For The Divas & Dolls

Miss Benny Finally Gets To Exhale

The star is setting her sights on conquering the world of pop music, one banger at a time.

Lindsay Hattrick/Elite Daily; Courtesy of Miss Benny

Miss Benny has come out of hiding, and she’s never going back. After blowing up in the 2010s heyday of YouTube for her energetic lifestyle vlogs, Miss Benny stepped away from the public eye for a few years. Now, she’s emerged as a buzzy actor, a more introspective songwriter, and a certified pop star. “I sort of feel like I’ve been in a boot camp for the last 10 years to prepare myself for this year,” Benny tells Elite Daily. “I spent a really long time feeling like I had to convince people that I was interesting or creatively worthy. And now I feel all of those things.”

At the epicenter of The Year of Miss Benny is the essay she wrote in June coming out as a trans woman. She’d already been privately transitioning for a couple of years, but the day she revealed her true self publicly brought with it a true sense of relief. “I finally got to exhale,” the 24-year-old recalls. “Because for the past couple years, I was just in this weird limbo of feeling so good about myself but also not being ready to assert myself publicly.”

Looking back, Benny can admit she wasn’t really hiding her trans identity that well. Longtime Miss Benny fans responded to her essay with lighthearted jokes about how they weren’t surprised. “In some ways, they probably knew before I did,” Benny says of her followers, many of whom had been fans of her since she started posting videos as a teenager in small-town Texas. “The first song I ever put out was literally about gender and how I didn’t like being seen as a boy. So, of course, people on TikTok have been making jokes, that I was so shocked that I could possibly end up identifying as a transgender woman when everything I’ve ever done publicly has kind of alluded to that.”

With her newfound confidence, Miss Benny’s music has become deeper, queerer, and more personal than ever. Her 2023 EP Swelter, which dropped on June 2, is made up of songs Benny wrote while privately transitioning, and she says she never imagined anyone else would actually hear them. “I decided to challenge myself and say ‘Let me write music where I’m not even thinking about releasing it,’” Benny says.

Currently, Benny is in the process of creating a first full-length album, and she has so many queer artists she wants to collaborate with on it: Kim Petras, Rina Sawayama, Muna. There’s one song in particular she’s reserving for a possible Omar Apollo feature. “Right now, I’m in a stage where I musically want to collaborate with so many people, and so I’m just writing a lot and thinking about that for the first time.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Elite Daily: Do you still keep in contact with any of the other big YouTube stars of the 2010s?

Miss Benny: Yeah, I definitely still talk to everybody occasionally. I recently stumbled upon Tyler [Oakley]’s TikTok stream where he was playing Fortnite, and I was fully playing Fortnite on my own. So I was like, “Should we play Fortnite together? Is that a really weird next step for that relationship?”

I kind of feel like being on YouTube sort of trauma-bonded an entire generation. We were one of the first waves of influencers and content creators, and that was a word that we didn’t even have before we started doing it. So the experiences we had and the unregulated nature of it all was really intense. I hold so much love for that era of YouTube, and a lot of the people who watched us back then have grown up with us. It’s really cool to see people whose names I’ve known for almost 10 years now show up in my comments still and have that relationship.

ED: How do you feel when looking back at your early videos?

MB: Watching my old videos is so weird for me. I think one day it will become very nostalgic and sweet, but when I watch them now, I kind of feel this mix of cringe and also “Oh, that poor kid.” I wish I could go back and be like, “Do this. Don’t do this. Avoid this. Lean on this.” But the thing I always feel really good about when I watch those videos is I truly went for it in a way that I don’t have as much access to now. I mean, the number of times that I would write, film, edit, and upload a video all in the same afternoon without even double-thinking it, it’s wild. And now I’m like, oh, my God, if I produce a song that I’m going to put out, I spend months deciding how it needs to come out and if it’s ready or not. I do romanticize that time a little bit, but I definitely don’t watch those videos that often. I think one day it’ll be very cute, but it’s a little too close still.

ED: Would you ever go back to YouTube, or is that fully in your past now?

MB: I had a really exciting time when I was on YouTube, but my creative fulfillment needs have changed, and platforms in general have changed. I recently joined TikTok, and I’ve been having a really fun time being an idiot on there. I don’t know if I would ever come back to YouTube in the traditional way that I used to, but I don’t know how to not put myself out there. So, whatever form of output there is in the world platformwise, I’ll be there. I’ll show up.

ED: You’ve had such a massive year in 2023. What’s it been like to achieve this new level of fame after so many years online?

MB: It’s felt fantastic. 2023 has been the launching point of a bunch of different things that I’ve been working on in my life. And I’m really grateful that I’m achieving a lot of my goals. I find that I have to ask myself what else I want to do with my life a lot lately, which is really exciting, existential, and crazy. But this year has been really validating. I’m able to rest in my own confidence a little bit. Right now I’m working on my first full-length music project, and I’m just so thrilled about it because I have this sort of energized confidence because of how special this year has been.

ED: What’s been one of your favorite celebrity interactions this past year?

MB: Bretman Rock and I have shared quite a few messages that are so sweet and funny, and I think he’s one of the funniest, most entertaining, and wholesome people on the Internet; I always have. Now, every time I post a selfie or post something, he’ll respond, and I’m always like, “Oh, my God!”

ED: Along with your music blowing up, you also shared your trans journey this summer in a very personal essay in Time. What were you feeling the day that essay was published?

