Many artists over the years have challenged gender norms, whether by their actions or appearance. In some cases, it could be purely for the sake of theatricality, or simply as a way to express themselves further. These five artists have broken down the barriers of gender on numerous occasions, some having a lasting effect for time to come.
Marilyn Manson has always been one to enjoy theatricality, and his particular brand of gothic androgyny has become so instantly recognisable that few people have seen him without his signature makeup and milky contacts. His public image is so bizarre and sometimes downright confusing, and he revels in it. His androgynous appearance is most evident on the front cover of Mechanical Animals, where he is shown to have a virtually featureless naked body. A true born entertainer, never afraid to do his own thing.
With the heavy makeup, painted nails and occasional crop top, Brian Molko really went against the current in the 90s, wading through Britpop and indie bands to show the world the sheer brilliance of Placebo. He is most notable for his openness on topics such as sexual fluidity, mental health and cross dressing. He is sometimes linked to the resurgence of Goth in the 90s and with great songs like Nancy Boy, he brought a fantastic new sound to accompany his eye catching appearance.
Pete Burns, former frontman of pop group Dead or Alive (best known for the massive hit You Spin Me Round), is well known in the media for his androgynous appearance, heavily altered by cosmetic surgery over the years. He has undergone many procedures in recent years, which has often caused controversy, in addition to his various appearances on reality tv shows such as Celebrity Big Brother 2006.
Little Richard is seen by some as the first androgynous Rock’n’Roll star, often wearing dresses and makeup during live performances. This coupled with his (often censored) sexually explicit lyrics on huge hits such as ‘Tutti Frutti’ garnered him a great deal of attention throughout his career, cementing him as one of the first androgynous icons to appear in popular music. He is often seen as having issues finding his identity, however he was still fairly influential to later artists.
David Bowie was the ultimate icon, an absolute trailblazing trendsetter for the music world, and while his music is still as iconic as ever, that is not the only legacy he has left behind. His contribution to the world in terms of showcasing gender fluidity and rebelling against all gender stereotypes, ultimately paved the way for so many others to embrace their identity, and to be whoever they wanted to be. This is particularly well shown on albums such as Aladdin Sane and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He showed the world not just that it was okay to be different, but that we should celebrate our differences.