Award-winning singer-songwriter Tayla Parx is the brains behind some of the biggest bops you’ve had the pleasure of adding to your playlists. From Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” to Khalid and Normani’s “Love Lies” ballad and Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes,” it’s no small thing to be blessed with a song that’s #TaylaMade.

Parx has the Midas touch when it comes to songwriting and it shows. From working with besties Victoria Monet and Ariana Grande on her Thank U, Next album to her own sophomore project Coping Mechanisms, Parx has never been one to wrangle in her personality, talent, or sexuality for the music industry. She will tell it to you like it is and lives her life out loud as a Black queer woman from Texas.

Today, Parx is happily engaged to her choreographer fiancée Shirlene Quigley, who has worked with Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lizzo, and Missy Elliott. The Grammy-winning songwriter, awarded for co-writing on John Legend’s Bigger Love album, made the announcement on Instagram in January with sepia-toned photos and a caption introducing us to “the rest of our lives.”

ESSENCE spoke with the Dallas native about what pride means to her, how she conveys her sexuality in her music and the importance of intersectionality and representation for the LGBTQ+ community. Check it out below:

ESSENCE: What does pride mean to you?

TAYLA PARX: Pride means being yourself authentically 365 days out of the year. It’s powerful. Just remembering the time growing up and my friends would go to Pride when I was maybe too young and falling into what my identity, regarding my sexuality, was even more. Pride means that. When you’ve gone to the festivals, you get a real sense of, “Wow everybody is welcome here.”

ESSENCE: While some people have a “coming out” story, a lot of people disband the term because it’s something that they already knew. Do you have a coming out story?

PARX: The funny thing is I didn’t really have a coming out story. I’ve always just been so fluid. When people would ask about my sexuality and how I identified I would be like, “I like girls sometimes. Sometimes, I like boys.” It was a very simple thing. I didn’t feel the need to put a label on it. It was something that happened naturally. My parents were the last to find out, but I just was, “Oh, I didn’t feel like I had to have a conversation about it.” I didn’t make it a big deal because to me in my mind, it’s never been one.

ESSENCE: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you feel both masculine and feminine energy. Have you always felt this way?

PARX: I’ve always felt both masculine and feminine energy but my femininity came later on in life and what I identify now is that. I grew up with a lot of boys and doing all of the things that my boy cousins did [like] playing sports. As any tomboy knows, when you start to grow up you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t realize that other girls weren’t trying to play football,” or other girls weren’t trying to do certain things that you don’t realize until you get older.

It’s not something that made me run away from. I realized when I got older, “Wow, this is my type of feminine energy.” I’m still on that discovery and it changes all the time. I definitely have always been a tomboy growing up, then I eventually started to get into makeup and all of these things that I saw as another way to express myself. I’m always pretty down the middle.

ESSENCE: What are your thoughts on the idea of being in a society where we’re forced to label our sexuality or femininity in the music industry?

PARX: I like my conversation about sexuality the same way that I like my music about genres: no boundaries, no limits to what it can be or what it can transform into. That’s the way that we should be. I don’t say him/her or he/she in my music as an artist, and I haven’t for a really long time since my mixtape. I did that because why shut off one? Why say this song has to be about a girl or why say this song has to be about a boy or whatever they identify as? I don’t think that it’s necessary to have the labels. It’s used as a way to simplify things in our brains, but I think the most simple thing is not to label anything and allow people to just be and express the way that they feel like they woke up that day—whatever that is.

ESSENCE: As a Black queer woman, how has your journey breaking into the music industry been?

PARX: It definitely was something that was more difficult when I have hindsight. I have that ability to look back and be like, “Oh, it was a little bit harder for me to maybe break into a pop room or a country room.” Whether it be the color of my skin as a young Black woman in a room – or sometimes I didn’t see another one of me. Then you add Black queer woman on top of that and it’s like, “Okay, I’m not really seeing that representation. It’s not really being talked about a lot within our industry.” That’s what made it seem like it was a lot harder.

Now I’m seeing so much support and I have so many friends who maybe discovered what their lives were along the way. I’m seeing that become much more of a conversation. That’s the important thing because it wasn’t a conversation when I first started in this industry. Because there wasn’t a conversation, I felt like there wasn’t a representation behind the scenes whether it was within the labels and the publishers or with the artists themselves. What made it the hardest is seeing somebody that was like me.

ESSENCE: What is the importance of queer and LGBTQ+ representation, especially for Black artists in the music industry?

PARX: Especially for Black artists in the industry, it’s super important because I come from a family that is very religious. We’re from the South and it’s something that we need people to have those conversations and representation so people are even more motivated to be genuinely them. We have an issue of not wanting to have the harder conversations within our community. Both as a Black woman and as a queer woman specifically talking about both of those worlds combined, I appreciate.

I’m really, really thankful that we’re seeing a lot more representation because it’s important that every other young Black-queer person growing up has somebody that they can look and say, “I see somebody like me or somebody that I can just relate to,” even if it’s not like you who are just being genuinely them. How we create and shift culture as a whole is by changing people’s mindsets. We change people’s minds is by having open and hard conversations.

ESSENCE: What is your hope for the future of the music industry, in terms of representation, inclusion and diversity for queer and LGBTQ musicians?

PARX: My hope for the future is that we have a lot more platforms and a lot more people talking about the queers’ story year-round; not just when it comes to pride. We’re making sure that we’re putting in people that are representing something that we want to see more of on the proper platforms. To be able to be seen and for the voices to be heard, I want that to be a normal thing that we hear year-round. It should feel like pride every week.

ESSENCE: Who are some of your favorite Black queer artists, songwriters and musicians that you’re supporting at the moment?

PARX: There’s Chika, there’s Joy Oladokun, which is amazing. I could go back into the old-school joints and hit you with the Tracy Chapman. I just was diving into her catalog recently again, which is incredible. Those are some of the main people.

I love Syd of course. Syd is somebody who I will always support and we’ve worked together in the past. Steve Lacy, Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean. Throughout every single genre, honestly, there’s somebody that I’m listening to that is the part of the community that I’m just like, “You know what? I wish I had this growing up, listening to them.” 

ESSENCE: You said in a recent Audiomack interview that, “If your Pride isn’t intersectional, then it isn’t Pride.” What does that mean?

PARX: If your Pride doesn’t involve including everybody, no matter whether you understand that person’s views or whatever to themselves or whatever else. If it’s not inclusive of everybody and everything, then it isn’t Pride.

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