So far Sha’Leah Nikole has had a career path paved with bricks made up of instances other artists could only dream of. We got into how those opportunities have helped shape her work ethic, talked about her May 27th release, ‘Work of heART,’ and more like whether or not a certain UPN show inspired her or not…
Kendra: I was recently working on a piece about ‘Moesha’ and its impact on many musicians today as it was the first time we saw a young, Black youth in a legit Black neighborhood lead a show. Was that something you watched and felt inspired by as a kid or did you find your way to performing another way?
Sha’Leah Nikole: I definitely watched ‘Moesha’ growing up. I fell in love with Brandy and I am a huge fan of her music. She is one of my favorite vocalists and her style and sound definitely influence my music. I got into performing at the age of nine. My mother put my brother and I in a performing arts program (Amazing Grace Conservatory). That is where it began for me.
Kendra: Because your career has taken you from musical theater to singing and performing for the likes of Sir Elton John and Beyonce. What has working with artists like that taught you about the industry and work ethic? I imagine there’s a lot to take in when around people of that caliber.
Sha’Leah Nikole: Absolutely! I am like a sponge whenever I get the opportunity to work with people of that caliber. I have so much respect for Beyonce, from her vocals to her work ethic, to her kind heart. She is an absolute pleasure to work with. She treats everyone like they are important. She is one of the most hardworking women I have ever worked with and it shows in everything she releases. She is intentional and that is something I strive to be in my work. I didn’t have the pleasure of working with Elton John, but I was a part of a choir that sang vocals on a song with him and Stevie Wonder. It was an honor to be on the same record as those two icons.
Kendra: So ‘Work of heART’ is your second EP, following ‘The Queen Issue.’ What sort of personal notes did you take from your debut and apply to your May 2022 release?
Sha’Leah Nikole: In the first release I wanted to be as honest as possible. My goal was for people who didn’t know me to feel like I was one of their friends like they could relate to what I was writing about. In ‘Work of heART’ I wanted to take that same approach in being honest. Only writing and singing songs that are real for me. I find when I stay true to who I am the music is felt on a deeper level.
Kendra: One was likely, work with an awesome director like Nina Gloster-Burrell, I’m sure because you connected with her for your “Mahogany” video. How’d you two come together and do you think you’ll work together on more visuals with her in the future?
Sha’Leah Nikole: Nina is a part of my tribe. We met over 10 years ago while serving in the youth ministry at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA. We immediately clicked and have been friends ever since. We have watched each other turn our dreams into reality. It was so special for me to work with her on my visuals for Mahogany and King Me. We complement each other and want to not only see each other win but help each other win.
Kendra: I love that this video celebrated everything from the church ladies to fatherhood in the Black community, but what I really appreciated was the focus on hair with the girl getting hers done to the silk wraps. I have to admit that I didn’t always love my hair. I wished on every star for it to be straight and bouncy like the white girls that flooded my TV in the ‘90s. With that, how crucial do you think the natural hair movement has been in recent years for Black women and their hair esteem?
Sha’Leah Nikole: It has been crucial. Seeing our hair in its natural state being celebrated and not mocked or demeaned has helped to drown out the lies the media and society have been telling Black people and specifically Black women. When I learned the history of our hair and all the amazing things our ancestors did I couldn’t help but be inspired. I recently learned slaves would braid maps into the hair of those trying to run to freedom. If that doesn’t inspire or ignite a fire in you…I don’t know what will. Our hair can do anything. That is special and it should be celebrated.
Kendra: Time for a side note…since April showers bring May flowers, I’d love to know what song makes you bloom with happiness and why?
Sha’Leah Nikole: Ooo I love that question. A song that makes me happy hmmm. It depends on the different seasons of life, but I’d have to say most recently when I hear “Hey” by King I just get all the feels inside. It’s a beautiful song that really does make me smile when I listen to it.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Work of heART’ out on May 27th, what else can you let us in on? Are you touring this year?
Sha’Leah Nikole: God willing, I would love to tour. My goal is to do an intimate 6-city tour this fall. So keep your eyes open for that. My first film “Remember Me, The Mahalia Jackson Story” will be out this year. We just premiered at the Pan African Film Festival, so please look out for that! I have some really dope collabs down the pipeline with some dope black businesses and brands. Lastly, more music, expect more music!
‘Work of heART’ is out Friday, May 27th and those in Los Angeles can hear Sha’Leah Nikole that night at a special EP release Music and Art Exhibition.