“My body is the ship and I’m simply the passenger. I go where she takes me and I listen and learn from her. It’s taken me years to learn how to love and listen to my body.”
What was / is your biggest “struggle” as a woman?
The fear of never being enough. The fear that I’m not doing enough, saying enough, quiet enough, pretty enough, talented enough, intelligent enough, kind enough, present enough, feminine enough. It’s always been about my cup not being full enough. Also unlearning generational trauma like shame and emotions that relate to feeling unworthy of love. Healing myself before prioritizing the healing of others.
What significant event had the biggest impact on you ?
Finding out my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. My grandmother was my best friend. I lived in her house when I discovered that she had Alzheimer’s. I noticed the slight shifts in her behaviour and her tendencies and for a short while I was in denial about whether or not she was okay. That event changed my life and hers drastically in the blink of an eye. She was taken from me maybe a year or two after that and my life was never the same. I was numb for years.
What did you learn from that?
I didn’t know that when you repress the truth about how you feel, that it can eventually lead to Alzheimer’s and even dementia. It’s so important for me to speak the truth about how I feel. I learned how to slow down and how to look deeper and understand that maybe things aren’t always what they seem. I learned how to ask questions even when I’m scared to. I learned how to listen with a deeper heart. I learned how to pay closer attention to little things. I learned that trauma and dissociation are complicated to navigate and that in order to heal from trauma you need A LOT of rest and time. I learned how to be patient in my own healing from the shock of finding out about it.
What is your relationship with your body and more specifically related to the main topic we discussed in person?
My body is the ship and I’m simply the passenger. I go where she takes me and I listen and learn from her. It’s taken me years to learn how to love and listen to my body. In my adult-ing, I’ve learned how important it is to show affection to yourself where affection has been denied. To acknowledge when spaces (even home) are no longer loving and to leave them. To trust your intuition and prioritize your safety. I received love and affection as a child but after experiencing CSA (childhood sexual abuse) at 9 years old, when I spoke up about it, no one knew how to acknowledge it and didn’t want to talk about it. It created chaos in my relationships at home and at school because I was taught to pretend that nothing ever happened. There weren’t any hugs and kisses at home anymore. The mother-daughter relationship can become strained and complicated when abuse isn’t acknowledged. The denial of the abuse caused me confusion in my life primarily in my teens and made me feel like I had done something terribly wrong. I felt unworthy of love. I also yearned for ANY physical connectivity. So, where I was denied physical touch, I would replace that touch in the form of emotionless sexual relationships and thus perpetuated a cycle of sexually and physically abusive relationships in my 20’s onwards. During that time, I was dieting constantly and trying desperately to be thin. I did a cleanse at 21 and was hospitalized for exhaustion for starving myself and not drinking enough water. I knew I had to change but I didn’t know what to change. What I didn’t realize was that I was trying to escape from the pain of the childhood abuse and because I was raised to feel ashamed of it, I repressed my abuse for so many years and escaped into many different jobs, relationships, and created countless distractions until I was re-triggered by a sexual assault in 2015. That’s when I knew that the CSA was something I would have to heal to manage my groundedness, my relationships, and my artistic practice. Through therapy, I had to learn how to shift the way in which I think and talk to myself but more importantly, I had to accept the experience as simply an experience and not as the definition of my life. Music was the vehicle that helped me to hear my own voice and identify my toxic patterns. Singing is my most vulnerable practice and I had many relationships where I would feel discomfort singing around my partner. Chances are, if I can’t practice my art around you, it’s a pretty loud indication of whether or not we should be in relation with one another. Music helped me to steer my ship (body,) singing taught me how to trust my voice (soul.)
I recently learned that it’s unloving to ask or expect someone to do something that they’re unable or unwilling to do. I forgave my parents for their inability to be present for me in the way I wanted them to be. Seeing as they only knew what they’ve been taught and didn’t receive many of the privileges I’m afforded, it’s unloving to ask them for love that they themselves never received. Resentment created huge blocks in my body. I had to learn how to forgive (at times without closure) to heal those emotional blocks. Performing and reiki helps me to heal those blocks.
