"Paris Hilton is a huge icon to me." Bimbocore, righteous feminism and "twerkle pits": how Scene Queen became the unlikely heroine metal needs right now

Scene Queen
(Image credit: Future (Photo: Danin Jacquay))

Hannah Collins, aka Scene Queen, stares up at the camera with a mischievous glint in her eye. She’s lying back on satin sheets, wearing pink lingerie, a stuffed Pink Panther toy tucked under her arm, a 90s pink dream phone in her hand. The imagery couldn’t be more on-brand. The plushie is a reference to her 2022 single Pink Panther, a tongue-in-cheek ode to lesbian sex. The push-up bra she’s wearing is a reference to last year’s Pink Push-Up Bra single, a blistering tirade against sexual abuse.

This is the genre-hopping singer’s very first Metal Hammer cover, but it’s also a homage to/twist on another iconic cover shoot. Namely the Lolita-like image of Britney Spears taken by legendary photographer David LaChapelle, which appeared on the front of Rolling Stone magazine in 1999, when the ...Baby One More Time singer was just 17 years old. As with everything Scene Queen does, it’s clever, transgressive and more than a little provocative.

“One of my agent’s assistants was saying that we should do a launch of hankies to go with the release of the magazine,” she says with a laugh when we catch up with her a week later, while she’s midway through her Bimbo Beta Pi tour. “For the man tears!”

Scene Queen had a whirlwind 2023. Her genre-smashing mix of metalcore breakdowns, hip hop beats and neon-pink sparkle helped turn her into one of the year’s breakout stars. Her music may sound exhilarating and exuberant, but it’s often a delivery mechanism for lyrics that go from fun to empowering to scathingly furious. Even the concept of ‘bimbocore’ - the superhumanly sparkly one-woman
genre she willed into being – was designed to bait metal’s troglodyte gatekeepers as much as it was to inspire the growing legions of fans who have rallied to her hot-pink flag.

2024 looks like being the year where Scene Queen is officially crowned as one of heavy music’s most vibrant, vital figures. In March, she drops her cheekily titled debut album, Hot Singles In Your Area, and plays Download Festival in June. Some people may hate the idea, but metal is changing, and Scene Queen is one of its disruptors-in-chief. “That’s what I’m doing with metal,” she says. “I’m playing into the ‘I don’t really know what genres are’ thing, even though I definitely do.” 

Scene Queen’s debut album marks the pinnacle of two years spent building a huge community off the back of her hyperfemme and hypersexual sound. She set out the Bimbocore manifesto on her 2022 single, Pink G-String, which gleefully instructed her fans to “twerk in the circle pit”. The song also namechecked her “holy trinity” of inspirations: Britney Spears, heiress/ proto-influencer Paris Hilton and actor Lindsay Lohan, three women who have frequently been objectified and/or vilified by the media from the 2000s onwards. Tellingly, the video for the song saw her dressing as Hilton.

“She is a huge icon to me as far as the branding of my project,” says Hannah. “She was acutely aware of what people’s perceptions of her were – and completely played off of that to her own advantage.”

The 2000s is a key inspiration for Scene Queen’s hot pink, bling-encrusted aesthetic, but Hannah recognises the era was a challenging time for women, when celebrity bodies were under intense scrutiny and sexuality was guided very much by the male gaze.

“I feel like in metal, women were always portrayed in two ways,” Hannah considers. “You could be seen as hard and as heavy as a man, because if you’re too feminine, then you’re not taken seriously. Or the alternative is they wanted women to be portrayed in a sexy way, in a way that still appeals to men.”

One song from the upcoming album, Girls Gone Wild, takes aim at the contradictory standards that women face. It’s a collaboration with electro nu metallers Wargasm.

“The entire song is about us saying we do all these things, but if we were a man, we would be applauded for them,” she says. “[Wargasm singer] Milkie and I have endured similar things in the fact that we’re told way too often that we’re way too sexual. The fact that she shows her body and gets criticised very often for it, and
I get very criticised for being too vulgar. But male rappers say the same thing, and are arguably more vulgar, and no one ever bats an eye about it.”

With Scene Queen, Hannah says she wanted to take misogynistic stereotypes out of the equation altogether. “I’m never interested in being sexy in a way that appeals to men. If men happen to find my music sexy, that’s awesome, but I’m going to dress in a way that I know for a fact women are more interested in.”

Scene Queen is a product of conservative America. Hannah spent her early childhood in New York but moved with her family to a small town in Ohio when she was 10. Raised Catholic, she attended church and sang in the local choir. After discovering the likes of My Chemical Romance, Brand New and Pierce The Veil via her elder sister, she began questioning her environment and religious beliefs.

“Had I not gone to shows, I think my bubble of the world would have been so sheltered,” she says. “I was kind of the first one in my family to be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something weird.’”

She moved to LA to study at college in 2015, with a view to getting a job in the music industry, but she swiftly came to the conclusion she wanted to make her own music. “I realised very early on that the only way to make anything happen in music is to have no back-up plan,” she says.

That realisation coincided with her disillusionment with the alternative scene. This was partly a result of the wave of allegations of sexual misconduct made against several bands, which in turn made her re-evaluate some of the experiences she’d had in her younger teens.

“I’ve been asked by multiple merch guys, ‘Come hang out with us and the band after the show!’ With the implication of, like, ‘Oh, you’re cute and you’re buying merch, so you must really want to hang out with the band and have sex with the band,’” she says grimly. “And the band seeing you that way, as opposed to their fan, was very confusing to navigate as a teenager. It makes you feel like it’s completely your fault, when these bands shouldn’t be hanging out with you in the first place.”

