UPDATE: This show has been canceled.
If you want to make people uncomfortable, swear like a sailor. Or dress seductively. Or cover your body in tattoos. Or dye your hair pink and wear makeup and be so androgynous that only your voice belies your gender. Or do it all, like 23-year-old singer Jeffree Star, who will perform at the Venue on Monday, Dec. 13.
Star is, in a word, striking. His calves, thighs, forearms, biceps and neck are covered in tattoos, which number around 70. The sunset shades of his penciled eyebrows usually match the lipstick on his pouty lips. He has incredible bone structure framed by thick hair that is sometimes the color of a ripe pumpkin, sometimes the shade of strawberry lip gloss, occasionally the hue of a hothouse tomato and often such a bright fuchsia, he'd be hard to pick out of a field of summertime petunias.
Everything about Star seems to be for shock and awe. Several of his tattoos are of "beauty queens" as he calls them: JonBenet Ramsey, Sharon Tate, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor. He also sports images of Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Wednesday Addams and Morticia Gomez. Star is fortunate to call tattoo queen Kat Von D one of his best friends--the woman is a genius with portraits.
Star's rise to fame came about via Myspace. At around age 18, Star put a couple of videos online for fun. By 2009 he was touring with The Vans Warped Tour, and he now has more than 1 million fans on his Myspace page. A few months ago, Star signed to rapper Akon's record label, Kon Live--his labelmates include Colby O'Donis and Lady Gaga, who is obviously an influence. The cover of Star's 2009 debut studio release, Beauty Killer (Popsicle Records/Warner Music Group), featured a glamorous photo of him on the cover, a 1,000-mile stare in his heavily made-up eyes, his hands, held up as if in defense, dripping with blood.
Star's music, a mix of bent vocals, pop, dance and rock driven by electronic beats, is no less provocative than his persona.
"I'm not trying to be shocking, that's just who I am," Star said. But between his fashion style, songs like "Get Away With Murder," "Love Rhymes With Fuck You" and "Fame & Riches, Rehab Bitches," shocking he is.
In "Bitch, Please!" Star challenges haters: "Ain't no bitch who can do it like me / Go F-U-C-K yourself baby / Ain't no bitch who can do it like me / The critics and the press agree / Ain't no bitch who can do it like me / J-E-F-F to the R-E-E."
Also a little surprising is that the unbridled confidence in "Bitch, Please!" is not some facade or defense mechanism against the trauma of an unhappy childhood. Star proudly includes portraits of his mother, father and grandparents next to those of his more famous idols on his skin. Growing up in Orange County, Calif., Star (nee Steininger) said he never faced the ugly issues so rampant in schools right now.
"I was never bullied," Star said. "People think I must have been because of the way I look, but I won 'Best Hair.' I had pink hair in fourth grade, and I wore full makeup in my [senior] yearbook picture. I looked different but not many people cared. They were like, 'Oh yeah, that's Jeffree.' All day long, people stare at me everywhere I go, and I just don't care. I love fashion, I love makeup, I like being an artist."
Though he may have been lucky in school, as an adult, Star, who identifies as gay, has not been able to avoid the slings and arrows often thrown at someone so flamboyant.
"It's really sad how homophobic people are still. It's crazy what people think. 50 Cent posted on his website that Akon signed me and [50 Cent] posted one of my music videos. The hardcore rapper fans were writing the craziest comments. I think it's funny and I'm not scared of it, but somebody wrote, 'I want to shoot that faggot in the back of his head and kill him.' People are scared of what they don't understand."
Apparently, 12- to 20-year-old girls do understand Star. They are the ones who buy his merchandise and flock to his shows.
"It's like that Disney fan turned into a whore," Star said laughing. He added that they seem to be a combination of normal girls who listen to Justin Bieber and "alternative kids that don't feel like they fit anywhere, they dress different."
With his Hello Kitty hair and definitely dancey tunes, it's easy to see why he appeals to that demographic, but on his next album, he's hoping to bring older, more discerning fans into the fold. Jeffree Star is growing up.
"In the new year, I'll be working with a lot of people like Dr. Luke, David Guetta and Akon. There are going to be a lot of surprise guests and it's going to be really big. It's going to be my dream album ... I've been through so much drama with my career because people don't know how to handle my image or what I'm trying to do. Now I feel like I'm in a good place. I've paid my dues, I've worked hard. Now it's time to get shit to the next level."