celebrity

3 years ago, Chappell Roan was working at a drive-through. Now she's climbing the Australian charts.

If you haven't heard the name Chappell Roan, this won't be the case for much longer.

The 26-year-old pop star has experienced a meteoric rise in the last year, but in recent weeks, she has reached new heights. Last week, she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, speaking about how she got her big break and elaborating on her drag-inspired style.

In a moment that quickly did the rounds on social media, Roan called out Fallon for saying he had to Google her before the interview. "Did you not know who I was before?" she snapped back, as Fallon covered his face and shouted "No!"

The sassy singer wasn't done. "Well I Googled you, too — you want to know what popped up?" she teased. 

Icon behaviour.

Roan then performed her hit song 'Good Luck Babe', delivering a theatrical spectacle that featured the artist dressed as a white swan, writhing on the ground and wailing lyrics like, "I told you so!"

The song is reportedly about an ex-girlfriend of Roan's (who is openly queer) who denied her attraction to women. 

The performance needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. It's incredible.

Watch: Chappell Roan perform on The Tonight Show. Post continues below.

Despite not quite hitting the mainstream yet, Roan's music has developed a cult following. 

The other pop star of the moment, Sabrina Carpenter, recently performed a cover of 'Good Luck Babe' for BBC Radio, with other artists like Troye Sivan and Olivia Rodrigo heaping praise on the singer over the years.

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Roan famously said at Coachella last month, "I'm your favourite artist's favorite artist", which is a twist on RuPaul's Drag Race winner Sasha Colby saying, "I'm your favourite drag queen's favourite drag queen."

Colby became the first openly trans woman of colour to win the competition, and Roan gave the drag superstar a shout-out during her chat with Fallon. "That was a reference to Sasha Colby. And she says..." Colby started, but trailed off as the crowd cheered. "There's gay people here," Roan quipped.

"I hope Sasha Colby one day watches me, and that's why I said it."

Roan is passionate about bringing the fun back to pop music, drawing inspiration from drag queens and different art forms. "My stylist Genesis Webb and I pull from drag, we pull from horror movies, we pull from burlesque, we pull from theatre," she told host Jimmy Fallon. 

Chappell Roan performs at the 2024 Boston Calling Music Festival. Image: Getty. 

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"I love looking pretty and scary. Or, like, pretty and tacky. Or just not pretty. I love that too."

But don't expect some Taylor Swift-level meaning behind her iconic looks.

"I love that fans find such deep meanings to things and I'm just like, 'I don't know, I thought I looked hot.' Like, I don't know if it's anything more than that," she said. "I just think it's just not serious." 

Earlier this month, the singer turned down an invitation from the White House to perform for Pride. But she did perform at the Governor's Ball in New York City, where she emerged from a red apple dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Off the back of her Jimmy Fallon performance and the Governor's Ball, fans have drawn parallels with the young singer and Lady Gaga, whose career highlights featured spectacular performances, dramatic outfits and LGBTIQA+ anthems.

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It's a comparison I'd imagine would delight Roan, who recently performed a cover of Gaga's hit 'Bad Romance' at a show in Iowa.

But while Chappell Road has the world at her feet, the uninitiated might be wondering where she came from...

Who is Chappell Roan? Everything we know about the rising star.

She was born Kayleigh Amstutz and grew up in a Christian conservative household in Willard, Missouri. 

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The singer-songwriter's stage name comes from her late grandfather Chappell and his favourite song by Curley Fletcher, 'The Strawberry Roan'.

Roan began playing piano as a teenager and then after uploading covers of songs to YouTube that quickly went viral, she started to gain the attention of record labels. She signed with Atlantic Records in 2017, released her first EP School Nights and performed as a support act for Vance Joy on a tour in the US and Canada that same year.

But after dropping her cult favourite song 'Pink Pony Club' in 2020, she was dropped by her record label.

"I lost all my money and had to move home," she told PEOPLE, revealing she moved back to Missouri.

Roan worked a series of odd jobs back home and in Los Angeles, including as a production assistant, nanny, barista and drive-through worker in order to support herself.

"I was working the drive-through and I was like, 'Oh my God, I think I'm just going to go to school' because I really wanted to be... I still want to be an art therapist where I go into schools and do art through craft therapy.'"

But after a year of attempting to leave her dreams behind, she decided to give music another shot.

She landed a publishing deal with Sony and by March 2022, she collaborated on new music with Dan Nigro, who drew acclaim for his work with Olivia Rodrigo on her breakout album, Sour.

Roan released her debut album in September 2023, the critically acclaimed The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, which — paired with her rising popularity on TikTok (she boasts almost 2 million followers and counting) — made her one of the most exciting new artists around, especially for Gen Z.

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Chappell Roan performs at the 2024 Governor's Ball. Image: Getty. 

The album was featured on several 'best album of the year' lists, and after supporting Rodrigo on two tours — both Sour and this year's GUTS — her star continued to skyrocket.

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In 2024, Roan scored a spot on an NPR Tiny Desk concert gig, performed at Coachella, and her breakout hit 'Good Luck, Babe!' is scaling the top of the charts, as is her debut album which has just reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 — nine months after its initial release.

Throughout her success, Roan hasn't forgotten who helped her get there: the LGBTIQA+ community. For a tour she headlined in 2023, she booked local drag queens as her openers.

At a Kentuckiana Pride event, she paid homage to drag icon Divine, dressing as the late star's role in the cult classic John Waters film Pink Flamingos, showing Roan knows her herstory. 

She also encourages her fans and followers to frequent as many drag shows as they can. "It's just a great way to engage the local queer community to that city," she said in a 2023 interview. "I encourage people to tip the queens, that's redistributing funds within the community there, and also it just gives a platform for the drag queens. Some of these queens have never performed in front of a crowd that big before, and it's just fun."

The singer considers the character she plays on stage as her own kind of drag queen persona. 

"Chappell Roan is my drag project," she said in a recent interview.

"There was something that switched. I really have taken that on as my identity."

Feature image: NBC/The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.