“After a lifetime of being at war with my gender, I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out,” Sam Smith stated in a 2019 tweet, announcing that they were non-binary and would be using ‘they/them’ pronouns.

While fans and peers were supportive of Smith, the public reaction was largely mocking of their gender identity, and their 2020 album, Love Goes, struggled to produce a hit. Demi Lovato received a similar reaction when they publicly came out as non-binary in 2021. She opted to return to using she/her pronouns the following year, in a move many perceived as an attempt to save her career.

Sam stayed true to themself, and in September of the previous year, they unleashed ‘Unholy,’ a collaboration with trans pop star Kim Petras, who was yet to have a mainstream hit. The infectious song, which detailed a man visiting a strip club to have extramarital affairs, became an instant worldwide hit—the biggest success for both artists’ careers.


‘Unholy’ won Smith and Petras a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, making Petras the first openly transgender artist to win at music’s biggest awards show. Realizing the importance of the moment, Smith graciously stepped aside and let Petras solely deliver the acceptance speech, simply blowing her a kiss and encouraging the crowd to ‘stand up’ and give her a standing ovation. Petras described Smith as a ‘true angel’ for this selfless approach.

Despite Smith’s kind actions and the meteoric success of ‘Unholy,’ conservative critics continued to be whipped into a frenzy by Smith’s scantily-clad awards show performances and determination to display positivity for all body types.

To promote their disco-infused, Calvin Harris-produced single ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends,’ Smith was photographed for the fashion magazine Perfect in outfits created by avant-garde corset designer Michaela Stark. Stark’s designs are intended to manipulate and distort body shapes to critique the rigidity of form. It served both as an artistic response to the fat-shaming reactions that Smith’s performances had received and as the perfect prelude to the, ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’ music video, which sees Smith and dancers donning assless corsets and nipple tassels designed by Ukrainian brand Frolov.

Despite the online bullying they have received, Smith has not backed away from their body-positive and sex-positive message, which will be arriving in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in full force in November as part of their world tour.


Gloria the Tour is intended to showcase Smith’s emotional, sexual, and spiritual liberation, which we have seen defiantly playing out in the media. The show is presented in three chapters: Love, Beauty, and Sex, and is performed atop a giant golden statue of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. The chapters essentially follow the order of Smith’s career, with Love showcasing the big hits like ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘I Know I’m Not The Only One’ that made them a household name, Beauty fashionably featuring their bops like ‘Dancing With A Stranger’ and ‘Promises’; and Sex completing the trilogy with ‘Unholy’ and a tribute to their inspiration, Madonna.

Whether the raunchier moments appeal to you or not, Gloria the Tour will leave no one in doubt of Smith’s vocal talents, with their dreamy cover of Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ (taken from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack) being described as a goosebump-inducing highlight by many reviewers overseas.

Whether Smith’s career continues down a provocative path or, in time, returns to their less controversial crooner roots, it cannot be forgotten that at the height of their fame, they risked their success to shine a spotlight on communities that have traditionally struggled to be seen and heard.

Now that’s truly glorious.

Sam Smith’s latest single, ‘Vulgar’, a duet with Madonna, is released on Saturday 10 June.

Sam Smith’s Gloria the Tour is on sale now at Ticketmaster.