Meet Michelle Patterson

Michelle Patterson


VISUAL ARTIST

Bronx native but LA transplant, Michelle Patterson is a visual artist, interior decorator, and curator. Inspired by architecture, art, and design, Michelle creates an aesthetic of work to evoke emotion through visual presentation to express her connection through observe lines, shapes, forms, textures, and color in nature.

She is currently partnering with organizations and programs to help empower and impact children in the greater Los Angeles communities of need, her goal is to create social change through art by securing a fun and healthy environment that encourages children to follow their dreams.

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What are three things you love about yourself?

My creativity, my hunger to succeed, and the ability to adapt to my surroundings.

 

Zoning in on the three attributes you love about yourself, what does or what would your best self look like?

My best self creates positive change in the foster home community; a community that directly impacted my personal growth through my childhood challenges.

A leader whose aim is to change the world’s perception through daring art, through beauty and introspect, and through natural curiosity. My best self is a woman whose message for myself and the world is to lead by example with confidence, fearlessness, and determination. She’s vulnerable enough to follow her heart and intuitive enough to follow her dreams.

 

Though you post aesthetically creative images, what is your mode of creativity? Do you write, paint, illustrate, construct things, act, or draw?

I don’t think there is a limit to the mode of my creativity because I can fairly do anything I put my mind to. I was very creative with my hands growing up and I focused on many different mediums of art. I sketched, painted and studied set design throughout my teenage years until I reached my first year of college. Within the last few years, I developed a hobby taking pictures and building an interest in photography. Photography allows me to express myself visually and show the world what beauty means from my perspective. I also enjoy writing now which helps influence my personal growth and the expansion of my crafts. I eventually want to pick up the brushes one day… I’ll allow that time to come naturally.

Having your mother as your idol as many Black girls do growing up, how has your mother’s experience shaped how you view the world?

My mother definitely became more of an influence in my life as I got older. We didn’t have much of a relationship at all. My grandmother raised my older sister and I and gave us the best love and guidance she could. Because of my mother’s strong fight as a woman, she battled with breast cancer and a heavy drug addiction for many years. Witnessing her past has played a huge part in my life and it helped me to love myself more. I chose to take those difficult events in my life and use them as references to mold my inner being.

 
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What were you looking for in LA and how has it empowered you on your quest to inspire others?

I was inspired to leave New York City for quite some time, I honestly always dreamt of doing so. I felt LA was the perfect place for me to start a new chapter in my life and to build my career with Innovative Aesthetics. I wouldn’t say that this move was to inspire anyone…maybe it did. Moving to LA was to understand the value of life and discover a love of self.

At what age did you discover your passion and purpose? How does that align with Innovative Aesthetics?

I’ve always had a passion for art and design. I was very crafty growing up and I enjoyed following design trends whether it was in furniture design or technology. My true purpose is unfolding before me everyday. I’m inspired to teach our youth and help them gain the momentum to follow after their dreams.

 

What would be your advice to black women who are hesitant about pursuing their aspirations and dreams?

My message to all black women is to strive to keep reaching our greatest potential. There is nothing we cannot be, there is nothing we cannot do and there is nothing we cannot have. The point of life is therefore to create - who and what we are. I was watching an empowerment speech from Oprah Winfrey at the Essence Festival last year and she spoke a lot about the “Laws of Attraction” and finding the intention of our purpose. It’s very important that us women understand our purpose and what we choose to do to change our society. We first have to allow ourselves to be the change and to trust that our change will create an impact in this world. I bring this up to say, it is important to understand that we are not invisible. God has a bigger dream for us. Surrender - when you’ve done all that you can do...surrender ALL.

 

If you could have a conversation with anyone in the creative field, alive or deceased, who would it be? What would the conversation entail?

I’m a very talkative person so there would be a few people I would love to have a conversation with. I was very honored to chat with Tracee Ellis Ross a few weeks ago and though it wasn't about anything too important we did speak about how amazing her outfit was. I’ve always been inspired by her artistry and her ability to inspire young black woman all around the world. I love what she does for our society. Marina Ambravic is another woman I would love to meet and converse with. She is a true visionary and pioneer of performance arts. I would love to get more into her mind and understand her journey in exploring the human body and what it means to be a woman in it.

