Meet Zolita: The Rising Queer Icon Writing Songs for Our Generation
We spend a day with the singer-songwriter in LA.
When did you find out you were gay? Are you sure you’re not just going through a phase? Maybe you just haven’t found the right man? These are all questions that I’ve been asked. Some argue that the whole concept of coming out in #20GayTeen is moot, but the reality is that it still happens everyday, whether you intentionally seek out to do it or not. It’s not that the people asking these questions are trying to be rude – the inquiries are honestly stemming from a place of curiosity and perhaps even a simple lack of knowing better. Although there is still much room for improvement, visibility for the gay community has undoubtedly been growing. Openly queer artists such as Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko – who has been dubbed as Lesbian Jesus by her intensely loyal legion of fans – are now regarded alongside some of today’s most revered pop icons. It’s not just starting an open dialogue on the topic of LGBTQ+ presence that is important, though – these artists are actively normalizing what it means to be gay. Thanks to these loud and proud artists, a music video that shows two young women in love can garner over 93 million views on YouTube.
Making her own mark in this significant movement is Zolita. Real name Zoë Hoetzel, the LA-based artist (who was previously based in NYC) has become a powerful voice for not only queer music, but independent music in general. As a singer-songwriter who creates and releases music without the support – or more importantly, the influence – of a record label, Zolita’s music is completely unfiltered and is confidently her own. First blowing up (pun unintended) the Internet with her first single, “Explosion,” you would be hard-pressed to find a listener, gay or straight, who was not able to relate to the heartbreakingly honest lyrics. As an homage to her very real experience of falling in love with her best friend, only to find that that love is unrequited, the Internet’s response to the song was overwhelming. Recognizing the potential that her music has on an audience, the singer has become committed to telling stories for women who love other women. When asked whether she thinks the term “queer music” pigeonholes her into a genre, she responds, “I definitely don’t find it restrictive. I think it’s necessary right now…Queer people are still a minority and we still don’t have all the rights that we need. Music is a universal language. You can’t deny if something is making you feel some type of way. So I think anyone can relate to my music, whether you’re gay or straight.”
Following the premiere of her May-released sophomore EP, Sappho (in case your history needs some polishing up, Sappho was a celebrated Ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. The subjects of her love poems have largely been believed to be women) Zolita has been met with much praise for her beautifully sincere portrayal of human relationships. From the emotionally driven first track, “New You,” that follows the heartbreak of a relationship falling apart, to “Fight Like A Girl,” which is an empowering song that celebrates the strength of women, the six-song album is a triumph. Offering songs that are anthems for listeners who are both self-assured in their sexuality, or still discovering themselves, Zolita is here to tell you that under no circumstance should you be ashamed of who you are.
We recently caught up with the songstress in her hometown Los Angeles, where we were able to chat with her about everything from the first time she kissed a girl, to her thoughts on the online queer community. Taking us through her day, we get to see the singer in both her natural environment as Zoë (yes, we did get to meet her pupper) and as her fierce stage presence known as Zolita, who was able to command an audience, telling them that ignorance doesn’t deserve her time of day. At the end of it all, we aren’t just reinvigorated by the daring energy of the 23-year-old singer – we realize that Zolita isn’t just creating music for the LGBTQ+ community. She’s creating music for a generation.
You can watch our full conversation with Zolita above. And although Pride Month has already ended, don’t miss our roundup of the best pride events happening around the world.