Pop singer Zolita finds herself scorned by a cheating ex-girlfriend on her new single, and she’s got some questions – twenty, to be exact.
“Was she sweet? Did you cry? Was it everything you wanted,” she sings on “20 Questions.” “Was she drunk? Were you high? Did you fuck her in the closet?” It’s a scream-worthy bop from its very first note and arrived alongside a meticulously choreographed and costumed visual, although longtime fans know this is all par for the course for the Los Angeles-based performer, who writes, directs, and edits every video.
Born Zoë Hoetzel, Zolita grew up on the west coast where she fostered a love for music and movies – she counts David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky amongst her faves – later attending NYU for filmmaking. It was there that she started to explore the world of music video production. “In high school and in college, me and my friends would always just put on music videos in the background,” she told Logo. “They always felt like cultural moments to me, especially when Gaga would put out a video or when Beyoncé put out her visual albums.”
Now she’s making cultural moments of her own, and as she wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Beast earlier this year, “telling sapphic love stories has become a benchmark of [her] art.” However, no story has taken off quite like her lesbian music video trilogy, which started with “Somebody I Fucked Once” last September. Zolita plays the bleach-blonde cheerleader who falls for Gia, an artsy outcast and – spoiler alert – dumps her boyfriend to own her sexuality at prom in front of the entire school. The series continued with “Single in September” and “I Fucking Love You,” and fans were hooked. The trilogy found a life of its own on TikTok and YouTube where it’s charted 58 million views and counting.
The reception has been effusive (“Why did this 5-and-a-half minute music video give me a better love story than 98% of romcoms out there… and gay,” one fan wrote), and she’s only getting started. “20 Questions” marks off the start of another sapphic love story for Zolita, who’s planning to release a new EP in February and hit the road on tour next year. Like any other pop star, she kicked off her latest project with new hair, going pink for the “20 Questions” video. “I literally just had my girlfriend [do it] one day, it was super impulsive,” she said. “And then I loved it so much after she dyed it and I was like, ‘I'm just going to continue this.’”
She chatted with us about the inspiration behind her new video, the importance of queer representation, Gaylor TikTok theories, and what fans can expect next.
Your latest single is “20 Questions,” which references all these incredible music videos and films. It’s so fun to watch – was it just as fun to film?
Oh my God, it was so much fun. I feel like that video was literally just all these different images that I thought of in my head that were so ridiculous and I was like, "How do I tie these together?" Then I had the idea of watching me watching different things on a TV, but it literally just was born out of me liking all of these different images that had no correlation really.
We’ve got “...Baby One More Time,” we have Black Swan, we have this country girl motif. How did you decide on which media to reference?
Black Swan's my favorite movie of all time, like what made me want to get into film. And I've never referenced it before, so I wanted to do that for sure. Then the other ones were just, to be honest, they were images I had and then I tied them to references after.
So obviously “...Baby One More Time” is burned in my brain. I loved the idea of my ex playing a teacher and us tying up the teacher and this gang of bad school girls. And then for the country one, I just love the idea of the reveal of me sitting on my ex and just how ridiculous that was. The styling and everything is definitely inspired by Shania.
Are there any sapphic movies or TV shows that you still want to reference in a video one day?
Period pieces are so overdone, but I think I would want to do … a sapphic period piece again. I did that in my video, “Come Home With Me,” but it wasn't as storyline driven. I would want the actual period piece storyline. I think that would be so sick.
Yes, get to have your full belle of the ball moment.
Wear the full glamor, yes!
I know you’re very candid on TikTok about the exes who have inspired your songs. As a musician, do you ever have moments where you're like, "Oh, should I say this? Is this too much?"
I have those moments, but a lot of the time, the nice thing is when I'm putting out music, it's so far after the situation. “20 Questions” was about a situation that was a pretty long time ago and I haven't had contact with that person for a really long time. So at this point, they're literally almost like a character in my mind.
I don't know, maybe it's bad, but also on TikTok, I feel like you sometimes … forget who's on the other side of things, so … it's kind of easy to be [more] open on there [than Instagram]. I think vulnerability and openness is a lot more valued on TikTok.
The “20 Questions” video ends with a “To be continued.” Can you give us any hints on where Zolita is going next in this trilogy, series, whatever it might be?
