Acclaimed independent artist Lexy Panterra discusses her lifelong struggle with Crohn’s disease, her Disney princess dream, and the time she accidentally left Shaq on Unread.
Lexy considers it time off between weekend tour dates, but it’s 9:00 PM on a Monday night at her Miami home, and she’s logging into Zoom to spend an hour talking to me for a podcast that’s still in pre-production. There’s no guarantee of going viral–I don’t even have contacts at our local news outlets here in St. Louis–but I have availability and interest in telling a story, and that’s enough for Lexy and her PR contacts at BurgerRock Media, a downtown Los Angeles PR agency who’s worked with everyone from Miley Cyrus to Barack Obama. This is the grind, she’ll go on to explain. You never know what’s going to work, and nothing’s going to work for long.
For all of that uncertainty, Lexy has cracked the Billboard Top 100 charts with two singles. TikTok users have used her tracks Bad Bitch and Simple Life alone as the soundtrack for more than half a million videos. She has tour dates scheduled in 17 cities during phase two of the Sorry Papi all-girl party tour, and she’s putting out regular content for over 3.3 million followers across social media. But very early in our conversation, I’m convinced she’s even more excited about her achievements in improving her happiness and health.
Lexy grew up dividing time between separated parents. Her mother, a rap and R&B listener, lived in Sacramento while her father, a rock and EDM guy, lived in Los Angeles. As she developed an appreciation for all these scenes, she also discovered her own love for pop singers. From an early age she took dance classes, cheered, acted in musicals, and competed in talent shows. Before long she was a classic triple threat with an interest in breaking into the industry.
“I came to LA to really pursue that stuff when I was 16,” Lexy says. “So that’s when I started getting in dance classes more seriously and all these things.”
It didn’t hurt that her father had already broken into entertainment himself. Pasha Afshar told Motocross Action Magazine (he’s also an accomplished racer) that he answered a help wanted ad in the LA Times which led to regular work as an extra on movie sets. He says he caught James Cameron’s attention in 1990 on the Terminator 2 set which led to stunt and stand-in work in the series. This part is difficult to quickly verify, but PopApostle says he’s acknowledged by name in the graphic commentary notes that play over a special edition of Terminator 2 on DVD. Pasha worked his way over to acting and producing under the name Tony Panterra, and he appears to be as busy as ever with it today. He passed his industry name and work ethic to his daughter and encouraged her to chase her dreams.
Lexy found some early success with an all-girl R&B group before going solo. She has a growing IMDb listing herself now which includes appearances in Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween series. Her entrepreneurial spirit earned her a huge boost in 2014 when she capitalized on the twerking craze by developing LexTwerkOut, a twerking fitness dance program. When her video content got her on the wrong side of the rarely predictable content moderation enforcement on social media’s biggest video sites, she was one of the earliest adopters of the OnlyFans platform. She spent some time as one of the site’s most subscribed accounts.
With a reliable revenue platform behind her, Lexy’s music production continued to thrive, and her ability to read the trends has kept her near the top. She found herself in the unique position of being an independent artist, free of restrictions and decisionmakers, while having money in the bank to cover studio time, video production, and the endless unexpected costs of doing business. As a result, she’s one of the rare independent artists with the exposure and momentum to release chart-topping songs.
“I’m still learning this business,” Lexy freely admits. “It’s not like being a doctor. You’re just kind of learning as you go. You may make some bad decisions and some good decisions. Right, bad, wrong, who knows what the hell it is, to be honest? You’re just doing as much as you can to push through it toward your passion and your goals and your purpose and dreams.”
But the pandemic came for us all.
Despite continuing work on successful music including her 2020 album Baddie Vibez, the anxiety of the quarantine days exacerbated symptoms of Crohn’s disease she’d dealt with for most of her life, making them more difficult to ignore. With a doctor’s help, she tried medication but didn’t see a positive change. Through a friend, she eventually crossed paths with a specialist who’d suffered from the disease himself. Under his guidance, she overhauled the way she takes care of herself.
