The 2017 Grammy Awards was a night Beyoncé will always remember, and the rest of us would rather forget. The tone-deaf ceremony featured only the faintest glimmers of relevancy—and from artists that the Recording Academy proceeded to inexplicably snub. First there was Bey, performing from her revolutionary visual album Lemonade, all while pregnant with twins and dipped in gold leaf. Somehow, defying gravity (and doctor’s orders) for her craft just wasn’t enough, and Lemonade was denied its rightful crowning as Album of the Year. Now, Beyoncé doesn’t technically need a coronation—she probably has a million of those solid gold haloes gathering dust in her basement. But the fact that the Recording Academy is either deaf, dumb, or blind—incapable of understanding the importance of an artist or reading the socio-political room—is cause for consternation.
While it was tempting to follow Frank Ocean’s lead and back out of the 2017 Grammys, a few important cultural moments did emerge from this technically challenged televised circle jerk. There was Q-Tip acting as resistance leader, Beyoncé dressed as the black Virgin Mary, and J. Lo pretending she reads Toni Morrison in her spare time. But for many, the biggest jaw-dropper came courtesy of a card-carrying who?—“Grammy Considered Recording Artist, Actress,” and “Awarded Vegan BodyBuilder” Joy Villa. This self-described vegan bodybuilder (who also calls herself Princess) infiltrated all of our timelines courtesy of a remarkable performance on the Grammys red carpet. Villa arrived at the Staples Center covered in a white sheet. In what was most certainly not an homage to Violet Chachki’s famous two-in-one look from the season eight premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Villa emerged from her cocoon in a “Make America Great Again” gown. The dress, with its mermaid cut and huge glittery “TRUMP” lettering around the base, stood out in a sea of non-Trump themed couture.
On a runway that’s seen its fair share of bad taste and titty tape, Villa managed to stumble upon the last remaining taboo. Make no mistake: this was a deliberate effort to force a reaction. In past years, the 25-year-old has gone out of her way to land herself in the margins of the Us Weekly worst dressed roundup. Two years ago, the never-nominated artist wore a dress constructed from orange plastic mesh. Last year, she raised the stakes with an outfit that can only be described as a long black train pasted on to some fake silver bones.
Unlike her past offerings, Villa’s 2017 ensemble managed to strike a chord. With anti-Trump statements quickly becoming the awards show status quo, the singer’s MAGA dress was just un-trendy enough to get her trending. The backlash—violent threats, racial slurs, and more even-handed attacks in the name of fashion—quickly gave way to 15 minutes of viral fame. In the immediate wake of Villa’s big red carpet reveal, we learned that her dress was designed by Andre Soriano, a Filipino immigrant who was first discovered on Rihanna’s short-lived Bravo reality show Styled to Rock. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Soriano explained how he and Villa came to collaborate on the pro-Trump couture: “I heard that somebody wanted to bomb the White House. And then I saw the Women’s March... Joy Villa is all about love with her music. I’m like Joy, we have to make a statement on what is right for our country, of what we believe in, for the Constitution.” He added, “We only live once, and we need to promote love. We have one president now who is going to do the best thing for planet America.”
While Soriano and Villa have both described themselves as Trump supporters, their actual political beliefs are hard to pin down. In the hours and days after her Grammy appearance, Villa spent more time preaching love and self-acceptance than she did advocating on behalf of the president’s specific policies. In one Instagram post, she wrote, “Sometimes you just gotta be free to express yourself…thank you to all of my supporters and fellow believers.” In another, hashtagged #love and #respect in addition to #maga, she opined, “I’m honored you have chosen to follow and support my music and my message of love! We stand together as United States of America and a united whole world in love, respect, and an open dialogue!” But in since-deleted tweets from 2016, Villa allegedly wrote that, “If you don’t like the two crazy candidates running, write in or vote for the OTHER 3 on the ballot!”, and also used the hashtag #FeelTheBern. Furthermore, she composed disparaging tweets towards Trump, and never wrote any positive tweets about Trump before Grammy night.
We may never know if awarded vegan bodybuilder Joy Villa is a constitutional conservative, a moderate Republican or even a Libertarian. But we do know that she’s a proud member of the Church of Scientology (we also know that vegan coaching Skype sessions with Princess Joy Villa will cost you anywhere from $200-$1,500, but that’s neither here nor there). According to an interview with Scientology Newsroom—“the official media resource center for the Church of Scientology”—Villa found Scientology “at a dark time in her life.” “Now, I feel like there’s nothing I can’t tackle,” she explained. “Scientology gave me tools to survive, tools to create, and that’s what I feel like—a creative person who is full of power and there is no stopping me.”
In November 2016, Villa excitedly posted on her Facebook about finally “going clear.” She shared a video of herself mid-ceremony in front of a giant portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, captioned, “One of the greatest moments of my life... I’m Clear!!” According to Hubbard, “A Clear is a being who no longer has his own reactive mind, and therefore suffers none of the ill effects the reactive mind can cause. The Clear has no engrams which, when restimulated, throw out the correctness of his computations by entering hidden and false data.” The estimated cost of reaching this elevated state is $128,000. Earlier in 2016, Villa married 51-year-old Thorsten Overgaard, a Danish writer, photographer, and Scientologist. According to Scientology Newsroom, Overgaard first discovered Hubbard’s teachings in 1987—back when Donald Trump was just a businessman and Joy Villa was still, apparently, stuck in a past life.
Core ideologies aside, Villa is definitely leaning in to her newfound popularity with the right. Speaking to Breitbart, the singer opined that being a Trump supporter “should not be something that is almost illegal in this society,” and described Hollywood as a “suppressive atmosphere” for her and her kind. In a subsequent Fox News appearance, she swore that, “I am 100 percent a Trump supporter,” insisting, “I stand behind our president because that’s the American thing to do.” And team Trump is awarding Villa for her patriotism. Between Sunday night and Monday, the singer’s 2014 album I Make the Static sold around 15,000 copies. For some perspective, prior to the Grammys Villa had fewer than 20,000 overall streams on Spotify.
On Tuesday, Villa took to Instagram to share a picture of iTunes’ top albums chart, with I Make the Static coming in at number one. The self-described feminist wasted no time converting these clicks, quickly releasing a new song for her growing fan base. Naturally, all of the proceeds from “Beautiful” go to The Foundation for a Drug-Free World, a dubious anti-drug organization that was founded by The Church of Scientology in 2006. Currently, Villa is promoting a petition entitled “Joy Villa to sing for President Trump wearing her Grammy Awards dress (Make America Great Again).”
So far, one person has signed it.