Chappell Roan is a self-proclaimed “diehard” Pinterest user.
For the burgeoning pop powerhouse, born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, Chappell Roan isn’t just a stage name — it’s her glittery, melodramatic drag alter-ego. When crafting each of the iconic looks to accompany this persona — a cabaret cowboy, a neon dirt biker and a painted Playboy bunny, to name a few — Roan draws inspiration from a plethora of creative sources.
“I have my entire career on Pinterest, so if it ever gets hacked, I’m f–cked,” the 25-year-old singer-songwriter laughed in an interview with The Daily Californian, citing the image curation platform as one of her biggest references.
“I love drag and burlesque,” she continued. “I loved the movie Showgirls. I’m very inspired by that movie, the costumes and makeup. Just whatever’s campy — the 2000s, Paris Hilton. You’ve got the McBling Era, I love McBling.”
On “The Midwest Princess” tour this fall, Roan isn’t the only one bedazzled in glitz and glamor. Each show has a theme based on a song from her debut studio album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwestern Princess, released Sept. 22. In cities like Brooklyn and Berkeley, crowds were instructed to arrive in slumber party attire, a reference to the line “The rush of slumber party kissing,” from the shimmering bop “Naked in Manhattan.” Meanwhile, those in Minneapolis and Montréal donned otherworldly angel and devil outfits in honor of “Guilty Pleasure,” the album’s soaring closer.
The collective eagerness to participate in these concert-costume affairs is a testament not only to fans’ devotion to Roan, but also to the queer artist’s ability to forge her shows into safe spaces of self-expression and fluidity for her largely LGBTQ+ audiences. Beyond striking, sparkly costumes, admirers have found other ways to collectively convey their dedication and appreciation during Roan’s performances.
“There was a night where people held little hearts over their camera flashlights during ‘Kaleidoscope’ and it was really cute,” Roan recalled a particularly moving memory on the road. “I just looked out, and it was just like a rainbow. I almost cried.”
Headlining sold-out shows across North America — with additional shows in Australia and Europe in the upcoming weeks — Roan admits it’s difficult to maintain a work-life balance while being on tour. The rare off day affords her the opportunity to sample local cuisines and discover new influences for her own artistry.
“I try different foods every day … like strangely amazing hummus in Detroit, just things that I would never expect anywhere,” Roan said. “On my days off, I love to see local drag shows. I’ll go out to drag bars and just watch and take notes, like, ‘Oh, these girls are so good here.’ That is super inspiring to me.”
Engaging with local drag communities has always been a central facet of Roan’s identity. Since her spring tour, Roan has enlisted three drag performers to open the concert in each city. “When you tip your drag queens, you are directly supporting your local drag community,” Roan reminds audiences almost every night, emphasizing the importance of queer visibility. Proceeds of every ticket sold on her tour are donated to For the Gworls, a New York-based organization that helps Black transgender people pay for their rent, gender-affirming surgeries, travel assistance and more.
Uplifting the queer community is what Roan does best, as evidenced by her latest project The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess (a nod to her home state of Missouri). Over the course of 14 tracks, the record follows Roan as she navigates and celebrates her queer awakening. It’s angsty and intimately diaristic at times, but it’s also campy, unserious and utterly danceable — Roan at her best.
“As I’ve gotten happier, I think the music has gotten happy along with it,” said Roan. “I think I started to have more fun in my life and that is reflected within this project.”
From making a bed get “squeaky” in the brazenly horny “Red Wine Supernova” to getting turned on by an ex ruining their life in the cathartic “My Kink is Karma,” much of Midwest Princess is a liberating, exhilarating exploration of pleasure in all its various forms. Although she penned a couple of songs off of the album within the span of 24 hours, the songwriting process is seldom so instantaneous for Roan.
“If I’m really lucky, I will come up with a concept that I love. And then I’ll come up with chords that I love, and then a melody — it’ll all come together. But that rarely happens,” Roan admitted. “That has only happened for ‘Pink Pony Club’ and ‘HOT TO GO!’ — they were both written in a day. That’s the ideal, but other times, it’s a random lyric will come up, or a melody but I don’t know what to write it to. It’s a puzzle every time.”
If songs are like puzzles, Roan assembles her discography like a bold musical mastermind. She’s genuine Midwest royalty, though completely in her own right.
“People are gonna take from it what they want to it and they may not even take it how you originally thought they would,” Roan said of her own craft. “So, I think the only thing I could do as an artist is just be as authentic as I can.”