Kehlani Explains Why She Has An Androgynous Woman As Her Love Interest In “Honey” Video

Earlier this week, R singer/songwriter Kehlani accepted the Rule Breaker Award’s at Billboard Women in Music 2017.

“Being acknowledged for breaking rules in a positive light is so important to me because my entire career I’ve been very outspoken,” the out bisexual said in her speech. “I can’t help it. … I just have to speak up. It hits me in the gut.”

At only 22, Kehlani has become a trailblazer both inside her genre and in greater pop music, and with her new music video, “Honey,” she’s continuing that work by hiring not only a female love interest for the storyline, but an androgynous woman, played by Aarianna Johnson.

“There were particular reasons why I chose AJ for this video,” Kehlani wrote on an Instagram post. “This song was inspired by an androgynous woman, and I wanted to find someone who fell in line with that, who was ‘hard’ yet so so soft (yes, like a bee). I was asked ‘why not use a feminine girl? ,’ but I knew I wanted to honor the inspiration, and paint the picture of the sweet tender aspect that shines through every woman, no matter what.”

The video is a gorgeous portrait of romance between two women, set to the sweet stripped-down track from her forthcoming album, K*, a follow-up to 2017’s SweetSexySavage.

“I like my girls just like I like my honey,” she sings. “Sweet, a little selfish. I like my women like I like my money. Green, a little jealous.”

Kehlani and AJ nuzzle heads, hold hands, dance close, and kiss amongst the beehives and cloudy skies of an American farmland. It’s a true celebration of the feelings two women can share for one another, expressed without concern or sensationalism which is too often the case when it comes to depictions of queer sexuality on screen.

More frequently than not, these depictions are also of two feminine-presenting women, so Kehlani’s being pressed on why she didn’t choose a more femme counterpart for her video is not so atypical. It’s especially rare that we see a masculine-of-center woman of color, with few depictions popping up in popular culture over the last few years (including Lena Waithe’s Denise on Master of None and Poussey on Orange is the New Black.)

As Kehlani shared in her post, the song is inspired by who we can only assume is her current girlfriend, artist Shaina Negron. Negron recently accompanied Kehlani to the Soul Train Awards, where the latter was up for Best R/Soul Female Artist. She was the only out artist to be nominated in any category.

While other queer stars like Sam Smith, Halsey, Lauren Jaruegui, and Hayley Kiyoko are helping to bring some much-needed visibility to popular music and media, Kehlani is also helping to break stereotypes within R, which hasn’t quite achieved the same level of queer-friendliness that pop has. Alongside the only other out artists to achieve mainstream success in the genre, Syd and Frank Ocean, her being so fiercely self-accepting and advocating is an inspiration, and hopefully will allow for further “rule breaking” in the near future.

Kehlani’s singing about a relationship with a woman, and making sure the representation of that woman is not only accurate for her, but also helps women like the one she’s singing to feel seen should not be understated. As all music is expected to be universal, performing the kinds of feelings and emotions that people of all identities have and relate to, it’s important to note that Kehlani is singing a shared experience, no matter the gender. But it’s just as important to note that she’s subverting what’s “normal” or “expected” from young artists like her.

“All the pretty girls in the world,” Kehlani sings on “Honey.” “But I’m in this space with you. Colored out the lineI came to find, my fire was fate with you. Heartache would stay with you. Fly great escapes with you.”

She ends with an outro asking, “Is it love all we need? Is it love?” The answer provided in “Honey”:Yes.

Images via Getty and Instagram

The ‘Worst Secretary of State in Living Memory’ Is the White House’s Best Hope for LGBTQ Rights

Editor’s note: This is an opinion editorial and not reflective of the author’s reporting on LGBTQ issues for this site.

The revolving door of Trump’s White House may be about to hit Rex Tillerson on the way out.

Recent reports published in The New York Times and Washington Post suggest the Secretary of State will be the latest member of the administration to step down. At just over nine months in office, at least 10 key officials in the White House have resigned, including former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The Times believes Tillerson could be next on the chopping block of a volatile president who tends to blame his staff for a chaotic regime defined by infighting and scandal.

