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Exclusive: John Duff Gets 'Girly,' Channels Pop Icons in Debut Video

john duff

The gay artist's debut single embraces femininity and pays tribute to gay icons.

John Duff is poised to become the next big gay pop star. The singer/songwriter just released his debut single, "Girly." As the title suggests, the track celebrates femininity and fluidity. And it's delivered with an upbeat tempo, reminiscent of late '90s pop, which is sure to make it a bop for anyone nostalgic for that era of music.

Those nostalgic for that era will also find the accompanying music video familiar. Paying tribute to gay pop icons of the '90s, it heavily serves as an homage to Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker" video (complete with a Bianca Del Rio fight scene). Pop diva fans will also notice Duff serving looks as Madonna, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears, embracing his "Girly" side in the most iconic way.

John Duff's "Girly" is now available for download. Watch the video, and check out our exclusive interview below:

This is your first single. How does it feel to get that out into the world?

Well, it's not out into the world yet, so it still feels like I'm in the closet. But I'd like to say it feels fantastic. It's like I've been edging for a year.

I noticed you channeled a few pop icons - Mariah, Beyonce, and Christina.

And Britney Spears' "Stronger" and Madonna's "Hung Up."

What was it about the "Heartbreaker" video that made you want to so prominently pay homage to that one?

So, one time, Jesus came to me in the middle of the night, and he was basically like, "You need to do this. You're going to make this music video, and you're to be all of these women. You're not going to do it in a wig. You're going to do it in this masculine presentation, because this is what you always wanted to do." I felt this sense of freedom and I thought, how do I portray each of these videos in a way that tells a story and can still pay homage to multiple people, not just a clusterfuck? So, I thought the "Heartbreaker" music video was perfect because you have the movie theater screen. And with the movie theater screen in her video, she reenacts Grease and Scarface and a couple other things. So, I thought, I'll just reenact the other videos I want to do. So, it was very natural for me to pick the girls that I chose. I would have loved to have gotten Janet Jackson in there, but I didn't get the chance.

What was it like filming that fight scene with Bianca?

Bianca and I are great friends, and I owe so much to him for this video because we were at dinner one night, and he said, "What is it you've been doing?" And I said, "Well, I've been making music." I played him the song, and he said, "Well, this is actually good." Which is nice coming from him because he's very honest. So, he asked how he could help me, and I asked would he be in it. He's like, "You don't wanna borrow my hair?" And I said, "No, I don't wanna borrow your fucking wig. Your hair is a widow's peak, and I don't have that." So, he came and did the video, and we laughed. At that point in the morning, I wanna say it was 7am. We'd been filming since midnight the night before. We were completely on edge, falling apart. He and I started boozing. So, we were a little tipsy filming it. We had a blast. We always cackle.

I love the gender bending and the body positivity. Were those elements kind of a conscious choice to include?

Absolutely. When I started thinking about the video, I realized this is not only exciting for a young gay to watch and say, "I can do that too, and I don't have to be a drag queen to do this." Because drag's so prevalent right now. I also thought maybe people would look at this and think, "Isn't it weird the way we let women portray their bodies and their sexualities, but if a man does it, it looks sort of strange?" So, I wanted to play on making people uncomfortable. And if it makes you uncomfortable, then why doesn't it make you uncomfortable when a 19-year-old girl is doing it? Or like Mariah Carey was 28 when she filmed the "Heartbreaker" video, and I am as well. So, isn't that weird that a 28-year-old woman is batting her eyes and doing that shit? It was very layered for me in terms of my humor and point.

I also love the song. What does "Girly" say about masculinity and those societal standards?

Oh my gosh, can you imagine if we were all completely one thing or the other? It would be the most boring. We'd be cavemen still. And I think the evolution of humanism is embracing the fluidity. Eventually, we'll realize we're all the same thing, whatever your parts may be. I had a devastating experience when I was 21 and I was on The X Factor. Simon Cowell completely, offensively alluded that I was transgender and had not realized it yet. And Paula Abdul called me strange. For years, I thought I was never going to be able to work in this business because I'm too girly. And that's what girly came from. Now I have more followers than the winner of that season of X Factor, so they can suck my dick.

Other than paying tribute to pop icons, how do you like to get girly in your own time?

Oh baby, I feel the fantasy all the time. I live for a kiki with the girls. All my friends are drag queens and women, biological and trans. I'm one of the girls in real life. I get my nails done all the time. It's self-care. I don't see why self-care should be girly. I'm always feeling the fantasy. I love a high heel, I love a dress.

Is there anything else you wanted to add?

I feel like in music, we're missing some joy. I don't see pop stars presenting fun. I see a dark, sexual, honestly evil energy coming out of most popular music. I don't want people to see what I'm doing as a parody. It's not. It's self-expression, and that's what music is supposed to be. I can't help it that I'm funny. But there's a place for funny people, and there's a place for happy people. I want people to feel happy and no pressure to be anything else.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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