herself in trash TV shows from a comically large sofa to the sound of “Cheap Queen”, and raved about the divinity of relationships with women in front of a knowingly crass green screen for “Pussy is God”. 

Brazenly self-aware imagery set against intimately personal lyrics is what Ms Queen deals in. Despite being a self-defined “rocker girl”, watching pop powerhouses gave her a penchant for visual drama, pyrotechnics and all. “I want to be lowered from the ceiling,” she tells me. “You know what I mean? That type of shit, I LOVE that! I love a show.” “Prophet”, her most recent release when we speak, is her finest example to date.

“There’s me fucking dressed up as a football player and a group of butch-ass men,” she guffaws down the line. “I’m like, little twinky spice over here!” Directed by Cody Critcheloe, the video sees her dressed as machismo caricatures while she sings about feeling monetised by men; feeling watched, feeling letched over, and “being in love with someone through that”.

“As people, as queer people, as women, whatever you identify with, you have these kind of instinctual feelings about how you’re looked at,” she says. “How your love is observed, and how you’re personally looked at.” 

“It’s really triggering,” she explains — still laughing — that the video is as autobiographical as any of her work, and sees her served as dessert to a table of literal corporate pigs, “‘cause you’re like: ‘Oh I’m gonna be in this semi-factual video about my life, let me just get in this cake that’s shaped like me, and then let all these men eat my fucking cake pussy!’”

That’s her constant – toeing the line between emotional depth, and to put it simply, having a really good fucking time expressing herself creatively. Her debut album Cheap Queen — due for release 18th October — is just as honest, tracking the 20-year-old’s shift into adulthood as a gay, genderqueer person. The timeless timbre of her voice collides with guitar-led songs, sometimes wistful, sometimes untouchable. While simultaneously working on the record, she’s been uploading contrasting hyperactive remixes to her Soundcloud, featuring samples of Tyra Banks and Meryl Streep over the sonic assault of lurching bass lines. See? A really good fucking time.

Between piano ballads (“Isabel’s Moment” will claw at your heart) and juddering, arms-in-the-air anthems (“Watching My Phone”) Cheap Queen is Straus’ diary set to music. “Homegirl” wrenchingly describes infatuation and the trials of queer love and lust in a heteronormative world, while closer “If You Think It’s Love” is breathtakingly vulnerable on uncertainty in all aspects of life (“If this is love / I want my money back / ‘cause I could use the check to spend it on a better heart / to wear upon my sleeve”). Running through heartbreak, King Princess is positioning herself to be firmly visible, voicing her experience as a part of the LGBTQ+ community on her undeniably important debut.

So, here we are, introducing King Princess ahead of her first album proper. Not that she needs us to. She’s already baring all to an inclusive, adoring audience that’s only about to grow.

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland glitter bikini
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland check skirt

(LEFT) Jacket CELINE available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, trousers CELINE available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, bra VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP
(RIGHT) Blouse BURBERRY available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, T-shirt VINTAGE, skirt BURBERRY available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shoes DR. MARTENS, ring KP’s own

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland glitter bikini
Jacket CELINE available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, trousers CELINE available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, bra VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland check skirt
Blouse BURBERRY available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, T-shirt VINTAGE, skirt BURBERRY available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shoes DR. MARTENS, ring KP’s own

KP on the line, how are you? 
I am doing really good, I just got home from seeing my family on the East Coast for a week, ‘cause I’ve been touring, doing festivals all summer, and it’s been a little transient, like I haven’t been able to stay in one place for a minute, but I have this week in LA and I’ve been working on music. 

I actually saw you at Glastonbury, it was great! I brought all my friends out, I got sunstroke. Oh my god it was so hot!
Oh my god that’s crazy, I hope you were enjoying my show and not like, vomiting.

No that was maybe like six hours later… 
It was blistering, it was like, in my eyeballs. It was great, it was really special to play a show that has so much history… I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen that type of fanatic vibe at an American festival. Maybe Burning Man, but Burning Man’s a little eh…  

I would be scared of Burning Man.
I’m scared of that shit. Oh my god I don’t wanna stay in a fucking tent. And I absolutely do not want a barter system for my food… I just wanna pay for my fucking food, I can’t make a hemp necklace for you and you’ll feed me today, no, that is not my zhush at all. I want five-star.

Absolutely. The crowd for your Glastonbury set was such a nice place to be. There were a lot more older people than I was expecting there actually. 
I looked out and I was like, ‘Oh my god, who’s the hot-ass 30-something-year-old straight white man just like, grooving?’ That’s a rare sight… When you’re at my shows it’s just a crowd of lesbians, and then some gay men, and then some people just there for the music, but you know the front row is like: ‘we’re the gays, we’re the fags and the dykes’, that’s it… It was Alexander Skarsgård! It was the Skars. He’s the perfect example, he was just there to enjoy the music.
 
