We had the good fortune of connecting with Sonia Grace and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sonia, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
When I first started doing music, it was a great way to work through struggles and express myself but over the years, it’s become a way for me to speak out against issues affecting our world, such as body image, race, poverty and feminism. After living through the COVID-19, the contentious election, police brutality protests and the general `despair of the past year, I created “Human Kind” to encourage everyone to keep hope alive during this difficult time. I want to continue making music that moves people, helps them get through hardships and leaves them feeling inspired.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I arrived in Cedar Falls, Iowa, from Kenya, I expected to find a magical world, just like I’d seen on internationally broadcast television shows such as Charmed and 7th Heaven. Instead I found myself trapped in an endless cycle of body insecurity, racial identity, and severe depression. In Kenya, I used to sing in choir and had formed singing groups with my friends but in America, my confidence plummeted so much it hindered my love of music. When I wasn’t crying because of how unsatisfied I was with my looks, I was trying to figure out if I should identify as black or Kenyan. In most places in Africa, people identify with either their native communities and/or country but never by race. In America, I was hit with a rude awakening when I realized that race played a big role in people’s identity. Each race had specific traits that defined it and kept those who didn’t fit the criteria, outside. For me, race in America was a double edged sword. My black skin color left me isolated in the predominantly white town my family had relocated to. My heavy Anglo-African accent and different cultural upbringing didn’t fit into the box designated for African-Americans. Redundant questions and offensive comments about my ethnicity and identity ostracized me at school, at work and in the community.
I knew the only way to fit into my new town was to give up parts of my Kenyan identity and adapt to an American one. This led me to aspire to an unattainable body image that was very far removed from what was considered beautiful in my African culture. Women with fuller bodies, but not fat, were the ideal beauty standard but in the small town of Cedar Falls, and American TV, thin was the holy grail. I spent hours looking at photos of thin, mostly white models, thinking if I exercised for long hours and didn’t eat, I would look like a cover girl. When I couldn’t achieve a runway-ready body, I consoled herself by trying to emulate the musicians who were also famous for their curvy bodies. Although their perfect hourglass bodies with a tiny waist, voluptuous butts and pornstar breasts were a better alternative, they too, looked nothing like me
It wasn’t until I started watching Behind The Music on vh1, that I saw a light at the end of a tumultuous tunnel. Stories of musicians who’d inspired me to do music from an early age, such as Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot, proved to me that I too could overcome all of my insecurities and identity crises, and become successful. I reclaimed my passion for music and used it as a tool to make peace with my body and my identity.
Drawing from my idols Aguilera and Elliot, I turned my experiences into storytelling lyrics. I used hip hop, bouncy pop melodies, Afro-Fusion R&B, and spoken word to write from an honest place. I chronicled my reconciliation with my identity in “What The Hell Is Regular Black?” and acceptance of my body with “The Body Song (#LoveMyBody).”
Sharing my story through music has given me the power to control what things I let affect me. Instead of agonizing over what people say about my accent or if I’ll ever look like a model, I learned to love myself as I am. And for a Kenyan girl pursuing her dreams in Los Angeles, that is better than any magical world on television.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant – 1041 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019 -All dishes are made from traditional authentic recipes. The food is delicious and portions are large enough (and very affordable) to take home. The place is very beautifully decorated with Messobs (traditional Ethiopian head basket), has warm and friendly staff and is available for delivery via UberEats, PostMates, GrubHub and DoorDash.
Sterling Park Beauty Supply – 5810 W Adams Blvd , Los Angeles, CA 90016
-One stop shop for a variety of hair, make-up and skin care products. Offers member rewards and discounts/sales all year. Favourite items I purchased: Michelle Obama purse and wallet, mineral powder, lip stain, retractable eyeliner, bedazzled scarfs, and age-defying clay mask (that works!)
Leimert Park Village Plaza: Cultural & Retail Venues :- 4399 – 4337 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008.
-Variety of stores with merchandise from various cultures. Performance venues: Hot & Cool Cafe, The Word Stage and The Barbara Morrison Theater. If you need a creative workspace: The Metaphor is open all day, has Wifi, like minded creatives, coffee, and snacks. Leimert Park Art Walk: Food, Art, Music and Family on every Last Sunday of the month. Ackee Bamboo and Adassa Island Cafe for Jamaican food and Dulan’s on Crenshaw for soul food.
Paradise Cove Beach- 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
-It’s a beach in Malibu, need I say more? Perfect view of the ocean that has just enough people without being too crowded. Clean and close proximity to eateries. Also, on the 534 Bus Route if you’re a visitor or have no car. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wrote “Human Kind” while quarantining with my family. I’m thankful that even though we were stuck in the house, we were all together, streaming endless shows and creating recipes, and encouraging each other not to let the pandemic destroy our passions. If it weren’t for them, I would not have had strength to keep going and create inspirational music.
Facebook: Got hacked, so that’s not me. See you on the other ones though!
Other: Tik Tok: @soniagraceontiktok