For many performers, it's easy to succumb to how the world defines us, but this year welcomed a rainbow of breakout virtuosos who surf the lines of gender, sexuality, and all things that make us human. Keiynan Lonsdale leads that new wave of multitalented LGBTQ artists.
The Australian-born award-winning actor has made his presence felt across the mediums of film, dance, television, and music since bursting on to the scene in the Australian Broadcasting Co.'s Dance Academy in 2012. Lonsdale wasted no time in also establishing his musical potential with the singles "One and Only" (2014) and "Higher" (2016) -- the latter included on Connor Franta's album Common Culture, Vol. V.
In 2016, Lonsdale landed a role on CW's The Flash as Wally West, a.k.a. Kid Flash, and in 2017 he began playing the character on the network's Legends of Tomorrow as well. But his power truly emerged in 2018's Love, Simon -- the first teen romance to be released by a major studio that focused on a gay love story. Lonsdale would go on to win an MTV Movie and TV Award for "Best Kiss" alongside Love, Simon costar Nick Robinson. Lonsdale later released the queer love song "Kiss the Boy."
This year he began modeling, making his debut walking the runway for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week. He further impressed the fashion world at the 2019 Met Gala, where he wore a couture gown covered in 1,500 handmade embroidered butterflies. These days, the fashion chameleon defines his style as "playful."
It's been a hell of a ride for the entertainer, who came out on Instagram in 2017 with a simple caption that read in part, "I like to change my hair, I like to take risks with how I dress, I like girls, & I like guys (yes)."
Lonsdale's coming out was embraced by Flash fans across the globe. After all, it's not every day you see a TV superhero come out. "There's a few of us, which is so cool," he explains. When Colton Haynes came out in 2016, Lonsdale recalls approaching the Arrow actor and saying, "I just wanted to say thank you and it's very inspiring and I don't know how you did it, but it's so cool and I wish I had the courage to do that one day."
That day came soon enough, but, ironically, Lonsdale hadn't planned on coming out until he started production on Love, Simon.
"I really just felt like I was struggling to feel genuine," he opens up. "Here I am in this project where we're all supporting this cause, and...this moment for people to live their truth. This character even goes through that transformation, and I am still here holding myself back. [Love, Simon] was a mirror to me and to my life and my circumstances. It was such a positive environment that I felt brave enough to do it."
In August 2019, the eclectic actor, model, singer-songwriter, dropped a new song and video, "Rainbow Dragon," a dynamic pop anthem showcasing his killer vocals and storytelling through several characters that ultimately morph into a rainbow dragon, conveying an inspiring message for viewers to embrace their vibrant, colorful selves. The song and his forthcoming album reflect the metamorphosis of a deeply introspective creator.
Coming out "took down all the walls and I was able to write and flow from the space that I never have before," he explains of his creative process. "There's a very big difference between 'Rainbow Dragon' and all the songs on my album, and from what I was writing before.... I had so many walls up and so many reasons as to why I couldn't ever think of saying that, so they had no way of getting in. And when you can free yourself of that, whatever your block is, sexuality or not, your creativity becomes more true, more you, and more open."
"Most of the time when I write, it comes from such a place of joy or it's about love or heartbreak," he explains. "But I really hadn't written about...my thoughts on the state of the world and how we respond or don't respond to [issues].... The ['Rainbow Dragon'] video is the same thing. I just need to have a visual representation of different elements and all different sides of myself and characters that were in my head. Even some parts [of the video] are inspired by mental health. It's a mix of a lot of things."
Lonsdale's album takes a truly deep dive into his life. Growing up in the small town of St. Mary's, a suburb of Sydney, he says he was bullied for being a dancer and always felt like an outsider. "I want to share something that really is just my story," he says now. "It's taken me a while to acknowledge fully what that is, and the best way for me to communicate it is through song and dance and through the characters that I've made. I want to put it out there and share it from...a Black queer perspective, and someone who has gone through the waves -- and still does -- of insecurity and trying to find their way. Trying to figure out who they are and express themselves and deal with their fears and their heart, and not trying to be the version we've been told we're supposed to be."
His first passion, dance, launched his career on Dance Academy and garnered him a starring role in the upcoming Work It, a coming-of-age dance comedy coproduced by Alicia Keys and directed by Laura Terruso.
"It's one of the most exciting characters I've ever played," he says. "I'm excited for people to get to experience it because it's quite a twist on how we've normally been presented with these kinds of characters."
Lonsdale's journey has come full circle. "For me, I was dancing in my living room for hours and hours," he says. "So if that's where you nurture your gifts, that's where you nurture your gifts. Whatever brings you joy is your truth, so follow that."