By Joy Villa, as told to Eve Peyser

Before I was a Trump supporter, I was liberal. I even voted for Obama in his first term. I would’ve called myself a social justice warrior.

I didn’t grow up in a particularly political household, but my late father, who is Italian and Argentinian, watched a lot of Fox News. He was a member of the tea party and would say things like, “We need to abolish the IRS.” My mom, who’s Black-American and has also passed away, was largely apolitical.

I grew up in New York and Santa Barbara, doing artistic things, and just knowing that I wanted to make it in Hollywood. I started doing musical theater when I was 10 years old. I was always the girl who looked good, but also dressed kind of crazy. I would alienate a lot of the people around me. I was wearing sparkly Sketchers in fourth grade, and that was weird. People were like, “Why would you wear those?” I just loved it.

In 2011, I met this guy who’s a music producer, and we became friends. At the time I dressed very 80s, so I was wearing leg-warmers, purple eyeshadow, and had big flowers in my afro. He said, “I hear music when I see you.” We created my first single called “Cold Wind” together. I wrote it in 10 minutes. Everything took off from there. By 2014, I was touring — I went to 35 countries in two years. That’s where I met my husband, who’s from Denmark. I made a lot of music and amassed a fanbase, but I was still pretty underground.

Then Trump announced his campaign. At first, I was like, “Oh no, not this guy. He’s a racist,” because all I did was read the headlines. I still wasn’t very political — initially, I supported Bernie Sanders. But after I found out Bernie was a socialist — which I didn’t agree with — and he lost the primary, I was like, “Who the hell am I gonna vote for?” There’s no way in hell I’m voting for Hillary because in my family, we did not like the Clintons. They raised taxes. And I don’t like what Hillary does with the American Psychiatric Association because they want to drug kids.

A close friend told me I should look into Trump. I discovered he actually is who he says he is, that he really wants to make America better, and pull us out of this rut. He has a track record for economic success, so why wouldn’t we trust him? I got addicted to watching Trump’s speeches — he was very pro-America, pro-life, and wanted limited government. He sounded like my dad.

I was going to vote for him, but I decided to keep that quiet. I only told my husband at first, and even got him to start liking Trump. At first, I was very scared people would find out I was a Trump supporter. I thought my music career could be destroyed. Everyone around me hated Trump. Everyone in Hollywood was bad-mouthing him.

When Trump won the election, I cried because I was so happy. But the onslaught of Trump hate just got worse. Madonna said she wanted to blow up the White House at the Women’s March. It became really disgusting.

I got so upset about what they were doing, how everyone was attacking the President and changing his words so much. The headlines about Trump are a blatant lie. He’s not saying all Mexicans are rapists, or all this, or all that. I thought to myself, I gotta do something. I like to wear crazy cool outfits and I’m a member of the recording academy, so I worked with a designer to create a Make America Great Again dress to wear at the 2017 Grammys.

I knew they were going to attack me and do the same mudslinging they do against the president. So I covered my Trump outfit with a white dress, then did a big turn and reveal, and showed off the front of my dress, which said, “Make America Great Again.” The photographers cheered because they knew they were getting something different.

After the Grammys, my record sales blew up. My first EP, which was years old at the time, hit number one on iTunes and Amazon Music, and number 12 on the Billboard top 200. Getting on the Billboard charts was my ultimate dream as an artist, and I got there from one 20-minute appearance on the red carpet. It was mind-blowing.

Photography by Shane McCauley

I got to meet the first family and get invited to the White House regularly. I worked on his campaign in 2017, and he even tweeted at me. Now I regularly appear on Fox News. My music has skyrocketed, and it’s all because I came out as a Trump supporter. It’s streamlined my message because now I have an audience who really has nobody else. On July 4th, I’m releasing a new song called “Freedom Fight For It.” It’s very pro-America, but also unifying.

I also have a lot of fans who are liberals and I’m a huge ally to the LGBT. I call my fans the “Joy Tribe,” and the ones who don’t like Trump tell me, but they also say, “I love you. I love your positivity.”

On the flip side, I get tons of death threats and hate mail. I never got the kind of attacks for being black and Latina as I’ve gotten for being a conservative. Sure, I’ve rolled my eyes when people have asked to touch my hair, but I was never someone who was trying to be victimized or fixating on microaggressions. Now that everyone knows I’m a Trump supporter, I get straight-up aggression. So I have a love-hate relationship with my newfound celebrity. I’m incredibly grateful for it, but there’s just so much attention on me and what I say. People are just waiting for me to say the wrong thing.

There was a time where I was just like, “Does everybody hate me? Is this worth it?” I told myself, “Joy, you’re a fighter. This is what you were made for.” At this point, I’m like, screw it, I’m going to say what I want.

nyc native living in reno. read my writing in the new york times, nymag, vice, and more.