alice longyu gao is a badass sailor moon princess
The DJ and performance artist premieres her new music video ‘Karma is a Witch.’
Alice Longyu Gao spent the first 17 years of her life living in Bengbu, China. Now she is a New Yorker with a gazillion side hustles. “Even though I’m from China, New York raised me,” she says. “I call myself a New Yorker.” Since arriving in the city several years ago, the flamboyant pop star has embraced the hard-working culture that the city is famous for. She’s hosted her own talk show, held a pop-up installation in Times Square, composed runway music for Juicy Couture, partnered with the It Gets Better Project to celebrate WorldPride, and has DJ’d at some of New York’s most coveted events.
Each project references Alice’s musical upbringing. As a child, she took piano and vocal lessons, until she was denied entry to The Shanghai Conservatory of Music during middle school. “Every semester, they only take four students from outside of Shanghai. I took the vocal test and I think I was in fifth or sixth place,” explains Alice. From then on she carved her own path.
“So my professional music training stopped and I went back to what was considered the normal path. I took my SATs, taught myself English, and I came to America,” she says proudly. She landed in Boston and began taking music classes for additional credit while studying at Boston University. Then she came to New York and became a DJ and creative entrepreneur, and turned herself into “the Harajuku version of the Lewis Carroll character she named herself after.”
Though as much she fantasizes about living in Wonderland, Alice’s world isn’t always an iridescent fairytale. Her new single “Karma is a Witch” addresses some of the complexities of being an artist in New York, where it can be lonely, competitive and inspiring all at the same time. The song was written, somewhat, as a response to seeing a fellow creative adopting a similar aesthetic to hers. Alice declines to go into more detail, but diplomatically says, “I think it is important to remind and encourage everyone to stay true to themselves... The whole point of creating art is to put out what you feel is true to yourself.”
The song contains lines like “Can’t take my ideas for free / Pay me respect / Pay me money,” and “If you wanna fake / Then you’re never safe / In the name of love and justice / I’m going to punish you.” They’re fighting words that Alice says are intended to promote individuality and authenticity.
The lyrics relating to “love and justice” were inspired by the anime character Sailor Moon, who was Alice’s muse. She decided to incorporate some of the character’s iconic catchphrases into “Karma Is A Witch” after seeing them printed on the back of a notebook.
“This notebook is the size of my palm. I bought it from a Sailor Moon souvenir shop in Harajuku,” explains Alice. “In the anime, whenever Sailor Moon is about to be a badass and use her magic powers, she says lines like, ‘I’m the pretty guardian fighting for love and justice,’ or ‘in the name of the future moon, I will punish you.’ I saw those lines on the back of my notebook and I thought, ‘wait a second, Sailor Moon has to be apart of this song.’ The song is super [hardcore], so I [told] my producer that the production has to make people feel like there is someone aggressively approaching them.”
In the 3D animated video for “Karma Is A Witch” that’s premiering today on i-D, Alice plays a badass Sailor Moon princess dressed in a customized Swarovski dress. “That was a Harajuku find, a globalization find,” she says. “[It] was customized by my friend Etsuna Otsuka, who lives in Tokyo.”
“The dress is a good representation of the original, hardcore, DIY Harajuku style,” she explains, while noting that most Harajuku fashion originates in New York. “There is no formula for Harajuku style. You can’t say, ‘if you’re wearing someone’s dress or a certain t-shirt, then that’s Harajuku style.’ Harajuku style is more about freedom and DIY. It’s about whatever is true to your characteristics. That dress [is] actually the Alice dress. In front of my boobs there’s a rabbit, and at the bottom of the dress you can see other symbols from Alice In Wonderland.”
Despite her many outgoing characteristics, Alice has, for many years, been battling an eating disorder. She recently posted a video on YouTube explaining how it interferes with her professional life, and declared her desire to be more open about it.
The symptoms first appeared when Alice began gaining weight while on asthma medication as a young child. She says she also loved food, but notes, “I wasn’t a big eater.” Both led to her being bullied at school, and by her parents, who would accuse her of overeating. “If we were having a family dinner, my parents would shout at me and say, ‘stop eating!’ They made me feel like eating food was a bad thing.”
The disorder disrupted her relationship with a teacher, and later made her question if she was pretty enough for a girl she was dating. Alice eventually ended the relationship and decided to move away. “I stopped eating. I only drank water for twenty days. After that, my eating disorder really developed,” she says. At school in Boston she would get stomach aches that disrupted her studies, now she is camera-shy and has anxiety that interferes with her creative work. “It’s really complicated. My eating disorder is like my secret friend. It’s like a rule book, and having this rule book in my hand, I feel like I can’t control my life,” she bravely admits.
In the future, Alice hopes to become an advocate and a role model to help others suffering from the same condition. “I think I’m going to make videos to share my journey, because even now I can not have a proper meal,” she says.
But opening up her bright, happy persona to something dark is a little daunting. Alice says she is still figuring out how to do it in an authentic way. “Being Alice, I want people to believe in my fantasy. I want people to believe in my dreams, and in my dreams there is no eating disorder, there’s no anxiety, everything is beautiful,” she says.
“Sometimes I struggle. Do I want to make people feel that by following Alice, everything she creates is beautiful, [and that] everything they see from Alice is beautiful? Or, do I want to share the reality of my life?”
“I think it’s a balance,” she says, after taking a second to think about it. “My musical world is great, but then still, I want to share my actual self. I’m not someone who has a huge following on social media, yet, but I got so many messages from posting about my eating disorder… people [were] like, ‘thanks for sharing, I’m in the same situation right now,’ and I was like, ‘You're not alone, and I’m not alone.’”