Lucas Charlie Rose: An Artist With A Voice For The Voiceless
He Opens Up About Everything!
Who is Lucas Charlie Rose?
I had this anxious feeling before meeting Lucas Charlie Rose. I was puzzled with questions like : How to approach him?
What to say or not? Climbing up the stairs of his repurposed building, I wasn’t totally sure of how things would unfold during our interview. Of course, I came prepared with my questions, notes and photographer but nervousness trumped excitement. Would I ask the wrong questions? Will he feel alienated? While racking my brain on the appropriate LGB, queer and trans terms to use, it was refreshing to have Whiskey, Lucas’ pitbull/boxer pup, be the first to greet us at the door.
Extending my arm for a handshake, Lucas obliged with a smile and showed us in. My tall frame towered over his petite body. As we went deeper into the loft apartment, his nervousness matched mine, shifting his weight from one leg to another and holding his arm.
Once inside, I immediately noticed the large windows that spanned the entire length of the loft. Not only do they provide an immense amount of natural light and a beautiful view of the neighborhood but they also highlight the organized chaos of his home.
With construction materials in one corner, tomato plants in another and thrifted furniture sprinkled throughout the loft, it essentially had all the building blocks of an artist crash pad.
An Afternoon With Lucas Charlie Rose
As Spider-Man and Nas posters provide the backdrop to the interview, I settled into my seat, a worn out leather armchair, as Lucas reclined in his foldout seat. He seemed shy when asked about his childhood. “I grew up in France until the age of 9 then moved to Niger with my mom since she went to teach journalism there. That’s where I really discovered what community meant. French culture is extremely conservative and based off of shaming people. Also, humor is hugely based on making fun of marginalized cultures and groups. If you don’t like it, then you’re just being “too sensitive”. I never felt like I belonged. I was shamed for everything. I’ve always been very vocal about who I am and I don’t have the energy to try to be someone else. Before I came out as trans, I dated women but people would tell me they’re against gay marriage because they like and want to protect me, which makes no sense. People insult each other and act like it was love.”
As I’m about dive deeper into his childhood experiences, Whiskey comes right up to my notes, sniffs around and locks eyes with me. As sweet as she is, it’s as if she’s giving me a friendly warning to proceed with caution. Lucas quickly shooed her away and she retreats to her corner seat on a red chair adjacent to the large windows. “ Niger is totally different; Full of love. People knew I was Black and didn’t question it. There was so much love, respect, encouragement and everything was based on supporting each other. It’s a beautiful culture.” I asked him to elaborate about people “knowing he was Black”. I also took the opportunity to bring up his online bio and the fact it states he is biracial. “In France, people were like, “are you sure”, like they know me better than me. It’s also a huge part of who I am and how the world treats me. Blackness has a BIG spectrum. Before I transitioned, I really passed as white. Now people see I’m more racialized but kinda ethnically ambiguous. I just want to place myself…that’s what a safe space is.”
While we discussed details around Niger and the friendships he created, he explained that even though it was a great time, it was also very hard. He immediately shifted in his seat and explained. “It was three of the best years in my life even though a lot of bad things happened… abuse and stuff like that. My parents broke up and I didn’t know until we moved to Niger and my mom started to date an abusive guy. He was mentally and physically abusive. He was the only masculine presence in my life.Toxic Masculinity has been a thing in my life”.
I didn’t want to probe further because judging by his body language, he seemed uncomfortable. So I tried to segway into music and if it helped him cope. “Music was always there since primary school. I had a teacher who taught us poems, by turning them into songs. I was immediately drawn to this. I started writing poetry and winning junior competitions. Music has always been an outlet and my dog. My other dog recently passed away with health issues (pitbull and schnauzer). Dogs are pure love and it’s inspiring for me. You love your dog and dogs love you…not even the same species. It’s on a deeper level. To me that’s what music is all about. That feeling you can’t explain.”
On his Facebook account, he referenced having an eating disorder and I wanted to know if that was due to the trauma from Niger. “It happened when I went back to France at 12. I was body shamed as a woman as I was going through puberty. I didn’t want to look the way I looked and I hated myself for my body and I didn’t understand why. So eating became hard for me. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to gain weight, it was just a way for me to not take care of myself. I didn’t connect with who I was anymore. I felt very lonely. I started going into depression and it didn’t end until I came out and started transitioning.” Then the topic of suicide came up. “I tried to commit suicide a bunch of times. At 18, I was hospitalized and again at 19 but for eating related issues. It was a bad time but this shaped who I am today. But every time I wanted to die, music brought me back with the “what if I make it? What if I go on stage?”.