I look out at the crowd, especially at festivals, and there’s really interesting people you don’t usually get to see… I was at this festival in Montreal and I looked out and there were these three fucking guys, and they were screaming, and they were like my straight dudes, and they were all wearing my T-shirt, and then they were holding another T-shirt in the air… I just thought that was so cute, like fuck, it’s cool to see people coming together, it can be a crowd full of lesbians and everyone can respect each other, and the dudes in the audience are jamming and having a good time and being respectful. I fuck with that.

I saw you in London at XOYO last year too and I’d only just heard of you. There were people in the crowd already shouting ‘gak’ [which means good/gag/major] at you and having in-jokes. You’ve built this connection with people so quickly. Do you find that people think that they know you, before they’ve even met you?
Of course, but that’s what this industry is. It’s this idea that people are connected to these individuals that create space for a community to come together in whatever facet. For me it’s these gay people, these gay kids especially – there’s a union for many reasons, one because I’m providing them with music, but also, gay history has told us that language is really important, language that we use as queer people to communicate with each other, it’s bonded us. You see a lot of that still, people feel like there’s inside jokes within the groups that understand us. The internet is the platform where those jokes spread. So I think it’s cool that I can say something on an Instagram post that I think is funny, and [fans] will make a sign at a concert… Something about the internet makes it possible for us to share that queer language, whether it’s made up or historical, so I use a bit of both.

It was a really special moment to witness. You released “1950” in February last year and it had 30 million streams by the time you put out the next single “Talia”, that’s such incredible evidence of that connection. What was that like?
In some ways it kinda set this precedent in my brain that every song had to do that. That’s hard because I want the music to get better and better each song, and I have to understand that I don’t just doctor pop hits, I write music chronologically about my life and put it out… I want my music to be these bodies of work that I put out when they’re ready, and people listen to them and find their favourite song and find their own experiences in them… So I can’t really give a fuck about the other shit.

Have people been impatient with the album? Have they been begging you for it?
It’s so flattering, and I find it so beautiful that people really want it out… ‘Cause it guarantees that people are gonna listen to it… That’s fucking hot… But it’s also like, ‘You know bitch, I’m gonna put out the record when it’s done!’ You know what I mean? I’m not gonna give you some half-baked fucking shit! I want it to be crispy and good, and come out perfectly! I never want to compromise the quality of work, ‘cause you know… We know what rough shit sounds like. 

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland see through shirt
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland check dress
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lime green corset

(LEFT) Shirt ARCHIVE COMME DES GARÇONS available from ARALDA VINTAGE, tank top CUSTOM DESIGNED BY STYLIST, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, ring KP’s own
(MIDDLE) Dress PLAN C available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shirt ARCHIVE JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, boots CHLOE, choker STYLISTS OWN
(RIGHT) Jacket BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, top VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP, shoes JIMMY CHOO, sunglasses BALENCIAGA

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland see through shirt
Shirt ARCHIVE COMME DES GARÇONS available from ARALDA VINTAGE, tank top CUSTOM DESIGNED BY STYLIST, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, ring KP’s own
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland check dress
(MIDDLE) Dress PLAN C available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shirt ARCHIVE JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, boots CHLOE, choker STYLISTS OWN
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lime green corset
Jacket BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jeans BALENCIAGA available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, top VINTAGE from PALACE COSTUME & PROP, shoes JIMMY CHOO, sunglasses BALENCIAGA

Exactly. There’s enough of that in the world. I know you’ve said before that saying no to things is really important. You said no to your first record deal offer when you were 11. I read somewhere that you said no to supporting Harry Styles on tour, but I’ve never heard that before. Is that true?
Oh my god, that’s so funny. OK, here’s the thing, that is a fucking amazing offer, I love Harry. His music’s amazing, and then I met him and I was like, ‘you’re just a fucking lit dude’, he’s so sweet, and we had the nicest kiki. I was a few months into touring my first shows ever, and I got offered this amazing opportunity to open for him, I think it was Madison Square Garden or some shit… If I was gonna do that, I wanted to do it right and have a fucking show to put on, even if I’m an opener, that shit is important to me. I was a baby! And I’m still a baby but I’m like, ‘I can play a fucking show now’. There’s been an evolution.

Where do you think you learned that, knowing when to say no and knowing you’re not ready for things? Have you done things before that you’ve regretted? 
I think everyone’s done shit they’ve regretted, but I also feel I had the fortune of getting so much space to practice, and so when I did have these opportunities where I could have step-out moments, especially when I was young playing music for people, I just got gassed up a lot. I didn’t get a lot of negative feedback, and I didn’t really accept a lot of negative feedback either. So every once in a while someone would be like, ‘I don’t like your music’, and I’d be like: ‘Fuck you! I don’t wanna cruise with you.’ I had this little ego thing, and my parents were like, ‘You know, you can say what you want about her but she’s good!’ 

