As soon as Parisian DJ, producer, vocalist and fashion provocateur Kiddy Smile pumps down the runway at a Vogue ball, it’s all over. And that’s just the beginning of his creative talent. Kiddy Smile, or Keehdi Mizrahi of the iconic House of Mizrahi, is deeply involved in Paris' ballroom scene and makes his own music imbued with the sleazy, lazy attitude of '80s and '90s house, with a cunty French kiss.
"For me, music is more like colors," Kiddy tells OUT. "When I speak to people I’ll say, 'Oh, I need something a little bit warmer, put a little bit of blue into this.'"
Kiddy, who signed to Defected Records in July 2016, has performed alongside names like Honey Dijon, Hercules & Love Affair, The Gossip and LCD Soundsystem, and designed runway soundtracks for Diesel, Balmain, Alexander Wang and Balenciaga.
“Let A B!tch Know,” an anthem about self-acceptance, dropped this summer with a powerful video set in the Paris suburbs, a place where LGBTQ folks are still rarely acknowledged. Kiddy's video features members of the Paris ballroom scene—brown, queer and trans people being their sickening, opulent selves, no fucks given.
In December, Kiddy dropped a reworked video version of “Let A B!tch Know” with even more voguing to gag on. In the update, Kiddy took over another space where queer people are rarely acknowledged: the gym. "We contacted many gyms and they all declined, so we had to be banjee about it," he said. "I looked for hotels that had a gym and then booked three rooms and then we shot without authorizations at night."
OUT caught up with Kiddy Smile to talk about George Michael, "the ghetto," fatphobia, wigs and the secret to making your booty look great.
The day George Michael died you shared a clip of his music video for “An Easier Affair” on Instagram, which you were in. That’s a pretty big first gig.
I was actually going to the audition to support a friend and then the casting director asked me to do the audition. At the time I was still studying dancing and I was not really in the dance industry. I wasn’t trying to get booked. You have to look a certain way and I didn’t feel like I was falling into the criteria, so I wasn’t going to castings.
Was George Michael one of your musical idols growing up?
No he wasn’t, not gonna lie. I heard of him because of the big [sex] scandal, but it wasn’t something that was part of my music world. My mom was more into James Brown, Teddy Pendergrass and people like that, but even when I started to get into music I was more into R&B and urban music. I was honored that such a huge artist would pick me when I didn’t even come for the casting. It was my first job, so he was really somebody important in my life.
He saw that you were the most ovah bitch in the building, that’s what he saw.
Oh yeah, because he handpicked everybody. We got a call from him that he wanted us to be in the music video.
Speaking of ovahness, the song and music video for your single “Let A B!tch Know” makes everyone hot. The fashion—gag. The dancing—gag. How did you pull it all together?
It comes from a long journey of accepting yourself. Let’s say you come from “the ghetto," where you put all the outcasts who you don’t want to be part of society. Growing up over there, I was also finding out about by sexuality. I quickly realized that “the ghetto” is a place where you cannot be weak.
We live in a society that is sexist, and where I grew up they still see being gay [and] feminine as a weakness. So I knew that “gay” was never something I could claim. I didn’t grow up hiding who I was, but I didn’t claim it, either. If I wanted to be taken seriously and have the respect I wanted to have, I couldn’t come out as a gay person. [Eventually] I found a place where I could be myself—the gay community—but they wouldn’t accept my ghettoness.
When you’re a queer person of color, you’re navigating two worlds at the same time.
It has to do with racism [and] classism. When you get into the gay community, they don’t want to know about your struggles other than being gay. And when they do know, they judge you. You come from this kind of place? Oh...Your parents clean toilets?...Oh…[With “Let A B!tch Know”] I felt like being banjee in the gay community has already been done. But being gay in the ghetto—out, proudly gay and in their motherfucking face—that has never been done. It’s about repossessing where you come from and mixing it with who you are. I told my dancers I wanted us to be fags in the ghetto. Everybody was up for it.
You really speak up on issues, like racism and fatphobia. Do you feel it’s necessary to use your platform to bring politics into music?
I just don’t want people to feel the way I felt growing up. You’re supposed to see a reflection of the world on TV, but often you can’t see anything that looks like you. Instead of being a person that complains about a problem I’m just going to be an answer to it—a solution. I’m certainly going to have to talk about fatphobia because it has been the worst thing in my life. Being fat for me is worse than being black or gay. People don’t understand how damaging it is, all the stigma there is around being fat. It’s difficult to learn how to love yourself. It’s one thing to learn to love your body, and it’s another one to believe that other people could love you with this body.
Sometimes we have to use creativity to learn to love ourselves. By the way, I know you keep a collection of wigs and I heard you used to have a Kelis-inspired weave when you were younger.
I’ve always loved hair. I had weaves, cornrows, twists, faux locs, crochet. When I was younger I was really not loving my hair. I would wear anything but my hair, so I started wearing Kelis weaves. I was really into Kelis when I was in high school, like I was really, really into her. I just related to her, to this betch who came out very angry. [“Caught Out There”] was banjee—ovah.
On the subject of wigs and weaves, you were telling me about these jeans you swear by that really make your ass go ka-kow. What’s the secret?
We call them “the femme queen jeans” because they’re real jeans but they feel like leggings. They’re the 524 Levi’s Skinny Jeans. They’re ovah, but when you wear these, make sure you wear a jockstrap with them because it’s going to be defining the bottom of your cheek, you know? Like two apples—like two melons. So when you put the jeans on, it’s like...ba-boom.