In Lexy’s case (talk to your doctor, this is not universal medical advice, and so on) she got to leave the medicine behind in favor of a combination of supplements, probiotics, and willpower. Her primary new rule is that she has to eat like a queen. Her doctor taught her a simple exercise: imagine what you’d be served on a silver platter if you were royalty.
“What do you think the king would be opening up? What’s gonna be there?” she asks. “It’s gonna be fresh fish and juicy chicken and crazy vegetables and mashed potatoes all cooked slow and amazing. That’s literally my diet. That’s what I’m supposed to be eating.”
Now, Lexy says the nutrition changes are rubbing off on family and friends.
The more people she talks to, the more people she hears about who are suffering with the disease (I brought up that my father had been through a diagnosis when I was young), and she’s made it a point to share about her health struggles as an artist.
This mindset has helped Lexy shift her focus to self care, especially as the world advances toward a new normal and she finds herself on a lengthy North American tour. When she’s not flying to several cities each weekend to perform, she appears to be living a deliberately normal life. As we said our hellos on Zoom, we casually traded Netflix recommendations as I tried (unsuccessfully) to fix a display issue. She’s excited about new Black Mirror and I couldn’t stop talking about what they did to Bob Ross in the documentary about his life. She’s studying chakras and meditating toward the sun. She believes in manifestation and in praying to thank God. She told Flaunt that God was going to put her on a new tour before later joining with the Sorry Papi crew, so I’m in no position to question her process.
“I’m learning to take more time for myself,” Lexy says of the transition. “It’s okay to say no to the things that I’m overwhelmed with. That’s been hard for me. I’m kind of working my way through that which is helping me balance everything more.”
Lexy is also very open and thoughtful about the pieces that haven’t quite dropped into place yet. Family is important to her, but they currently have to come a long way to see her, or she has to go a long way to see them. She says her “Disney princess dream” is to build a house somewhere peaceful where the family can join her and a handyman husband will come along. She wants to raise children away from all the chaos and hopes her daughter won’t want to follow in her professional footsteps. At another point in the conversation, she jokes that she’d be content just to leave the industry behind to play guitar and sing for the butterflies.
Unfortunately, her last few relationships around the entertainment industry haven’t panned out. She says she’s not sure whether it’s possible to have two in-demand entertainers in a healthy relationship. Her family is encouraging her to find someone they’d lovingly describe as “normal” instead of another celebrity, but she says online dating isn’t her thing, and she’d like to meet a nice friend of a friend one day. When we drifted back to documentaries, she brought up the lives of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
“You know what they all have in common, all these boss, successful women?” Lexy asks. “They want one thing. Love. They’re all looking for love, and I’m like, oh, so relatable.”
Until then, Lexy says at least the trouble inspires her music, and she’s clearly not done making it. She’s particularly pleased with the current tour and wants to get a new project out to capitalize on her recent success on TikTok. She mentions that she’d consider releasing something through a label deal, not for the cash advance, but for the right investment in marketing and support in setting up interesting collabs. That said, she’s glad not to be one of so many signed artists today locked away working on things they’re no longer interested in.
Not that Lexy has much trouble making connections anyway. She recently shared a screenshot of an Instagram DM from Shaquille O’Neal praising her music which she accidentally ignored for most of a year. I couldn’t help but ask about it while I had her on Zoom.
“That was definitely real,” she assured me. “Hilarious. Right?”
She said she didn’t think she’d ever met him, but she wasn’t completely sure. She admits that losing track of something like that is, again, “not normal.” She’s proud of her experiences and all she’s tapped into during the first half of her life, and she’s looking forward to having good stories and no regrets when she eventually moves on.
Lexy plans to pursue something different entirely when she starts a family. She hints that she may be working on a screenplay or something else in the movie space. She tells me she would “absolutely not” try building a career the same way today, pointing to the fact that you can’t leave the job at work–it’s every part of your life and existence.
“I’ve lived a fabulous, great, blessed, cool badass life. So far, so good,” Lexy assures me. “I’ve always been positive, and there’s been so many ups and downs. These past couple of years have been beyond testing for me. So it’s about the outlook on life and how your mind is doing and your health, behind all of it.”
Lexy Panterra’s social channels, tour dates, and more are available at virginlex.com.
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.