Fast paced and epic! When Gaga was being styled by Nicola Formichetti, that entire period was so creative and captivating. The fashion was so clever and I was so thrilled when their team reached out to me. They had seen some of my plastic, futuristic body-sculptures in Dazed magazine and commissioned one for her Judas
music video. So I spent 72 hours making something and rushed it into their stylist’s office. There were dresses and outfits covering every inch of their walls, even hanging from the ceiling! It looked like an exhibition. Needless to say, mine probably didn’t stand a chance. In the end, the video changed aesthetic and went from something futuristic to more of an opulent Christian LaCroix style. As much as I loved working on something for such a big international pop star, it’s so much more fun making costumes for myself, as I know I’ll actually use them!
Tell us more about your hair!
When it comes to cultural identity or gender identity, having long hair challenges people’s expectations of what it means to be a man. It unnerves people, especially in the gents toilets when I’m at the urinal––or when they hit on me and then realise I’m not a girl. I love challenging stereotypes and surprising people, but that’s not reason why I grew my hair. I did it for me: because I liked it, and plus, its natural for your hair to grow. I get to do so many things with it––plaits, ponytails, buns––whatever i feel like when I need to express myself.
I’m not precious with it either, it’s just hair at the end of the day, which is why I find it so fascinating how people are judged by their hair. In Hong Kong, people would literally freak out in front of my face. My friend said, “they think you’re a punk or homeless.” Or even in London, the amount of times I’ve come across statements like men must have short hair in order to be man… it’s ridiculous. Hair grows, that’s biology baby! Our western culture determines what we should do with it. It tells men to cut it and women to dye it. Forcing people to have certain styles to fit stereotypical gender roles is prescriptive and oppressive. Let your body be free and enjoy what comes out of it!
How is Le Fil different from your everyday self, on the inside and outside?
I’m not an actor portraying a character. I naturally evolved into becoming Le Fil as a stage within my life, like how adolescence or adulthood is a stage in someone’s life. When performing I’m just a heightened version of my everyday self. It’s like when you decide what to wear for a night out after work; it’s just a different side of you in a different context, but you’re still the same person. I love music, fashion and art so that’s why it exists in my every pore. For better or worse, I’m Le Fil 24/7 – every day, every week, every month. The world is a stage!
The East Asian community has a reputation for being submissive, conservative or pedantic. Does this resonate with the environment you grew up in?
I definitely come from a traditional family, and Chinese people on the whole, especially older ones, are so conservative about their values. My dad always explains that I do art and music as a disclaimer for my appearance when he introduces me to his friends, it’s hilarious. But it’s definitely changing now; younger generations are teaching their elders something new––that’s refreshing. We should always be looking forward and challenging expectations. I look at that a lot in my work––my song 24/7 touches on the idea of objectification where men just see my hair and talk to me like a submissive sex object. They see me as a ‘ladyboy’ and start being gross and I find it so tiresome so I challenge that by answering back in a thick and deep Yorkshire accent.
What does it mean to have someone like Le Fil in the UK?
UK gives me freedom to be me. Hopefully I can inspire people to think new ways when it comes to their identity and personal philosophies. Things are changing now and people are a lot more conscious of being diverse and representing differences within culture and communities. I want my music to bring more people together. A wider dialogue with a bigger audience on a bigger platform. My music and art only exists when an audience experiences it. Singing is about conveying emotions and ideas, but someone has to receive those emotions for an idea to come alive.
That’s what I learnt from this Smirnoff campaign I’m in, called We Are Open
, launched in support of LGBT communities and charities. It’s my first major national campaign and celebrates inclusivity by highlighting LGBT nightlife and genderqueer artists and gives them a platform to shine. I never ever thought a long-haired Chinese androgynous thing like me would ever be on billboards or on the telly, it’s fab! The campaign encouraged quite a debate about gender and identity, and I want to be a part of that dialogue and to encourage people to think in new ways. I want to smash stereotypes one song at a time, and take everyone on a celebration while I do it!