It’s Kim Petras’ first taste of a major record label album rollout, and she’s loving every second of it.
Petras is in the glam chair in New York, having flown back from her home base in Los Angeles to attend the celebration party for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The morning after she will jet to Florida to perform at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, in a show attended by the rest of the SI swim crew, before she enters into the final few weeks ahead of her album’s release.
Having released two full-length records independently, Petras signed with Republic Records in 2021, dropping an EP with them called “Slut Pop” before she’ll make her major label debut with the upcoming record “Feed the Beast,” out June 23.
The album is the crown jewel moment on what has already been a very momentous year for the German-born 30-year-old. Her single with Sam Smith, “Unholy,” took home the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo, which made her the first trans woman to win in that category and only the second trans person to win a Grammy. She became the first openly trans solo artist to reach number one in the U.S.
Next came a single featuring Nicki Minaj, “Alone”; an appearance at the Met Ball with Marc Jacobs; front row at Chanel’s cruise show in Los Angeles, and one of four covers of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issues.
It’s a long way away from the early meetings Petras took with record companies, all of which pigeonholed her as a gay club artist. To be clear, Petras loves playing in gay clubs — and wants to keep doing that forever — but her dreams have always included Grammys, sold-out stadiums and big proper record deals.
“Music to me has always been equality in the way that I can go into a studio with people I’ve never met, and if I’m good, they love working with me, and it doesn’t matter who I am or what my gender identity is or who I’m in love with or anything like that,” Petras says. “It just matters, am I a good musician? Can I write songs? Am I talented? And that’s kind of where I’ve always found so much equality in music, because we all have emotions and we all feel the same things, regardless of gender and regardless of where we’re from and our skin color and things like that.”
Petras may be releasing her studio debut, but she’s in no way a new artist. The Cologne-born singer and writer began by releasing songs independently, starting with her first EP in 2011. Her debut single, “I Don’t Want It At All,” was released in 2017 and charted on Spotify’s global viral charts. She released two projects independently before the deal with Republic.
She was originally supposed to drop an album last year, called “Problématique,” which was scrapped after several of the songs leaked online. The favorites — both hers and the fans’ — have made their way onto “Feed the Beast.”
“After that happened [the leak], my A&R [representative] Wendy Goldstein and I had a little meeting and she was like, ‘Well, this stuff happens. It’s life. Go and write more. Challenge yourself to the limit and go feed the beast.’ And that’s what I did, and so that’s how the title came along,” Petras says of the new record’s name.
The making of the album pushed her to new extremes, traveling to Sweden and London for writing sessions and sometimes churning out five songs in a single day.
“It felt like ‘this is how major artists make their albums’,” Petras says. “I never really got to do this legit album release tour stuff, and do so much press and so many performances and things like that. It feels like the release that every artist wants. When I was young and I would see a Katy Perry album release or a Lady Gaga album release, I would just be like, ‘Wow, they get to do so many things.’ Before, because I was independent, I just dropped my music and hoped for the best. And this time, I feel like people really believe in my project and my music before it’s even out.”
“We’ve been fans of Kim’s since before we started working together,” says Goldstein, copresident of Republic Records. “When we first met we knew she would become one of the biggest pop stars in the world. She’s blazing her own trail, doing it on her own terms and uncompromising in her vision. It’s been such an incredible experience working with her and this upcoming album will show the world that her musical talents are unmatched. It’s only just the beginning.”
That belief manifested itself in the themes of the “Feed the Beast” tracklist. Petras had previously met with multiple major record labels but felt misunderstood each time.
“I’m definitely talking about the music industry in general [on this album]. I felt like I was very boxed into, ‘Oh, you’re a gay club artist, and you will have an underground niche fan base.’ That’s the kind of stuff that early labels told me, which is why I never signed,” Petras says. “It made me feel embarrassed for wanting to do music to the fullest level, to do real big pop music. It made me feel, for a second, that I didn’t belong there. I thought it was kind of vain and stupid for me to want to make big radio hits and things like that, and it’s not, and that’s what I’ve always really wanted, so that’s what [the album] means. Don’t question yourself. Don’t think that you shouldn’t want things that you want. Just go and feed the beast. Do whatever you like and don’t stand in your own way.”
She writes all her own music and says “Feed the Beast” is her most evolved writing yet. It’s also her most personal: after finding safety in a character she created for each previous EP or record, the music she’s making now is just about Kim.
“I think it has really, truly vulnerable, real moments for me that are of lower moments in my life and about love and whatever — things that I don’t really talk about. [With] ‘Slut Pop’ I’m a bratty b—ch, and with my ‘Turn Off the Light’ album, I’m a killer, and I make these characters that I play in the songs. And I feel like this one, I really am not a character, and it really reflects all the different sides of me,” Petras says. “I’m just not as afraid anymore of doing all of that because I’m proud that I can do a million different genres and things and tempos and all of that.”
As she begins to plan for her upcoming tour, she’s instinctually focused on how she’ll present herself on stage, now as Kim rather than a character.
“She’s just really in her own power. She’s very knowledgeable about what she wants to put out,” says Collina Strada designer Hillary Taymour of Petras. The two attended the 2021 “Camp” Met Gala together, each of their first times, they went as horses. “She knew the gag and you have to own that gag to do it. And she owned it.”
Petras was back at the Met again this year, dressed by Marc Jacobs.
“My whole team finds Kim to be so inspiring…beautiful and talented and always her authentic self,” Jacobs writes via email. “We recently had her as our guest to the Met Gala and there is so much love for her; she’s never afraid to serve a look.”
Petras sketches her tour outfits herself initially and works with a series of designers on bringing those visions to life. She is a true appreciator of the art of fashion and beauty and the power they have to transform.
“I just think for me, it’s really important to push what’s socially acceptable because I used to be someone who used to go to school in the most insane outfits and inappropriate outfits and just used to get kicked out of class because of my outfits, and used to get bullied because of my outfits. But they made me feel like myself, so I loved them,” Petras says. “And I knew in school, ‘Oh, Galliano would probably love this jacket I found at the thrift store.’ That’s how I thought. And that’s why I don’t usually go for just being pretty, because I think it’s for the kids who are like me, who need to express themselves or would rather die and not do that.”
Set Design by Laura Pariot at MHS Artists
Hair by Iggy Rosales
Makeup by Gilbert Soliz
Senior Market Editor, Accessories: Thomas Waller
Market Editor: Emily Mercer
Fashion Assistants: Kimberly Infante and Ari Stark