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Tegan Quin And Lynn Gvnn Get Real About What It’s Like To Be Queer In The Music Industry

Music
Photos by Lindsey Byrnes

“I think everything has changed. And nothing has changed.”

Tegan Quin and Lynn Gvnn are key parts of two of our favorite musical acts working today (Tegan and Sara and PVRIS, respectively). And while interviewing the two of them would definitely be a NYLON dream come true, it was even cooler when we had the two of them sit down recently to interview each other, and talk about everything from what it's like to be nonstop touring to how their identity manifests in their music and how they came out to their families—and record labels. Check it all out in the interviews, below.

Lynn Gvnn; Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

Tegan Quin: I'm curious about how you approached being "out" in the music industry and in your band. Was it a conversation with everyone? Or were you always out?
Lynn Gvnn: I came out to my family when I was 18. I don’t remember there ever being a conversation amongst the band or management regarding me being “out,” but I do remember a big debate in my head that existed for a little while before things with PVRIS fully set sail. I never wanted to compromise in fear of others’ approval, and I recognize the importance of being “out” as far as representation and visibility. [But] the debate existed from a different angle [for me]… I wanted to be “out,” but I wanted it to be the last thing people paid attention to. I didn’t want to be known as a gay woman playing music; I just wanted to be a musician who also just happened to be gay.

TQ: Do you feel comfortable talking about being queer in the press? Do you even identify as queer? Or as a lesbian? I know more and more young people are shaking off labels. Do you feel comfortable sharing how you identify?
LG: Initially, when people began to ask me about it, I felt uneasy. Not because I didn’t feel comfortable speaking about my sexuality, but because I always questioned the intentions of the interviewers and the intent behind the questions being asked. And again, I never wanted the topic of my sexuality to draw away attention from our music and art. However, now more than ever, representation and visibility is absolutely crucial in my opinion, so I feel more than happy to talk about it. As for how I identify, I absolutely love women and have yet to feel the same way about men, so I definitely just identify as gay!

TQ: I'm also wondering how your identity plays a role in your band. I know the rest of your band is male. And since my band is just [my identical twin sister] Sara and me, my identity and Sara's identity play a huge role in the music, the lyrical content, our imaging, etc. Is it the same for you? Or different because you share the band with two other men?
LG: This is a great question. I’ve never really thought about it? I write all of our lyrical content and come up with our creative concepts and visuals, but I always try to make sure everything I’m saying is representative of and applies to all three of us as a unit. It happens pretty naturally.

TQ: Sara and I felt VERY much like we had to be out. It was never a question if we were going to be honest or keep it private. We felt a responsibility to our audience who were quite young and female, to be honest about who we were and the challenges we were facing and what we were writing about. Did you feel this way? And what role or responsibility do you think public figures like yourself have to play in being out or being involved in the social justice of LGBTQ rights? I'm also wondering how you feel now that you're further into your career. Has it changed? Do you feel it in any way marginalizes your music or success?
LG: Absolutely! I definitely always recognized the importance of representation and visibility, so it wasn’t even a question as to whether I was to be open with my sexuality or not. The only hesitancy in my mind existed in what I explained earlier. That mindset still applies for me nowadays, but the hesitance around it, regarding press and the media, has definitely dissolved. In today’s climate, I think it’s crucial to talk about. As for other public figures, I can’t speak for them because not everyone has been given the same circumstances, so it definitely inspires me, to be involved for those who can’t be, and I hope that can inspire others as well.

TQ: Can you give me a quick overview of what you have coming up in the next year? What does the rest of 2017 look like for PVRIS!?
LG: So much! We’ve got a new record coming out in August, so [there's] that whole process! After that, just lots and lots of touring, filming for more videos, and everything else that comes with a new record cycle. [Laughs] The biggest thing on the list though is to enjoy it!

TQ: And then lastly, any advice for a band on their eighth record who's been touring for 20 years? You must have some awesome tour/life/industry hacks, being 23, that I could adopt to ensure I'm on the cutting edge of the music biz!? SERIOUSLY THOUGH!
LG: [Laughs] I’m probably the worst person to ask… I was hoping to ask you YOUR secrets!

Tegan Quin and sister and bandmate, Sara; Photo by Lindsey Byrnes

LG: I’m not familiar with your's and Sara’s coming out stories… What was your experience? Did you both figure out your sexuality and come out around the same time?
TQ: Sara came out first. There were some bumps initially with some family, but they came around pretty quickly. I came out next. Sara had weathered most of the trauma of coming out, so my coming out was a pretty easy affair. I’d go so far as saying it became a non-issue once Sara was “out.” I think everyone just assumed I was gay, too. I think it was pretty obvious. My haircut didn’t help.

LG: The amount of LGBTQ representation, support, and acceptance has obviously progressed so much over the past 20 years. What’s it like to look back to when you began and see where you are now? What were some of the biggest struggles just starting out? Which struggles that existed back then are you still seeing today?
TQ: While we never even considered being closeted, I think we definitely sensed awkwardness about our sexuality with the industry when we first started in the ’90s. That left us often speaking very little about it initially, but we never lied or hid it.  

