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‘I Never Thought I’d Get a Medal for Being Gay’: Alex the Astronaut Discusses the Joy of Sydney WorldPride 2023

Alex the Astronaut told Rolling Stone AU/NZ about what Sydney WorldPride meant to her, her undying love of Magda Szubanski, and what she has in store for fans in 2023 and beyond

Alex the Astronaut

Jamie Heath

The historic, inaugural Sydney WorldPride 2023 was special for many people, but it was especially important for anyone who grew up queer in the city. People like Alex the Astronaut.

As well as being one of the finest Australian singer-songwriters of her generation, Alexandra Lynn is also one of the most fiercely proud and prominent LGBTQIA artists working today; remember her 2017 song “Not Worth Hiding” famously becoming a queer anthem of self-acceptance, thrusting the fledgling artist into the position of role model.

But growing up in Sydney in the 2000’s, the city wasn’t as accepting as it is today. “Apart from that very small area (Oxford Street), it didn’t feel like somewhere you could be different or proud of yourself,” Lynn told Rolling Stone AU/NZ.

That’s why it was such a wonderful experience to witness the events of Sydney WorldPride 2023; a city transformed with colour and life for several weeks, and one utterly unrecognisable from even a decade ago.

Alex the Astronaut was given the wholesome honour of being chosen as one of 40 Rainbow Champions to represent her community, while she also took part in Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking Proudly’ campaign.

After Sydney WorldPride wrapped up, Alex the Astronaut told Rolling Stone AU/NZ about what the event meant to her, her undying love of Magda Szubanski, and what she has in store for fans in 2023 and beyond. 

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: How incredible did it feel to have WorldPride in your hometown?

Alex the Astronaut: Very. Seeing places that I went to when I was a confused, scared 140year-old all rainbow-ed up was actually pretty healing. I thought it would be a really fun party and I was excited to see MUNA and lots of the bands play but I didn’t think it would be so helpful psychologically. 

What did it mean for you to be part of WorldPride?

It was such an honour to be part of WorldPride as both a Rainbow Champion and a member of the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking Proudly’ campaign. I never thought I’d get a medal for being gay let alone such a pretty one. I kind of felt like an Olympian but I didn’t have to exercise which was nice. 

How did your inclusion in WorldPride come about this year?

I was asked to be one of the Rainbow Champions by World Pride Sydney. 40 people from all different fields were chosen and we got to do the Pride March across the bridge with the 78ers which was really special. I also partnered with Johnnie Walker for their ‘Keep Walking Proudly’ campaign where they orchestrated a venue takeover at the iconic Kinselas during WorldPride – I played a small acoustic set as part of their “I’d Like to Say a Few ‘Gay’ Words” which was very gay and rainbow-ey. It was amazing to be part of this campaign with other inspiring individuals, helping to illuminate all of our stories.

It must have felt so special to be chosen as one of the Rainbow Champions. 

It was completely surreal. At the awards ceremony I met Magda Szubanski who is my hero so to be given the same medal as her was mind blowing. Seeing Magda on TV growing up made me see that I could be myself and be celebrated for it. 

Growing up in Sydney, how inclusive did you feel the city was?

Look, not very. I think when I was in my later years of high school and I was allowed to go to Mardi Gras with my friends was the first time I felt like I belonged. Around that time my friends and I started going out on Oxford St a bit more and that was eye opening. Apart from that very small area it didn’t feel like somewhere you could be different or proud of yourself. 

What other artists/events did you enjoy seeing at this year’s WorldPride? 

I really loved seeing Charli XCX, MUNA, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Kim Petras. All of the shows were so thought through and fun and clever. It’s the first time I’ve been to a music event and just loved every performance. I also loved opening night at Walk Proud @ Kinselas when Cub Sport performed their DJ set, it was really cool to be a part of this Johnnie Walker campaign that highlighted some of my favourite artists.

I think everyone just knows they have to be better than the non-LGBTQIA artists to be considered and so the shows are just amazing. I loved going to the Human Rights Conference and seeing all the smart people discuss LGBTQIA issues without them being simplified. They were complex and clever and in-depth and made actual changes to legislation. It made me really proud. 

You just completed your own tour – how did it all go? 

I just did a tour with a festival called SummerSalt. It was really interesting to go from that tour where I was the only queer artist into WorldPride. I think it made me see from talking to audiences how important it is, especially for all-age crowds, to have LGBTQIA artists on the stage. I loved the festival. To get to play to crowds of 5000 people all around the country with some of the best artists in the world was an honour. My band and I bonded with Ben Harper and we’re now best friends. He’s a very funny man. We taught him about the phrase “Wine Mum”, which was important because they make up about 85% of his audience. 

Were there any particular artists or songs that made you realise queer love and joy while growing up?

“Same Love’ by Macklemore and “Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko were the only two queer songs I heard growing up. They got a lot of sly repeats on my iPod. I thought they were just songs I really liked but they meant a lot now looking back. 

It’s nearing one year since How to Grow a Sunflower Underwater was released! Were you happy with the reception your album got last year?

Wow, time is scary. Yes it was a whirlwind. Being able to tour it with my band and bring it to life for audiences was really fun. I still can’t believe it was nominated for two ARIAs. Getting messages from people about “Haircut” and “Octopus” saying they felt like they understood themselves and belonged a bit more after hearing them were what I was most proud of with it. 

And what about a follow-up? Have you been working on new music in 2023?

Sure have. I’ll let you know when it’s done! 

What do you have coming up after WorldPride?

Sleeping for at least three weeks and then hopefully resurfacing a beautiful butterfly.