Music

BVT and partner Emma Horn chat about LGBTQ+ Hip Hop, social media, and their relationship

Coming from the release of their latest single Shawty, BVT chats partner Emma Horn about all things creative, relationships with social media and making waves in the RnB genre.

Everything about BVT saturates with gold, from the tune and visuals of, Shawty, to her willingness to break boundaries in the hip hop world – there’s just something about this artist that is infatuating in every way.

BVT sits with her partner, content-creator Emma Horn, who featured in the glistening Shawty music video, talking about mixing creative ventures in their relationship and pulling down the smoke and mirrors behind social media.

BVT & Emma Horn
Photograph by Heather Fletcher

Emma’s Questions to BVT:

EMMA: How did you build such a confidence around your identity and the way you express yourself?

BVT: I hate saying this, but my dad encouraged my tomboy attitude growing up. I was taught that being masculine implied confidence and assertiveness. I grew into BVT with that Tomboy persona. But since then, I’ve learned to strip back that binary and understand that’s not the truth. Confidence= confidence. Genuine Energy and believing in yourself= confidence.

All the powerful, assertive, boss ass women in my life showed me how to hold my own regardless of if I was in a dress or pants if you get me.

EMMA: How do you feel about being labelled a Queer POC?

BVT: I’m learning to embrace it. I am a very dual person though. Some days I wake up with so much energy to fight for what I believe in and break down boundaries. Other days I wake up exhausted from this identity. I think QPOC will relate when I say, that, often people want you to be one or the other. It’s as if you can’t be queer and a person of colour. Especially because in media we are tokenised and stereotyped, and we’re not seen as multi-layered people, and it almost erases our presence and invalidates our identities.

EMMA: What song from the ’90s would you make queer? Hehehe

BVT: ohhhh! Shit! Umm… Probably Dilemma, by Nelly and Kelly Rowland. How cute would that be!

EMMA: What made you inspired to make an early 2000’s video?

BVT: It’s my way of time-travelling. If I can’t physically go back and rewrite history and make everything queerer earlier, then I need to bring that era to the present. We’re such a nostalgic society, but sometimes we get stuck in a timeline. For me it’s whenever I put on a playlist, it’s gonna be 2000’s HipHop/R&B. So It’s my way of giving back to those people stuck there. It sucks, because I love the genre so much, but there is zero representation. So this is my way of taking us back and giving the people what they deserve.

 

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A post shared by BVT (Bernie Van Tiel) (@bossdembvt)

EMMA: What is it like dating a white girl when you’re such an advocate for POC representation? Do you ever feel like it clashes with your world?

BVT: If I’m honest, yeah, our worlds do clash sometimes. But when you’re a good communicator, it will always be more productive to have a conversation that an argument. Because arguing implies both people think they’re right and the other is wrong. A discussion leaves room to listen, understand and validate. I don’t think having a white partner should devalue how much I care about my community or how valid my voice is when fighting for equal rights and representation.

EMMA: Why did you want to do Shawty with me (aka your real life girlfriend)?

BVT: Well, we’ve been wanting to create something together for some time, and I wrote the song based on aspects of our relationship, so it only made sense to have you on board. Also, we didn’t have to fake any chemistry and were immediately comfortable which really translates on screen.

EMMA: Why is making videos like Shawty important?

BVT: I think my answer would be similar to the previous mentioned question, but more specifically to the video, I feel it really shows how much I’m bringing aspects of the 90s and 2000s into the modern-day, as opposed to fully throwing back and having say, flip phones and pagers and whatnot. I feel the approach we took reclaims the genre and era a bit more for our present-day audience.

EMMA Do you feel like it’s hard being inspired by 2000s hip-hop when it gave you zero representation?

BVT: Yes. I grew up on this music-loving it. But looking back, some of it is quite problematic and phobic. So that’s why I created Shawty, because we deserve a timeless classic that doesn’t discriminate against people like us.

EMMA: Favourite shot in the vid?

BVT: I loved that we hotboxed the shit out of the car and chucked a bunch red lights in there and the aesthetic worked so well! We literally sat there for like, half an hour spraying “haze in a can” because we didn’t have a fog machine praying not to have an asthma attack [laughs] I think our creative team is so brilliant at seeing that as a vision and executing it so well!

