Kim Petras: Photos From the Billboard Women in Music Shoot

When Kim Petras emerged from beneath Sam Smith’s layered pink tulle gown on Saturday Night Live in January, it was a perfect visual metaphor for her presence on the Hot 100 chart-topper they were performing, “Unholy.” Cooing and belting about her virtues as a no-hassle, dirty-chic sugar baby, Petras was magnetic — the hit’s secret weapon, revealed.

Two weekends later, at the Grammy Awards, Petras had an even more definitive moment in the spotlight. “Unholy” won best pop duo/group performance, and, at Smith’s behest, Petras accepted the award, exuding joy and liberation in a speech that became a high point of the night. “I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight,” said the German singer, who in that moment became the first out trans artist to ever win a major-category Grammy.

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Changing the game has become habitual for the dance-pop devotee, who signed to Republic in summer 2021. In October, “Unholy” made Petras and Smith the first openly trans and nonbinary artists, respectively, to top the Hot 100 in its 65-year history. When Madonna introduced their performance of “Unholy” at the Grammys, thanking a new generation of “rebels out there, forging a new path and taking the heat for it,” it felt like both a coronation and vindication for Petras, who, since her 2017 arrival, has always carried herself like a main pop girl but has only recently started to be treated like one.

Read the full interview with Billboard Women in Music’s 2023 Chartbreaker here.

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