How do you grow a plant rooted in foundational toxicity? You don’t. You uproot and repot the plant in foundational love. High frequency is linked directly to positivity, love, peacefulness, compassion, and forgiveness. Fear, hate, anxiety, pettiness, sadness and depression all live in low vibrational frequencies. You attract love and abundance when you’re operating at higher frequencies. I literally had to rewire my ways of thinking and repot my body in a different location to practice something I wasn’t taught how to do. Now, in my healing process I actually wake up and kiss my own arms, legs, shoulders. I have a very intimate and loving relationship with my body. I heal my body in many ways but mainly through music therapy, hot yoga, reiki and meditation.
What women inspire you the most and why?
Black Mothers. They deserve way more credit simply for surviving. Black Female Artists inspire me in general. I have a tremendous amount of respect for any Black Womxn who isn’t afraid to express themselves or their political views musically. I’m deeply inspired by Black Womxn who are healers and I’m grateful to have many in my life. I have two cousins who inspire me endlessly. King Yaa is an incredible inspiration to my life. She is a queer Body Movement Specialist who assists in queer and trans folx learning functionality. She teaches me the importance of positive self-talk, movement and shifting the conversation about losing weight or being healthy. She is by far one of the most intelligent womxn I’ve ever known and lives in Cape Town with her children. She is goals personified. My other cousin Kiah Cato is a professional yoga instructor and is flexible, brilliant, kind-hearted and talented. She inspires me deeply as well. My grandmother who is my best friend also inspires me as an immigrant who came to this Country and worked her way up to becoming a successful librarian. My good friend Sarah Taylor who is an artist and evolving force of nature inspires me to my core with her art and unyielding zest for life, love and healing. Nicole Angela of Water inspires me as a healer and sister. Andreena, Savannah Ré, Jessie Reyez, Amaal Nuux, Vivek Shraya, Falana all inspire me as trailblazing + healing musicians. Jully Black inspires me with her fearlessness as a musician and as a grounded light-worker and sister. Meshell Ndegeocello inspires me because she is one of the few musicians who has transitioned into music supervision and does an incredible job as a composer and writer. My beautiful friend Tina Mpondani who runs a Book + Brunch in Montreal is an artist and creative and she inspires me to my core. Marie-Ange who is an award-winning publicist inspires me. Karena Evans and Tanisha Scott inspire me as two sisters who are killing their respective careers. Kelly Fyffe-Marshall who directed the film I starred in called “Haven” inspires me. Emily Mills of HowSheHustles inspires me as an incredible, positive and loving force. My friend Clairandean who is a pilates instructor and musician inspires me because she has literally healed her body from the inside out. Reesee Zigga Zagga inspires me and saved my life with her event series Reclaim: Your Voice. She’s an angel. Nova Browning-Rutherford inspires me as a life coach and my dear friend. My lovely friend Madame Gandhi who I truly believe is one of the most profound female voices of our time. She inspires my soul. Katrina Lopes is an inspiring Black woman who I take great pride in working with. She is patient, exudes kindness and teaches me so much about the art of letting go. It’s a blessing to have womxn in my life who are progressive, honest, understanding, and loving. It doesn’t make me feel alone or unworthy of love. That’s important.
What is the hardest / most important decision you had to make regarding your body and your perception of it?
The hardest decision I had to make regarding my body was rewiring my brain to understand sexual sovereignty and dominion. That my body is my sovereign ground. She is in control of where she goes and who she allows in her space. I didn’t know I had dominion over my own body for most of my life. Sexual sovereignty relates to understanding that we have full ownership of our body and sexual nature, and that no person, institution or government has the right to take it from us.
Why does society value so much the standards of modern beauty and more specifically the body of women?
