By Christina Cauterucci
The world has known few superstars whose personas could match the gender-fluid extravagance of Prince, who died on Thursday at age 57. The pop and R&B icon inlaid his albums with brazen pansexuality and gender norm coquetry—provocations made all the more potent by his staggering talents as a singer, hook-writer, and guitar shredder. Years before the leaders of the gay and lesbian community began to embrace a more nuanced, less binary notion of queerness—and decades before transgender and genderqueer politics became mainstream topics of interest—Prince presented a living case study in the glorious freedom a world without stringent labels might offer.
“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand,” Prince sang on 1984’s “I Would Die 4 U.” He was right—few could claim to fully grasp Prince’s easy embodiment of both maleness and femaleness. His schooled evasion of conventional classifiers made him endlessly fascinating. The cover of his 1988 album Lovesexy offers a classic expression of the seemingly incongruous yet thrilling gender bricolage at which he excelled.
Prince’s coy, sensuous form in a larger-than-life sea of yonic flowers telegraphs femininity. But he’s showing off his masculine features, too: Prince covers his nipple as if it were a breast, but exposes a full chest of hair. His legs look smooth and shaven, but a John Waters moustache sits above his full lips.
Prince’s androgyny and unbridled sexuality inspired generations of musicians, too. Adam Levine, who’s covered the Purple One and called the artist “limitless…fearless, and unselfconscious,” posed nude for Cosmo UK in 2011 with wife Behati Prinsloo’s hands covering his junk. The image echoed a Notorious cover Prince did decades earlier, wearing a bouffant, hoop earring, fuzzy purple coat, and the wandering hands of a female lover. In 2006, gay musician Rufus Wainwright wrote in the Guardian that Prince’s genderfuckery is still unmatched in modern pop music. “It feels weird talking about Prince as a gay icon now, but you have to applaud a black man in the American record industry who could be so playful with androgyny,” Wainwright wrote. “Justin Timberlake wouldn't do that. He is a marine dressed as a pop star.” In memoriam, on Thursday, bisexual singer and rapper Frank Ocean wrote his own heartfelt tribute:
He was a straight black man who played his first televised set in bikini bottoms and knee-high heeled boots, epic. He made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity.
Continue reading here: How Prince Led the Way to Our Gender Fluid Present
My Notes: A serious talent and true artist/genius that many of us hardly knew. I must admit that his music was not so much my generation but a younger group. As we look back now many of us will come to know someone who shared some of our interest in feminine presentation. He challenged gender norms with entertainment. As the above article so aptly stated: Still, Prince’s gender fluidity and sexual ambiguity granted a kind of permission for future musicians, queer and otherwise, to explore new means of expression of self and sexuality.
Please comment and give us your thoughts on Prince. Did you ever see him in person.
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