Today, Straus is as politically minded as any sharp Gen Zer, but she’s refreshingly hesitant to cast herself as a spokesperson for any movement or community. “I don’t need to be that person in the industry who’s laying out how to be gay for you,” she says. “I’d rather put out good art and allow my gayness to be an added bonus of that art. ” One lesson she picked up as a kid from several close homosexual “elders” (her nanny was a British gay man, a friend of the family’s they nicknamed Mrs.
Ronson recalls that when he first listened to the tracks Straus self-recorded at 17, he was shocked that they were “so fully formed in terms of songwriting. ” One heartsick line in “1950”—“Did you mean it when you said I was pretty? ”—really got to him. “I just melted,” he says. “I was like, I don’t even know how to classify this genre-wise, but it’s too good.
When she shows up for an interview at an L. A. coffee shop, wearing an oversize green hoodie and no makeup, Straus exudes city-kid cool, her conversation a brisk mix of saucy banter and deadpan self-deprecation. (How would she define her personal style? “Like, the hottest boy on your lake,” she says. ) Looking back on her career path, she refers to 2017 as if it were eons ago.
Straus looks out the window and offers an ironic shrug. “So I guess my life is going to be a never-ending cycle of sadness and rebirth, and then marketing my sadness to the world,” she says. “I will keep reliving this pain over and over again.
Eager to conform during freshman year at her Manhattan private school, Straus forced herself through a major femme stage. “I was literally a poppin’ straight girl for six months,” she says. “And then I could not sustain it.
For those who ask, Straus describes herself as genderqueer, but even that open-ended label can seem a bit limiting. “I like being a woman sometimes,” she says. “I would say 49 percent of the time I love my titties.
By the time she was 8 years old, the self-described studio rat (her father, Oliver Straus, is the place’s owner) was spending her after-school hours hanging with indie musicians like Arctic Monkeys and Cat Power, providing commentary on their songs, whether they asked for it or not.
Then Harry Styles cryptically tweeted a lyric from her debut single, the Patricia Highsmith–inspired lesbian ballad “1950. ” In short order, Straus found herself with the requisite six-figure follower count on Instagram as well as a passionate base of young fans hungry for an openly gay, gender-fluid musician to idolize.