Beyond Black T-Shirts: Sara Benyo s Fearless Fashion

Benyo Performing at EDC Orlando

Self-described “singer-songwriter of dubs, slinger of wubs” Sara Benyo is a rising star in the EDM scene. On top of accumulating fans for her music, Benyo sparks conversations and garners attention with her flashy outfits that set her apart from a scene largely dominated by all-black minimalism.

But Benyo didn’t always have the confidence or know-how to rock her head-turning outfits she does now at major festivals such as EDC Orlando, Lost Lands, Moonrise, and Project Glow.

 “When I first started going to shows, I wasn’t even going as a full-blown EDM artist like I am now. I was just in jeans and something cute,” Benyo said. “As my artist project has progressed it’s something that’s grown with me.”

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Benyo first encountered EDM while playing Dance Dance Revolution with her next-door neighbor every day after school. She stumbled upon a playlist created by her then favorite YouTuber, LedaMonsterBunny. 

Benyo at Project Glow

“I was like 12 and I was a super big scene girl at the time,  and she’s a scene girl and made a YouTube playlist of all of her favorite music on it. It was like deadmau5, Nero, etcetera,” Benyo said.

“I saw Skrillex when I was like 14 at Bonnaroo, which was amazing because that was his scary monsters and nice sprites era,” Benyo said.

During that time, Benyo discovered the catalyst for extending her artistic vision to her outfits. It hails from outside the EDM circuit: Lady Gaga.

She watched Gaga’s music videos and followed her fashion and performances religiously. Benyo was “enamored” with the pop icon after seeing her perform live.

“She would create entire visions and worlds around songs or ideas through her art and fashion as well,” Benyo said. “So I’ve always looked to her as being a person who perfectly encompasses that.”

Benyo sees Gaga as one example of the many pop-stars who shoot for the stars with their outfits. In the EDM world, however, it isn’t uncommon for DJ’s to wear all-black minimal outfits.

“Some artists just choose to wear black T-shirts and black pants and that’s fine, but with me, it’s just truly who I am and I can’t imagine expressing myself any other way,” Benyo said.

She views the trend as a way for artists to signify their insider status.

Benyo at Moonrise 2023

“It does seem to be a thing where you go into a green room backstage and if you see people in all black you kind of assume, ‘Oh ok, they work in the music industry.’”

But as fashion-forward as she is, even Benyo felt pressure to fit in by toning down her outfits like many fledgling DJs.

“There’s been times where I’ve been backstage and if I wear a black T-shirt and black pants, I am treated completely differently versus wearing something that truly represents me as an artist,” Benyo said. “It’s almost like people don’t think you’re an artist. They kind of write you off if you’re backstage in a green room and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s just a raver,’ or, ‘Oh, that’s just a groupie.’”

Benyo persisted, despite industry expectations, and reached a level she is comfortable in. Her fashion has become an essential and respected part of her brand, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t obstacles.

“It’s almost like you do have to fight a little bit harder to be respected, unfortunately, as a woman especially, if you’re dressed in rave fashion in a green room,” Benyo said. “A lot of times higher-up people, especially when I first started, I’ve been in a room where someone who ran a venue shook everybody’s hand except mine.”

As she grew as an artist, she donned increasingly showy outfits, such as the one she wore during her performance with Jessica Audiffred at Lost Lands in 2021. The flame-covered fit was inspired by her song “Nothing’s Left” with Audiffred and CHRMNDRS.

“The whole song is about someone who’s done you wrong but taking that darkness or hurt and alchemizing that and turning that into something that fuels you,” Benyo said. “But the symbolism and that song is all about flames and fire. Setting yourself on fire to do more and rise above it.”

These high-quality outfits come at a price. Benyo says she wants to build more brand partnerships to mitigate the large portion of her budget put into improving her image on stage, an expense that most DJ’s don’t have. One outlet she frequently partners with is Freedom Rave Wear.

“For Moonrise, my outfit was completely Freedom Rave Wear, besides my shoes,” Benyo said. “I really really love them. I’m a huge eco-friendly girl, and they make all of their clothing out of recycled water bottles.”

Her outfits often come from deep diving on the internet, perusing Pinterest or spotting Instagram ads.As she becomes more confident in her outfits and grows as an artist, fans and performers alike are increasingly curious about her show-stopping fashion statements.“It feels really good knowing that I’m essentially paving a lane to help other people feel confident in expressing themselves too in EDM as their own artist,” Benyo said.

On the day of a festival performance, it takes Benyo a few hours to get ready, most of which is dedicated to getting her hair and makeup done.

Once Benyo’s all dolled up, she feels empowered and excited, an energy she wants to channel every day.

“On an average day I do try to dress up more because it actually motivates me,” Benyo said. “I think it’s part of manifesting too essentially, what you want to be and how you want to be and where you want to be in life. So dressing the parts that you envision yourself in is a really important thing.” 

After all the effort involved in her festival fits, she keeps them on after performing as she enters the crowd, which gives her more opportunities to interact with fans. On non-performance days, she finds a balance between style and comfort. 

“I also just love music and if I have a lot of friends there, then I want to hang out with them and just also be a fan at the same time and remember why I love music in the first place,” Benyo said.

Benyo recently performed in Tampa with Slander, whose label she recently signed a song to, that’s coming next year.

Dec. 16 she is performing at Big Night Live in Boston with Adventure Club, Stoned Level, and Sky Sky.

Benyo is kicking the year off with “Another Dimension,” her track coming in January, and teased an unreleased collaboration with “notable artists.”

– Dominick “PITLORD” Matarese

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