I carried that into my first couple years with my managers especially, and I was so guarded about their involvement. But then they earned my trust and I earned their trust, and we became a union where we both decided equally that we would distrust everyone else… Like, we don’t want no weirdos in here! I did go into the industry with this understanding: ‘This is game time bitch, like you’re dropping out of college, this is not a drill honey, this is your life. It’s a job!’

I had this plan my whole life, because I knew that I wasn’t that good at other shit… Being in the studio this week, it always reminds me of how much I love to write music, every time I get into the studio. And then now that I’m touring, I’m taking those moments really fucking seriously, you know, this is my break… Travelling, being on planes and shit, it’s fucking painful. My back hurts! 

You’re too young for your back to hurt! 
I throw my ass around that stage though, every night, and you know I’m not stretching! You know I’ve never stretched. 

Maybe you need to get someone on tour with you to make sure you do?
I’m working on that currently. I need a little bit of a mom on tour, I think. 

Get a yoga mom who can get you hemp things to trade at Burning Man when you go there. 
She’s from Topanga, and she has a beaded lock of hair. Just one. And it’s got a charm on the end!

I can literally see her now. So tell me where Mr. Mark Ronson comes into the King Princess timeline. You two together are like, I was gonna say the Blues Brothers but you’re nothing like the Blues Brothers.
That is such a vibe though. Mark came in when I wrote this EP [“Make My Bed”] that had “1950” on it, “Talia”, and “Holy”, and “Upper West Side”… I went into a meeting with Mark, ‘cause he heard the EP, and he was starting this record label, and the label was gonna be attached to Columbia, and I’d be the first person on it and I loved that. I love that attention, that’s good for me. 

I met Mark, and he was just a fucking chiller. We talked about life and he was really interested — and he still is so interested — in what I have to say and the songs I write… Then I signed with them, and since then he’s kind of my soundboard, I play him everything and he’s like, ‘this is what I think’ and I’m like, ‘I hate that’ and he’s like, ‘well that’s tea’ and I’m like, ‘you’re right’.

It seems like you have such a good working relationship. I saw him watching your set at Glastonbury before he came on stage with you, he was saying hello to everyone that came up to him, but he just wanted to get some nice pictures of you on stage.
I watched him go out to my fans and take pictures of himself with fans, and spend time with them, and be like, ‘Aren’t we so excited to see her!’ He’s just so excited… And the thing is with Mark is like, that’s tea with him, he is really great, and this is a weird thing to say ‘cause we live in this world, but he’s great at working with women. 

He’s a really safe and strong presence in an artist’s life, because he tells it like it is, and he does his best job and he works his ass off, and he’s really kind. You’ve seen it with so many artists he’s worked with, he’s delivered some incredible fucking work for them that suits them. I think about Amy and this man has a legacy of working with really important women, and I feel really honoured that he thinks that I’m one of them.

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland red dress
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland veil
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland tartan dress

(LEFT) Dress and petticoat VINTAGE available from CATWALK DESIGNER VINTAGE, top (over dress) MOSCHINO, boots ARCHIVE DIOR, sunglasses STYLISTS OWN
(MIDDLE) Jacket SAINT LAURENT available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jumper VINTAGE COURRÈGES available from ARALDA VINTAGE, veil CUSTOM DESIGNED BY STYLIST
(RIGHT) Dress VINTAGE BETSEY JOHNSON available from ARALDA VINTAGE, turtleneck FENDI, belt DIOR

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland red dress
Dress and petticoat VINTAGE available from CATWALK DESIGNER VINTAGE, top (over dress) MOSCHINO, boots ARCHIVE DIOR, sunglasses STYLISTS OWN
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland veil
(MIDDLE) Jacket SAINT LAURENT available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, jumper VINTAGE COURRÈGES available from ARALDA VINTAGE, veil CUSTOM DESIGNED BY STYLIST
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland tartan dress
Dress VINTAGE BETSEY JOHNSON available from ARALDA VINTAGE, turtleneck FENDI, belt DIOR

The Versions album that he did, that was one of the first CDs I bought with my own money. I used to play it in my dad’s car when I was a kid, and I just fell in love with Lily Allen and with Amy. 
Oh my god, Lily Allen is such an important songwriter, in my life especially, just the way that she writes her songs, everything is just facts… The way she tells stories, it was so informative to me that you could write like that. That your lyricism could be casual and still poetic.

