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Betty Who Was Born to be BIG!

The larger than life queer pop phenom opens up with a vulnerable conversation about size and writing from the heart. 

by Dust Cwaine

Photo by Kate Biel

Turning 30 can be absolutely perilous. It can be lonesome and isolating; it can be transformative and terrifying — it’s a special kind of hell. Betty Who turned 30 during the pandemic, and then she kind of disappeared for a minute. 

Silence on social media is so loud these days, but when RANGE connected with the Australian American pop star and host of the new reality dating series on Prime Video, The One That Got Away, Who opened up loud and clear, offering a bigger picture perspective of her life as she entered a new decade. “So I turned 30, my husband got sober, and we recommitted to our marriage and found each other again in a really beautiful way as adults,” she says. “I’ve never been more obsessed with him. So that was huge, feeling safe in my relationship again.” 

At this point in the queer singer-songwriter’s career, music plays second fiddle to Who’s evolution as an artist—it is but a vessel for wisdom. One of my fond memories from interviewing Who in the past was her sharing that folks are amazed by her size—she stands at 6’1”. When her new project was announced with the title BIG!, I had my suspicions for what this implied. As Who’s career has progressed, trying to escape or change who she is just didn’t work. “I’ve always struggled with the idea that being myself is the brand,” she says. “I think something I realized is that the number one thing I’ve been running away from is my size, my height. I think I’ve really done myself a disservice for a long time hiding it away.”

As an album, BIG! is very much Who embracing all that she is. Her navel-gazey monologues throughout our interview meander around topics that are validating and universal. Gracious with her time, Who has no issues diving into topics of self-grace and the forward momentum of self-awareness, what it feels like to pressure yourself towards transformation. “I’m not trying to bamboozle anybody into thinking I’m something I’m not,” she says. “I think it’s been very confrontational as well as healing for me to be like, ‘Here I am, look at it. There you are.’”

Today’s daunting quest of self exploration often brings out the dreaded plight of body dysmorphiaseeing our bodies for what they aren’t based on others’ perceptions of us and the nefarious way we filter it into ourselves. Who once had a modelling contract and, because of her height, nobody knew where to place her. Not big enough to be plus size and not short enough to be regular, not fitting in added to her sense of being othered. It pushed her into isolation at a time when she should have been stepping confidently into her career, but the world hadn’t yet caught onto the value of uniqueness. 

Bodies are commodified nowadays. They are a selling feature for an artist and their art. After all that reflection, Who has morphed her body into a dance machine. What started as a simple pop experience with a guitar has evolved into an absolutely mind-blowing choreographed live show that allows her to acknowledge the greatness of what she’s been given in a validating, honest way. She jokes, “I don’t know if people come to my shows because I’m hot. I don’t think that that’s why. I think it’s the energy.” 

But we can be honest, Betty Who is hot. “If someone happens to also think I’m sexy as hell, I’m like, ‘fuck yeah,’ as you should, you know, but I don’t think that that’s where it starts,” she says. “I think it starts from the heart, from the soul. So, realizing that, I then try to write music from there instead of my hot body.”

 Who’s latest single and title track “BIG!” serves as a lightning rod, a thesis statement and a personal reminder to embrace all that you are. There’s something to be said about shared experiences that unite us, and Betty Who’s music is that for numerous folks with all of their transformative depth. Who is here, and she’s always going to be here, larger than life and queerer than Christmas — And she’s certainly not going to apologize for taking up space. 

Betty Who will be kicking off a world tour early next year, hitting Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall with RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Shea Coulee on March 17, 2023.