- Words Miriam Balanescu
- Photo credit Corey Mullaney
Performer, choreographer, and viral TikToker Santi Storm is venturing into the musical world. Get to know them better.
“Girl power” is what Santi Storm, the dancer and drag star who has reaped in thousands of online followers, hopes to channel through their music. Following in the tracks of Slayyyter, Liz Y2K and Charli XCX, the performer has turned to bubblegum pop, so far releasing an eruption of a debut – “Kawaii World” – and with another single up their sleeve.
Through performing and choreographing sets to hit stages in New York, Tokyo and LA, the young star became immersed in the world of hyperpop and all things kawaii. Seeking out the help of Himera, Cyber Prince and Kylan (who they accidentally discovered on YouTube), Santi launched their first track as an ode to the Japanese city. The official video even features an appearance of Gothy Ken Doll from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.
Before their next single, “Samurai Princess”, a song that fuses sugar-sweetness with a badass bite, inspired by anime Sailor Moon and cartoon Last Airbender, Notion chatted with Santi Storm about their career journey, Harajuku aesthetics, and what’s next.
Tell us about your career journey so far. What made you first want to be a dancer, performer, and drag queen?
When I was 16 I started going out to underground clubs in east London where I’d see the most crazy drag queens doing the wildest things I’d ever seen on stage. I was mesmerized and thought to myself that I could do that too! So I started working in nightlife when I was 19 and got on the stage as soon as someone gave me a chance. And from that first performance… the thrill, the fun, the exhilaration, I was addicted!
What does it feel like to have repeatedly gone viral on TikTok and to have such a huge online following?
It honestly doesn’t feel real to me! I think it’s because I went viral a lot during lockdown when we were all in our beds all day, nothing felt real it was just like this virtual reality in another dimension where I was getting millions of people to view me and comment about me, so it almost felt like this fake world which is kind of fun haha. Although I will say it’s awesome that so many kids are watching me because it means they get to have exposure to fun colourful queer people from a young age which is really important. I wish I had that growing up.
You’ve performed around the world, from LA to Tokyo. Could you share some of your most memorable experiences with us?
Oh my god, so I performed at the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Tokyo which is basically this candy wonderland cafe where the stage is a HUGE CAKE! Like it’s a cake-shaped stage surrounded by candy gumdrops and oozing icing! I had my bubble gun and performed and danced like crazy, flipping and splitting. It was like the best moment of my life!
Did you always want to make your own music or was this something you decided to do later on in your career?
I think it came after my performing career took off. I was like: I feel like I’m basically a pop star being flown around the world to perform, but I’m lip-syncing other people’s songs…? Why am I doing other people’s music when I could be performing my own music?!
So then often on airplanes to these gigs, I started writing my own songs!
What was your experience like in Tokyo and how did this feed into “Kawaii World” and “Samurai Princess”?
My experience performing in Tokyo was amazing! I love Japan and the people. There are so many cool subcultures and fashion aesthetics in the city!!! I wrote “Kawaii World” when I was in Tokyo. I literally just started singing the chorus when I was walking down the streets of Harajuku and my friend who I was with turned to me and was like: You should really just turn it into an actual song already!
I was like: why not!
“Samurai Princess” I would say was a lot more inspired by video games and gaming culture in general, especially the badass women characters that are often fighting in them! I love anything that’s like virtual reality and arcades and anything that has a super cool girly vibe to it! I want the message of “Samurai Princess” to be like: I’m a badass sexy girl in the virtual reality and I don’t need some loser boy I’m just gonna kick ass!!!
How did you first get into bubblegum pop and who were the artists who inspired you? And you’ve said that you’ve only ever been inspired by women growing up. Could you tell us about them?
So I started discovering the hyperpop world when I was dancing for Charli XCX at her shows in London and Paris for her Pop 2 tour, the hyperpop music and sound of her album were really unique and new to me. Then I discovered artists like SOPHIE, Slayyyter, Liz Y2K, Namasenda that all had this hyperreal bubblegum pop insane sound and I knew that was the kind of music I wanted to make.
But growing up I have always been inspired by the superstar princesses pop girls of the early 2000s that were amazing performers. Britney Spears of course is a huge inspiration. Her dancing and gymnastics ability always blew me away when I was a kid watching her on TV. I just think girls are the coolest ever and so much more fun and fabulous to watch, to be honest.
What is your advice to young people wanting to start out as performers?
My advice to young people wanting to start out as performers would be: If you don’t ask you don’t get! If you want something you need to go for it, ask for it, and knock on all the doors you can!
And if you’re doing something that seems scary and makes you nervous then it’s a good sign because it means you’re growing as a person and a performer.
What’s next for Santi Storm?
Performing my music LIVE AT VENUES and giving you an EPIC SHOW!!! My music was made to be performed live to give people life and to just create a fantasy, so that is what’s next for me to do.