Vocalist, Composer, Producer
May 25, 2016
How old are you?
And where are you from originally?
How long have you been in New Orleans?
I’ve been in New Orleans for four years now but I’m actually moving tomorrow.
What brought you to New Orleans?
I initially came here to go to Tulane University and was very attracted to the jazz scene which is kind of what was the final motivator. I ended up transferring from Tulane to Loyola and I just graduated like four days ago.
How do you define sexism?
How do I define sexism? That question just gets right in there. How do you define sexism? Sexism for me is like—god, how do I answer this question? I think the word sexism is shrouded in so much confusion that it alienates people from being able to claim that they’ve experienced it and claim that they deserve not to experience it. Sexism isn’t this really taboo crazy thing that only certain people act out. It’s an undercurrent; a texture of our daily lives. It’s a facet of all these interactions that we have and I guess like an undertow of them. I’m struggling with answering the question. Just because I see sexism doesn’t mean that the people who were sexist towards me or sexist towards somebody that I encounter are bad people or that they’re even sexist people. But that’s not to say that they’re not because I think that most people have a bit of sexism in them. Many woman that I know and myself all have some that’s just kind of leftover from years of not thinking about that concept and unknowingly molding ourselves to the world around us. That’s happened to me before and I’ve rethought it and not even noticed until afterwards. Sexism is the assumption that women are somehow less than men but that can be specified in many ways.
You touched on this a little bit but do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way? If not, do you think forms of sexism are so engrained in our experiences and our upbringing that we don’t mentally register it?
Yeah, I think so. I notice sexism when I encounter it but maybe I notice it less than a lot of people and more than a lot of other people. Being a female in a situation where I work with mostly guys, I refuse to work with anyone who doesn’t give me a good vibe and if I feel a trace of any type of hierarchical energy coming at me, I suddenly find that those people aren’t in my life anymore because I phase them out with a lot of urgency. I’ve definitely fired people for being sexist and I come into contact with famous men who I want to work with who then try to like booty call me. It’s disappointing but at the same time I feel a little bit numb to it.
Do you think that there is a level of expectation from those outside parties that it could or may happen and that is why it may not seem as severe?
I definitely lose respect for those people because it’s one thing if somebody approaches you in a respectful, polite manner and it’s another thing if somebody…I don’t know if I should say all this but I’ve definitely been very sexualized in many scenarios by people that I’ve thought of as professional contacts or peers and thathas really skewed what my goals were in those situations.
Do you ever feel that successful men in this industry express wanting to work with you only for the intention of sleeping with you?
Typically I think I feel like people just want to work with me. I guess they maybe want something else too. There’s this assumption that if you hook up with somebody that you can’t also work with them but I’m so cool with that, that’s not a thing for me. The straight answer to that is yes, that happens to women constantly but I think that’s not something that’s usually on my mind. I assume that everyone wants to hook up with me and that they want to work with me and then I choose. And sometimes I do that to guys. Occasionally if I’m talking to a male musician, I sometimes am not really into their music but I’m into them. Does that make me sexist? I know I’ve been in situations when I’m talking to a musician and I’m not really into the music that they make but I’m into them and then I wonder if I’m being sexist.
Do you think that you have the mindset that you do now because of past experiences?
I don’t want to come off as a bitch, but I’m going to be super honest. I think that as a female musician especially if you’re the front person in a band and eyes are on you and you’re really moving your body, you are a sexualized figure. It’s just an interesting relationship that I have to sexual energy in the room. I feel so often that people want something from me and that they want to come in and adjust something that’s inside of my force field. I’ve been in situations where I’ve fired people because I felt like their masculine energy was really coming at me too strong and I’m a subtle, very feminine woman. I like to be around people that I feel safe with who I feel like I can put my guard down with and I’ve worked with a lot of people who love that about me but also try to shape me and shape the direction that I go musically. If I feel too much alpha energy in a room with me, I typically just need to fire those people in the end. If this person helps me but then the relationship turns into something where they were really edging up towards having a more powerful stance than I do and they’re trying to change what I’m doing and I fire them does that mean that I’m a bitch or a user?
In our society, yes.
Totally. It’s empowering to question that feeling because it’s really hurtful to feel that way because you don’t want to be “that person”. Specifically you don’t want to be a bitch, like an ungrateful woman, like a heartless woman. And I have tenderness and love in my heart for every single person that I’ve worked with but I have had to let people go. My energy has a different quality to it than that of those around me. It’s more subtle, it’s more nuanced, it’s more feminine, it’s more gentle and it’s trusting and it’s not hard. I’m a direct person but that’s also how I get shit done. My energy is very feminine. It’s like moonlight. So if I’m working with people I have to make sure that I am going to be safe there. If people are belittling me and looking down on me and treating me like I’m not as good of a musician as them because I’m a singer and I don’t know as much music theory as they do, that’s sexist to me for some reason, but is it really? I feel like it all has to do with body language and vibe in a room so you can’t necessarily hear something and know if someone was being sexist but you can tell if someone is looking down on you and you can feel the energy of them writing you off because of your sexual nature or because of your gender. I’ve experienced that like anyone.
Do you ever feel like women have to not only be at the same level as their male counterparts, but do everything better?
Yes I do. I really do. Women typically have more to prove. Anything that’s artistic or off beat, it’s like “Oh of course you know the girl is going to kill that,” but something that’s more logical, like sound engineer, even film, or the piano player or the drummer, that should be a guy. But then the singer, of that should be a girl because that’s so sexual. Anything that’s sexual and artsy and fluid, it’s like, well, that’s for a woman. I have never questioned women in those positions.