Society has been brainwashed to like what they’ve been force-fed. It’s like having a hit song on the radio. You hear a song in the car on the radio. You may hate the song at first listen, but you’re sitting in traffic for 4 hours and it plays every half hour and eventually you like it. Not because you actually like it but because it’s annoyingly there. Eventually you start humming it. Then you crave it. Then you buy it not realizing that you initially couldn’t stand it and you’ve been brainwashed to like it. Society values the standard of modern beauty because they don’t realize they’ve been forced to accept what we’ve been conditioned to see. White, skinny, free of life or living. When a certain standard is shoved down your throat, you naturally accept it as the norm. Unless you’re brave and conscious enough to think otherwise, you’ll assume that what you see is the truth. Hetero-cis men typically view women’s bodies as sexual objects and generally refuse to unpack sexual objectification. Womxn are seen as sexual commodities rather than human beings. The patriarchy is real and is deeply ingrained. Men in my household were always prioritized and as the eldest, I was forced to clean up after them and do their laundry. I see my body as a work of art that carries my many lived experiences that are to be appreciated, adored, respected and protected. Black Womxn barely get a pass for surviving their generational and ancestral trauma which is complete bullshit because it’s taken me years to heal and I’m pretty sure I’m still healing today. To me, the real beauty lies in the survival.
What is the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship with oneself (body and mind)
Learning how to identify the ego. I read this book called “A New Earth” by Ekhart Tolle and this book completely changed my perspective on the ego. I used to think that the ego was the most braggadocious part of myself. It’s actually the mind and the most negative thoughts that come out of the mind. Most folks assume that every thought is either their identity or a reflection of their identity. They assume their thoughts are WHO THEY ARE. I behaved like this for years and it was really problematic. Eventually you realize that not every thought that pops into your head is the truth. Sometimes we make things up to make ourselves feel comfortable. I could think at this very moment that I want to kill someone. But I don’t. It’s simply a negative thought. Eventually you have to discern between what is YOU and what is just a thought. Learning how to identify my ego has helped me to love my body from the inside out through positive self-talk. I talk to myself daily with daily affirmations, I chant and pray each morning and night for myself and for others. I surround myself with those who honour and respect my need for privacy and the freedom to heal. My friend Sarah BahBah taught me that when you long to maintain relationships with toxic people, it’s usually the ego that wants to be in relation with those people. Not your actual identity. Your true identity wants to be at peace and wants to be surrounded by encouraging, loving and positive people. Learning this was an important lesson in my overall wellness. It taught me how to focus on loving myself so I would attract true love and break the generational curse of maintaining toxic relationships.
When do you feel the most beautiful?
– When a baby grabs your face and kisses you and giggles. It’s the best.
– When I’m on stage or nude.
– When someone you love is staring across from you at dinner. Phones are away and it’s just sweet whispers and bliss.
Why did you want to participate in this project?
Because it’s important for me to be transparent about my personal experiences. Growing up in a Christian household, it was damn-near forbidden to discuss sex, relationships, abuse or exploration of any kind. It’s important for me as a Black Woman to identify and heal from my generational trauma and to eradicate dated ideologies that no longer serve me. Keeping up the facade made it that much harder to maintain healthy relationships (friendships and romantic) with other Womxn. Sometimes I think about having children and I aspire to be the kind of mother who can answer any question without getting angry, frustrated, or uncomfortable. That’s a challenge for me because I wasn’t raised that way but it’s a challenge that I’m up for. The same amount of empathy I would want for myself is the same amount I need to be able to provide. I think it’s important to give womxn the flexibility and space to find themselves, to fall apart and to fuck up unconditionally. It helps younger womxn to identify, unlearn, and grow. It also humanizes us and connects us to one another on a deeper level. I think that’s what The Womanhood Project is about. Humanizing and exploring the side of the womxn that lives under the societal mask.
How was the experience?
It was a loving, cathartic and necessary. Thank you. <3