“[Trump] has been said to have soured on Mr. Tillerson and in general is ready to make a change at the State Department,” the Grey Lady alleged in a Nov. 30 report.

Should Tillerson receive his pink slip before the infant Trump administration turns a year old in January, the history books are unlikely to be kind to his prematurely aborted tenure. The Atlantic called him a “disaster” and the “worst Secretary of State in living memory.” That characterization is difficult to dispute. The United States’ highest-ranking diplomat has struggled to restaff the State Department, firing longtime employees and continuing to leave major positions unfilled.

What might have seemed improbable a year ago, however, is what Tillerson’s loss will mean for LGBTQ rights.

It would require a gritty reboot of the entire English language to call Tillerson an “ally” to the community (or even anywhere adjacent). ExxonMobil received an unprecedented negative score from the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index under his tenure. No other company has been awarded that dubious honor. When Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999, the new company eliminated partner benefits for Mobil employees and continually opposed any efforts to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive policy.

The company had to be all but forced into supporting equality: The Obama administration mandated in 2015 that nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation would henceforth be a prerequisite of earning federal government contracts.

His record as a Secretary of State is marginally better, meeting the bare minimum requirements of a passing grade. On Tillerson’s high school report card, his tenure would be a D-minus with about seven more dashes next to it. The 65-year-old has failed to take tangible action on the anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya, which have collectively imprisoned over 200 gay men this year. Tillerson didn’t even bring up the Chechen purge with Russian diplomats until seven months after the arrests began.

But the Secretary of State has been willing to do what nearly every single one of his colleagues has not: voice any support for LGBTQ rights whatsoever, even something as minor as a tweet.

Tillerson has been one of the few White House officials to acknowledge either the Transgender Day of Remembrance or LGBTQ Pride Month. He put out proclamations recognizing both. After acknowledging global violence against transgender people, he claimed in a Nov. 20 statement that the federal government “remains committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons.”

The press release has an “All Lives Matter” vibe to it, but it’s better than what the LGBTQ community got from Donald Trump. In June, President “Better For the Gays” recognized Great Outdoors Month, National Ocean Month, and National Home Ownership Monthbut not Pride month.

It’s a doleful reminder of the dithering dirge of this administration that one of the worst CEOs for LGBTQ rights is immeasurably further ahead on the issue than virtually anyone around him. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson believes transgender people are the “height of absurdity.” The family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos donated millions to blocking marriage equality. Attorney General Jeff Sessions once tried to prevent the University of Alabama from hosting an LGBTQ conference. Vice President Mike Pence was the guy Trump joked “wants to hang” the gays.

Tillerson won’t do much to advance LGBTQ rights were he to remain in his position. He certainly has done little to live up to the high standards set by previous Secretaries of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, the latter of whom famously declared that “gay rights are human rights” on the world’s stage. The best thing his State Department has done is not fire Randy Berry, Obama’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQ Persons. He was moved to another position.

But as more moderate voices are pushed out of the White House for not towing the line on the president’s increasingly extremist agenda, LGBTQ people are left withyou guessed itextremists.

The next in line for Tillerson’s post is reportedly CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The former Kansas House representative won a seat in Trump’s Cabinet due to his hardline stance on Iran, and that’s more or less the sledgehammer Pompeo whacks every mole with. The Republican referred to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision on Obergefell v. Hodges as a “a shocking abuse of power” and has said that the United States must “preserve [traditional marriage] for the sake of our community and our culture.”

Pompeo was also a co-sponsor of the State Marriage Defense Act, which would have given the state definitions of words like “spouse” and “marriage” primacy over the federal definition. Texas or Oklahoma could, thus, simply choose to ignore the Obergefell ruling.

