As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I’d like to continue to highlight women in art who have inspired me. It’s not very often that women of the millennial generation get the respect they deserve. We all (understandably) revere our ancestors and Queen Mothers, but there’s something keenly special about the modern women (and girl) growing up in a world that is still trying to socially navigate with the never-ending ebb and flow of time.
Today, I’d like to highlight three more women whom I admire for their strength, vision and fearlessness in a world that especially in our current times is attempting to lead us all by fear.
I was first introduced to this young woman outside of her stage persona. It was a clip I came across on Twitter. A young woman, a light airiness to her voice, was expounding the benefits of rose water to the skin. She had a tone like a sigh kissing the rose petals she used for the elixir she created. At that time, I didn’t know much about her, but I felt this kindred spirit, an otherworldly connection to someone who celebrates her womanhood with every breath she takes. Then I heard the song “Brujas.”
Princess Nokia is an enchanting rapper. That’s not to suggest she’s by any means delicate. Quite the contrary. She’s a powerful presence on stage or on wax. Her voice, while wrapped in a somewhat rugged softness, is mighty. She epitomizes the notion of “P*ssy Power” — unapologetically feminine, boisterous, fearless. She is a voice for the disenfranchised, the misfits, the “weird” girls. In the same moment that she’s proclaiming that with her “small titties and … fat belly” she’s a tomboy, she wraps her arms around any young fan who approaches her.
She uses her platform to speak with fervor and intention about the necessity of intersectionality in feminism. Along with Milah Libin, she founded the Smart Girl Club, a collective that seeks to empower women and allow them a space to express themselves. Nokia and Libin offer healing workshops, Nokia being a healer herself, that seeks to help women purge their anxieties. She also champions efforts to help the citizens of Puerto Rico, still suffering from the neglect and not-so-subtle racist apathy following Hurricane Maria.
Rapper, singer, activist, spiritual healer. Woman. Princess Nokia is the type of celestial being we should all strive to be. Learn more about Smart Girl Club and her efforts in Puerto Rico. You can also watch a documentary the FADER did about her as well as listen to “The Voices in my Head,” her radio show, on Apple Music.
There’s something to be said about a woman who doesn’t give a damn about what anyone has to say about her. Love her or hate her, Jvcki Wai is a force to be reckoned with. If I’m being perfectly honest it wasn’t her music that really attracted me to her. Honestly, it doesn’t do much for me. What does appeal to me, however, is her attitude. Sure, any woman can be brusque, loud and curse with the best of ’em. However, there isn’t an overwhelming abundance of this type of fearlessness in South Korea, especially among women. Jvcki comes in spouting lyrics that could make even her male peers blush. I was really impressed with that ballsy brashness when she performed at South by Southwest this year. I dig her because she’s got a big mouth and doesn’t really care if you’re with her or not. I can’t help it. I love a woman who goes for it without worrying about what somebody has to say about her.
There’s so much I could say about Maimoua Youssef, most commonly known by her stage name Mumu Fresh. Just as Princess Nokia, she has a spiritual core that radiates femininity and pride in who she is and where she came from. She creates music that celebrates womanhood while also deconstructing its pain. She’s very proud of her First Nations heritage, often speaking with fearless affirmation of both her Creek and Cherokee lineages on her Instagram page as well as incorporating the culture, language and tonal inflections in her music and live performances. Never mind that vocally she’s a powerhouse and her pen is absolutely alive!
Her NPR Tiny Desk performance is an emotional, spiritual experience. Sister Youssef is magical. Her voice stretches far, digs into your psyche and forces you to look at the world in a different way, from a perspective that removes the “you,” making you consider the earth, those things beyond the physical. She’s an unapologetic activist, dedicated to educating the next generation. Through her music, I feel solidarity, a deep connection to the First Nations blood within me. Every time I listen to her, I’m reawakened to an ancestry that I’m far more removed from than I like to believe. She openly admits that she’s “a work in progress.” Proud and beautifully free in her energy and essence, Sister Youssef expresses the light in suffocating darkness, the beauty in perpetuated ugliness.