CR FASHION: JHENÉ AIKO ON MUSIC, ROLE MODELS, AND BEING A SINGLE MOM

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JHENÉ AIKO ON MUSIC, ROLE MODELS, AND BEING A SINGLE MOM

 

The Grammy-nominated singer signs off in time for Mother's Day

 

“I would describe myself as a mother, lover, writer, and singer, but always a mother first,” said Jhené Aiko via a long distance phone call from her car, which is stationed somewhere in Los Angeles. The Grammy-nominated musician is perhaps best known for her 2015 record Sail Out and her recent collaborative album with boyfriend, the rapper Big Sean under the collective name Twenty88, but is more interested in discussing the trials and tribulations of motherhood and her love of poetry than charting her meteoric rise to fame that began over a decade ago.

Born Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo, the star cut her teeth singing backup for late ‘90s boy band B2K, before dropping out of a deal with Sony to release her debut album to focus on her education. “I was still a teenager and I needed to take some time to find my purpose,” she reflects. That purpose came in the form of Jhené’s first and only pregnancy to date. The singer gave birth to daughter Namiko Love at the age of 20 in 2008. “I never intended to have a baby so young, but as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with a new focus and drive. I knew I didn’t want a regular job, I wanted to provide a life for me and my daughter that was beyond myself.” Around that time, the singer made her first mixtape and it’s been a steady uphill trajectory from there.

Here, Jhené explains why motherhood will always be her biggest inspiration—and spells out why single moms in particular shouldn’t be afraid to wear the maternal pants around the house all the time if they damn well want to:

 

FLASHBACK

“I grew up the youngest of five children. My dad is a doctor, but an aspiring singer songwriter, so I was always around music. Living in L.A., there were so many opportunities, so it was easy for me to fall into it professionally as a young teen. I was signed to a record label until I was 16 and decided to take a break. Everything changed when I was 20 and got unexpectedly pregnant. It made me focus and connect with who I was and who I wanted to be. While Namiko was still in my belly, I did my first mixtape, signed a new record deal with Def Jam—and here we are today.”

 

DRIVE TO THE MUSIC

“I’ve always loved poetry. Ever since I first started songwriting, my process begins with a short story or a poem. I carry a notebook around with me everywhere in readiness for when inspiration for a lyric or a line hits. Sometimes I’ll hear music with my words and that’s when I’ll write the melody. I hardly ever listen to other people’s music as I want to try and keep my sound as clear and original as possible. Sometimes, when I get writer’s block, I just go for a really long drive and hum in my car until something starts to resonate.”

 

DAY JOB

“My daughter and my family are the driving force behind everything that I do. My baby helps me stay working and motivated all day long, seven days a week. Everyday I am inspired by my real life situation; I deal with my emotions by striving to keep creating and moving through the world with as much grace and ease as possible.”

 

MOTHER KNOWS BEST

“Whether you’re a singer or a nurse, being away from your child is one of the toughest things a mother has to do. You are their support, the person who puts food on their plate. There’s no easy way to be a mom and it can be even harder for single moms like me. I’m not with my daughter’s father, but I’m lucky that I have a large and supportive family who are loving and caring for my baby every day when I’m traveling on tour or away. The older she gets, the more she’ll be able to travel with me, but right now all I can say is—thank god for FaceTime. If anything, I hope that my story inspires other young moms to feel strong and driven. You can be responsible for your own income, provide a roof over your child’s head, be nurturing, maternal, and wear as many pants around the house as you need to. Moms—we can do it all.”

 

ROLE PLAY

“My mom is my number one role model. To me, she is the best mom in the world. She is completely selfless. I’m also inspired by the hardworking women I see working a nine to five job everyday. Everyone is going through something and hardworking women don't get enough recognition.”

 

LET IT GO

“I think that as I get older, I get better and better at living in the moment. I don’t hold onto expectations the way that I used to anymore. Living in the past is a kind of torture; you can’t hold onto what no longer exists. I’m still learning, but I’m thankful everyday for the life that I continue to build.”

 

FORGET THE HATERS

“Most people are their own worst critic and I’m no different. I know that my own fears hold me back the most. Sometimes, the critic in me will tell me that I’m not special, pretty, or clever enough. It can be hard to talk that critic down, but it’s definitely easier to do it now than when I was younger.”

 

THE GAME

“I’m always working and writing music. I have an idea to put out a project that’s a little bit of everything soon. It’s like a big art project with music and poetry. When it’s ready, it’s ready. I’ve been working on it since I put out my first mixtape all those years ago. I’m also working on confirming some really exciting performances. As soon as I know, I’ll let my fans know on Twitter too.”

 

FUTURE PERFECT

“I am really proud of my recent releases and I hope to be able to continue sharing my art with the world. More than that, I hope I stay grounded and true to myself as a mom, daughter, lover, and friend. It’s easy to get caught up in the extra curricular activities in the entertainment industry, so I know I have to work hard on staying true to my own path. I’m still young, so sometimes I take two steps forward and two steps back, but that’s ok if it helps me live my true purpose to just be me.”

 

PRO TIPS

“To anyone who aspires to follow my career path, the only real guidance I can give it to take your time, be patient, and learn to be yourself. Ask yourself why you want to do this. If you're honest, maybe you don't want to be famous or maybe you just want the money. When you find that truth, stick to it and remember that shortcuts don’t lead to the best outcome. Above all, tell your inner critic to be quiet and surround yourself with positive people who help motivate you.”

 

SOUNDING OFF

“My music is a pure reflection of myself. It can be blues, jazz, alternative, folk, electronic, hip-hop—a mashup of everything. For the most part, I want my work to be chill and easy to listen to. I personally love to listen to music when I’m alone or driving, so I like to imagine that other people might find my songs meditative in similar situations.”

 

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JHENÉ AIKO WEARS DRESS DSQUARED2

 

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