 

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A post shared by BVT (Bernie Van Tiel) (@bossdembvt)

EMMA: Would you rather work in all LGBTQ+ team?

BVT: Duh. Always. I think it’s important to have a team that understands your vision and experiences, because they’ll always want to do the project justice and understand the narrative. It means something to everyone that way. And also in the words of Princess Nokia “We’re just cooler”.

EMMA: If you could change one thing about R&B music industry or music history?

BVT: Misogyny.

BVT’s Questions to Emma

BVT: On a scale of 1 to “Binge Watching The L word in One Sitting”, how queer would you say the experience of filming Shawty was?

EMMA: Well, everyone was Queer. You can’t get more Gay than everyone on set being gay. So pretty Queer I guess.. an “L-leven!”.

BVT: Creative folks are often sceptical about involving their partners in their projects, especially if the themes are centred around love or lust, because of that looming question “what if we break up?”. So, seeing as you’re my actual partner in the music video and IRL, what are your thoughts on this?

EMMA: I’d literally never thought of this before… Well, I wanted us to do a joint Instagram account once as a couple. But we do put our relationship online quite a bit. My followers know a lot about you, so I say live on the edge! Most musicians write about their current or past experiences, so if an artist has a partner who is also a creative, it makes sense to involve them in your work. I’m tired of people feeling they need to hide their relationship from the industry. People, especially Queer people, want to see real relationships and real experiences because they barely get to that representation. Especially from artists.

 

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A post shared by Em 🌈 (@emmahornnn)

BVT: Sometimes I feel that if I had more (well, any) positive Queer representation in music and on-screen growing up, that I might’ve had my “Gay Awakening” earlier. Do you feel the same?

EMMA: 100%! Especially with music, growing up I saw females portrayed being physical with each other in a sexualised way, in retrospect I understand it was for the male gaze. It would’ve been awesome to just see queer women making cute videos for the woman they loved. Maybe then I would’ve been able to know sooner that liking girls was even an option.

BVT: So the music vid for Shawty touches on the digital era and the GenZ/Millennial culture and our need to document everything, capturing almost anything that seems to be “in the moment”. As a content creator, what have been the pro’s and cons of this era and what effects do you think it can have on a relationship, both positive and negative?

EMMA: I think for LGBT content creators, it’s common to base their whole online presence off of their relationships. We fall into that trap because we are deprived of queer representation so much, that when young people go online and see a lesbian couple, they hang onto that relationship so much. When you’re a content creator and getting all that attention from your relationship, it’s detrimental, because relationships don’t last forever and you don’t *have* to share everything online. Live in the moment and enjoy your relationship for what it is. Don’t project it as perfect and neglect the problems in real life.

BVT: Okay, this one’s just because: If you could pick one iconic movie and make it a queer narrative, what would it be and why?

EMMA: Mean Girls!! It would be iconic! How good would it be in the mean girls were all just lesbians!?

BVT: How much of our online persona’s do you think leaks into our everyday real-world interactions?

EMMA: hmmm… I feel like… nothing. Well, I mean, I’m confident online because it’s my own space, I’m confident in real time… but I am NOT a confident gay [laughs]. I’m not someone who can walk into a room full of queers and be like “hey look at me! I’m gay too!” I’d just sit there and be terrified.

BVT: Something else that was touched on in the music video was the notion that our relationship has this performative aspect to it, and there’s an unnerving feeling of being watched. Do you ever feel like this relates to being a queer content creator?

EMMA: Yeah for sure. I always get DM’s after posting stuff with you saying “you guys are the perfect couple! You guys are so cute! If you ever break up, I’ll never believe in love anymore!”. But I’m like, you don’t know the shit that goes on [laughs], we are not the perfect couple. We are very opposite and we do have real struggles. I feel like the dynamic we play to online isn’t our real-life dynamic for sure. People like to label us like “oh Emma’s the femme, cute queer and BVT is the more masc, cool queer”. It bothers me because I don’t want to be told who I am in my own relationship.