Thinking of them is a conscious thought whereas the stereotypes are already engrained.
I really strive now to build a homey circle of queens. Just rep women, rep other female artists especially if they’re R&B or electronica artists. There’s just this fucking culture of women being pitted against each other in all industries, in relationships, in work, in social circles. In so many different contexts, women are taught that there’s only room for one of us in the tribe. We need to rep each other and we need to rep each other tirelessly and fiercely. Always hire the woman. You’re so much happier when you do that and shit gets done better when you do that.
Do you feel it’s worse when other women are guilty of sexist behavior?
I do feel that way because like, what the fuck? There’s a misconception that the spotlight is finite or that success is finite or only so many women can do well in this industry and in every industry or in relationships. There’s this feeling that there’s only so much room for us so that is our responsibility to combat and to challenge. And the only way to challenge it is with love and openness and inclusiveness. Just work with women, hire women, call women up and cook for them.
Have your experiences with inequality or sexism in New Orleans specifically differed from your experiences elsewhere or is it all just one sexist experience?
Well, I’ve only really done work as a musician here but when I was in high school in San Francisco, sexism was just appalling. It was crazy and it was cutting. It wasn’t even subtle for shit. Women were being blatantly abused and the comments were coming from a place of direct spite or anger. When I think about how sexist my high school experience was I feel very thrown off by it and how much that shaped my growth.
Was that coming from other students?
Yeah, male students. Also just from the entire culture and the music that we listened to. We listened to hip-hop music and the sex education was so lacking that we were basically getting our education from porn and hip-hop music.
I never really thought about that.
They don’t teach about sex for pleasure in school. They teach about the strict biology of it and they give the basic lowdown on consent but they don’t go into the undercurrents that dictate how you might feel in a situation with someone that you might love and how that might influence what you agree to or do not agree to. I grew up in a Catholic church and I learned in Sunday school about how preciousness with regard to sexuality is finite and I think that really carries across. That’s kind of a subliminal message women have been hearing in many walks of their lives: our sexual preciousness is finite. And that needs to be fucking obliterated. And it’s really interesting how that influences the way that I date men versus the way that I date women.
What are the differences?
Right off the bat, I will have sex with a woman right when I meet her and I will never do that with a man. I grew up learning about what it means to be a woman, the jealously, the insecurity, the objectification, the finite-ness of our value that is so a part of heterosexual culture. I just learned so many ways about how I should feel in heterosexual relationships but nobody ever told me how to date women so there was no fear. I had so much fear around sex with men and so much fear that I would feel like I was being raped if I had sex with a man. I never was taught anything about what it would be like having sex with a woman or dating a woman and so I just felt like it was a playful expression of my divinity. I didn’t have any preconceived notions when I started dating women so it was just a much more pure, unadulterated expression of myself and that’s just fucking fascinating to me because it really makes me wonder what it would be like dating a man if I didn’t have all these goddamn hang-ups and constructs.
I feel like everything we’re talking about exists in a grey area.
The bottom line is that none of the constructs that we’ve learned are real. Whenever you have a sexist thought in your mind, it’s not coming from a place of truth, it’s coming from a story that you’ve grown up with. We can let that shit go. We can rewrite stories.
Something that’s fascinating to me in a negative way is that growing up and going from child to adolescent to teenager, I was always taught to be careful of this, watch out for that, instead of explaining to perpetrators that what they’re doing is wrong in the first place. We’re taught to play the defensive instead of teaching others to not play the offensive. And it can go both ways, women can abuse men.
Yeah but honestly we don’t ever think about the fact that all the mass killings and all the really big acts of violence we can think of have all been by men. They’re all by men. It’s almost that if you hear of a female serial killer, there’s almost a feeling of “Oh, good for you.”
She got hers.
There’s almost a mystique around it.
I actually just finished reading a book that tells all the stories that inspired the musical Chicago and at that time in Cook County, women were carrying out some of the most violent acts against people and they wouldn’t convict them. It was like Hollywood there and these people were stars.
The killers? Why?
Because they were women and they were pretty and they were privileged and that’s all the newspapers talked about.
And until a certain point, every single woman accused of murder in Cook County was acquitted. There was no fear that a woman who carried out a murder would go to jail because she was celebrated.
That kind of just goes to show that they weren’t taken seriously despite what they did. They didn’t pose a real threat.
And in a lot of cases, it can be just as detrimental for women to act in a way that perpetuates that. It’s one thing if I’m scared to walk to my car for whatever reason and I take advantage of a friend offering to walk me to my car than if I say, “Walk me to my car because you’re a man and that’s what you should do.”
It’s really interesting because the girl that I’m dating right now is really masculine and so I will walk with her at nighttime in New Orleans and feel really safe when I would never do that with anyone else. That’s just fucking fascinating to me.
Is it just that she has that strength that comes across as masculine?
She wears “boy” clothes, she’s really tall, she’s been arrested like five times.
She’s hardened, alright.
(laughter) She could definitely fuck someone up. She holds this more masculine space but it’s really funny because guys just like love her. They respect the fuck out of her. It’s so interesting. One time we were going to the liquor store next to The Boot and these college boys were loving her and talking to her so much and they didn’t even acknowledge me. They weren’t being mean to me or anything like that but they just loved [her]. They knew that I was with her and they were started asking her like “So what’s the best way to get a girl off?” and shit. And I was like “Are you fucking kidding me right now?” I just think it’s so interesting because she has these masculine qualities and she doesn’t need men and they so respect her.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I heard this statistic that a man’s biggest concern when using the dating app Tinder is that the girl he meets up with is going to be fat and the woman’s biggest concern is being murdered.