As I sit there shocked and saddened, curiosity gets the best of me and I push forward. Where were his parents and how do they feel? As I ask the question, he glances downward, then out the window. He’s visibly uneasy about answering the question. “Uhh it took a while. They’re ok with it. They still mess up. They accept me but, I dunno it’s hard they say. Like I said, our culture doesn’t talk about things like this… It’s baby steps. My brother doesn’t talk to me but watches all of my snapchats. My stepmom has been very supportive. She always comments on my stuff… puts a bunch of heart emojis and stuff. That always makes me really happy but the rest of my family… they just stopped calling. I can see they’re really uncomfortable with it. When you transition, you lose everything.”
With that, I found the perfect opportunity to ask about how and when his transition started. “I stopped using my name at 15, but I started transitioning before I knew I was trans. Once when I was in the park playing, around 4-5 years old, someone asked me my name. I said, my name is Kevin. And the person said, Kevin? I thought you were a girl? I responded, did you look at my hair. I have short hair. That means I’m a boy. (I never wanted long hair, no way). As a kid, I felt like, that’s how things worked, you cut your hair, you changed your gender. When I was a kid, it was very natural, it wasn’t sexual. I think you should listen to children, as they will explain the world to you in a way that adults will never be able to. Adults lose that innocence and children are the truth.”
Clearly music has been one of the rare constants in his life so I was intrigued to know if it had ever hindered in any way. “Being a musician is not well seen in France and people didn’t start believing in me until last month. I always had to fight for that…being told I was never going to be a real musician. I have never been interested in anything else. I rely on feelings. And life is long and I don’t want to get stuck in something that I don’t like. I’m really broke and the struggle is real and I need to make ends meet, but it’s important to keep an eye out on what you really like. I wanted to die so much when I was young and now I want to make the best of what I got left.”
At this point, we had been chatting for over an hour, so a break was welcomed. As he made coffee, we chatted more about his teens and moving to the US where he completed his high school. From learning English in DC, to creating lifelong friendships with Strange Froot that continued all the way to university in Montreal. As he finished the last sips of his coffee, we settled back in our seats and the conversation took a turn to his other passion, fashion.
Lucas Charlie Rose : What It Is To Find Yourself
“Fashion is a huge part, if not the most important in a lot of people’s transition. Cuz what’s the first thing you identify people with, fashion! I love fashion nowadays with the long shirts and skinny jeans. Young Thug says he shops in the women’s section. I love that because fashion is a huge part and a lot of times people can’t dress the way they really want to. Prince) and Michael Jackson are my idols since they took fashion under their own terms. I also love what Jayden Smith has been doing…oh and I love caps. I have a weird obsession with them…overall, he act of self-care is important to me”
I reminded him of when I saw him perform a few months back and he was wearing light up sneakers on stage. I was a bit surprised he didn’t mention that on his list of fashion favs given they are kinda out there.
“I love the light up shoes. I want to start marketing them, put my logo on it and start a line.”
For such an avid fashion lover, I had to ask why he takes so many topless photos and tapes his nipples? I figured it would have something to do with his transition or body dysphoria but didn’t want to assume. “Because I had an eating disorder and I haven’t had top surgery, I have “female” nipples. I tape them so they can pass through on social media. I get my pics reported otherwise. Also, I like when they are flat. I’m learning how to love myself and my body and it was always super hard. So now, when I post topless pics, I’ve been getting a good reaction. I feel empowered by that. It’s like, “look..I’m trans..this is my body..I look good as shit”. It’s a way to tell people I’m taking ownership of my body.”
So I made the connection to a article he did with VICE, where he appeared topless. “It was over the phone and after a photoshoot I did for Exposed. It was fun. They asked me a bunch of questions about the photos, what it was like to work with a photographer that wasn’t trans. So it was cool that they wanted to learn.”
