Here’s How Kali Uchis Became An Accidental Feminist Icon In Music
Kali Uchis has been blowing up in the music world and it isn’t hard to see why. She possesses a soulful voice that entices anyone within earshot. The Colombian-American’s songs embody female empowerment and strong womanhood, though Uchis says that’s coincidental. Empowerment has was always been something she has had to figure out on her own. Uchis spoke with mitú about how she got into music, her inspiration and being labeled a feminist.
Music was not something Kali Uchis thought would be her career.
She admits that she has always been musically inclined, playing different instruments since she was a teenager. She also loved writing poetry. Becoming a singer, however, wasn’t a lifelong goal.
“I never had classical training or choir. I was never part of that world,” Uchis says about her start in music. “So, when I decided to put out a mixtape, I was making music for myself, and it started doing really well. That’s when I was like ‘Okay, I’ll do this.'”
While she never thought about becoming a singer, she did pride herself for having diverse taste in music as a teen.
Her aunt introduced her to Claudia de Colombia, Jeannette and Selena. As she got older, she started to explore music more and discover her own taste. She found that she gravitated more towards female singers, naming No Doubt as her favorite back then.
Uchis says that growing up with a lack of female role models shaped who she looked up to musically.
“I was always very fascinated with very flamboyant show looks, like Cher, Diana Ross, Paulina Rubio, and I loved Ivy Queen,” Uchis says. “I was more attracted to female artists because I felt like I didn’t have that many female rolemodels in my life. I was never super close to my mom or my big sister, so I felt like having those icons to look up to in a sense was really helpful for me.”
She never meant for her music to be about female empowerment but it came off that way because she has had to empower herself.KaliUchisVEVO / YouTube
“I wouldn’t say that my music is all about female empowerment,” Uchis says. “I think it was never a pre-meditated thing. It was more so that I happen to be a female and I happen to know what it feels to be constantly trying to figure out how to be empowered or how to love yourself in a world that’s constantly like, ‘Don’t do this or don’t wear that, you should look like this.’ Just constantly trying to tell you that you shouldn’t love yourself or that you’re not enough.”
“So, after going through that as a young girl, when I was trying to make music, it just ended up going into my music, but it wasn’t really a thing,” Uchis says about the female empowerment in her music.
Uchis says she gets confused when people call her a feminist because she never gave herself that title or distinction. She does feel strongly about human rights, and says self-love and body acceptance are important to her.
“[People] being able to love themselves and reclamation of the female body, and being able to be proud of who you are and proud of where you come from, that’s definitely always been a lot to me and been a huge part of my identity because it’s a struggle when you’re a kid sometimes,” she says.
Uchis credits her unique aesthetic and sound to celebrating juxtaposition in art.
“I think the best art is art that has juxtaposition involved. One of my saddest songs on this album sounds like the happiest,” says Uchis. “I just wanted things to be very soft and pastel-y, and very angel baby (her term for her aesthetic). But at the same time I wanted the music to come from a strong place.”
The Colombian-American singer also spent time in both the U.S. and Colombia which freed her physically and mentally.
“It was definitely a culture shock, the two places. But that’s what I loved about being able to come from two places and have somewhere else to call home,” Uchis explains about her childhood. “You don’t ever feel stuck. No matter if I was going through something in Virginia or feeling down about myself, I would be like ‘I could just go back to Colombia if I have to.’ You don’t feel like ‘Oh what the fuck am I gonna do now?’ I never felt tied down there. It was nice.”
Uchis recently re-recorded her song “Tyrant” in Spanish and wants to tell fans that they can expect some more Spanish-language remakes.
Uchis wants to re-record some of her older music in Spanish so everyone can enjoy it.
“I love making music in Spanish. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to be able to write in Spanglish than to just stick with one language,” Uchis says. “The song already had some Spanglish in it so I just thought ‘Why don’t I just do a whole version in Spanish?’ My next single is gonna be all fully in Spanish actually.”
As for all the cars in her music videos, she smiled when recalling her first car and just how good it made her feel to ride around.
“It was a ’69 Mustang and it was cherry red,” Uchis recalls with a big smile. “I was just obsessed with it. All I would do is make enough money to put gas in it and drive around the city with my friends smoking weed like, ‘Yeah, we’re badass’ while playing old music. People would look at us like, ‘What the fuck?’ I would just make little videos with my friends and we just thought we were the coolest thing in the whole world. But, it’s just a feeling, being behind the wheel of that car was one of the best moments for me. I was in my own world and I could just be on the road driving my car and I would feel so at peace and good.”
“I used to get made fun of. They would be like, ‘Oh, you’re not supposed to be into cars, you’re a little girl,'” Uchis says. “But I just always loved them.”
As far as her fans, Uchis has a message for them regarding her forthcoming new music.
“Thanks to everyone for being patient and for still supporting me even though it’s taken me a while to get it together,” Uchis says.
It’s cool, Kali! We can’t wait to listen!
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