Dancer. Actress. Singer. Those are just a few words to describe Kat Cunning. The unique triple threat, who currently appears on the HBO show The Deuce, is a rising voice on the NYC arts scene whose songs blend pop, soul, and Baroque arrangements. In addition to her undeniable talent, she is an advocate for the LGBT community and body positivity as well as being unapologetically herself in everything she does.
We had the opportunity to chat with Kat Cunning about the message behind her music, her journey to self-confidence, The Deuce, and LGBT representation in media.
Earlier this year you released ‘Stay on the Line’. What was the inspiration behind that song?
I wanted to write something that felt like summer and showed my lighter side. The song is explicitly about phone sex but it’s also about connection and romance and how close you can get to someone just with the use of words.
Are there any specific messages you hope to convey with your music?
That vulnerability does not equate to weakness. That everyone deserves the basic right to love.
What is the songwriting process like when you make new music?
I collect ideas and songs for months and then I actualize them with producers and musicians. I think staying connected to what I’m going through and taking in other art is the most important part of making music or anything at all. I never want to write when I have nothing to say.
You’re very outspoken about sexuality and body positivity – have you always been so comfortable and confident?
No way! I wouldn’t even say I’m confident and comfortable 100% of the time, now. I’m dedicated to advocating for the kind of beauty that I do because I want to see my body type and my sexuality represented and celebrated around me. I struggled with anorexia as a young dancer and in a way embracing my sexuality helped me out of it. I realized I was particularly attracted to curvy women. Having the ability to see the beauty in other women’s bodies made me step outside my harsh criticism of myself. You’re never the only one like you whether it’s how you look or who you love, and it never pays to hide who you are.
What do you think of the current portrayal of LGBT people in the media? Representation has become a lot better in the past decade but there is still a long way to go. What changes do you think would help?
I love that ‘queer’ is sort of an umbrella term for the nonconformist, generally flamboyant and boundary-breaking. But queer representation should include all walks of life. It’s important to the overall narrative that we show queer people in mainstream stories at specific intersections of race and gender and class while portraying our experience as universal. We need to humanize the community and lean away from objectifying queers as the alt, tap dancing, unicorn clad best friend. We come in all types and combinations of qualities. I am craving that depth to the characters that are being written. All of that starts in the writer’s room and in the record labels. Hire queer people to help you represent queer people with dignity.
You have done so many things including Burlesque, Broadway, music and acting. How do you find time to balance it all?
To be honest they all feed into each other. In my dreams, I’d be too busy with acting and music to have done anything else. In reality, they all teach me something and keep me on my toes in a different way. I hope to have a career like Jennifer Lopez. Star in films. Tour the world.
You recently joined the cast of HBO series The Deuce, series 2. How did that come about?
I auditioned! It was the best audition of my life. Short, sweet. Got a call ten minutes afterwards. I’m glad that they took the risk off of so little information. They hadn’t even really seen my body or asked if I could dance. It felt romantic and I wish more castings were like that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
World tour. Premiering a brave new film. Travelling by boat. My cat is wearing diamonds.