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Words / Su Ertekin-Taner

Photos / Abi Polinsky

Styling / Jarrett Edward

Alternative pop’s rising star Zolita celebrated the release of her sophomore album Queen of Hearts last Friday, May 31. In her second album, the sapphic pop princess brings back the records of queer joy that she first cut her teeth on musically. The singer-songwriter also tries new sounds, introducing a pop-country tune, and broaches new, more vulnerable themes like addiction and a previous age-gap relationship. Zolita’s new musical ambitions in Queen of Hearts make for a dynamic, yet balanced album. 

In addition to exploring new sonic and thematic terrains, the singer-songwriter is introducing fans to a new Queen-of-Hearts-themed visual world conceptually inspired by Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Argentina’s queer love story, borne of the 2020 Miss Grand International pageant. The album’s lead single “Bloodstream” and its video debuted Zolita’s visual-arts flair, and she plans to follow up “Bloodstream” with a repertoire of music videos, tour choreography, and especially tour costuming, all deeply influenced by the workings and images of the pageant world. 

LADYGUNN sat down with Zolita to discuss her sophomore album, costuming for her upcoming September headline tour, and the singer’s creative instinct. 

You released your first studio album, Evil Angel, over four years ago. What have you been doing since then that led you to Queen of Hearts, four years later?

So that first album I put out during the pandemic, and that was like a concept album. Every single part of it I wrote to be a part of a story. Then in between that and now I’ve been putting out EPs and singles. And I feel like, given the current music climate, it’s made more sense to do EPs. And then for this one [Queen of Hearts], this one was almost gonna be an EP as well, but then I was like, okay, I might as well put a few more songs on it. I wanted to do another album so badly.

Given that you haven’t written songs for an album in a while, what was the writing process like for Queen of Hearts?

The first song that made it onto this album was written in January 2023, so it’s been a year of writing, probably. It was a pretty long process. I feel like I wrote over 70 songs, maybe, then chose these ones. In the beginning of writing this album, I was in a very stable moment in my relationship, and I had already written so many love songs [in previous EPs]. And I was like, oh, my God, what do I write about now? I don’t really have that part of my life to pull from and that allowed me to dig into topics that I hadn’t written about before.

Can you talk to me a little bit about those topics that you’re newly exploring and how you’re reinterpreting the more classic Zolita themes in this album?

Topics that are not my love life are maybe a little more vulnerable… I didn’t think I would talk about [them]. “Grown Up” is one of those, and I just put that out. It’s about a situation that happened in my life that I never thought I would write about or talk about, but I think it’s one that so many girls and also boys can relate to. The situation was this relationship I had with an older man and coming to terms with it now that I’m an adult. And realizing so many parts of it were wrong and messed up; [it has] stuck with me for so long and I’m only now able to finally process, so that was a really cathartic song to write. I’m getting so, so many messages and so many stories from people. It’s heavy. It’s very heavy.

The other one, “No One Tells You No When You’re Beautiful,” is about someone close to me with addiction and just the way that that affects everybody else around the addict. So those are two really heavy things that I’ve never spoken about. Then on the on the flip side, I wrote some songs that were from a place of queer joy. So “Small Town Scandal,” “All Girls Go to Heaven,” “Queen of Hearts.” I wanted to have this album feel balanced.


You’re trying a lot of different sonic landscapes too, like country and those slowed-down, almost vulnerable beats. Could you talk a little bit more about those new sounds?

I mean country is in my personal music taste. I feel like I probably listen to country 80% of the time, so I listen to a lot of country music, and I grew up playing bluegrass. It’s been something that I’ve been wanting to do for so long, to inject a little bit of country in my own music. Obviously “Small Town Scandal” is a pop country song— it’s a pop song that has country influences in it and country references. To get to finally see a banjo on a track was really fun, and to use all the country references that I have in my back pocket, as well.

You’ve said publicly that Lady Gaga is one of your musical influences. Because you’re trying so many new sounds on this album, I’m also wondering who your musical influences were for Queen of Hearts?