He also signed onto the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” a bill that prevents the government from taking action against any person who believes that marriage is a union solely between one man and one woman. That legislation, which was put forward in the House in 2013, is remarkably similar to later bills like Mississippi’s discriminatory HB 1523. It could also permit discrimination against single women, unwed mothers, or couples who engage in intercourse outside of wedlock.

Is someone who wants to fight for your right to fire Jack Mcfarland and Erin Brockovich really the person we want running the State Department? Probably not.

Given that the White House is currently a constant septic tank leak of rank bigotry, it’s of little surprise that the man waiting in the wings behind Pompeo inspires even less confidence than he does. Should the CIA director be promoted to Secretary of State, reports suggest his position would go to Tom Cotton. The Arkansas Senator, who fought the repeal of DOMA, famously justified discriminating against the LGBTQ community by pointing out that the Republican Party is better than Iran. (Note: Given that the GOP is poised to anoint Roy Moore to his gilded outhouse in the Senate, it’s not by much these days.)

As Trump kowtows to the most fanatical elements of the right, it’s not going to get better for LGBTQ people in the White Houseor anyone else. It just gets worse and worse, seemingly as a matter of principle.

When Sean Spicer left, he would be swapped out for the daughter of a man who has compared homosexuality to incest and polygamy. Reince Priebus’ replacement as White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, has spent his career defending torture. The vacuum left by Steve Bannon’s departure was quickly filled by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who believes gay men are responsible for the Holocaust. He has used his new position of power to push for a ban on open trans military service.

It must be noted that this stack of bigoted dominos has yet to falland very well may not. For the moment, Tillerson’s departure remains an open question. The president claimed the story of Tillerson’s firing was “fake news” in a tweet posted on Dec. 1, and close colleagues like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker have denied the Secretary is a marked man.

But news of apparent discord between the two shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone following the daily drama pouring out of the White House like the river of blood in The Shining. Tillerson reportedly referred to Trump as a “moron” in October, hardly the words of a man long for his position. The two have clashed over their differing approaches to diplomacy in North Korea. The Secretary of State has urged Kim Jong-Un to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. Trump, meanwhile, calls the dictator “little rocket man” in their ongoing Twitter squabble.

Even as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed reports of Tillerson’s departure, her response was extremely telling. She claimed the former ExxonMobil CEO would “close out what has been a successful year” before adding a pointedly cryptic addendum.

“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity they’re in,” Sanders said on Nov. 30.

Tillerson isn’t great. Aside from that time he let gays be in the Boy Scouts, he’s actually pretty terrible. But if Trump flip-flops on the Secretary of State as he has so many times in the past, just think what the next version headed down the White House conveyor belt will be like.

Photography:Riccardo S. Savi/WireImage

‘Spongebob Squarepants, The Broadway Musical’ is Nostalgic AF for Queer Millennials

There’s nothing inherently queer about Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical. Or arguably, everything about the musical is queer. But that’s just because the Spongebob TV show was so incredibly queer to begin with.

First there’s Squidward. He fits the trope of the older, jaded queen to a T. He’s cultured, misanthropic, and has resigned himself to growing old bitterly, insistent on bursting the bubbles of the younger gays (i.e. Spongebob). Then Spongebob, I mean, you’ve seen the TV show, Spongebob has got to be one of the gayest twinks there is. Sandy, too, super gay. She doesn’t need a man because she is 100% not interested in men. She rather kick a man’s ass using her Karate skills.

Now I grew up with Spongebob. As a queer millennial born in 1991 who only watched cartoons until he was 16 years-old, Spongebob was my jellyfish jam. That’s why I found the musical as enjoyable as I did.

If you grew up watching Spongebob, you will appreciate, dare I say love the Spongebob Musical, too.

At first, I was skeptical, especially when I saw that the The Spongebob Squarepants Musical marketed itself as the “Broadway Musical For Everyone.” Usually when a show claims “fun for all ages,” it means that younger kids will love it, and parents will like it for the sole purpose of having 90 uninterrupted minutes of peace.

