20 Questions With Zolita: On Her New Single, Queer Representation & Why Music Videos Are the ‘Perfect Marriage’ of Media
Anyone claiming that the age of the music video is over has clearly not seen Zolita’s work.
Breaking into the industry with her viral 2015 music video for “Explosion” (it currently sits at 20 million views on YouTube), Zolita built her career around the format as a means of storytelling. Where visuals fail to properly reflect what she wants to say, her music speaks volumes, and vice versa.
After her stunning 2021 debut album Evil Angel came a trio of music videos that would provide her with even more visibility. Now appropriately referred to as her “Somebody I F–ked Once Trilogy,” the videos created a clear storyline for audiences to follow along to, from heartbreak to revitalized love.
Her latest song and video, “20 Questions,” manages to continue that trend. Sparked by a cheating ex, the video follows Zolita as she engages in some wish-fulfillment — namely, telling her ex exactly how she feels in no uncertain terms. Along the way, the star manages to pay homage to Black Swan (a film she says inspired her own filmmaking career), Britney Spears and more.
All of this fails to mention the fact that the singer has gone out of her way in each video to represent the LGBTQ community with as much accuracy as possible. Depicting romance between same-sex couples through her videos, she says, is as much about authenticity as it is about inclusion. “They’re such a prime place for me to tell the queer stories that I feel are lacking in the mainstream media,” she tells Billboard.
In honor of her new single, Billboard asked Zolita 20 questions of our own. Below, she discusses the music that inspires her, one wild poolside concert she performed, and what fans can expect from her impending new album.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Avril [Lavigne]’s album Let Go on CD. Still my favorite album to this day.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
The Britney Spears Oops I Did it Again tour… very iconic.
3. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
My mom was a clothing designer, and my dad was a journalist!
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
I don’t think it was ever a thought or realization. Even when I had to do random freelance editing and film gigs to make ends meet, I always believed I’d eventually get to the place where I had the opportunity of working on my artist project full time.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
Winning a VMA for best music video!
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
I grew up in Agoura Hills, a horse town just over the hill from Malibu. It was close enough to LA to feel generally accepting (and also close to cultural events) but far enough to have the idyllic quality of a suburb surrounded by nature. I think growing up there made me feel able to be pretty open with my self-expression early on.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
“Don’t Forget” by Demi Lovato. I went to their Holy Fvck show a few days ago and it’s been nonstop Demi in my house ever since.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
9. What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
I just played for a literal swimming pool of queer women at a festival called Dinah Shore (basically lesbian Coachella) and some gals were doing a little more than just kissing in there… Land concerts could never.
10. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?
I think the pandemic allowed me the time to start filling my creative cup again — watching movies I had put off getting around to, reading more, actively listening to albums, learning songs just for the fun of it. I think as an artist in the social media age it can become so easy to get wrapped up in output and forget that you need to take time to replenish and inspire yourself as well.
11. “20 Questions” is such a fun song about a not-fun situation — where did the idea of the track come from?
I went through a pretty rough cheating situation several years ago. My first album Evil Angel is a concept album mostly about that, but Evil Angel is pretty dark and lives very much in the thick of it all when it happened. I wanted to make a more fun, “f–k you” cheating song about the moment you get to reveal to your partner that you know they’re lying. It was fun to revisit such an old shitty situation, but turn that same theme into a fun pop banger.
12. The video offers something of an homage to Black Swan and Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” video. Why did you want to channel those projects into this video?
Black Swan is the movie that made me want to be a filmmaker, and I shockingly had never referenced it before this! So that one came first. When I listened to the song, I kept having so many different images in my head that had nothing to do with each other — a gang of students tying up a teacher, smashing glasses in a fancy restaurant, sitting on my ex’s back playing guitar … I knew I needed something to pull all of the scenes together, so that’s where the idea that I’m flipping through channels came from.
13. This is your first video since completing your “Somebody I F–ked Once” trilogy. What about narrative story telling in videos appeals to your artistry?
Filmmaking was my first love, but I think music is the most universal language. Music videos are the perfect marriage of the two. People’s attention spans are so short, and I’ve always loved the idea of developing a narrative storyline across short film-style music videos and capturing people’s attentions in that way.
14. All of your videos go very much out of their way to depict queer relationships as accurately as possible — can you explain why that’s vital in the work you do?
Diverse and accurate representations of queer love are still so far and few in between in film and TV. So, it’s always been extremely important to me to tell the stories I wish I saw growing up and that I would want young queer kids to see now. I write, direct, produce, and edit all of my work and work with an almost fully queer crew — so the stories we’re telling are about as authentic as they come!
15. This is the start of something of a new era for you. What can fans expect to see in your upcoming work?
I’m releasing an EP very soon and another narrative series of music videos to accompany it! Believe it or not… it’s even bigger than the trilogy! I also think it’s some of the strongest music I’ve ever released — and I am so excited for everyone to hear it.
16. What’s your astrological sign? Do you care about astrology?
Libra! I am obsessed with astrology. I think it’s a fun way to understand people — whether they relate to their different signs or not, you can learn a lot about them.
17. What’s your karaoke go-to?
“Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood!
18. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell (the 2000 version).
19. Which TV show do you recommend binge-watching?
The Simple Life NEVER gets old.
20. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
There’s no one else who has your exact perspective and ability to tell stories the way you can. Never forget that!