JHENÉ AIKO IS THE INDUSTRY’S SECRET WEAPON
Jhené Aiko has been practicing grounding herself since she was a teenager, which might explain why she seems as chill as the other side of the pillow.
Spend a hot second talking to her and you’ll realize that nothing rattles her.
Not her ever-rising profile, not people’s ignorance about her mixed-race heritage, and not even questions about her romantic life.
Even as every song she features on becomes an instant hit, she’s just taking life one day a time – and praying that people stop asking her how to eat the booties like groceries someday.
Check out our Q&A with Jhené below.
What are some tips you have for women about embracing and owning their sexuality?
I think just realizing that as a woman you’re powerful. You give life. I don’t want to say you’re stronger than a man, but you’re just as strong, if not stronger because of your emotions and the things that we all put up with. And I think once you start to realize all of the strength of being a woman, you can learn to appreciate there’s really no difference between a man and a woman other than our chromosomes.
And so why should there be this thing about women not expressing their sexuality? There’s really no real reason why we can’t be as confident in our sexuality as a man. It’s just common sense. My advice is just to look in the mirror and realize that, you know, you’re equal to a man and anything a man can do, we’re more than capable of doing. And the things men are not ashamed to do, we shouldn’t be ashamed either.
As your profile keeps rising, how do you manage to stay so low key?
That’s my state of mind. I don’t believe in celebrity worship. I don’t believe in anyone being above anyone else and that’s why a lot of my listeners are just people who will come up to me and have a casual conversation. They’re not screaming, going crazy. I don’t travel with a bodyguard. I’m a regular person just like we all are. I think that’s why it stays low key: because I don’t give in to the hype of anything, not even myself.
Do people ever say ignorant things in front of you about your heritage?
Oh yeah, all the time. I was at the I Heart Radio awards and some man who didn’t know me asked me, “How was China?” Literally, the first words he said to me were, “How was China?”
And I didn’t really get it until I realized, oh, you think I’m Chinese. And I was like, “Oh, I’ve never been, I’m not Chinese.” And then he was kinda like, “Oh no no no, I know,” and like, tried to make up this excuse as to why he would say that.
And I’ve had people make racial comments about black people to me not knowing that I am part black, I’ve had people make comments about being Asian to me, not realizing that I’m Asian – or even people not realizing I’m also European. It’s something that I notice every day but I’ve gotten used to the fact that a lot of people still don’t understand the concept of being mixed, you know? So I’m patient with them.
Was the first time you met Big Sean when you did backup vocals on “Beware”?
The first time I met him was at the studio and he sort of like busted into my session. He was like, “Oh I heard you were here, I wanted to meet you. My DJ – DJ Mo Beatz– has been telling me about you. That’s who played me your mixtape.” And then he was like, “Ooh I wanna work on some songs.” And so I worked on a song called “I’m Gonna Be” which was on one of his mixtapes, and that’s the first song that we did together. Then he played some other stuff and he was like, “I want this one, ‘Beware,’ to be my single.” He’s very persistent if he wants you on a song and that’s pretty much how it happened.
That seems like an ideal way to work.
I would just say that me and Sean have been working together for a while and been friends and obviously, when you work closely with someone you begin to understand them. I feel like one of the things I’ve been learning in the books that I read is that love and understanding are the same thing. You can’t understand something and not love it – when you understand something completely, you love it and vice versa. So that’s how me and Sean are. We’ve seen each other with different people as far as relationships and we’ve stayed friends through it all so we just had no choice but to just learn to understand each other and love each other.
Do people still ask about whether or not you’ve finally found someone who can eat the booty like groceries or has that kind of died out by now?
Every now and then someone asks me that, but I’ve started to ignore it for the most part. I mean I get it, it was a standout line, people don’t mean any harm, but I’m a person who likes to move forward. Especially on social media. But it’s dying out, hopefully 2017 we’ll move on from this.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been working on this project for spring 2017, and I’m just really excited because it’s been a few years of me compiling all these different things and taking the time to create something that I feel like is timeless. Like we were talking about earlier, I’m not really into hyping things up. I’d rather downplay things because whether you like it, hate it, or love it, I’m gonna share it anyway. It’s really for my family that I express myself and turn stuff into art because it’s just me expressing myself. So I am excited to share it and to release it so I can move on.
Do you know when you’re thinking about releasing it yet?
I’m thinking as soon as possible, haha.
Photography/Creative Direction: Prince and Jacob
Fashion Director/ Stylist: Alexandra Mandelkorn
Co-Stylist: Ade Samuel
Stylist Assistant: Andrea Mehefko
Hair: Naima Lewis
Makeup: Felicia Latour