Dagsen Steele Love Talks The Hellp, HOTMESS, & Why he Hates Phoenix
On the eve of the VIP opening reception of Luka Sabbat’s HOTMESS exhibit “Wherever, Whenever” and right after walking for Vaquera NYC at Vogue’s CFDA show at the Chateau Marmont, 16-year-old Dagsen Steele Love, model and music producer associated with The Hellp, stopped by Milk LA to give us the low down.
What was it like growing up in Phoenix?
Can you expand on that?
Well it’s extremely hot, like 120 degrees. There is nothing to do at all. There are almost no cool people because they are all so far distanced from having an actual perspective on the world in terms of art and culture.
As a musician, would you say that any of your work stems from inspiration found there—or lack of it?
Maybe a lack—having to find things through the internet.
How did you stay interested in things there?
I didn’t. I just spent all my time inside vicariously living through the internet and playing video games.
Did you make some internet friends?
When I was 10 I had some—I met them through this really old MMO called Lego Universe—it was great. I was 10 and had nothing else to do. I played Minecraft with them for like a year.
What brings you to LA—did you move here straight from Arizona?
I lived in New York for three months at the beginning of this year and then after that I went back to Arizona for a week, couldn’t handle it and had to move out to LA.
Do you like it here?
Yeah, I love it here. I just like the weather and how easy it is to be extremely lazy here. You can get food in practically everything is really high quality. In Arizona it’s entirely fast food, you can’t choose to be healthy. There is only Whole Foods, but I think Erewhon is better.
What’s your favorite snack there?
Their CBD water or flourless chocolate cake.
What’s your background like in music?
Practically none. I just met The Hellp and randomly started having ideas for music after I unofficially joined their band just because they liked me.
What did they like about you?
Just my personality and the ideas I have.
I hate anyone that still tries to put me in the androgynous box—that’s not even me. It’s commodifying an identity that I don’t even align with at all. It’s just ridiculous.
So you met them at the HOTMESS exhibit at Milk in New York?
They walked up to me and at the time I looked very androgynous, and I hate anyone that still tries to put me in the androgynous box—that’s not even me. It’s commodifying an identity that I don’t even align with at all. It’s just ridiculous. And people praising me for something that isn’t even me. It’s just seeing a reflection of how accepting they are of gender fluid people—which there is nothing wrong with, but it is kind of wrong to have someone who isn’t gender fluid being forced to promote it.
Do you feel like it was just because you had long hair?
Yeah it was literally just because I had long hair and my face is already really feminine. Noah first walked up to me and lightly stroked my chest to see if I was a boy or a girl because he wanted to shoot me for a music video in LA a couple months later.
You said there was a point that you did kind of identify with it—but you’re young, you’re 16, you don’t necessarily have to decide everything right now.
At the start it was just about guys being able to wear girl’s clothes, which makes sense—they are just fucking clothes. But then it became an entire identity forced upon me—the entire industry I’m working in practically is trying to force me to be or become. Instead of just doing a makeup campaign, or do a women’s show, which that—doing a woman’s show in a look that still is masculine, is something I’ve always wanted to do—to putting me into straight up dresses and mini skirts and really feminine pieces that make my shape look feminine, which I’m just not comfortable with.
So, what music did you grow up listening to?
Uh I didn’t even have that good of a taste in music growing up—the only music that really stood out to me when I was growing up was like European pop music and European dance music.
What do you listen to now?
Basically the same thing—I went through a period of liking a lot of underground rap. In 2012, I really loved this one song by iLoveMakonnen called “Tragedy Vanity Alcohol” that he tried to scrub from everything, but it’s still on YouTube. It has the craziest beat.
Who would you want to collaborate with?
Scooter. Or no wait—PC music is like my favorite group. They are based in London.
Have you worked on any songs with The Hellp yet?
Not even yet.
Are there any other forms or art that you identify with?
For a while, when I was 13 or 14 I wanted to be a fashion designer. I really like fashion.
Are there any designers that you look up to?
Hedi Slimane. He’s my all-time favorite.
What do you like about his designs?
Just how well fitting and well made it is. I also really like his work at Dior Homme from the early 2000s.
Is there a specific piece of art (be it a piece of music, or painting, or poem) that kind of shaped you into the person you are today?
The Holy Mountain.
What’s a perfect day in the life of Dagsen?
See my girlfriend. Do something that I was looking forward to doing with her.
And what’s that?
Honestly just random shit. It changes everyday.
And how did you meet her?
I met her at this shoot that she was photo assisting and she cast me for it.
Was it love at first sight?
No. I didn’t even know I would end up hanging out with her, but we hung out a couple days later and I ended up realizing I really liked her by the end of it.
What are you working on now and what can we expect coming up?
Right now I’m trying to figure out how to use logic, along with starting singing and acting lessons soon.
Stay tuned to Milk for more rising stars.