PinkPantheress Is Pioneering the Next Gen of Alt-Pop

PinkPantheress wearing a black corset top with a red rose print styled with lace capri pants and chunky bangles.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Dolce & Gabbana corset; custom Eternally Curious pants; Dinosaur Designs bangles and ring)

Nestled between crisp white sheets, the English musician known famously by her pseudonym PinkPantheress, settles in for our interview from the comfort of her bed in Los Angeles, wearing an oversize pink T-shirt with a cartoon chipmunk print. The 23-year-old resides mostly in London, but she's spent the last few months stateside for the North American leg of her Capable of Love Tour. It's a huge milestone for the artist who was releasing tracks from her bedroom anonymously just a few years ago. It wasn't until 2021, following a string of viral hits on TikTok and ahead of the release of her debut mixtape, To Hell With It, that she finally revealed her true identity on social media. PinkPantheress's unique sound, which alternates between pop, electronic, alternative rock, indie, and even sprinkles of hip-hop, quickly cut through the noise and cemented her as one of the most exciting artists of her generation. This year alone, she was named Producer of the Year by Billboard and has amassed 16.5 million listeners on Spotify.

With her freshly painted French manicure curled around the edges of her phone and her clear pimple patches on display, she murmurs into the microphone, "It annoys me a lot, to be honest, to think of the perception of my music." Despite PinkPantheress appearing on the soundtrack of the blockbuster hit Barbie, gracing the Billboard Hot 100 with her remix track "Boy's a Liar Pt.2" featuring Ice Spice, and even getting a call from Kendrick Lamar to collaborate (which she tragically missed), people still discredit her, claiming she's not a serious artist.

Some people question the validity of her artistry because she doesn't adhere to the typical pop-artist mold—she's young, she's Black, and she's found success through TikTok. The internet was set ablaze with chatter when the star first revealed her face, the general consensus being that people couldn't fathom that the singer, songwriter, and producer known for her electronic beats and emo lyrics could be, well, Black. "People thought I was white before they knew I was Black," she remarks. "When they found out about my identity, many people were shocked. It's a testament to what society defines as Black music."

PinkPantheress coming out a car wearing a bright printed minidress with chunky bangles and rings.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: vintage Pucci dress via Clothed Archive; Dinosaur Designs bangles and rings)

In PinkPantheress's mind, garage and electronic music have always been Black, so the internet's assumptions about her haven't changed how she perceives them. The artist prides herself on knowing the roots of music. Much to my delight, she gives me a lengthy history lesson on electronic music in the United Kingdom, naming some of the Black pioneers of the genre. Unless you're as acquainted with the history as PinkPantheress is, however, it can be hard to fully know the contributions made by this community, which continue to this day.

In the mainstream, it's hard to name many Black women who have gained attention for making alternative music," PinkPantheress says. "I could definitely name some, but I'm hard-pressed because we're less visible in these niche genres. We're only seen in hip-hop, R&B, or mainstream pop genres." While I will note that PinkPantheress has received great recognition in her genre—her debut album, Heaven knows, was released this past November to critical acclaim—her success doesn't negate the fact that so many artists before her have been at the forefront of musical innovation yet largely remain in the margins. The contributions from Black creatives from across the diaspora have been co-opted and commodified, as we've seen with the white-washing of electronic, garage, rock, country, indie, and so on.

While PinkPantheress has always respected the trailblazers who paved the path before her, she's not letting the past determine her vision for the future of music. For her, success doesn't look linear, which is why she finds how people perceive her upsetting. "When I see people's opinions of me stating that I'm just a 'TikTok artist' and suggest I shouldn't be taken seriously, it actually baffles me," she says. "I'm like, 'How else… What else can I do to prove the seriousness of my artistry?' Legit, it's almost borderline impossible. Even winning something like Billboard's Producer of the Year Award, no one even looks at that award and sees it as something that might suggest that I've actually made a serious dedication to my craft. Nothing in their heads will tell them that [the award] is worth looking at to suggest that I actually take music seriously."

PinkPantheress laying by the pool wearing a white tank top with white pants and chunky clear bangles.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Tank Air top; Maisie Wilen pants; Dinosaur Designs bangles and rings)

PinkPantheress understands that platforms like TikTok are a double-edged sword. It's reported that TikTok users in the U.S. are 70% more likely to discover new musicians through short-form platforms compared to other social channels, giving creatives a chance to cultivate a community for their music without necessarily needing the backing of a label. Social media democratizes entry to a historically exclusive industry while fostering unrealistic expectations for the artists to churn out algorithm-friendly hits. "I think that [social media] makes it 10 times easier for anybody to break into the industry," PinkPantheress says. "Whether you're a person of color or white, it's the exact same thing if you're on TikTok and you're making good music. I genuinely think that, at this point, it's probably the only way to even break through these days, which sucks. But it's also a testament to how far we've come with technology. However, it's practically impossible not to use something like TikTok these days if you want to influence how well your song does as an artist, which is kind of insane."

