Born This Way: The Rise of Chappell Roan

No matter who or where you are, everyone knows the name Chappell Roan. Whilst having the internet in a frenzy of cowboy hats and camouflage, the superstar has taken over the world, and she knows it. 

The first time I ever came across Chappell Roan was on TikTok. I watched in awe as she sang out ‘Red Wine Supernova‘. Undoubtedly, I was amazed by her ability to form brilliantly crafted metaphors and control her voice perfectly while running on the spot. As a music journalist, everything is exciting to me. However, this was the first time in a long time that the world has come to a collective agreement that she is the next big thing.  


Becoming Chappell Roan

Firstly, if we go right back to the beginning, before the bold blue eyeshadow. Kayleigh Rose Amstutz was born in Willard, Missouri. Ultimately, it is a place that would become significant within her work. Growing up in a trailer park and attending church meant she always felt there was somewhere else she was destined to be. Along with her frequent church trips, her summers consisted of Christian camps. Surrounded by the narrative that being gay was a sin, she couldn’t help but feel different from those around her. With an infatuation with award shows, she admired the likes of Lady Gaga and Kesha. Likewise, they’re two incredibly talented musicians who owned the stage and continued to create safe spaces for fans.  

Along with this desire to run, she created a whole new side of herself. Additionally, taking inspiration from her grandfather, Dennis Chappell, and the song he loved most, ‘The Strawberry Roan’, sung by Curley Fletcher. Thus Chappell Roan was born. Importantly, her big break came when she signed to Atlantic Records. This is due to her talent being discovered within the covers she posted to YouTube. However, all was not as it seemed. This big break ended when she was dropped from the label, and life in Willard returned to normal. Even so, this did not stop her. She worked to save up enough money to try again, and that she did. This time, Roan signed to Amusement at Island Records. This was only the beginning of the rise of this Midwest princess. 

The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

With one of the greatest debuts, Chappell gave us ‘The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess’. It’s an album that just pours out to anyone in the world who has ever struggled with their identity. It is creating the safest of spaces, while still praying for karma on those who have done wrong by you.  

Despite the success that has followed this incomparable record, the iconic ‘Pink Pony Club’ did not start as widely celebrated. Originally writing the track after her first experience in a gay club when she made her first move west, it tells the story of finally feeling like you belong. No matter what it takes or whoever it hurts, at that moment, you are one with yourself. This, however, did not translate to the people at Atlantic Records. Yet with the greatest comeback, the track landed itself on the powerhouse that is this LP. It has become an anthem to the queer community.

Furthermore, the song itself bears a true resemblance to the bravery of using your voice even when being shut down. Producing the record with Dan Nigro, Chappell got to work again with the producer who she worked closely with when first signing to Atlantic Records. Thus creating a sound that showed clear progression through the songs she had been working on since her move back home. Meanwhile, she is staying true to who she is and the music she always wanted to make.

Consequently, songs like ‘Femininomenon’ and ‘HOT TO GO!’ made the internet fall in love. This is largely due to the way she creates tracks that would fill any dancefloor and crowd any karaoke night. Speaking only of the silly fun that happens when you stay up past midnight and wear your go-go boots to the club, it encapsulates everything that it means to be free. Whereas the LP has more somber moments on tracks like ‘Casual’ and ‘Coffee’, there is a looming presence of the undeniable heartbreak that comes with sapphic relationships. When you are both trying to find yourself, the beauty in the fact that even feeling sad means you still get to experience your feelings as they are and out in the open.  

The Impact on Queer Communities

There are a million different reasons as to why this album has impacted the LGBTQIA+ community. Each of those reasons belongs to the people who feel seen and can relate. However, I believe the thread it has woven that brings these people together is one of the project’s greatest achievements. As a result, those who may not be out of the closet or are struggling with gender or sexual identity can see themselves in stories told through her music. Equally, for openly queer communities to have someone that captures the beauty of being yourself and using creativity and art to showcase everything you are.

Chappell herself speaks boldly about the art and the artists that inspire her. From Divine to the constant comparisons to Miss Piggy, to drag star Sasha Colby. Nevertheless, on a podcast, Roan retells the story of realising the star she had created was a drag queen. While performing in London, one of the queens opening, Crayola, told her that this transformation she has before she gets on stage is because Chappell Roan is a drag queen. She states that this has become part of her identity and is much more freeing to separate herself as Kayleigh and Chappell as her drag project.

As drag is one of the superstars’ biggest influences, she pays homage to the greats. Often, the singer has different drag queens from all over open for her tours. She also asks fans to give back to the queer community and support their queens and all their hard work.

Liberty, Justice, and Freedom for All

As the world is moving forward and queer communities are celebrated, there is a black cloud that lingers. Drag performances are being banned in front of minors, gender-affirming care for minors is being prohibited, and a myriad of LGBTQIA+ restrictions. Artists like Chappell Roan have continued to use their platforms in a way that brings light to these horrendous situations. It’s a kickback at the people at the top that make these decisions. Proving that the fight isn’t over, young and old have been able to find hope in the 26-year-old’s words. Whilst now queer people are given opportunities to speak and keep the voices of those who came before alive, there is still a long way to go.

Without a doubt, music is one thing that keeps us as humans together, and something to relate to one another about. So, it’s a breath of fresh air to have artists that aren’t afraid to speak out and tell these narratives. Most importantly, it gives us hope. Recently, Roan announced on stage at the Governor’s Ball, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, that she had been asked to perform at The White House. Looking directly into the camera to address the invitation, stating, “We want liberty, justice and freedom for all. When you do that, that’s when I’ll come.”.  

As a 21-year-old woman, it is important to me not only as a writer but as a woman that these conversations are being had. This is especially true of artists who I look up to. These conversations must continue, and all voices should be heard. Chappell Roan is one of many shouting for these changes, covered in glitter and pink cowboy boots. She refuses to be complicit and works tirelessly for the better. I hope this Pride you are all dancing at that Pink Pony Club. 

You can find Chappell Roan on Instagram, TikTok, and X. You can read more Pride Month articles like this one here, and listen to her music below.

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