What didn’t help is the fact that the opening scene involving Patchy The Pirate (Jon Rua) sets a misleading tone for the rest of the show. It gives the feel that the show is for children; not all ages.

Then Spongebob Squarepants wakes up on stage. Spongebob (Ethan Slater) is undoubtedly the star of the show, and I will be shocked if he’s not nominated for a Tony. Not only is his comedic timing with Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) and Patrick Star (Danny Skinner) spot on, he brings the dying art of physical comedy back to the Broadway stage.

This is how Ethan is able to embody Spongebob without using any cheap gimmicks, like wearing a large, yellow, square cardboard cutout. He sings while upside down, scaling a 20-foot cage-fence structure, doing the worm, and in so many other contorted positions. Even while sounding eerily similar to Tom Kenny, who voices Spongebob on TV, Ethan’s vocal talent shines through. It’s no easy feat belting while simultaneously having the goofy high-pitched voice of Spongebob. Yet Ethan not only makes it appear seamless, but also makes it sound damn good.

Then, of course, there is the music, which is spectacular. This is no surprise given that nearly every song in the musical was written by one of the greats: John Legend, Plain White T’s, Yolanda Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Antebellum, Sara Bareilles, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, The Flaming Lips, and even the late David Bowie.

David Bowie’s “No Control” is undoubtedly one of the best songs in the show. The song, placed towards the beginning of the show, is ominous and chaotic. The entire town of Bikini Bottom (meaning the entire ensemble) sings the musical number once they learn of the impending doom set to destroy the town in merely 36-hours. The other song that stands out is “(Just A) Simple Sponge,” written by Panic! At the Disco. It’s somewhat of a theme song throughout the musical. It’s the song you hum to yourself after curtains close.

There are also tons of subtle references that pay homage to the original show. Despite having not seen an episode of Spongebob in over a decade, I was still able to recognize most of them. For example, how the characters in bikini bottom swear with phrases like “tartar sauce” and “fish sticks,” to the real inappropriate curse words being bleeped out with dolphin sounds. Every time Pearl the whale (Jai’ Len Christine Li Josey) walks, the drummer bangs his drum, imitating how in the show, the ground shakes whenever Pearl steps. They even have a whole song, written by the Plain White T’s called “BFF.” There are multiple times in the TV show when Spongebob and Patrick refer to each other as BFFs. Lastly, you could tell who in the audience watched the show when they laughed as Patrick asked, “Is mayonnaise an instrument?

The only real disappointed is at no time did Mermaidman and Barnacleboy make an appearance. Honestly though, you’ll be too distracted looking at Spongebob’s absolutely absurd movements and equally absurd muscular body to even care.

A Definitive Ranking of Your Favorite Pop Divas’ Christmas Albums

The Christmas album: Usually not counted among a pop singer’s LPs, it’s nonetheless a tried-and-true way to flex your vocals, share Christmas cheer and get some sales. Many of our favorite pop divas have released their Yuletide offerings. This year alone, Gwen Stefani and Sia released their own seasonal tune offerings. Here’s our take on which albums are a true gift and which ones are lumps of coal.

GREAT YEAR ROUND

Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas
Leave it to someone with the initials “MC” to deliver the definitive pop diva Christmas album. Christmas provides an astute combination of classics, secular numbers and, of course, the definitive Christmas song of every year since the album’s release: “All I Want for Chrsitmas Is You.”

Key Tracks: “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)”

Kelly Clarkson, Wrapped in Red
Few singers can bring both the technical vocal skill and warmth necessary to nail what it means to make a Christmas album. While the album dips a little too far into cheese that “Run Run Rudolph” cover could stand to be cut Clarkson’s album is a worthy case for the new holiday spin standard.

Key Tracks: “Silent Night,” “Just for Now”

Ariana Grande, Christmas & Chill
Compared to the debauchery or Halloween and the gluttony of Thanksgiving, Christmas usually comes off as the least fun late-year holiday. Not so on Christmas & Chill, where Grande offers up her own answer to the chilly December air: cuddling in bed and doing some “Winter Things.”