For Hannah, the community no longer resembled the place where she had once found solace, so she decided to create her own space. In 2020, she released her debut single, Are You Tired?, under the name RØSÉ. It became a viral hit on TikTok, but that success had a sharp end too, not least from the music industry executives who were vying to sign her and at the same time pressuring her to look a certain way to appeal to a male audience.

“I was getting so many comments about my appearance and my body,” she says. “I lost so much weight so fast that it actually ended up giving me genuine heart problems, to where now I have to take blood-pressure medication. I still suffer from fainting, from standing up and stuff.”

By the end of 2021, Hannah had changed course and reinvented herself musically. She adopted the name Scene Queen and released the trap-metal single Pretty In Pink, about societal expectations for “women to be perfect all the time”. That desire to be a catalyst for change in the scene has struck a nerve fiercely among Scene Queen fans. Her gigs are a riot of pink fizz, a safe space where she encourages fans to be themselves and get down in the “twerkle-pit”, while she’s even started her own sorority, Bimbo Beta Pi, to make sure any fans coming to their first gig or attending on their own feel comfortable.

Her music and personality may be an explosion of colour, but her lyrics are
more confrontational and challenging than most modern metal bands. Her
2022 single Pink Rover tackled harassment in terms that were both brutal and funny: ‘And if that bastard whistles / Put a knife up to his boner.’ This year’s incendiary 18+ single excoriated the music industry for its tendency to turn a blind eye to sexual misconduct towards underage fans. ‘Headline spot goes to the abuser,’ she sang. ‘Half my idols are fucking losers.’

“I’ve had a lot of people coming up and telling me to my face, ‘I had an experience with this specific band.’ It is frustrating to hear, because these aren’t my stories to tell, so obviously I can’t go out there and put it on blast. But just hearing every day that your suspicions about bands in the scene, or how bad the scene is, are right is... discouraging.”

Having come out as bisexual in 2019, Hannah has also used Scene Queen as a vehicle to explicitly explore her queer identity.

“I have songs about being with women, that are obviously very catered to women because no men are involved in it,” she says. “But I’m also able to write these songs that are sexual about being with men but have them still be freeing and empowering, because a lot of music is written actually in a way that degrades women.”

She says Hot Singles In Your Area reflects her search to find her “own personal sexuality”, citing the imagery of early internet pop-up porn adverts and the 2000s’ celebrity sex tapes as the influences that had dominated during her own coming of age. “Just navigating that time and trying to find yourself through all this chaotic imagery...” she says. “Trying to find your own path through all that is sort of confusing.”

Aged 19, she had a brief summer stint as a stripper. Looking back, while she sees the experience as the “first time she was taken fully as a sexual being” and “definitely life-altering”, it was also “not as empowering as I wanted it to be”.

“I think I was just too young to dive right into sex work because I wasn’t sure of myself yet,” she considers. “Now that I’m 26, I think it would be a lot more empowering [if I did it now]. I have days where I’m like, ‘Do I want to start an OnlyFans?’”

Scene Queen on the cover of Metal Hammer

(Image credit: Future (Photo: Danin Jacquay))

Today, she credits sex workers for the themes of sexual liberation that define her music. “The image and all of the stuff I’m saying on stage very much could not happen without them.”

As well as frequently repping vibrators on social media, her most recent single MILF (‘Man, I love fucking’) veers brilliantly between a country hoedown and metalcore breakdowns, and includes the lyrics, ‘Hey little lady, won’t you go down south? Do-si-do and eat me out.’

“I’ve just started telling my relatives, ‘Hey, don’t watch this!’” she groans, of the song’s accompanying NSFW music video. “And they’re like, ‘All right, we won’t.’ I don’t think I want them to see me holding a 12-inch dildo.”

That unflinching determination to be her true self has enabled Scene Queen to empower others. “My old friends are very supportive,” she says. “It turned out, as an adult, all of us were queer. We were just all afraid to come out because we were in such a conservative town. I’ve even had people that I grew up with, not knowing they were queer, years later telling me, ‘Hey, I was positive at the time, but I’m so thankful that you’re doing this stuff now.’”

Scene Queen is already leaning into the oncoming rush of the next 12 months. Aside from her album, she says she wants “to do some weird, crazy, out-of-the-box collab, something completely outside the scene”. She’s looking forward to metal as a whole getting its freak on. “I think we’re going to get a lot of weird meets, like reggaeton metal, something like that.”

But until then, there are much bigger, real-life concerns on the horizon, such as the impeding US election, which may or may not see the return of Donald Trump, and the general messed-up state of both the climate and the world in general. “I’m very concerned as far as it catching on fire,” she says.

Luckily, she’s got a support network in the shape of her ever-growing fanbase, as well as her family. She says the latter are “painfully supportive” when it comes to her music.

“Obviously they don’t love every single thing I say in my songs,” she says. “But they still come out to the shows and they’re jamming out, and they’re proud of the community that I’ve made.”

While the boundary-breaking nature of her music is important, Hannah hopes Scene Queen’s lasting impact will be the space she’s created where “people feel like they belong”. This year, when she played a set at the southern leg of Slam Dunk Festival in Hatfield, the turnout was so big, it bled into the crowds for other stages.

“My mom was there and no one could find her in the crowd because it was that big,” she laughs. “It was one of those times that my mom can actually see like, ‘Hey, this is what this is doing for people.’”

Originally published in Metal Hammer #383

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.