I circled back to his Young Thug comment about shopping in the women’s sections. Maybe this is sign that hip hop is becoming more inclusive. “I hope so. I really hope so. Black people have always been seen as super masculine. Hip hop is super masculine and has toxic masculinity. I feel like hip-hop is starting to explore more. I love hip hop… it’s kept me alive. It’s everything I’m about. And the fact that hip-hop hates me is really hard. There is nothing threatening about me, I’m just going to bring a new narrative. Even though Drake)is a huge misogynous [
As whiskey approached me again, to sniff my notes, I again, took that as a queue to switch topics and focus on his album and new music. The music I saw him perform live was more acoustic verus the “trapsoul” vibe I heard while listening to his new album, ROUGE. I wanted to know where he drew his inspiration from for the album. “I’m inspired by everything. Older R&B, like Stevie Wonder. Elements of trap, 808, sprinkling hihat. I like trap and the depth you can achieve with it. Melodies are also very important since I didn’t speak English at first, so it’s the most important part of it, so this is reflected in ROUGE. ROUGE is a conceptual album best defined as trap soul. “ROUGE” is a galaxy set to be explored for the first time by a space cruiser. It’s only accessible to the super rich… and then things happen. I wanted to release an acoustic album but I wanted a uniformed[
Something else I picked up on was, the sensual undertone and overall theme of the album. “My songs are sensual and have a deeper meaning…consent. People are going a cruise exploring this galaxy but are you allowed? Do you have consent? In “4am”, the girl calls and initiates activity. The fact that people will be singing my songs and the lyrics are about consent… It’s about respect, love and passion.”
The fact that people will be singing my songs and the lyrics are about consent… It’s about respect, love and passion.”-Lucas Charlie Rose
So with the strong sensual undertones, I assumed the title ROUGE went with theme but I was quickly corrected. “The color red represents how I feel. Can be rage, passion, love. My last name is Rose also. If I don’t feel something that I can’t explain, it’s not meant to be. So if I don’t feel it, it doesn’t work. And that feeling, that can’t be explained in ROUGE.”
As we wind down to my final questions, I touch on his busy schedule and past events. From Suoni Per il Popolo, Fringe Fest, Philadelphia Trans conference and booked for Rainbow Fashion Week, how did it all happen? A huge smile spreads across his face instantly, “It’s the month of the firsts. It was my first time performing as Lucas Charlie Rose in the States. I was nervous but it was so exciting. They finally got to see me live. I also did my first runway show in New York, when I always thought I was too short. My new management, Transcendence hooked that up.”
I never heard of Transcendence Icon Company and wanted to learn how the connection was made. “I met with the CEO in January and we just spoke but nothing became official until recently. I still have creative control and can book myself. They are really about freedom for the artist. Also, it’s a trans person managing me and they know things that I would not be comfortable with.”
So I ask what’s next for Lucas Charlie Rose? “Its gets bigger and bigger, so fast. I work so much since there is always something that comes up. My mom is really excited and finally considers my music work.” With a broad grin, he continues. “It’s special, it’s surreal. I love it and I want to be the first Trans guy to win a Grammy for best hip hop album. I want all these crazy things. I just don’t want to worry about money while making art. My dream is to have my own studio with a window… the window is a big part.” (He chuckles) “I also want to travel a lot. I also want to invest in businesses, do body positive training and write feature films. It’s hard now though because being broke is hard. Everything is so costly”
What This Interview With Lucas Charlie Rose Taught Me
With all this information and a better sense of understanding, I want to know what cisgender people people, like myself, can do to be more inclusive. It was important that not only I learn from this experience but others as well, so a PSA was perfect to conclude the interview. “Book us for shows. Don’t make us work for free and promote trans businesses. When you’re a cisgender person, people will listen to you a lot more. So trans people need cis people to be a microphone. A microphone doesn’t make noise on its own but it amplifies. So we need that support and promotion. Don’t assume pronouns. You don’t know what trans looks like. Your comfort is not as important as my safety. Misgendering people is violence. When people assume pronouns and it’s not the right one, it’s like getting stabbed in the heart. It’s like you can’t breathe, super violent. So just use “they”. Lastly, don’t ask questions about bodies as it’s very personal. That happens to trans people a lot. Before they ask what my name is, they ask what’s in my pants. If your attraction is based solely on what in the person’s pants, you need to check that.”
Stay Connected To Lucas Charlie Rose
Get Lucas Charlie Rose new album at www.lucascharlierose.com