Key Tracks: “December,” “Winter Things”

Whitney Houston, “One Wish”
Listen, any Whitney vocal is automatically going to slay your fav’s best vocals and send them packing. So, on a vocals level alone, this album has earned its place near the top of the list. If you don’t tear up when listening to “Who Would Imagine a King” or jump during “Joy to the World,” you’re probably void of emotion. The album only loses points for its highest of high moments coming from The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack.

Key Tracks:”Who Would Imagine a King,” “Joy to the World”

Celine Dion, These Are Special Times
This album would rank higher if it weren’t for the stain R.Kelly leaves on the tracklist. Dion’s magisterial and emotional singing voice make the album soaring, but can feel like a chore to get through in one sitting.

Key Tracks: “The Prayer,” “O Holy Night”

Toni Braxton, Snowflakes
Before Christmas & Chill, Braxton’s Snowflakes brought velvety vocals and lyrics of heartbreak to the Christmas table. Though “Christmas in Jamaice,” featuring Shaggyis a little corny, the rest of the album features standards and originals worth multiple listens.

Key Tracks: “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Snowflakes of Love”

Destiny’s Child, 8 Days of Christmas
Released between Survivor and Destiny Fulfilled, Christmas was not only a great Christmas album but a great Destiny’s Child album. While Survivor saw the group still experimenting with Williams’ role in the threesome, Christmas saw each of the girls bringing their unique flavor to the recipe while also getting the chance to shine solo. Even Solange makes an appearance on a reworked “Little Drummer Boy.”

Key Track: “Spread a Little Love on Christmas Day,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Kylie Minogue, Kylie’s Christmas
It would be easy for Kylie Minogue’s Christmas album to come off as too cheesy, but Minogue’s earnest and sly delivery is the right mix of cheeky and cheery. The only album on the list that really “goes there” in terms of Big Band sound, it brings fun and sexy in equal measure.

Key Tracks: “Winter Wonderland,” “I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter”

ONLY ON CHRISTMAS

Jessica Simpson, ReJoyce: The Christmas Album
Simpson’s bubbly personality and belty voice make for an enjoyable listen. Everything you need to know about the album is in the song’s opener, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” which Simpson delivers with a jaunty, authentic warmth.

Vanessa Williams, Star Bright
Though Williams’ vocals soar, too much of the production sounds like elevator music. Though the music fails her, Williams brings the same fire to the lyrics that she brings to Wilhelmina Slater. And if Williams is selling it, we’re often buying.

Mariah Carey, Merry Christmas II You
The second album from the queen of Christmas comes off more as a cash grab than a sincere holiday effort. The lead single, “Oh Santa!” sounds more written to be the background on a JCPenney commercial than a holiday anthem.

Ariana Grande, Christmas Kisses
While Grande’s Christmas & Chill is an inviting winter blanket, Kisses comes off like a high school senior singing her heart out at her final winter concert. While Chill proves Grande can make the Yuletide sensual, her “Santa Baby” is more belty than flirty.

Ashanti, Ashanti’s Christmas
While some of the songs are a pleasant listen, Ashanti’s tiny voice doesn’t make a Christmas album as bombastic as the season deserves.

SKIP IT

Christina Aguilera, My Kind of Christmas
Aguilera’s second full-length album is more about vocal runs than sleigh rides. The album very famously caused chanteuse Kelly Osborne to say that shewanted to stab herself because of all the runs on “Jingle Bells.”

Sia, Everyday Is Christmas
Even eccentric personalities like Sia deserve a Christmas album, but unfortunately she never quite vibes with the light cheeriness some of the lyrics need. On “Candy Cane Lane,” Sia sounds as if she’s making fun of the lyrics in some kind of performance art instead of embracing the holiday’s cheesy side.

Gwen Stefani, You Make It Feel Like Christmas
Something about the particular lilt of Stefani’s voice doesn’t lend itself to an enjoyable Christmas album, especially when the whole thing centers on a song that’s a love letter to not-sexiest-man-alive Blake Shelton.

