For Héloïse Letissier, the 27-year-old French solo act who performs under the confusingly plural stage name Christine and the Queens, the ascent to Europop stardom is a bit of a shock. “I’m just an awkward white French girl,” she says, before complicating that statement in a way that points to her postgender appeal in a hypersexualized pop landscape: “I’m just a boy who wants to be Beyoncé.” After putting out one of the catchiest dance albums of 2015, Christine and the Queens, Letissier caught the attention of Madonna and Elton John, won four Victoires de la Musique awards (France’s equivalent of the Grammys), and made the cover of French Elle. As she sings in her hit “iT,” dressed (in concert) in an angular man’s suit and throwing glitter into the crowd, “I’m a man now.”
As modern as it feels, Letissier’s casual gender fluidity weaves her into the fabric of 20th-century rock and pop. Her stage presence is an amalgam of Michael Jackson’s (the loafers), David Bowie’s (the glitter), and Mick Jagger’s (the sneer)—stars who toyed with gender norms while remaining unlikely sex symbols. “When I created Christine,” she says, “I was obsessed with inverting the male gaze. I wanted to be sexy because I desired. Like a male rock star.” Christine and the Queens will perform at Governors Ball Music Festival, on New York’s Randall’s Island, June 3 through 5.