Ooh, Kacey Musgraves is definitely one. Shania Twain was a big influence for the “Small Town Scandal” sound. Holly Humberstone I’ve been loving a lot. Love sonically everything that she’s doing. Honestly, all the amazing queer pop coming out right now like Muna, Chappell [Roan]. Definitely so inspired by and influenced by all of them. And then there’s also a little bit of 80s vibes going on in “All Girls Go to Heaven.” I was inspired by “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”

Because I know you are such a visual person, I want to know what event, moment, or happening do you think that Queen of Hearts could be a soundtrack for? What could you imagine it playing in the background of? 

I feel like a queer road trip, a road trip with your queer friends. You can have the more internal and sad moments and then you can be uplifted by the fun queer pop songs as well.

Is there a song that you expect listeners to really emotionally connect with?

I think “What If” probably is one of those. Your first queer breakup is so hard and scary because you’re like, am I ever gonna meet another queer person that this is going to work with and we’re both going to fall in love at the same time? And how is that all going to happen? I think it is such a sad and scary thing when you build this life with somebody and you have all these plans, and then all of a sudden, you are like, is that entire future that I planned in my head— is that all going to crumble? Is that all going to go away? Somebody that has been in a relationship in general will be able to relate to the pondering— whether that relationship is the right one for you.

Let’s switch gears to your tour and particularly to your costuming which is a definitive part of the storytelling on Zolita tours. The first question I wanted to ask is if you prefer the term outfit or costume, which is a lot more of a campy term. I want to get your philosophy on the clothes that you wear.

Costume for sure. Everything that I wear on stage is always going to be a costume. It’s a Zolita costume. Zoe wears outfits, and Zolita wears costumes. I feel like a costume is something that’s helping me tell the story I want to tell and then also embody the character that I want to embody. Zolita is a character already, but then there’s different iterations of Zolita.

What iterations of Zolita will we be seeing on tour and how are they going to be represented through costuming?

This tour I’m super excited about because it’s going to be pageant-themed. There’ll be three acts, and each act is going to be a different category. And yeah, so there’ll be the pageant Zolita, there will be a very country Zolita. Something for each category, so I’m super excited.

Do you have the categories determined yet?

It’s gonna be a talent, eveningwear, and swimwear, which is not going to be like actual swimwear, but it will be an iteration of that.

So you work with Jarrett Edward, your stylist, to create these amazing costumes. I’m wondering what that curation process was like.

So Jarrett I’ve literally been working with since 2014, probably so like a decade now. We met when  I lived in New York. I went to NYU, and I met him at a club and he was in drag. We became super close. He pretty much designs everything. He is a costume designer more than a stylist, and he makes everything by hand. He’s crazy. He’s so, so good at what he does. The process with him is super collaborative. It’s sending stuff back and forth to each other, references, and getting on calls. For this tour it was finding those references first that now he’s like building off of for each of those categories.

So all the looks that you and Jarrett create together are singular looks, meant just for you. That’s amazing. Can you talk to me about some of the specific references for these tour costumes?

There’s definitely some Mugler references in there. There’s a classic red Mugler cowgirl reference that’s going to be used, which I’m very excited about. And what else? Honestly, it’s a lot of Mugler and then some classic pageants— Miss Continental, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Miss Congeniality—a lot of old pageant references.

Do you have any lucky accessories or items that you are sure to include in your tour outfit?

Always this necklace. It’s a symbol that I came up with. It’s four Venus symbols around two crescent moons. It’s meant to symbolize sisterhood and the four directions.

In terms of tour, I’m also wondering about your getting ready process on tour. Do you have any rituals?

I love doing my own makeup and hair. It’s genuinely the most meditative part of the whole process before the show because it’s just me and my face. And usually, people aren’t talking to me or bothering me during that time. I feel like that is just the time that I get to be with myself and decompress and think about the show ahead. It’s also such a creative space as well.

I really enjoy that you have a hand in everything that you create. It’s not only the costuming, but the music videos and the makeup. It’s everything. Can you tell me where you got your creative streak?

I’ve always been of the mindset that the thing in my head that I want to create—who’s going to do it better than me? And I also am a little bit of a control freak, for sure. It definitely comes from there. It comes from a lot of Earth energy in my chart. I’ve been really lucky; I’ve always had really supportive parents with everything that I do in my creative endeavors from a young age. Also, my mom is a designer, and my dad also makes music and is a writer. From a young age, they encouraged me in all of my creative pursuits, and I feel that’s where my confidence and all my creative power comes from.



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