NEW FACES

Dorian Electra Is Building Their Gay Furry Militia

by Hannah Jackson

dorian electra portrait
Courtesy of Jade DeRose.

Dorian Electra is packing for their upcoming tour under the watchful eyes of several disembodied furry heads. All of the mascots, displayed on a shelf like hunting trophies, are relics of the 29-year-old singer’s blooming career. They point to one menacing canary-yellow head from the “My Agenda” music video. “We had them all as a gay furry militia, and they were all in these fighter jets and in uniforms,” they tell W during a Zoom call from their home in Los Angeles.

Electra takes pleasure in poking at taboos (like furries), and asking the audience to interrogate why they generate so much negative shock value. “The number of people that comment, ‘Damn, I think I'm a furry now,’ or whatever, is kind of amazing once people can get past the cringe factor,” Electra says. Today, the furry heads are not only a form of social commentary—they also serve as impromptu sound-proofing material. Electra has spent the week leading up to the European leg of their “My Agenda” tour recording in their Los Angeles home studio space, which has yet to be properly insulated. “In the meantime, let's just use the damn furry heads,” they say with a giggle. “It works great.”

Electra has taken the nontraditional path to music. Their first brush with fame came when they worked as a freelance video producer for Refinery29, tasked with making educational music videos. “I chose to do [a video] about the history of the clitoris, and then that one sort of went viral,” they say. From there, Electra dove into the history of high heels, drag, and vibrators, bridging their undergraduate education in philosophy and the history of science with their passion for music and videography. Their official foray into the music industry came in 2017 when they were featured on Charli XCX’s “Femmebot,” which opened the door for them to focus on their own projects. Following Electra’s debut album Flamboyant in 2019, they have racked up features from artists like Pussy Riot, Rebecca Black and 100 gecs. Electra is even making a splash in the fashion world, having sung a cover of Pharrell’s “Happy” at Collina Strada’s spring 2022 runway show during New York Fashion Week.

Fashion is of great importance to Electra, who counts Liberace and Elizabethan menswear as some of their most formative influences. “I really like to remix and play with different eras, and purposely juxtapose things that seemed like they wouldn't go together,” they say. Electra recently released a collection with Left Hand LA, which shares their fashion philosophy. Among the pieces? A t-shirt stained with coffee and cigarette ash, and a kilt adorned with Electra’s used—though, they assure, washed—socks. “We were really interested in the idea of celebrity and fandom and just how ravenous people really get for any little scrap, no matter how small,” they explain. Electra’s penchant for the flamboyant is critical in their approach to both fashion and music. “My interest in the history of fashion directly parallels my interest in the history of music,” they say. Among their biggest musical influences: metal, Gregorian monk chants, and 2000s pop, naturally.

It was around the release of Flamboyant that Electra began identifying as genderfluid. They worried that the world’s attachment to the hyper-femininity of pop legends that came before them, like Britney Spears and Madonna, would hamper their ability to succeed in the industry. “I'd started using they/them pronouns and started feeling like I want to make this pop music, but I don't see myself as fitting into the landscape,” they say. But the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “To see the audience response and seeing the new fans come out of nowhere was so personally validating because it was like, ‘Oh, they get what I'm doing. They don't just think I'm being a drag king. They understand me,’’' Electra says. “I felt very seen with my gender identity, and I think that definitely gave me the courage to keep moving forward.”

Electra feels that had they arrived on the scene just a few years earlier, they would not have the career they have today. “I feel like sometimes you get really lucky with the timing of the culture,” they say. But they note that some parts of the world are not ready to embrace the fluidity of gender and sexuality, specifically noting Poland, a stop on their upcoming tour that has struggled with an alarming uptick in fascism and anti-LGBT epithets.

“I'm really looking forward to going to places like Poland where they have a really, really intense anti-LGBT climate,” Electra says. They recall their time spent in the country in 2019 while touring with Charli XCX, when the two witnessed a parade led by far-right nationalists. “People don't feel safe,” they say. “To me, it's one of the most important places to visit, because people really need that kind of support right now.” In a tense social climate where civil rights are regressing, having a bold and unapologetic force like Electra to lead the way is a gift to many queer people, from Poland to the United States. Perhaps they arrived at the perfect time after all.