“She wants to be an ally, let her be an ally”: Beyoncé impersonator Riley Knoxx on Taylor Swift

“You know other straight women who are gay icons. Why not Taylor?”

Amid the backlash on Taylor Swift’s ‘You Need To Calm Down’ video, Riley Knoxx, a performer and transgender activist best known for her faultless impersonation of Beyoncé, has come out in support of the pop star.

Knoxx stars in Swift’s latest Pride-themed visual, which features cameos from queer icons and drag queens such as RuPaul, Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox and the cast of Netflix’s Queer Eye. But the video, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, has been criticised since its release last Monday (June 17). 

Speaking to the Washington City Paper last Friday (June 21), Knoxx disagreed with Swift’s naysayers, who have accused the singer of profiting from the gay rights movement. Swift has “championed gay people many times”, Knoxx said.

“You know, [Swift previously] said nothing, and [the critics] complained that she wasn’t being political enough. Now she’s saying something, and it’s ‘appropriating culture?’ How? How is she appropriating culture? She’s trying to help,” she said.

She pointed out that Swift’s advocacy for gay rights goes well beyond the music video. Earlier this month, the pop star launched a petition calling for US senators to support the Equality Act. “It’s basically her lending her voice,” Knoxx said. “There’s been tonnes of straight white women who’ve lent their voice – Madonna, Cher – you know other straight women who are gay icons. Why not Taylor?”

Knoxx added: “You don’t have to be gay to have the voice to help people; you’re an ally. She wants to be an ally, let her be an ally.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Knoxx gushed about working with Swift, describing it as a “positive” experience. According to Knoxx, Swift had personally hand-picked her to be part of the music video and was one of the “most gracious, most kind person I’ve met in my life”. 

On the set of ‘You Need To Calm Down’, Knoxx learned that Swift had watched videos of her performances and even read an NPR story about her life as a black trans woman. “I was like, ‘You know my story?’ and she was like, ‘Of course, I picked you,’” Knoxx recalled.

The activist also admitted that getting to know Swift has changed her perception of the pop star. Before meeting Swift, Knoxx revealed she wasn’t too sure what to expect from the 10-time Grammy Award winner, especially considering the singer’s controversial past.

“In the media, she’s painted as a mean girl, there are so many different controversies,” Knoxx said. “But now, honestly if anyone tries to say anything bad about Taylor Swift to me, know I’ll be like ‘Eh! You don’t understand. This girl is amazing.’”

Swift’s video for ‘You Need To Calm Down’ has received more than 50 million views on YouTube since it dropped. The pop star is currently putting the finishing touches on her seventh studio album, ‘Lover’, that’s due out in August