Photo by Niles Gregory Gibbs
L.A. indie artist Lizzerd Kween (aka Kianna Znika) has the talent, authenticity and self-awareness of Taylor Swift when I first heard her in 2006 in Nashville.
Lizzerd Kween’s acoustic version of her new single “Kianna’s Lullaby” is immediately engaging and honest. Like Taylor, she’s a master at “unmasking” – stepping out from behind a carefully crafted persona to reveal the real person inside.
LK could probably also make a living in the visual arts. She created an endearing “comfort character” called Kiwi (similar to Tove Lo’s “Sunshine Kitty” character). Kiwi reminds Kianna to shatter the façade, strip off the mask and share her music straight from the heart.
Lizzerd Kween has what it takes to be an inspiring, authentic artist for years to come.
There are some classic lines in “Kianna’s Lullaby,” like “I’m sorry that I’m all that you get, you deserve the best but I’m all you get.” How does that tie in with the line about “the girl who never wanted to feel cold”? Sounds like there’s a rich backstory here.
This song is essentially about me taking care of myself, reparenting my inner child who just needed someone to help her. In 2020 I started practicing inner child healing and it’s something I prioritize each and every day. “The girl who never wanted to feel cold” was a line I wrote about a time when I remember being so cold as a child that I literally started closing my eyes and imagining what it would feel like to be by a fireplace. Growing up, I felt like I was on my own and I was the only person I got. However, I was struggling with mental health issues. So while I was the only help available to myself, I wasn’t the best help because that part of myself who COULD help still needed help herself.
In a recent interview, your music was described as “wholesomecore.” How would you define that category?
I don’t think my music itself is wholesomecore because the lyrics tend to get dark, but I think maybe I myself fit into the wholesomecore box. I would define “wholesomecore” as being outwardly proud and open about being a kind person to yourself and others. To me, being a nice person to others, caring about mental health, and honestly enjoying the cute, simple things in life is a part of being “punk” because we live in a society that’s constantly trying to get you to compete with others, focus on your independence, and “grow up.” Wholesomecore is a safe space for alternative people. It’s for the soft people who like heavy music, which was 1000% inspired by Mattstagraham’s “I’M SOFT.” I genuinely feel like it all stemmed from him, so I hope he gets credit for wholesomecore.
Lizzerd Kween is actually your high school nickname, correct? What are you trying to convey with that name vs. something like “Kayzee”?
“Lizzerd Kween” came from a nickname given to me by high school friends after one of them told me I reminded them of a lizard, and I honestly loved it. People just started caling me “Lizard Queen” (it used to be spelled correctly) and I realized I really liked being called that. The nickname gave me a lot of confidence, and it’s essentially what started my unmasking process. I started being more myself, sharing more of my interests, and talking more. I didn’t realize I was hiding a lot of myself.
You use a comfort character on social media called “Kiwi” (similar to Tove Lo’s “Sunshine Kitty”) that for you represents unmasking. Can you tell us more about Kiwi and what the character means to you?
I started drawing Kiwi in elementary school, and at that time she was a human character that was a part of this story that I was trying to write. She had spiky, short hair and essentially reflected what I wished I could look like. Her original backstory included being an orphan and then later discovering she was from a hidden town where the people had magic and this is why she always felt left out. The theme of feeling left out stayed consistent. In high school, when I was struggling even more, I started drawing Kiwi as an alien. I resonated more with the alien figure. The original story idea faded away, but I would frequently doodle Kiwi in my journals, especially when I was feeling really lonely. She’s me. I like to think that because she’s me, Kiwi is a character that knows all my truths and secrets, so when she “appears” she is challenging me to be open about my truth and embrace it.
You’re a social media whirlwind. Is there a secret recipe for creating TikTok videos that really connect with people…or is it all a spontaneous chain reaction?
Honestly, I saw the peak of my social media engagement when I started genuinely just being more myself. This is when I realized that people appreciate authenticity, and I realized that all my own favorite content creators are the ones who are just being themselves, too. I like people talking to the camera like you’re on a Facetime call with them. I’m sure that I could probably have more “success” if I followed all the influencer advice and actually acted more like a legit content creator than a regular person, but I know myself and I know I would get burnt out and start feeling weird for not sharing who I really am with people.