Quiana Lynell

Vocalist, Vocal Coach

March 22, 2017


How old are you?

I am old enough to have children and a mortgage.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Tyler, Texas and spent most of my school age in Abilene, Texas. I moved to Baton Rouge to study at LSU and I’ve been a Louisiana girl ever since.

What brought you to New Orleans?

New Orleans is where I have my career. As a vocalist and as somebody who focuses their life around music, this is the place where it all happens.

Why are you still here?

I love it here. There’s nowhere else you can get the level of musicianship in so many different kinds of music that is available here. And the community of people that are willing to help you foster your dream and achieve your goals in that musician community is unlike any other in the world. I came here to study a lot of jazz and where else can you go to learn from the baddest cats in the industry?

Do you remember being told or taught anything while growing up about the behavioral expectations of being a girl?

Oh yeah. I’m from the south. I heard the hings that girls are supposed to do, not supposed to do. I heard the gambit of standard things that American girls are told. Stay inside, don’t pick up heavy things, cross your legs, don’t curse, don’t be too outspoken, be careful that people don’t perceive you as being pushy and, even more so, aggressive. As an African-American woman, it’s kind of a double-double standard upon us. Sit like a lady, walk like a girl, run like a girl. How do you do these things? I’m a person.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

Sexism is not being allowed the same opportunities as the other side of the gender coin and being expected to be a less capable  person because of your gender.

And how does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

I actually feel thankful that it’s 2017 and I’m being treated that way I’m being treated and not the way women were treated in 1940 or 1920—or 1960! Where we are now is not great but there have been women that have dealt with so much more than what I’ve dealt with. I’m grateful that they trenched through and persevered and crated a change for us. I’m hopeful to create that same kind of change for women who come after me.

Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?

Sometimes people are just ignorant and dumb. They’re dumb and uncompassionate and hurtful but some people really don’t know. There are so many stereotypical norms that have been put in place by society and if you grow up in this environment where those norms are accepted and nobody challenges them, that’s all you know. I don’t let things fly but I try to give people a chance. If something happens to me, I’m going to call you on it but I’m not just going to assume that you were trying to be sexist toward me.

Speaking of those stereotypes, are there any particulars of men or women that drive you insane?

It is often assumed that I’m not the leader of the band, that I’m just the musician’s girlfriend that came to the gig early. I’m the leader. And while I am a vocalist, it is automatically assumed that I am the vocalist just because I am female. I know many instrumentalists that ask, “Why do people always think I’m the singer? I’m the piano player! I have a saxophone in my hand. Do you not see this saxophone in my hand? I’m not the singer.” I bring my own sound equipment and people assume that I don’t know how to use it. I’m not incompetent when it comes to something that I own. It’s my equipment. I know how I want it. It’s assumed that I don’t know the music besides the melody or I don’t know how to read music or I don’t know how to compose a song or I don’t know what rhythm and different grooves are or that I don’t know how to lead. It’s assumed that I am super emotional or catty or a diva or that I’m going to be late. Those are all assumptions that some individuals have based on me being a woman. When I call a rehearsal, people say “We thought you were going to be late. Singers are always late.” What? No we’re not. This is a business.

Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you that may have stuck with you?

One time a club owner didn’t want to let me in because I wasn’t “part of the band”. Or if I show up to a gig early and am not dressed “like the singer” yet, people give me looks that say, "What are you doing here?” I’m the band leader. Band leaders come early, they set up, they check the sound, they check the electrical outlets. There are things that we need to make sure our gig goes well and yet when I show up people say, “You’re going to do this yourself?” It’s my business, yes I’m going to do this myself. I was once at a rehearsal with a band and there was a younger woman there playing her horn. An older guy came up to her and told her, “You need to sit like a lady whenever you’re in the chair. You need to sit up and have your posture right.” Did you tell that to everybody who was slouched in their chair? Don’t tell her to sit up just because she’s a lady. If she needs a certain posture for playing her instrument, fine, but direct that to everybody that’s holding a horn as well. Do not single her out because she’s a girl that happens to be playing a horn. She needs to sit like a lady? What? I told her, “Don’t you let him to talk to you like that. Sit however you want. Keep in mind your posture for your instrument but not because you’re a lady.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

What I really want to say is that the root of a lot of problems we face are that people are really prejudice. Sexism is a stem of a prejudice just like racism. All those things come from having pre-assumed ideas about how things should be. If we as a community face our prejudices, that would help ease all the stigmas and problems that we deal with, right? We are all beings capable of whatever we set our minds to. Erase the prejudice and preconceived ideas and that will benefit us all.