Beth Ditto | Gay Iconography

Gay Iconography: Beth Ditto, Punk Icon

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Everything we know about celebrity should dictate that Gossip's frontwoman Beth Ditto should not have made it as far as she has. However, from a small town in Arkansas to the runways of Paris, Ditto has defied what's expected of a woman, a lesbian, a fashionista and, yes, a gay icon.

DittoFor some in the LGBT community, the outspoken singer is a punk diva alternative to the standard Kylies, Britneys and Katys. Her band's disco-tinged punk tunes, which have only become more pop-driven with time, are riotous anthems. She's famous for her uninhibited live performances, which often feature the plus-sized singer stripped down to her bra and panties. No matter the accolades, she doesn't take herself too seriously, whether she's comparing nipples with Adam Lambert or covering a Dolly Parton song in a blonde wig.

All that spectacle wouldn't mean anything if she couldn't back it up. Her voice can easily switch between gospel smooth and screaming punk snarl, often in the same song. She's a ferocious singer, and one of the most charismatic frontwomen in history.

See some of our favorite highlights of Beth Ditto's career, and share yours,
AFTER THE JUMP

  

Formed in 1999, the three founding members of Gossip (then The Gossip) were all originally from Arkansas. The trio moved to Olympia, Washington -- ground zero for the riot grrrl movement -- and joined with other prominent LGBT-aligned bands like Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre. They started to see some mainstream success with their 2006 album Standing In the Way of Control, featuring the gay anthem of the same name. (Sample lyrics: "Live your life/Survive the only way that you know.") The album went on to be certified gold in the UK.

 

 

The band continued their success overseas. Their next album, 2009's Music For Men, produced a record-breaking single, "Heavy Cross," which spent 82 consecutive weeks within the German Top 100 and reached triple gold status. Their latest album, A Joyful Noise, reached the top five in Austria, Germany and France, as well as number one in Switzerland.

 

 

While enjoying increased prominence in Europe, Ditto gained the attention of the fashion industry. She's walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier, became the spokesmodel for Donatella Versace's Versus line and appeared on several magazine covers (sometimes naked). She even launched a line of plus-sized fashion for Evans in 2009. See her walk the runway in the foreign news clip, above. 

 

 

Ditto released a soulful solo EP (titled simply Beth Ditto EP) in 2011. The video for lead single "I Wrote the Book" is inspired by Madonna (but it's got nothing on Ditto's underwear-clad performance of "Vogue"). In 2012, she released her memoir Coal to Diamonds.

 

 

Gossip was one of the artists featured on Cyndi Lauper's inaugural True Colors Tour in 2007. The band was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in 2010. Ditto married her partner Kristin Ogata last year in Hawaii.

Are you a Ditto fan? What's your favorite Gossip track?

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Comments

  1. Doesn't one actually have to be heard of to even be considered an "icon"?

    Posted by: Phoenix Justice | Apr 5, 2014 2:44:52 PM


  2. @Phoenix Justice
    Just because YOU haven't heard of her it does not mean she's not known. Try a quick Google search when you run across a topic you can learn more about. There's a whole world of music outside of mainstream pop.

    Posted by: Miss Understood | Apr 5, 2014 3:14:11 PM


  3. Anyone who hasn't heard of Beth Ditto hasn't been paying attention. She has charisma, style, and an AMAZING voice. I love her.

    Posted by: mike128 | Apr 5, 2014 3:17:48 PM


  4. My favorite Ditto moment was when she said gay men where primarily responsible for female anorexia because gay fashion designers just want dolls to play with.

    Posted by: dan | Apr 5, 2014 4:15:05 PM


  5. I think Bob Mould is more of a punk icon than Beth Ditto.

    Posted by: Adam L | Apr 5, 2014 4:45:31 PM


  6. Beth Ditto is amazing.

    I listen to Gossip's old bluesy punk albums all the time. I enjoy their new polished pop stuff too, but nothing beats Beth turning Swing Low Sweet Chariot into a soulful/raunchy lesbian anthem.

    I hope they release a new record soon.

    Posted by: Thomas | Apr 5, 2014 4:45:59 PM


  7. seeing Gossip the first time in Seattle on "Music for Men" tour. I'd heard that live they've been known to do some killer mash ups with their stuff and others. When in the middle of a song she started with the first line of Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl" the place went crazy. I'll remember it forever.

    Posted by: Chad | Apr 5, 2014 5:37:18 PM


  8. And she's actually gay! Wow!

    Posted by: Rowan | Apr 5, 2014 5:45:00 PM


  9. She has a voice that can't be denied. I hear gospel, soul and blues. She's definitely made a mark on music. I was confused by the Janis Joplin comparisons but I could see why. Beth is still awesome though

    Posted by: MickyFlip | Apr 5, 2014 8:32:47 PM


  10. Quit shoving this poser down our throats....

    Posted by: styler | Apr 5, 2014 9:16:24 PM


  11. Never heard of her...

    Posted by: Dr. Christopher Blackwell | Apr 5, 2014 11:03:22 PM


  12. Beth Ditto > Lady Gaga

    Posted by: don't a tell la | Apr 6, 2014 12:58:38 AM


  13. Love her voice!!!!

    Posted by: WayneMPLS | Apr 6, 2014 1:15:56 AM


  14. Who?

    Posted by: Knock | Apr 6, 2014 9:50:23 AM


  15. the funny thing is, i bet those of you posting only to complain that beth ditto isn't a household name in your circles actually do know her music. you probably know heavy cross http://youtu.be/5mQVljB7JGw (aka "hey what's the amazing song in that charlize theron dior commercial")

    Posted by: jenn | Apr 6, 2014 9:53:18 AM


  16. Who's gay iconography?

    Posted by: Regina | Apr 6, 2014 10:36:28 AM


  17. My criticism is not of Beth Ditto, but rather of the overuse of the term "icon."

    If Andy Warhol were alive today, he would no doubt amend his famous prediction about fame to "In the future, everyone will be an icon for 15 minutes."

    Posted by: John in Iowa | Apr 6, 2014 11:47:36 AM


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