Ain’t No Party Like a Knocks ‘House Party’ in New Video

Nobody knows how to throw a party quite like New Yorkers. The ultimate melting pot of all cultures, ethnicities, sexualities, gender orientations, and beyond, it churned out the golden days of disco, punk, and the club kid movement. Anyone who’s lived there knows it makes nightlife a lifestyle.

In The Knocks’ new video for “House Party,” they epitomize that lifestyle with a gathering of New York’s most colorful creatives. The collab with Captain Cuts is a perfect party track with a video full of downtown party passion that perfectly complements it.

“We wanted this video to capture the essence of weird New York and the different kinds, colors and shapes of people you run into going out in the city,” JPatt of The Knocks tellPaper. “We came up partying with the director in New York and running around town together, so we knew he’d be able to capture it perfectly. All the kids cast for this video live and breathe New York, and are from a scene of young creatives from all different worlds.”

Watch the video for The Knocks’ “House Party” below:

Gay Couple in Uzbekistan Arrested, Beaten, and Forced to Undergo Anal Examinations

Two gay men have been arrested and forcibly subjected to anal examinations in Uzbekistan, one of Central Asia’s harshest countries for LGBTQ people.

The detainees are a couple in their 20s, according to a new report from EurasiaNet. Authorities say the men moved into an apartment together in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent after meeting in December, although little is known at the time of writing about the circumstances of their arrest. Reports claim the couple was “engaging in illegal sexual relations.”

The men were reportedly made to undergo inspections to “prove” their homosexuality, a discredited practice that has been likened to sexual assault and torture by LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for a ban on anal examinations.

Uzbekistan is one of three former Soviet nations where same-sex intercourse is a crime. A Communist-era law mandates three years behind bars for men caught engaging in sodomy, although the criminal code isn’t clear on punishments for lesbianism.

The Asian republic has continually resisted pressure from international groups to strike down the law, listed under Article 120 of the criminal code.

Former President Islam Karimov, who ruled from 1991 to his death last year, referred to homosexuality as “disgusting” and a “vile phenomenon of Western culture.” He also suggested that someone would have to be insane to be in a relationship with another member of their same sex.

“If a man lives with a man, or a woman with a woman, I think that something there isn’t quite right, or some change has happened,” Karimov claimed in February 2016.

His replacement, Nigmatilla Yuldashev, has done little to change his predecessor’s tune.

LGBTQ people frequently face harassment, violence, and even death in Uzbekistan, where queer and trans individuals have extremely few rights. The country lacks any non-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Earlier this year cellphone footage recorded in the southeastern town of Fergana showed four men stripping a man naked and beating him in order to force him to admit to being gay. In the video, the assailants make the unidentified figure sit on a bottle of beer until the container penetrates his anus.

Although life can be easier in the more tolerant cities, it’s extremely bleak in rural areaswhere transgender women and gay men often face honor killings if they are outed.

A gay journalist, Khudoberdy Nurmatov, faced deportation back to Uzbekistan earlier this year from Russian authorities. Nurmatov was reportedly tortured and abused during his detention, but his lawyers argued he would be subjected to worse if the reporter wasn’t granted asylum. They claimed that going back to his home country would be a “death sentence.”

Uzbek officials have yet to comment on reports of this week’s arrests.

header image via Getty

Australian MP Proposes to Boyfriend During Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Marriage equality was recently made a reality in Australia, ending a years-long fight. It sparked a worldwide celebration for the momentous step forward. Although they gave us Kylie Minogue years ago, the island continent now gives us gays another reason to be proud.

One such gay man celebrated in a big way. Australian MP Tim Wilson took time out from a recent parliament debate over same-sex marriage to show his appreciation for his partner, Ryan Bolger. He used his platform to ask a very important question.

“The person I have to thank most is my partner, Ryan. You’ve had to tolerate the most because you’ve had to put up with me. This debate has been the soundtrack to our relationship In my first speech, I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands – that they are the answer to the questions we cannot ask. So, there’s only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?”