It’s actually more than a trilogy, right now it's four videos, potentially it's going to be six. But essentially I had gone through this breakup in “20 Questions” and now I am about to go on this road trip and you don't really know where I'm going, but you're going to find out actually in the next video.
What I can tease is that there is another classic Zolita love story that's going to happen in the next few videos.
With your upcoming EP and this new series, what can we expect lyrically wise? Are there any particular themes?
So I'll say that I'm in a pretty happy era of my life for the first time in a long time. It's been really cool to see that … I feel like I used to have that thought in my head that was like, "I have to be tortured and in a bad place to be inspired and to write good music."
But it's so awesome to know that I can be inspired and write music that I really love from a happy place and from a place of falling in love. There’s definitely some of that … but then there's also falling out of love. It's a little bit of a mix of both, there's a little something for everybody I think.
We’ve got to talk about the lesbian blockbuster music video trilogy that kicked everything off. Was it always the plan to make three videos or did you stumble into that?
I literally stumbled into it. I made “Somebody I Fucked Once,” and when I made it, I thought it was going to be one video. I just loved the idea of making the [queer] rom-com that I didn't have [growing up]. And people just fell in love with the character and there was such amazing chemistry between me and Tatchi Rigsby, my co-star, that we were like, "Well, why don't we expand on this love story and … give people just a really happy ending?" Which isn't something that queer women necessarily see very often.
It's funny because I got into music videos because I was like, "I don't want to do narrative filmmaking.” With music videos, you can be so much more experimental and weird, you don't have to be necessarily linear, and then here I am now making really narrative videos.
I love that your music is very intrinsically connected to your visuals. I know you have a film background, but was that always the dream?
I mean, it wasn't the dream until I was at NYU and I just realized that I wanted to make music videos so badly and I was always making music for myself, but it was never my number one love – film was always my first love. So, it wasn't until I was at NYU where I was like, "Well, I can actually just do both,” and … my project is the marriage of the two.
You are giving us the woman-loving-woman representation we need! But I wanted to ask, who was the first queer character you feel represented by?
It was Glee for sure for me. And seeing Brittana – Brittany and Santana, the cheerleaders – fall in love, I was like, "Oh." That made a lot of sense to me. I feel like as a femme-presenting person, I hadn't seen myself represented outside of porn and seeing … this special love between these two high school best friends ... [Something clicked] in my brain.
And then on a music side, I just remember when Lady Gaga literally said the word “lesbian” in “Born This Way.” I remember any time that came on, I would sing that part extra loud. It just felt so [good] to have that song in mainstream culture.
Your trilogy videos have gotten millions of views, I’m sure you’ve gained a bunch of fans. What has it been like connecting with them?
It's been so special. I think it's been really cool. I got to play Dinah Shore this past weekend, which is lesbian Coachella. And to actually have facetime, because obviously, it's amazing to connect with people online, but to actually get to hug the people that are listening to my music and that have been affected by the art that I've made, that is so special. So I'm really excited to get to do more of that and to go on tour and get to connect with people even more.
Yeah and the energy of having people scream the lyrics.
Oh my God. It was iconic. I played to … an actual pool full of gay women and it was awesome.
You're like, "This is peak.”
Your videos are coming out during what feels like a renaissance for sapphic representation in the media. We’re getting better, but is there something you want to see more of when it comes to queer female relationships?
I think more happy endings in general, especially in film and TV. More happy endings for women and just representing our normal life or love stories that aren't about coming out, necessarily. I think we could always use a little bit more of that.
I know, we’ve got Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Carol, Call Me By Your Name. It's like, can we not just end happy?
Exactly. Give us a happy ending. Can we please end up together?
Because we're gay, I have to ask: Halloween is coming up. Do you have any costume plans?
Oh my God, I do not have any costumes sorted out yet, but I do a different Gaga costume every year. I've done that probably for four years. One of my friends is throwing a Monster Ball-themed Halloween party, so I'm very excited for that. But I don't know which version of Gaga I want to do this year, if I want to do an old one or if I want to do a Chromatica-era one. We'll see.
I was looking at your Instagram and was overjoyed to see some of Taylor Swift’s “Gold Rush” lyrics. Evermore is queer canon, no matter what anyone says. Are you excited for Midnights?
I'm so excited and I am so deep in Gaylor TikTok, it's not even funny. My entire For You page is conspiracy theories. So, I'm excited to see what happens and to analyze even more lyrics.