PinkPantheress is less interested in building a massive following and more concerned with cultivating a sense of community through her craft. As she sees it, she's making music for us—aka the edgy Black girls who grew up blasting My Chemical Romance in their bedrooms while scrolling on Tumblr. "A lot of artists think that the right thing to say is that we're making art for ourselves, but at the end of the day, if we're making it for ourselves, why would we care so much about charting?" she questions.

PinkPantheress standing in front of a scenic mountain view wearing a printed minidress and lace-up shoes.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Bailey Prado dress; Marc Jacobs shoes)

Not one to succumb to the pressures of building a typical pop-star persona, PinkPantheress has stood firm on being true to her sense of identity, songwriting, and fashion, even if that means challenging the ideas society has around the Black experience. "I've never been one of those biracial women who have ever struggled with their identity. My relationship with Blackness is very strong," she says. Suddenly, her dark-brown eyes dart away from the camera as she ponders aloud, "However, I have felt certain levels of pressure to add some of my identity into my music more by singing about stuff that's associated with the mainstream idea of what being a Black woman sounds like—i.e., the type of stuff you'd typically hear more on the radio. But for me, regardless of race, I generally just try to be true to myself."

In a world where Black women are expected to conform to ideas on how they should present their experiences and emotions to the world, it can be radical to decenter the comfort of others for oneself. PinkPantheress isn't writing in a way that is palpable to mainstream audiences; she's putting her story first. "Writing about these more unconventional subjects is a great way to feel emotion through my music, where I think other songs would lack emotion. In my other songs where I'm talking about a boyfriend that I broke up with, it's not the same as writing about something like death, where you can hear my voice at its most vulnerable," she says.

By leaning into more taboo topics with her music with songs like "Another life" and "Reason," PinkPantheress provides a respite for herself and her listeners.

PinkPantheress sitting in a clear circle chair wearing a printed top with black pants and chunky jewelry.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Miss Sixty top; Knorts pants; Dinosaur Designs bangles and rings)

When asked where she finds lyrical inspiration, she divulges, "Honestly, the only thing that maybe provides me creative inspiration is being in a relationship." The words hang in the air for a few seconds, and she quickly interjects, "I mean… I'm not seeing anyone now or whatever, but I'm saying I understand why artists write so much when they're in love and when they break up. It's a great source of inspiration. I haven't been in that many relationships to attest to that, but being in love is something that is deeply inspiring." Her lips curve upward slyly as she finishes her thought. "I'm being secretive," she adds.

In response to her coyness, I ask if she finds that her songs draw inspiration from the different types of relationships in her life. At first, she proclaims no, but then she backpedals. "Actually, now that you've said that, I'm thinking that most of my songs are about relationships with people—my parents, my best friend, and even some of my teachers have been sources of inspiration that I've written about," she reveals. Relationships are an essential part of PinkPantheress's life, so it's no surprise that she has done a number of collaborations with other artists, including Willow Smith, Kaytranada, Skrillex, and Lil Uzi Vert. She spent years manifesting opportunities to work with these people, but in the same breath, she admits that her shy personality has made producing music in the same room with other musicians particularly difficult. "I've learned that I prefer working by myself, to be honest," she says.

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While the artist has an inclination toward introversion, PinkPantheress has found that building her community through public appearances to be completely transformative. She's gained a new level of confidence from touring around the globe. You can see that shift reflected in her presence onstage. Wearing her signature Y2K shoulder bag, a simple tank top, and baggy parachute pants, she sways from one end to the other while flipping her hair in perfect unison with the tempo. "I used to think I was a bad performer [and] that I couldn't perform in a way that everyone was satisfied with," she admits. "But I've learned I could do more than I thought." That revelation came with letting go of some of the pressure and expectations around performing. Now, she just goes out there and "lets it roll."

A blurry photo of PinkPantheress sitting outside.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild)

With her first solo tour under her belt, PinkPantheress is gearing up for a much bigger stage. Starting in July, she will join Olivia Rodrigo on her Guts World Tour, which she hopes will open her up to a new audience. "Many people make many assumptions about my music, so it would be nice to show audiences that I've taken influences from probably some of their favorite artists," PinkPantheress says. "I always try to remind myself of what my manager once told me: 'Even the biggest artists, even Rihanna, even Michael Jackson had people that needed to be converted into fans.' I know people out there will love my music but just haven't heard it yet."

If you aren't yet acquainted with her work, I'd recommend starting with the songs "Pain" and "Mosquito." Sonically, she offers the listener the ability to exist suspended between two different perspectives—her punchy beats often contrast sharply with what PinkPantheress refers to as "rogue" lyrics. When asked about how she has crafted such a distinct perspective so early in her career, she avows, "I told myself before I even made music, 'If I don't find my own sound, there's no point even making music.'"

It's sage advice she'll happily pass down to younger artists asking for guidance. "I'm never trying to school them or be their mom or anything, but I always tell them, 'You need to figure this out. I just want to distinguish you. If I hear your song on TikTok, I want to know who it is before I need to google who it is,'" she says. For PinkPantheress, there's nothing more important than creating a distinct sound that dares to go somewhere unseen. She's constantly considering how her work can be forward-thinking, which is why you'll often find that her sound can't be categorized in a singular genre. A prime example of this phenomenon is her viral bop "Angel"—as she melodically sings about a lost lover, an electronic beat and a sample of Irish fiddle music boom in the background. It's PinkPantheress ability to fuse together unexpected elements that makes each song feel revolutionary.