Bolger nodded yes with a smile. Every other flash mob marriage proposal is now officially obsolete.

Watch the video below:

Trixie & Katya’s Christmas EP Sleighs

As much as we love Mariah Carey, can we please agree that “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is officially over? I mean it had a good 23 year run with that Love, Actually scene and the Mercedes cover on Glee. But it’s time to move on. Sorry Mimi.

Luckily, our favorite drag besties have come up with a little something new. Trixie Mattel has recently released a three-song EP entitled Homemade Christmas, just in time for the holidays. And of course, her partner in crime, Katya makes an appearance.

It starts out with “Christmas Without You,” an ode to classic country Christmas, in perfect Trixie style. Next is a dark spoken word spin on “The Night Before Christmas” entitled “The Night Before Contact” featuring Katya. It’s rounded off with a perfectly comedic parody of the Mimi classic, “All I Want for Christmas Is Nudes.”

Trixie Mattel’s Homemade Christmas is now available on iTunes.

Bryan Singer Fired from Freddie Mercury Biopic After Tensions with Rami Malek

Following the firing of director Bryan Singer from the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Twentieth Century Fox has halted production of the film while it searches for a new director, the Hollywood Reporterreports.

According to the Reporter, Singer’s termination comes after a clash between Singer and actor Rami Malek, which included a fight where Singer threw an object at Malek. The studio claims that the filming was suspended because of Singer’s “unexpected unavailability.”

According to the Reporter, Singer was absent several times during production. He didn’t return to the film after Thanksgiving break and cinematographer Thomas Newton Sigel stepped in to shoot days when he was gone.

Singer was filed after Malek complained of the director’s absence, unreliability and unprofessionalism. According to the Reporter, only two weeks are left in filming.

The biopic originally caught flack online for its erasure of the AIDS epidemic and Mercury’s HIV-positive status.

Should A Straight Man Win An Oscar For A Lesbian-Themed Film?

Director Joachim Trier proves he’s masterful at creating dark psychological thrillers with his new offering, Thelma. The Norwegian filmmaker behind the 2015 English-language, American-based Louder Than Bombs returned to his home country for a supernatural story about a young woman whose coming out to herself coincides with her going into epileptic seizures in publicseizures that can sometimes lead to violent and deadly occurrences.

But while this might sound like the well-trodden tropey narrative of queer-tinged horror flicks in the past, wherein punishment befalls the lesbian who acts on her “sexual perversions,” instead, Trier’s protagonist is finding how to take control of herself in all facets of her life, leading to something decidedly less sinister.

Thelma is a stunning, frenetic, and felicitous feature that follows the titular college student as she attempts to unravel herself from the grips of her deeply religious family. Thelma (played by the perfectly on-edge Eili Harboe) finds herself falling for her peer Anja (Kaya Wilkins), which simultaneously stresses her to the point of unleashing her telekinetic powers. Comparisons to Stephen King’s Firestarter or Carrie are not unwarranted, but the addition of Thelma’s decision to thwart convention and embrace the things about her that others might consider evil help distinguish the film that Norway chose as its Best Foreign Film selection for this year’s Academy Awards.

As a straight-identified cis man, Trier might not be the likeliest candidate to treat LGBTQ-themed subject matter with nuance. But unlike those before him who have insisted on inserting their male gaze in gratuitously long sex scenes (Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan) or arguably worse, a desexualizing of the lesbians altogether (Peter Sollett’s Freeheld), Trier’s take is much more stylized, with (literally!) snaking symbolism that suggests the true horror lies not in being a lesbian who can threaten the lives of an entire venue full of ballet attendees by bringing the ceiling down on their heads, but of not becoming the individual she so purely wants to be.

“We did realize that venturing into this genre that there were some attitudes about punishing sexuality, particularly women, which we felt was kind of old fashioned and also cruel,” Trier tells INTO. He said that he and his co-writer Eskil Vogt looked to George A. Romero’s Season of the Witch to help establish a theme of true empowerment in becoming their own protagonist leaving a life of perceived normalcy and becoming “the other.”