By Ade Oluokun
Photography by Claire Donoghue

Meet Charlotte Dos Santos

Charlotte Dos Santos


SINGER

Charlotte Dos Santos is a singer creating diversity within the scandipop scene while pushing boundaries in the soul/jazz scene. She is an Olso, Norway native now living in New York City where she’s preparing for the release of her debut EP Cleo via the Portland-based label Fresh Selects. She sat down with BGM to tell us about backpacking through Salvador, Bahia to connect and discover herself, how art-making is heavily influenced from her heritage, and the experiences that helped shape her into the woman and artist she is today.

FACEBOOK · INSTAGRAM · SOUNDCLOUD · YOUTUBE


What are three things you love about yourself?

I love my musicality, my adaptability and my curiosity.
 

You have a duet about being Brazilian and Norwegian, how has your heritage shaped your artmaking?

It certainly has given my expression an interesting twist- I grew up in a house with a lot of cultural diversity, both musically and environmentally. Though I started my classical training in a very western european all girls choir I would come home and there would be Gypsy Kings or Pepe De Lucia playing on our stereo. My mother always loved Arabic music, North African Arabic and Brazilian music and would play a lot of that - whilst my father was a huge music fanatic and would play everything from Miles and Coltrane to Bjork, The Fugees, Garbarek and Mari Boine. Definitely a very eclectic mix. Tonally I am very influenced by classical composers, as well as arabic scales and modes. I really do like impressionism and impressionist composers and somehow embed that with the rhythms I grew up with. And being so much exposed to jazz definitely has inspired me and influenced me a lot. I feel super lucky to have been exposed to so much different music that’s affected me and my writing.

 

How were you able to tie all of those elements of who you are into your music?

It’s been so embedded in me that it’s just how I think and write, but it takes time to be comfortable with your musical expression and find out who you are as a musician-  often it’s about not caring what other people think, trusting your intuition and letting go of that pressure. I started writing when I was 13 but was not completely comfortable until I was in my 20s- I can never stress enough to people when they ask me- good art takes time, and because my love for music is so intense I never want to stress that process. If it's not something that comes naturally I won’t do it. I never force myself to write music. I make sure I have other inputs and surroundings that inspires me, different mediums of art, friends, nature- my debut album is inspired by an exchange year in spain and a trip to the south of france and the Pyrenees mountains with good friends. The title of the album ended up being Neve Azul which means blue snow in portuguese- because quite literally the pyrenees mountains are so enchantingly blue-ish and dramatic and absolutely breathtaking- and that album is me paying an homage to my afro brazilian heritage as well.

 

Do you have any significant mentors or role models?

Today I do, but growing up there weren't many female musicians I was exposed to in Norway at least, who I could recognize myself in. The few black female musicians that I remember as a child impacting me was Alicia Keys and Tracy Chapman. I see know how dangerous that potentially could have been because I often thought I never could be a skillful musician. I started playing violin when I was six but then I lost interest and thought how can I do this, when nobody I familiarize myself with is doing this? So I stopped and focused more on singing and had role models such as Mariah, Whitney and Lauren. But there was something in me murring that I wanted to know more about, to get to know the composer in me and not be restricted to only singing. I wanted to be in charge of my own compositions and have the right vocabulary and knowledge to describe what I want to create. Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Berklee College of Music where I did my degree in Jazz performance and Contemporary writing & production.

How do you find or create community within your music?

Music is the one thing that naturally connects us as humans- we can all familiarize with it and recognize it, whether it is music we like or not - it’s just a medium where we all meet. As for when I write I try to communicate with honesty, it is so important to me. I love to play with metaphors and words and challenge people to imagine sceneries of my lyrics but I always try to stay honest with my stories. That is where I connect with my audience. When I was living in Boston, I used to busk in the subway stations and a woman came up to me and handed me her card. She told me how she enjoyed my performance and that they needed music at a conference for race and education between students. It felt so rewarding to be able to perform in that space and be involved in the community so organically- especially to contribute in an American community being foreign, knowing I can contribute in a way.

 

How do you feel that you channel or communicate truth through your music whether in the writing or the way you perform, how do you embody that truth?

