Pennywild Is the Queer DJ Looking to Bring LGBTQ Culture to Mainstream Dance

Andy Sheffield


In the age of Pose, ball and vogue culture is having a resurgence -- so for her latest single, DJ and producer Pennywild decided to bring the party even further to the forefront. 

On Tuesday (Nov. 26), Pennywild unveiled her latest single "Footsteps," a pulsating club jam that sees the star highlighting the underground queer scene. The single is not just another example of the up-and-comer's forward-thinking sound — it's also her official debut single as the latest signee to Steve Aoki's independent label Dim Mak, and the latest track to be featured on their emerging artist imprint New Noise. 

The rising star tells Billboard that she didn't feel as though she had a choice when it came to representing her own queer identity through her music, especially in a scene where that kind of representation can be hard to find. "Creating art in any medium has always acted as a vehicle to express my truth," she says. "So I simply wouldn’t see the point in creating something that wasn’t extremely close to me and my story."

Pennywild spoke with Billboard about making her debut on Dim Mak, the importance of representation and bringing an authentic ode to ballroom culture to life on "Footsteps."

There is clear inspiration from ballroom and vogue culture on "Footsteps" — how did you go about trying to represent those cultures throughout the track, including featuring Omari Wiles?

Working as a dancer and choreographer, I am continually introduced to amazing people and amazing cultures. On the music side, my work is often influenced by everything I'm doing with dance. "Footsteps" is my homage to ballroom and vogue culture. Omari Wiles and I met in NYC in 2014, dancing in Ephrat Asherie’s acclaimed street and social dance company. During that time, Omari really helped open my eyes to the nuances of the scene. He’s primarily a dancer/choreographer — I wanted someone deeply rooted in the game to bring this track to life in order to represent the culture as authentically as possible. To bring Omari on for this record five years later has been a super rewarding and cathartic experience for me.

This is your debut single on Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records. What does it mean to you to be introducing your music to this audience?

Having collaborated on quite a few choreography projects with Dim Mak in the past, finally releasing my own music on the label is a dream come true. I’ve always been super passionate about music in the electronic space, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to find and refine my sound over the last few years. 

There's a lot of discussion happening about "queering the mainstream" of music, but we often don't get to see that in terms of the mainstream dance scene, despite the high quality  of queer dance talent. Why is it important for you to be as open and honest as you are about your identity in your field?

I have been immensely inspired by queer-identifying artists/producers/ DJs/ songwriters. Those figures have helped pave the way for me to be as open and honest as possible regarding my own sexuality and identity in general. Creating art in any medium has always acted as a vehicle to express my truth, so I simply wouldn’t see the point in creating something that wasn’t extremely close to me and my story. Not to say that all artists need to be transparent about their sexuality if they choose not to be! I always appreciate the appeal of a cute mystery -- this is just the only way I know how to create.