Trier credits his time spent as a DJ among diverse communities as affording him the opportunity to become enmeshed in queer culture.

“It’s nothing to brag about,” he jokes about his side career, but goes on to say that his playing and identifying with outsider genres like disco, punk, and hip hop helped him to embrace “the alternative way to look at things.”

“Think about disco as sort of the urban phenomena of queer culture, of black and Hispanic culture, of liberated women who didn’t want to have to get married but rather to have a career in New York rather than to be just a mom,” he said. “That kind of cultureand also punkis sort of the outside perspective of trying to find your own path both creatively and lifestyle wise. So, to me, that’s always been about where I came from. And also in terms of film, I have always been curious to explore slightly alternative forms, so this coincides very well with the making of a story about someone who needs to find acceptance and love and who is feeling kind of lost as an outsider.”

As a character, Thelma is most harmful to herself and others when she’s not able to embrace that kind of otherness that is ultimately true authenticity. Trier said he sees the theme as as a necessity in both family and society “to trust in an an individual and trust each other.”

“Speaking of the issue of Thelma falling in love with a girl, it’s not a film about parents telling her explicitly that it is wrong,” Trier said. “It’s the soft and scary power of our dependency of being loved and then not accepting ourselves for who we need to be, that’s the real struggle. It’s internalization of a lot of the views or boundaries that are so sucky to be put in place in a young person’s life that I feel has sometimes been the most painful. That could go for many people, it’s not only religious families but there needs to be a space for trust, maybe that sounds a bit abstract but that has become a very important issue in this film that we want to talk about.”

Thelma has been widely well-reviewed and considered a true contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, but Trier said while he’d surely be thrilled to be honored with a nomination and hopeful win, he’s already felt successful with the film having been the cause of conversation in Norway.

“I know that the film has become an topic of debate in certain parts of the country and I welcome that,” Trier said, noting that things have much improved in terms of LGBTQ equality in Norway. “I think that is good and healthy. A debate is always good because it provokes an opportunity to speak out about these suppressive views or environments that exist.”

But largely, Norwegians have loved the film, and Trier credits his people as being “very tolerant and people with great understanding in individuals loving who you need to love.” This week, Thelma will screen in Russia, despite the country’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda laws.

“I believe it is sort of being perceived with its cinema release as a horror or supernatural thriller, but actually it’s a film about queer identity,” Trier said. “And I think that is a fun and great bi-product of the fact that we were sort of flirting with genres but I guess it goes slightly under the radar, sort of a smuggling of a lesbian romance. I spoke to some Russian media who kind of embraced that a bit.”

Trier is the first to admit that taking on on a sapphic supernatural thriller is somewhat outside of the box for him. He called it a “risky project,” but mostly because he rarely works in genre; more so in character-driven dramas that don’t need any special effects.

“I took a chance in making something that was a mix between a character-driven film but also sort of these more fantastical elements has actually been such a relief that people haven’t completely you know, thought it was the wrong thing or didn’t understand it,” he said. “So, it’s actually been sort of a liberating experience more than anything. “

Also liberating is Trier’s approach to discussing the film, which is also quite different from how male filmmakers have taken on the task in previous press junkets and interviews for their respective lesbian-themed films. Instead of trying to overlook the “lesbian” aspect and pushing their films as “universal stories” that attempt to downplay the queerness at their center, Trier wants to make sure conversations about Thelma don’t disregard the sexuality aspect altogether in favor of the film’s additional allegories.

“It is such an ingrained part of why I wanted to make this film,” Trier said. “It’s about self-acceptance and I felt that on top of that, I could create what I found to be a beautiful love story between two young women. It just seemed like a cool and right thing to do.”

With staunch competition expected in his respective category, Trier won’t necessarily be a long shot. Butshould he win with Thelma, it would be well-deserved.

Thelma is in theaters now.

Images via The Orchard