Two years ago, Niykee Heaton rocketed to fame after her acoustic cover of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa”—filmed in her childhood bedroom—made its way to WorldStar, racking up more than a million views with white-hot speed. A label deal with All Def Digital quickly followed, and Heaton released her debut EP, Bad Intentions, last year. These days, between countless trademark thirst traps posted to Instagram, Heaton spends her time holed up in the studio, and recently got a chance to play her music for Kanye West. We caught up with the 20-year-old Chicago native, who has new sounds on deck for release later this year, to talk about dating rumors, dick pics, and, of course, The Thirst.
It’s probably safe to say that you’ve fielded an inordinate amount of thirst since getting into the music industry at 18, no?
Pretty much every male who reached out to me in the music business used the angle of “Let’s make music together.” But every single one of them had ulterior motives. That’s how men are. It was just something to get used to.
So the thirst doesn’t surprise you any more?
It still blows my mind. My whole life, I’ve been the ugly duckling. I started posting photos because I was becoming more confident in who I was.
What’s your standard operating procedure for taking selfies?
To be completely honest with you, there’s no science to it. I’ll be walking around in my bikini for three days and I’ll take some photos, because that’s what I’m doing. I never plan it. It just happens, and it always works out well.
Do you ever worry that people will know you more for your photos than your music?
If I can use what I have aesthetically to draw people in, then why not use it? I’m not going to put on a turtleneck just to prove a point, or to make people feel more comfortable according to society’s standards. If people think I’m hot, cool. They’ll come and look at my bikini pics, and then they’ll click on my Soundcloud, and love my music.
How do you deal with the negative side of thirst? Comments, detractors, etc.?
I talked to my mom about it, like: “Mom, people are calling me a slut. People are calling me ugly.” The most important thing she taught me was that whatever people say about you is their projection of themselves. You can’t take that personally. When people say mean things to me, I pray for them, because you have to be a really fucked-up person to feel those things. You just have to feel bad for them.
There have been rumors of you dating rappers, too.
Trinidad Jame$ asked me to come to one of his shows a long time ago. Everyone made such a big deal out of it. I posted a photo of me and Snoop Dogg backstage. The comments were: “Snoop Dogg fucked you.” I could take a picture with Hillary Clinton and the comments would say, “They’re fucking!”
What’s your love life actually like these days?
Very dry. I’m just super weird. Me and Lauren Pisciotta, my manager, are the strangest people. She’s my soul mate. People think we’re lesbians all the time.
I promise, we’re not. We trash any guy who comes near us because we’ve learned what our standards are, and who we want in our life. When bullshit men come around and try to fuck with us, we just don’t have time for it. If Prince Charming comes around—and he has a brother—then maybe.
But if you were to start dating, what would you look for in a guy?
I need someone who’s on my level. Someone who knows their shit, isn’t playing games, or talking to hos in their DMs. I just don’t have time. None of these men are measuring up.
Maybe you could find one on Tinder?
I made a Tinder just for fun. I was on it for maybe 40 seconds before I said, “This is just awful.” If I have to stoop to that level to find my soul mate, then I’ll just get a bunch of cats.
It’s not like guys aren’t trying to get your attention by, say, sending you dick pics all the time, though. Right?
We get them all the time. I used to open all of them, then I realized that it maybe wasn’t the best idea. Now there’s always dicks in our DMs. I’ve never seen an impressive-enough dick pic [to the point] where I actually decided to pursue it. Either I’m disgusted, or I feel really bad for them.
But if you could dispense advice on taking a dick pic?
Dim lighting. And making sure you’re not flaccid. [But] I don’t think dick pics are the way to go. I don’t know what girl opens a dick pic and goes, “Aww yeah!” If she does, she needs to be committed to some sort of facility. Those are the women that are ruining society.