As I mentioned earlier, when something comes from the heart it is usually recognized. I am really interested in languages and words and being trilingual makes it really fun to write. One of my songs from my upcoming EP Cleo, is in Middle-English - a died out language from the 1000th century. It started out as a school assignment where we were to take one of three songs and make them our own. I liked it so much it ended up as the intro track for my EP. I really like to be lyrical. When it comes to performing, I convinced myself that I had stage fright for so many years, but then I realized I don’t have to be someone else when I perform. I am not the type of person who can plan what to say or how to act when I perform, I just have to act in the moment. I’ve tried the whole rehearsal thing and it just makes me feel uncomfortable and ingenuine. Now I enter the stage only as Charlotte. This took time to understand. I was so overwhelmed and in a mix of a constant identity crisis dealing with becoming a woman- I had to stop and ask myself : what am I doing and who am I doing this for?  I’m just gonna do me, take a breath, and peoples perspective is their own right, that does not mean I have to it to account.

 

 

Can you tell me about one of those moments where you were having an identity crisis and how you overcame it? 

Honestly I think that has been an ongoing thing throughout my life up until my early twenties-  growing up in Norway as afro brazilian but yet feeling so Norwegian was very hard at times- there was always a gap, a void in me that I didn't know how to fill. I wasn’t exposed to proper brazilian culture until I decided to move to Salvador, Bahia for three months at 22 to learn portuguese and really connect and find out about that side of me- which was always a dream. It was the most important, emotional and absolutely best experience of my life. I have been very lucky to travel a lot throughout my life and experience so many different cultures and countries but this was a very important significant trip for me personally. And it was important for me to do it on my own. So I packed a backpack and lived with a host family, when I didn't speak a word portuguese other than the little I knew from having a brazilian father. It was life changing and a pivotal time not just for me as Charlotte, but as woman a musician an artist and general human being. And before I went to Brazil I studied music in Surrey, England straight out of high school so I am used to doing things by myself and being alone a lot. I have always worked hard for the things I want in life, nothing is for free and hard work pays off. Even though living in England was one of the toughest and somewhat most painful times of my life leading me to get very mentally sick for a year after that stay. But then overcoming that era made me realize how much I had grown and it made me so much stronger. It taught me how to deal with things on my own and encouraged me to realize my dream of going back to Brazil and digging down into my roots, it encouraged me to go Berklee across the atlantic ocean and then do an exchange semester in Valencia, Spain studying flamenco and mediterranean music - where I ended up writing most of my album and self-direct my music video. Looking back my life has been so incredibly bumpy and I've taken a hundred detours to get in the right direction but such a rich learning experience. I would never have it any other way.

 

Can you explain your style as an extension of yourself? 

Well first off I think self care is super important! But I’ve always been very interested in fashion, always tempted to express myself through various outfits successfully and unsuccessfully haha. Goodwill is my all time favorite store. Everything I’m wearing right now is from Goodwill. Maybe a mix of scandinavian minimalism where I like clean one colored items and sleek shirts and geometric patterns. But I've always been very into 80’s and 90’s trends. Recent years i've been inspired by the baroque era and medieval styles. It all depends on my mood, and I never really care what other people think. I like my rings and I always wear them. I got them at different stages. One is from my mother, this one I got it in Paris. That one my sister gave too me from India. I have a favorite I got in Boston- I love this one because the stone looks like the sky. I feel naked without my rings. I always perform with them on. One of my weird rituals before performing.
 

Can you talk a little bit about your learning experience to embody that curiosity and be in different cities and how have certain neighborhoods influenced you? How does that find its way into your art?

I've always been obsessed with history and the cause and effect of things. My mother and my sister are avid readers so we would talk about what we read and sort of analyze which opened my imagination a lot. Also travelling- just experiencing something different, even just once ads fuel to the fire. But today It's funny because usually these are things I can see in retrospect. When in the moment I like to absorb all the new influences and nuances and when writing I do it without necessarily knowing what it is or means or where it's going. Sometimes it's something as hearing a car driving by with afro cuban rhythms and I get a hook in my head and sit down and write something afro cuban, like a montuno pattern or certain horn lines. Sometimes I look back and recognize ‘ah man, that has such a flamenco twist to it” or “wow that was very this and this” you know, it's just really also mood-based. Listening to music all the time gives me different inspiration and kicks to what I'd like to write. As for the curiosity it started when I was very little and I remember being obsessed with this one scene from a Christmas Muppet video we had at home on VHS where Julie Andrews was Yodeling and I was like” Oh my GOD, what is that” and would rewind that scene over and over. Another incident I remember was taking the tram listening to the machinery of the cart trying to find out what interval it sounded like. It was an octave, which is the beginning of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.


