Gay Iconography | Robyn

Gay Iconography: Is Robyn An Outsider Icon?


The phrase "gay icon" gets tossed around a lot, but what does that really mean? Welcome to Gay Iconography, a feature where we present a proposed iconic figure or character and then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts. 

There's been a few recurring themes that have emerged in these discussions around what makes gay icons: talent, relatability and time, among them. Time is a particularly interesting factor. Icons aren't necessarily legends, but it's hard to sneak recent figures in among stars like Cher and Judy Garland. Still, there are some contemporary names that have continued to pop up in the comments.

Take Robyn, for instance. The Swedish dance-pop star is beloved by many in the gay community for her other-worldly sense of style, high-energy live shows and pristine pop jams. She's frequently cited as a gay icon for younger generations, and has become a staple in gay bars and clubs. With a career that only really took off in 2005 (though she'd been around in some capacity since the '90s), is it too soon to call her an icon?

Rock out with your Body Talk out and share your take, AFTER THE JUMP


Robyn first gained notoriety in the U.S. in the late '90s as a teen pop star. You may remember her singles "Do You Really Want Me" and "Show Me Love" (which she performed on the teen sketch show All That in 1997, above).



She took a turn for the avant-garde after parting with her label in 2004. On her newly formed Konichiwa Records, Robyn was liberated to pursue a more electro-pop sound, resulting in her excellent self-titled album. The shift further embedded Robyn in club culture, which she would later tell Metro Weekly brought her closer to the gay community. "I think the gay community has always gravitated towards music that has been a part of or a reference to club culture. That's where gay culture has developed and shaped itself," she said.



Robyn followed that album up with, not one, but three short, superb albums. The Body Talk anthology showcased her strongest work yet, and some of the best pop music so far this century. It included the near-perfect track "Dancing On My Own," which was described as "a song inspired by her love of inherently sad, gay disco anthems."



Like many gay icons, Robyn's look is almost as essential as her music. Her striking features are all the more accennuated by her signature short, blonde hair. She's often described as androgynous, and her wardrobe looks like what one would find in a thrift store in outer space. She was mistaken for a boy growing up, she told Out magazine in 2011: "Having that experience where I was confronted by people’s reactions to what I looked like or what I was supposed to look like made me identify with queerness. It still happens to me all the time, and a lot of the time it happens to me in America because even though what I consider butch is still very feminine in Europe, here you can shock people very easily just by looking a little queer." Even her dance moves are unique. (I'd like to see Britney pull off that backward somersault.)



In addition to featuring a lesbian couple in her steamy video for "Indestructible," above, Robyn is very thoughtful about her gay audience. She shares her gratitude for her gay fans in many interviews, and has attributed her connections to the gay community to her own feelings of being an outsider. She told Entertainment Weekly: "... it’s really important for me to recognize my gay following in a less stereotypical way than when you’re this blonde female, like, icon pop star or whatever, because there are so many parts of gay culture that usually do not get recognized." 

She may not consider herself a "blonde female, like, icon pop star," but do you consider her a gay icon? Tell us why in the comments.

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  1. lol come on now

    Posted by: JMC | Jan 17, 2014 6:51:51 PM

  2. Gretchen, seriously, stop trying to make Icon happen!!

    Posted by: Regina | Jan 17, 2014 6:57:28 PM

  3. is this supposed to be journalism or is this more of a tweet that needed more than 140 characters? um.. yes shes an icon... how long have you been gay? because last I checked, gay people make icons happen for straight people - they are usually not famous yet or sometimes ever unless gay people make them meaningful. Robyn may not ever become lady gaga but she will always be a gay icon, and was a gay icon long before gaga ever hit the radar

    Posted by: Drew Murray | Jan 17, 2014 7:03:41 PM

  4. First, she needs to fire her stylist. Then maybe I'll consider it...maybe

    Posted by: txstevo | Jan 17, 2014 7:05:00 PM

  5. I don't see the importance or the devotion, so I would say no. But I like her music.

    Posted by: LJC | Jan 17, 2014 7:05:51 PM

  6. Bobby Hankinson's feeble attempts at gay journalism continue.

    Maybe if he were attractive he'd do something more worthwhile?

    Posted by: Verité | Jan 17, 2014 7:10:59 PM

  7. Body Talk was excellent. Looking forward to her next album.

    Posted by: SpaceCadet | Jan 17, 2014 7:11:16 PM

  8. lol some people on here are so nasty for no reason, like these articles are clearly just fluff intended to spark some fun conversation. get over yourself verite.

    anyone who seriously considers robyn an icon needs to get a grip though - her impact is nonexistent. "the phrase 'gay icon' gets tossed around a lot", indeed.