MB: I didn’t know how I was going to feel going into it. I kind of prepared for anything. I was prepared to be overwhelmed, to be stressed, to feel all kinds of negative emotions. But I actually ended up feeling this huge sense of relief. I think that because I had spent a couple of years privately transitioning and sort of working through a lot of the initial feelings that anybody might have toward transitioning and all of that, I was able to not have to worry about those things as much. I found myself doing this thing trans people call boy-moding, where I was closeting myself and presenting differently than how I knew I wanted to, because I just needed to protect myself.

And so when the Time article came out, it was like sink or swim. No matter how people feel about this, I don’t have to think about it the same way. I can just let it be. Up to this point, I’ve been a public person for a lot of my life, but I hadn’t really found a lot of spaces to be super vulnerable, partially out of protection for myself. So to do something like this required a lot of bravery that I had to muster up, and I couldn’t be happier with the response.

ED: You wrote your EP Swelter before publicly coming out. What was the process like of making that music while privately transitioning?

MB: I had, up to that point, made music with this sort of audience reception in mind. For every song that I had written, I was thinking of exactly what people would be doing when they listened to it: how they would pregame to it, how they would dance to it, and how they would have it on their sex playlist. I was like, “I see the vision for these songs.”

But with Swelter, because I’d sort of disappeared from the world for a bit and the pandemic happening, I had a lot of time to reflect on my own life. I wrote so many songs over the course of two years, and the songs that ended up on Swelter were the songs I felt were the most authentic to me and the ones that I was the most ready to share. It was nerve-wracking. I’d always just talked about partying and kissing boys in my music, and suddenly I was making songs about my experiences with infidelity and facing this feeling of not being worthy.

I sort of saw it as a cathartic release so that I can make fun pop music again. Because I couldn’t stomach the idea of making escapist pop music when I was dealing with all of this anger and stress. Now that I’ve gotten through that a little bit, I feel more space to express those kinds of vulnerable feelings but also have fun because now I’ve established that I can do both.

ED: Have you been surprised by the response to any particular song?

MB: It’s pretty crazy. I was seeing people post “Hiding My Heart” on their stories, and it’s mind-blowing because that was one of those songs that I was like “This is never going to come out. I can’t show people this.” And now there are people going through the same stuff I went through who are posting on their stories hoping that somebody sees it.

ED: Was making the “Break Away” music video as hot as it seemed?

MB: It’s so funny. The idea for that video was that I was supposed to be sweating at every stop. It was supposed to be this hot, angry video. And then when we filmed, it just was like every single moment was not hot. It was freezing cold. The scenes where I’m outside in the beginning, I think it was literally the rainiest, coldest day on record in L.A. this year. We were in the middle of this mountain where there was insane wind, and I’m in a little tank top and open-toe shoes. It was so silly.

And then in the next location, I’m in a bathtub of ice, and it’s freezing because I’m basically naked. Then in the next sequence, there are a bunch of fans on me. So I was laughing because I was like, “This whole video is supposed to be about how I’m so angry that I’m overheating, and then in reality, it is probably the coldest I’ve ever been.” In all of these behind-the-scenes videos, I’m just shaking. I took a hot shower at the end of each day and was like “Never again.” All of my videos moving forward will be in climate-controlled studios.

ED: What music has been inspiring you recently?

MB: I’ve been listening to a lot of sleazy party music lately. I’m really a big fan of this artist called The Dare; he has an EP called The Sex EP that sounds so much like the music I’ve been working on lately that I was like “Oh, my God, somebody who’s on the same wavelength right now.” And obviously, I love what Troye [Sivan]’s doing right now. That “Rush” video is like a dream. There’s one thing about us, ever since the “I’m a Slave 4 U” video, we’re like, “What if we were sweaty? What if we were sweaty and wet?”

ED: What’s it felt like to be part of this moment where it feels like queer pop is taking over?

MB: There really are so many queer artists that are succeeding right now, and I feel very inspired by all of those doors being opened, because I remember when I started music, I was sort of like, “We’ll see. I’m going to do this for me, and if anything good happens, it’ll happen.” But now, you have these amazing queer artists writing about queer experiences and being given these amazing accolades for it. If you look at the Billboard charts at any given time, there’s a sh*t-ton of queer people on them now.

I have this fantasy one day of there being some sort of Now That's What I Call Music or one of those compilation albums, but it’s for all the girls, all the divas, and all the dolls. Or we make a “We Are the World” type group. If all things fail for me, maybe I’ll produce that, and I’ll be like, “Hey girls, once a year we’re going to pick a cause and we’re going to sing, and it’s going to be amazing.”

ED: Are you planning on staging your first concert with this new music?

MB: That’s sort of this seed growing in my mind. All the music that I’m writing, I’m thinking of the live performance aspect, which is something I haven’t really done that much before. I used to have a lot of anxiety about performing on stage, and I still do a little bit. My favorite part of making music is the production aspect, but I think something clicked in my brain this summer, and now I’m like, “No, I want to party and I want to be on stage and screaming at people in a microphone.”

ED: What will a Miss Benny concert look like?

MB: It’s somewhere between your traditional fun pop show with an element of camp and humor to it. I have a hard time taking myself seriously in any capacity, so there’ll be a lot of moments that are very much influenced by things like drag and just generally being a silly person.

ED: Since this year has felt like such a graduation for you, what would your yearbook for 2023 look like?

MB: My superlative would be “most likely to disappear, but also not be mad about it.”