sam smith says he feels as much woman as man
The 25-year-old soul superstar discusses gender identity and drag shops ahead of his new album.
Photography Josh Olins
This article was originally published by i-D US.
Sam Smith's new album is out next Friday, but fans don't have to wait until then to learn what's inside the British singer-songwriter's mind. In a revealing new interview with The Sunday Times, Smith gets candid about everything from his favourite Sydney drag boutique and somewhat regrettable tattoos to his gender identity. Smith publicly came out as gay in 2014, and has now said "I feel just as much woman as I am man."
"People don't know this, but when I was 17, I remember becoming obsessed with Boy George and Marilyn, and all that", Smith recalls. "There was one moment in my life where I didn't own a piece of male clothing, really. I would wear full make-up every day in school, eyelashes, leggings with Dr Martens and huge fur coats, for 2 ½ years." When the interviewer asks Smith if he feels like a "cis" man, the soul superstar replies with a firm "no", flashing two small Venus tattoos on his fingers. Apparently the feminine symbols resonate with him more than the "dramatic" ink he sports on his biceps. "I look back on them now and I cringe", he says of the latter. "But I have to respect what I was feeling in the moment, you know?"
Smith also discusses his reservations about coming out when he was first propelled into the public eye five years ago. "Looking back on it, it was the fear of saying the wrong thing and offending", he says. "And I was 19 when I started writing the first album. I'd just moved to London from a village — I was literally the only gay in the village. I didn't know what I wanted to say." He now doesn't mind being referred to as a "gay singer", naming Elton John and George Michael amongst his greatest recent inspirations. Smith has historically been influenced by female vocalists like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston.
Young celebrities are proving increasingly averse to strict gender binaries. Amandla Stenberg, Angel Haze, Miley Cyrus, and Ruby Rose have all come out as gender-fluid or non-binary in recent years. Smith still uses male pronouns, but doesn't let them dictate his wardrobe. "I love a heel. I've got loads of heels at home", he divulges, saying his favourite store is a Sydney drag shop called House of Priscilla. "Oh my God, I just buy everything — heels, dresses. We have a great time."
Editor's note: This article originally stated Sam Smith identifies as genderqueer, which was incorrect. We apologise for this mistake.