Vietnamese-American artist LEADR is on a mission. Sharing a message of love and inclusion, the LA-based singer-songwriter-producer-director employs dramatic visuals, powerful poetry, and soul-piercing vocals to captivate and inspire, sparking the fire of revolt and action in each of us.
Growing up queer in the 90’s to traditional Vietnamese parents, LEADR reflects on how using visual spectacle and his distinctive voice enabled him to share his own harrowing journey. “Growing up in Cherry Hill, NJ, people called me a fairy and now I’m embracing my inner faerie.”
LEADR’s latest single, “Hi, I’m Human” strikes a universal chord in all of us, the song’s message says, “Hi, I’m Human. I’m just like you.” The music – inspiring, yet contemporary with some retro elements that channel the best of the RedHot Chili Peppers – takes us on an aural ride from trauma to salvation. The video, directed by Nima Firouzan, shows us that destructive words have the power to tear us down through simple, clear editing that beautifully showcases raw emotion and dazzling visuals.
We caught up with LEADR to discuss and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and explore his experiences from racism to art. Check out the video for “Hi, I’m Human” below:
How did your journey into music begin?
When I was 10, I would sing along with what was on the radio at the time – everything from Britney Spears to Madonna. I would pretend I was on stage with my hair comb as a mic. I always kind of knew I wanted to be a singer.
AAPI History Month is a time to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Are there any individuals in the AAPI community who have shaped or influenced you as an individual?
I would say my parents have shaped me as an individual. They were refugees from the Vietnam War, and they came to America for freedom. They worked very hard to build the American dream starting from nothing and that inspired me to follow my own dreams.
In the music industry, it’s great to see AAPI musicians like BTS, Joji to Rina Sawayama paving the way for future AAPI artists, and be so popular in the so-called mainstream is really inspiring.
Maintaining a sense of community and solidarity is so important in divisive times. Are there any words you can share with AAPI readers to let them know that they are not alone?
Don’t stop sharing your stories, be kind to others but remember to stand up for yourself. We have the power to lift each other up. You are not alone.
“Hi, I’m Human” is your latest release that presents a message of love and unity. Can you share the importance of this message during a time that has seen increased violence towards the Asian American community?
We must lead with love and continue to stand up for each other. Love always wins!
The lyrics to “Hi, I’m Human” state “Hi, I’m human, I’m just like you”. What does it mean to you to be human?
To exist on this Earth together and to have freedom of being yourself.
There is still a large lack of representation for AAPI LGBTQ+ people in mainstream media. Leading up to Pride Month, what changes would you like to see?
We need opportunities for AAPI LGBTQ+ people to expand their stories and change the narrative that fuels bias and stereotypes.
Photographer: Stella Chyun @stella.chyun
Wardrobe: Francis Juarez @prinxfrancis
Makeup: Alisa Yasuda @alisa_yasuda
Hair: John Granados @jgbmorphosix