    Posted by: JMC | Jan 17, 2014 7:19:35 PM

  9. I usually comment about how immature, lazy, asinine, and silly this recurring series is, but I don't think there is any need to personally attack the author or the way that he looks. Though low, us anonymous commenters should still have *some* standards of decency.

    Posted by: Bastian | Jan 17, 2014 7:19:54 PM

  10. Hey, Verité, when's the last time you saw the knees under that gunt of yours?

    Posted by: Ryan Shea | Jan 17, 2014 7:31:01 PM

  11. YES. THIS. I appreciate the icons of the past (Barbra, Cher, so on), but Robyn is MY icon. I love how openly she embraces her own queerness, whether it's how she sees herself or how her appearance gives off this affect to others and she just OWNS it. And your final quote really shows how mindfully connected she is to the gay community. Which is A LOT more than you can say for some other "blonde female, like, icon pop stars."

    Thanks, Bobby!

    Posted by: Peter | Jan 17, 2014 7:35:53 PM

  12. Bastian, I don't see this as lazy or asinine at all. I enjoy the discussions people have about the presented icons. At least when they aren't attacking each other or the writer obtusely.

    Posted by: Peter | Jan 17, 2014 7:38:08 PM

  13. I think it can be an interesting topic, not exactly one of any significance, but suited for Friday afternoon banter. And I think one can have a person icon (for me it was Siouxsie Sioux, back in the day) that in the end just doesn't resonate with most gay men overall.

    Posted by: LJC | Jan 17, 2014 7:47:29 PM

  14. I like her music, but no, Robyn is not a gay icon. Her fame, cultural impact, and career longevity are not yet significant enough for true icon status.

    Posted by: D.B. | Jan 17, 2014 7:53:15 PM

  15. How old are you? You _may_ remember some of the biggest dance pop hits of the 90s? To say that Robyn's career only really took off in 2005 is insulting. You do know there were a couple of albums between her RCA debut and her independent releases, yes? "My Truth" and "Don't Stop the Music" are great records and to gloss over them is bizarre. And to dismiss her 90s debut is downright ludicrous as it yielded 3 huge hits (you forgot to mention "Do You Know (What it Takes)" my fave!)

    Posted by: Patrick | Jan 17, 2014 8:05:04 PM

  16. The gay iconography series just won't go away, will it?

    Posted by: Rene | Jan 17, 2014 8:06:34 PM

  17. Give it up already, ugh.

    Posted by: Jay | Jan 17, 2014 8:28:43 PM

  18. Icon shmikon. Robin is dynamite, I'm gay, so what, that's it.

    Posted by: Uffda | Jan 17, 2014 8:40:26 PM

  19. She is fantastic. I want to grow old with her.

    Posted by: trees | Jan 17, 2014 9:08:12 PM

  20. As much as I love Robyn, why is she being disgraced by being mentioned here?

    Posted by: Carmelo | Jan 17, 2014 9:36:27 PM

  21. if there was ever a woman i'd be honored to parent a child with it'd be robyn. she is an independent creative who thinks for her Self.

    that said, i'm disappointed that a gay artist hasn't done a remake of 'tell your girlfriend'... its the most thinly veiled gay love song i've ever heard. with a simple message: be honest, be you.

    let's take it from there.

    Posted by: my2cents | Jan 17, 2014 9:37:44 PM

  22. Stop with this icon stuff, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Shirley MacClaine, Betty Davis Natalie Wood, Liberace, Julie Andrews, Shirley Bassey, Debbie Reynolds, Barbara Cook, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Eartha Kitt, Clara Ward, Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor, Eve McVeagh and Edith Bouvier. Honestly it will all be a fading memory like Neneh Cherry or Jane Childe, or Christina Aguilera, Lana Del Ray. it's like when someone holds up a photo of someone "glamourous" "icon" and all I can think to myself is, "cool up-do."

    Please stop shoving these superficial basics down my gay deep throat, as if all it takes is an dance hit to become an icon.

    Posted by: Travis | Jan 17, 2014 10:00:45 PM

  23. @TRAVIS
    sounds like you're in great need of an iconima.
    either end will suffice. enjoy!

    Posted by: my2cents | Jan 17, 2014 10:05:49 PM

  24. Please...just stop this.

    Posted by: IsaaK | Jan 17, 2014 10:42:20 PM

  25. Dear Lord above, sweet Jesus on high, I pray that you put a stop to articles about icons.

    And please, Jesus, do whatever you can to prevent this site from going from icons to divas and arguing that a TV show contest winner is somehow a diva.

    Posted by: bravo | Jan 17, 2014 11:11:41 PM

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