To kick off AAPI Heritage Month in May, we were fortunate to be introduced to the exciting and thought-provoking artist promqueen. A second-gen queer Vietnamese American based in Austin, Texas, promqueen brings together her cultural background and technical experience as a classically trained pianist. Drawing inspiration from artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, Gwen Stefani, and Doja Cat, promqueen creates a catchy and infectious blend of pop, RnB, and trap that is built on her own self-described ethos of authenticity and tự nhiên (being natural). We asked promqueen some questions about her story, goals, and her latest single “Exotic”, an anthem that reclaims power for Asian women and nonbinary people who have ever felt exoticized and sexualized.
What's the story behind your artist name, promqueen?
The purest version: I was playing an online drawing game, Skribble, and instead of using shittykitty, my usual game name, I used promqueen. I was in the lead and my friend shouted, “promqueen!”. I liked the sound of it, so it stuck with me.
The deeper version: I was a misfit and always afraid of being different in school. As a kid of immigrants, I wanted to fit in and eat Lunchables with my white friends. In movies and school, prom queen was the standard for what it means to be the “perfect girl”. Along with many cultural themes I am reckoning with, I wanted to reclaim promqueen for myself. promqueen is everyone.
What prompted you to write your latest song “Exotic”, which has such a strong theme and message?
Exotic has been a historically negative term aimed at women/nonbinary folks of Asian descent. They have been oversexualized, fetishized, and had their power taken from them. I was working on a memoir for my family and documented countless traumatic stories about the Asian women in my life. I wanted to write a song about how strong we are and give us the upper hand. In my song, the image I paint of us is of a beautiful, massive beast rising up out of the jungle commanding presence and respect.
What artists or genres have most influenced you artistically?
As a classical pianist and lover of pop from the 70s to current, strong melody driven artists speak to me. From Stevie Wonder to Nas, Madonna, Selena, Doja Cat, MILLI, Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani and Rosalia! I am attracted to artists that tell stories through their performance and writing with a side of quirkiness.
What do you hope to communicate and achieve through your music?
I hope to connect with other Vietnamese Americans like me. With my Vietnamese English lyrics, I want them to be in on the joke with me instead of being excluded. I hope to share my family’s story and my own about self-discovery and self acceptance. There are so many layers to one’s own cultural identity. I also hope to be a thread in normalizing Asian American music in the pop scene. What if a little Vietnamese girl could hear another Vietnamese girl singing pop on the radio?
What can we expect from your upcoming EP, szn one?
A chorus where I describe my personality salty and sweet like nuoc mam (fish sauce). szn one is an introduction to who promqueen is and what she thinks about. There is something for everyone but the main theme tying everything together is stepping out and not being afraid to share who promqueen is. There are easter eggs planted throughout alluding to szn two.
What are you listening to currently?
Great question. Rosalia’s Motomami album, Tyler the Creator’s recent album, Ni’jah, Little Simz, Andrea Jin’s comedy album, and DeBarge’s "I Like It" - anytime I want to be in a good mood.