PinkPantheress laying by the pool wearing a white tank top with matching pants and clear chunky jewelry.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Tank Air top; Maisie Wilen pants; Dinosaur Designs bangles and rings)

Pushing herself to create the best possible music has always come naturally for PinkPantheress. It's the other parts of fame that have been more difficult to navigate. Starting out anonymous made it hard for her to build a public-facing persona. She admits, "At some point, I realized I didn't have an image. It annoyed me." It wasn't until the star began meeting other women in the industry that she realized the importance of having a recognizable style. "When I think back to when I first met Ice Spice, I remember being incredibly intrigued by her [and] the way that people could know who she was by spotting her," she says. "[It's] not even by something as obvious as her hair, but her outfits are so easy to identify her. It made me think, 'Wow, it's so genius that she's done this early on.'"

Inspired by that first meeting, she felt compelled to find a public-facing style that honored who she is as a person rather than what's considered a suitable way for her to present herself. "I realized I should just dress how I always have because anything else would be like putting on a costume," she emphasizes. For PinkPantheress, that means wearing things that might not traditionally work together but somehow complement her signature fringe bangs, long acrylic nails, and thinly plucked brows. It isn't about playing a part that's expected of her. Rather, it's about honoring the women who came before her. "I think people would call my public persona Y2K, but in my head, it's just a mash-up of my style, my mother's style, and iconic women in music," she says.

By giving herself the freedom to find inspiration in her community, PinkPantheress has been able to shift her relationship with fashion altogether. "I used to have a terrible relationship with fashion, makeup, all of it. Even the idea of collaborating with a brand or doing a sponsorship was something I couldn't even think about," she says. Now, PinkPantheress is no longer interested in changing her style to suit other people's tastes. As someone who suffered from crippling anxiety, she can now happily boast, "I didn't even want to do editorial shoots before, but now, I can do shoots, and I can feel happy about the photos."

PinkPantheress standing against a wall wearing a leopard-print minidress and black open-toe heels.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild; Styling: Kitten Georgia Dress ($215); ATP Atelier Tavenna Black Nappa Sandals($430))

Part of that transformation comes from PinkPantheress putting firm boundaries on what she will and won't wear in public. She knows that some people may perceive her as difficult or incredibly picky when it comes to her style, but it's about owning how she shows up in the world. She explains, "When it comes to these fashion spreads, I'll never understand why the artists, or whoever is getting shot, can't have as much say in the process. At the end of the day, it's like, 'Even if it is your magazine, is it not my shot? Is it not me you're trying to perceive?'" In a world that so rarely affords women the ability to shape how they're seen, pushing back is a soft but powerful form of protest.

It's cliché to say that PinkPantheress is courageous in the choices she makes regarding her style and sound. I can picture her cringing now reading those words. But after a long conversation with the British star, it's clear that it's not courage so much as a conviction that compels her to envision something different—not just for herself but also for the wider industry. "The future of music is my driving force. I want to be someone people can look back at and say, 'She was pioneering this stuff.' I doubt anyone will say I started or created a genre because I didn't. But I'd love to be seen as an icon in electronic music. I want to be seen as a multifaceted female producer that spoke up about stuff and didn't take bullshit," she says, her voice beginning to taper off as she yawns. "As a Black woman, I just want to be given my flowers. At some point, I hope all my fellow artists are given the praise that we deserve for being in such a challenging genre while never compromising who we are." A world in which Black women aren't limited to one-dimensional expressions of themselves isn't a pipe dream for PinkPantheress; it's the bridge between the past and future.

Photographer: Leeor Wild
Milena Agbaba
Shelby Swain
Makeup Artist:
Sara Robey
Kimmie Kyees
Creative Director:
Amy Armani
Producer: Lindsay Ferro
Video Director:
Samuel Schultz
Samuel Miron
Jon Moss
Sound Mixer: Jae Kim
Associate Video Producer:
Kellie Scott
Video Editor:
James Post
Executive Director, Entertainment:
Jessica Baker
Joanna Bauer
Copy Editor: Jaree Campbell
Special Thanks to

PinkPantheress on a Who What Wear cover.

(Image credit: Leeor Wild)

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Jasmine Fox-Suliaman

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman is a fashion editor living in New York City. What began as a hobby (blogging on Tumblr) transformed into a career dedicated to storytelling through various forms of digital media. She started her career at the print publication 303 Magazine, where she wrote stories, helped produce photo shoots, and planned Denver Fashion Week. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked as MyDomaine's social media editor until she was promoted to work across all of Clique's publications (MyDomaine, Byrdie, and Who What Wear) as the community manager. Over the past few years, Jasmine has worked on Who What Wear's editorial team, using her extensive background to champion rising BIPOC designers, weigh in on viral trends, and profile stars such as Janet Mock and Victoria Monét. She is especially interested in exploring how art, fashion, and pop culture intersect online and IRL.