Yeah, she was never there to fuck about. How about your album, Cheap Queen. It’s coming, finally. How are you feeling?
It feels so good… I feel like I went through childbirth, and I was not planning on giving birth. It just feels incredible. It’s a lot of feels packed into this album. All I wanted when I put out the EP was for it to be emotionally impactful in some way. I wanted people to cry to it and laugh to it and just have a good-ass time, but go through some sort of journey. I feel the same way about this record, but now it’s longer. It feels like a step up in every way – production-wise, writing-wise… I’m so proud of it. And I produced the whole thing. 

I didn’t realise you’d produced the “Make My Bed” EP until recently. To be able to say that you’ve produced a whole album is incredible. 
Well that’s the thing, it’s not a question that I get asked that much. People just assume that it’s Mark or it’s my engineer. They’re both insanely important, but I’m the producer, you know? 

Just tell people, don’t wait for them to ask.
Well that’s what I try to do… Shit that started out on my laptop just turned out so fucking good, and I’m just like, damn. It just feels like you really did something with your life.

You gave birth, it’s a big deal. 
I know and I’m back to looking snatched! I look amazing. The bounce back was really quick, it took one day. I was back on my feet dancing.

You’re doing amazing, sweetie. You’ve said before that you want the album to be about communities, and you wanted it to be bigger than you, and you wanted there to be an overall story. You met your people in LA, is part of it going to be about finding your place there?
I really hope it’s the type of thing where people sit and listen to the whole story, ‘cause it was written chronologically…  This whole thing was written through this crazy-ass first year of my life [in LA], and I got thrown into a lot of situations where I didn’t have the life skills to get through them… You have to learn as you go, and this whole year has been so crazy and so emotional because it’s just fucking happened, and I really hope that this record has pieces of that. It feels like that for me when I listen to it, I feel like I transport back to moments from this last year.

You have your friends in your music videos, and obviously your bandmates as well, I love that. I love that sense that you’re in such a tight group that you want to have everyone involved.
My band and I talk about the bands that we love and shit, and they’re all fucking bands. Even the solo projects were bands, because when you got up on a stage with other people, something happened, it was more interesting… And it has to be a fucking band that isn’t changing out every week, it feels like the music is too personal. 

You get banded together a lot with other queer artists, and there’s actually nothing sonically that’s really linking you. Is it ever intimidating that you’re being put into something that’s bigger than you as one person, as one artist?
It’s interesting because I think that as a gay person, there’s social implications of being gay that you just start to normalise in your own life. When people ask you the questions about the queer experience, you’re like, ‘I’m one out of however the fuck many gay people there are in the world, I can’t tell you the general consensus for our viewpoints on shit.’ But I also think as a gay person, there’s an importance to taking on that role, so I don’t shy away from it. You know, if you wanna talk about being gay, I’ll tell you what I think, but you have to take it with a grain of salt ‘cause every fucking queer person has a different experience, and I do not represent the entirety of the queer community. I represent a small fraction, I’m a white girl from Brooklyn, you know? I’m gay and I’m genderqueer, but I don’t know the trans experience, I can’t speak on shit like that. 

People are always expecting someone to be a spokesperson.
I think it’s important sometimes, where there’s strength in numbers. One of the things I found impactful growing up was going and looking on the GLAAD website for how many examples of queer representation were present in television and film that year… So I know that it’s important when kids are looking at/googling queer artists, there’s strength in numbers. You want a lot of people to come up, you want a lot of information… So I don’t always wanna be like, ‘Fuck that, I don’t like being grouped in with anyone.’

My last thing, can we talk about your remixes on SoundCloud? Can we have an album when you’re bored after this one of secret house track remixes? 
Do you love? 

I fucking love.
I love too. 

It sounds like the inside of my head, that’s all I can describe it as.
That’s what my head sounds like too. I’m absolutely dead-ass fucking serious about the remix game, I love it! Just keep noticing me, it’s fun.

I think that’s a great place to finish. 
That fucking hot quote.

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lying down
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland red mini dress

(LEFT) Dress PLAN C available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shirt ARCHIVE JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, boots CHLOE, choker STYLISTS OWN
(RIGHT) Dress CHLOE, boots CHLOE, wig cap

King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland lying down
Dress PLAN C available at BARNEYS NEW YORK, shirt ARCHIVE JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, boots CHLOE, choker STYLISTS OWN
King Princess for the Autumn 19 issue of Wonderland red mini dress
Dress CHLOE, boots CHLOE, wig cap
Photography
Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Fashion
Jake Sammis
Words
Lily Walker
Hair
Nikki Providence at Forward Artists using Bumble and bumble
Makeup
Natasha Severino at Forward Artists using Dermatologica
Production
Federica Barletta
KING PRINCESS