Artist Interview : Lisa Danaë drops music video for single “Starlet,” owning your identity and empowerment
Filipino-American artist Lisa Danaë is back with her single “Starlet,” a proclamation of her values as an artist and a woman. A child of the nineties, Danaë’s California vibe comes through in her vulnerability and raise-the-roof empowerment in the single. No quiet tune, ”Starlet” is full of energy, with party-starting grandiosity and force. The single captures Danae’s initial desire to emulate her pop heroes—from Taylor Swift to Christina Aguilera—and then follows her epiphany that she is her own starlet. This message of owning your identity is spot-on for our current moment in 2020.
Here’s to Danaë’s single awakening in her listeners the same take-no-prisoners belief in their own beauty and limitless potential! “STARLET” is the first of three singles she will be releasing this year. She routinely performs livestream shows and regularly releases a talk-music podcast called Sound Scrub.
Your new single Starlet comes out during a time of great social change. How is this single--and your music in general--a great message for this cultural moment?
During this time, a lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their daily routine, which has created social shock. The majority feel lost and experience self-doubt, which has led to discussions about mental health and self-awareness. My music is about inclusivity and facing challenges that lead to self-acceptance and self-love. So in a time where society is currently facing a major shift, I want to be a light and spread positivity.
As a Filipino-American, what are some challenges you have encountered in your musical career? Do you have any advice for other Filipino-American musicians trying to make it in the music business right now?
Since I’ve been in the music industry, there is not a lot of representation in not only the Filipino-American community, but the Asian community as a whole. This hasn’t been explicitly said, but just the fact that I’ve been turned down and taken advantage of so many times and noticing how there’s not really attention on, not only me, but other Asian artists, is really discouraging. I’ve been told by a brand that my image didn’t fit, and I just thought they meant aesthetically. But recently, their CEO stepped down because of racism allegations in the workplace, so it kind of makes me wonder. It took me a very long time to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin and be proud to be a Filipino-American. Sometimes I feel like I definitely tried to push away my culture and “Americanize” just so I could fit in, but it was very forced and made me feel uncomfortable. I’d rather stay true to myself and stand out, so I hope other Filipino-American artists learn to embrace that if they ever feel alone.
Your music has been compared to Halsey and Taylor Swift. Are these influences in your music? Have you had other musical influences? If so, what was their effect upon you as an artist?
I think lyrically I can be unapologetic in my writing as I, again, want to be authentic and honest with things that happen in my life, which is very similar to the style of writing from both women. When I was younger, my parents would listen to Etta James, Michael Jackson, Queen, KISS, Ella Fitzgerald, The Commodores, and many more, so they definitely encouraged me to be well-rounded and listen to different genres. As I got older, I was very into No Doubt, ‘NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Alicia Keys, and so many more artists. To me, music is a universal language, so I feel like I pull inspiration from any artist and any genre.
How did growing up in California influence your music career?
California is a very fast-paced environment. Everyone is always hustling and I’ve been moving nonstop since I was little. I was very involved in school and had many extracurricular activities such as violin lessons, piano lessons, art class, dance class, volleyball, etc. I’m also known to be an over-achiever, so I think being around that type of environment my whole life has really pushed me to constantly work on my craft and learn how to do a lot of things so I could manage everything myself and not wait around for anyone.
Do you see any new opportunities for musicians right now as we navigate this pandemic? How are the challenges of social distancing helping musicians to develop new ways of reaching their fans?
I think it’s time for independent artists to come into the spotlight. I think what’s happening right now is a lot of the music we hear on mainstream radio all sounds the exact same. As an independent artist, you’re able to stay true to yourself and make the art that you feel passionate about, which is more authentic and genuine. Not many signed artists are allowed to release whatever they want, which can essentially hinder your craft. I think now more than ever, we are all looking for something relatable, so I think we’ll start to see a shift. With that, a lot more independent musicians, who may not have been able to book gigs or couldn’t afford to tour, are able to dive into live-streaming, so now they can be heard from around the world. And then there is, of course, social media which allows you to showcase more of your personal life as well. I think each social media platform like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, etc., allows you to have a different personality, which is really cool and can help keep your content fresh and allow fans to see all sides of you.
Your messages about identity and being a woman will resonate with today's listeners. What are the challenges of being a female musician in today's music industry?
Women are constantly scrutinized and judged off of what we wear, how we act, and what we say. As I’ve mentioned, I have struggled being a Filipino-American in the music industry, and as a female artist, I’ve actually had men admit they fear how independent I am and I didn’t really know how to take that. I don’t understand the term “act like a lady” when men can just walk around and do whatever they want without being held accountable for their actions. The music industry is very confusing in the ways it exploits women. It’s like they want us to exist because we still live in a society where “sex sells,” but they somehow want us to be submissive to men, and they think it’s cool to criticize our every move. Women definitely walk a fine line. I also can’t stand how the industry likes to pin female artists against one another as if we’re just porcelain dolls being auctioned off to the highest bidder. At this point, I’m just tired of it, and I, again, just stay true to myself and really try to show my support to other female artists as much as I can.
With your single's release of July 24th, and the video for the single release date of September 9th, what have been some of the challenges leading up to this point?
“STARLET”’s release was originally scheduled for June 19th, which is actually my birthday and the reason why I chose that date. I decided on that date before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was a little worried about the timing, but decided to stick with the initial release. But then the tragic events of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement started happening at the end of May. I was in the middle of filming the music video and in the middle of my marketing campaign, but I just couldn’t focus. Something felt off and just icky as I continued to promote, and I started feeling really selfish, so I decided to postpone the release because I wanted to redirect my energy positively in other ways. As a result of these events, I was actually able to find another meaning behind “STARLET” that I didn’t initially think of when we wrote this at the end of 2019. Overall, I don’t want to look at these events as challenges, but more as an opportunity to take the time to self-reflect and grow.
Written by Cynthia Darling
Cynthia Darling is currently working toward her MFA in Creative Writing with the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. She holds an MA in English from Boston College and has taught high school English for the past 20 years. Cynthia’s literary work has appeared in Louisiana Literature, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Wanderlust Journal, and as part of the literary series Quiet Lightning. She has written for Teaching Music magazine, New York Family magazine and All About Solo. Check out her writing here: www.cynthiaburnsdarling.com
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