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Kerli doesn’t like to talk about gay people. She prefers seeing everyone as simply human beings, where there is no straight or gay, no black or white.
“It really divides humans,” the 24-year-old singer says. “I feel very weird saying, ‘Oh, they’re a couple of gays.’ To me, they’re just humans.”
But where Kerli was raised, in the tiny European continent of Estonia, that’s not exactly how they were treated.
“There really is no gay scene,” she says. “It’s starting to emerge, and I’m trying to support it as much as I can. I’m a firm believer that everybody has the right to be whatever they want to be as long as they’re not hurting anybody. And I feel passionate about love.”
The performer’s been on our side for some time, playing the gay club circuit, showing her support for young LGBT kids with her online street team Moon Children (http://www.iamamoonchild.net), hiring an all-gay entourage and lining up Pride performances this summer. One stop includes Motor City Pride, where Kerli, making her first Michigan appearance, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. June 4 at Hart Plaza (Main Stage).
“I’ve heard so many things about Detroit, and so many great musicians come from Detroit. I really want to check out the vibe there,” she says. “There’s something in the air there. And honestly, I really believe that different places have their own energy. I’m very excited to play.”
After releasing her debonair debut “Love is Dead” in 2008, the dance-pop “bubblegoth” pixie is currently charting with the first single from its follow-up, “Army of Love,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s dance chart. Not that she cares about hits.
“My first album was a little more alternative and I didn’t get any radio play, and that’s hard for an artist. I didn’t care at that point. I thought, ‘Why would I even want to be on the radio?’ I didn’t think it was cool.”
She’s not saying much about the new “beautiful and empowering” album, due out this fall, but perfectionism plays into it somehow.
“People are looking for God, people are looking for money, people are looking for a place where they can have Chinese food delivered at 3 a.m.,” she says. “I was just kind of observing humans’ search for beauty through like all sorts of struggle.”
Kerli knows about struggle. With a population of only 5,000 people in her small town, many of them narrow-minded and ultra-conservative, the artist wasn’t free to be herself. Her neon hair and quirky style was too loud for Estonia. She did what so many ostracized young people unfortunately do – she cut herself.
“I feel like I had to fight really hard to get to where I am,” she says, “and now I’m just really realizing that it’s not really about where you’re going, it’s about enjoying your experience as a human, taking it all in and appreciating the moment more.”
Now she can, without worrying about what people think. How weird she dresses isn’t looked down upon in America; it’s encouraged, and you’re not cool unless you’re wearing trash bags, meat or toilet paper. Kerli wore the Charmin to make a statement.
“I felt like pop culture had kind of become more about the outfit than music or craft,” she says. “It looked amazing, though.”
The artist is very DIY with her outfits, and is almost offended when we mistakenly insinuate that another performer – someone by the name of Lady Gaga – creates her own costumes, like that legendary meat dress.
“She doesn’t make her own clothes,” she says, defensively. “Do you think she fucking hand stitched it? Fuck no.”
After lashing out at Gaga on Twitter last year, does that mean Kerli still has a beef, if you will, with Mother Monster?
“No. It’s fine,” Kerli says. “I just feel like it’s hard for every creative female artist out there because you get compared to her so much. But in a way, I’m actually really happy that there is a big artist out there who’s pushing the envelope. That’s good for other creative females.
“I’ve always done my thing and would like to get credit for it, as well.”
When she moved to Los Angeles four years ago, she could finally do her own thing – completely and freely. And she quickly made up for lost time by recreating her repressed childhood. “After I moved here, I bought a Barbie tent and I’d camp out in it in my living room,” she recalls.
Childhood is obviously important to her; she reaches out to kids through her Moon Children site, which promotes integrity, love and unity and has fostered many cyber friendships.
“I actually spend a lot of time online talking to a lot of young gay kids and a lot of kids who get bullied in school,” Kerli says. “I feel like the real way to make the world more tolerant is for all the parents to just love their kids more. That’s going to eliminate bullies. That’s going to eliminate ignorance. Rather than go somewhere with a big sign and say, ‘Let’s fight for gay rights,’ for me, the problem starts somewhere else.”