I think there were genuine fears and concerns that being “out” would hinder our success within our team or the label, but, for us, we saw no future in the mainstream, so once we were embraced by alternative music, we just pushed forward full steam ahead and accepted that we were going to be seen as a “lesbian band.” And we were okay with that. I think being women held us back much more often than being gay. We worked in alternative music for 10 years before we moved to pop. And that’s a man's world. Us being gay may have helped us there rather than hurt us.   

I think everything has changed. And nothing has changed. All at the same time.  Depending on the day or which way I squint my eyes, I can be here or back then in a second. It’s just the way it is… but we’ll keep fighting.

LG: You and Sara recently launched the Tegan and Sara Foundation—which is so incredible, by the way. How long of a process has this been to organize this and finally launch it? What other organizations were you involved with prior?   
TQ: We’ve always been politically active and interested in giving back to our community. Over the years, we discussed starting a foundation to legitimize and hopefully expand our activism and ability to give. This year it just finally made sense to do it. We’ve always focused on giving to grassroots organizations and leaned towards LGBTQ orgs or women's organizations. So the foundation will do the same. We have access, privilege, and visibility right now. And we see it as our responsibility to use those things to access funds and funnel them to the LGBTQ organizations working in the trenches. Women and girls are underfunded, underrepresented, and under-researched in the LGBTQ community. We want to work to change that in any way we can. For us, this is not a vanity project. We truly see ourselves as activists and wouldn’t have the career we do if not for the support of our community.

LG: Over the past few years, the band and I have noticed a drastic shift when we play live, because we've seen a sort of LGBTQ "safe space" developing at our shows… Was this a similar thing for you and Sara? Was it a slow growing process or was it something that was present right off the bat?   
TQ: We figured out really quickly that, as openly queer women in a band, we were going to see a lot of LGBTQ people at shows, even if they didn’t know who we were, as our shows became community spaces. People came to see their friends and support the community. Music is a wonderful way to bring together different people, and so we focused on ensuring our shows were open-minded, all ages, LGBTQ-friendly, and a “safe space” from day one. But, in recent years, we absolutely continue to look for ways to ensure it’s truly a safe space. From bathrooms to culturally competent security to our messaging from stage, we ensure our fans feel comfortable, safe, and welcome at our shows.

LG: This question is slightly serious, slightly kidding… I think LGBTQ people are absolutely fucking MAGICAL. I genuinely feel like there’s something magic that exists in us that I have yet to identify. Do you agree? If so, what do you think that "magic" is? 
TQ: [Laughs] I agree! Seriously. I feel special for sure. I have always said, through thick and thin, good and bad, highs and lows as a gay person, I feel so lucky to have been born this way. I feel like my perspective on life and love and myself and society, is so unique, and I also feel like I’ve used my otherness to become a more empathetic person. I feel like I haven’t ever felt like I’ve been on the same path as anyone [else]. My life feels so unique. How people engage with me is so unique. It’s made me feel very magical at times. Definitely.

LG: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in the past 20 years of touring that you don’t think you could have learned any other way?  
TQ: This is going to sound silly, but I think I learned that I love business. I am seen as an “artist.” And I am. But I think what I truly love is solving problems. Details. Efficiency. Running a team. Being involved with a team. Marketing and strategy. Through eight records and 20 years, we’ve really only had mainstream success a few times. Mostly we have worked in the underground, just below the surface of the mainstream. So we had to learn how to thrive and succeed with very little mainstream support or radio. The challenge of gaming the system and stretching a dollar has become my obsession!

LG: I found myself completely burnt out after only two to three years of nonstop touring, how in the WORLD have you managed 20 years of it? What’s the most important thing you've learned over the years to stay in a relatively healthy mental state through it all? How have you stayed excited and inspired?   
TQ: The best piece of advice I ever got was after nearly two years of being chronically sick on the road. Our managers sent me to a family member who was a naturopathic doctor. She prescribed a bunch of natural remedies and gave me a strict diet to follow, to help battle my low immunity and post-antibiotic body. But also, she took me aside after the appointment and said that I needed to allow myself to be sick and also to get better; that it was obvious I felt like I had to do everything, be everything, say yes to everything, be okay all the time. And that I was not going to be able to do that. And that I literally had to ask everyone around me—including my band and crew—to be sick, to lay in the back and just... get better. She basically was the first person who brought “stress makes you sick” into my life. I changed EVERYTHING after that.

We have slowly been learning to say no. We also eat as well as we can. I also pretty much refuse to do any press before 1pm. I think getting enough sleep on the tour bus is pretty much an oxymoron—like, I wake up exhausted no matter how many hours I get—but I think rushing to do early morning things leads to an early band death. You need to find joy in every day. It sounds silly and trite, but it's true. If by the time you step on stage you’ve been working and talking and doing press and taking photos all day long, how can you possibly enjoy the show? I think separating press and promotion from the musician part of your day is super important.   

I think we’ve managed to do this for 20 years because it’s not just our passion, it’s our purpose. Our audience, LGBTQ rights, being visible for our community, traveling the world, learning empathy, and experiencing the connection with hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years, fuels me in the lowest, most tired times. That being said, I am definitely burnt out. [Laughs]

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

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Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

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Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

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Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes www.youtube.com

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