My first debut project is finally coming up, and I am extremely proud of that body of work. It is self produced and features beats from fellow Oslo’er producer Fredfades. I named the album Cleo because she represents the woman we could all be. I wanted the album to be centered around femininity, power and independence reflecting the woman I would like to be as well as I feel like I am becoming. Cleo is royal and fearless : something I want all girls to be. I hope I can be a role model for women of color, especially the brown girls back home. I want them to know that you can do this, whatever it is that you dream of, you can do it. Study hard, work hard and anything becomes possible.

By Ade Oluokun
Photography by Diahann Williams

Meet Nakaya

Nakaya


SINGER

Nakaya is a singer whose sounds doesn’t fit into a particular genre but intertwines with alternative, electronic, R&B and freak folk genres. Nakaya is a New York native raised in Los Angeles, where she was influenced by her musical upbringing. She currently attends the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. Nakaya tells BGM about forming her own identity, what inspires her, and how she incorporates self-care into her life.

FACEBOOK · INSTAGRAM · SOUNDCLOUD · YOUTUBE


What are three things you love about yourself?

I am incredibly good at reading people.  One of my best skills is assessing who people are without them directly having to explain themselves.  I’ve found that it makes me a lot more compassionate towards the people around me.  

I love my smile!  After thousands of dollars invested with braces, I should love my smile but even though you may not see it in most photos, I do love to smile.  Life can be really tough sometimes, I try to embrace the moments that  feel good.  

Lastly, I love my detail oriented tendencies.  When I was younger, I used to hate this part of me because it felt frustrating that I constantly wanted to redo things to make them better, but I’ve learned that up to a certain extent, it’s consistently helped my work.

Tell me about where and how you grew up.  How did your upbringing influence your artistry?

I was born in New York, but raised in Los Angeles.  My parents lived mid city, but I went to schools in Santa Monica/Westside. I was often the only person of color in a class and it felt incredibly ostracizing after a while.  I didn’t like my hair or my nose, mainly because I was young and I looked different.  Because of this, my parents enrolled me in mostly black dance academies (Where I studied dance for almost 10 years) on the Eastside.  Though I’ve only realized it in hindsight, navigating the two worlds was instrumental in me forming my own identity because learning how to traverse through different socioeconomic and ethnic cultures opened up my world so much.

 

Do you think your music fits into a certain genre? How would you categorize it?

I don’t think my music necessarily fits a certain genre outside of an “alternative” type of umbrella, but I have often classified my music in the past as soulful folk.  Now that my sound is switching up, maybe I should find a new term that fits with it, but I’ve been enjoying just letting people name and categorize it on their own.

How do you assert your identity within the music sphere?

I’m not sure if I’m ever trying to actively assert my identity because I feel like I am mostly laid back, but I do feel like I’m still in the process of creating my own niche in the alternative scene.  There are so many genres of music I’m inspired by that I want to meld them all together in a way that feels unique to me and what I grew up with.

 

What is your greatest love and your greatest fear?

My greatest love is probably my family.  As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone but also a large amount of time with my parents.  They’re my biggest advocates and essentially the greatest people on earth (obviously not a biased answer).  I think my greatest fear is waking up one day and being unhappy with my life as a whole.  That’s not to say that I need every moment to be perfect, but I want to spend my life doing things that I care about, that make me happy.  It doesn’t have anything to do with fiscal success or material things, but I just want to make music, hug lots of people and be around folks that make me smile and want to be a better human.  
 

How do you incorporate self-care into your life?

Sometimes it can be hard to prioritize self care, especially because of how busy I constantly am but I incorporate self care in taking time for myself and also by gathering energy by being around family or friends.  I spend a lot of time alone, sometimes coloring in a mandala book or reading, but I also spend a lot of time with people in my life who are most important to me.  This doesn’t always necessarily mean going outside and exploring with them, but sometimes I feel like I’m gathering energy from being with them just by sitting next to them on a couch or discussing my day while we watch tv.  It’s really simple things that keep me together when my life feels like it’s getting out of hand.  

Where do you find sources of inspiration?

All over!  That’s the best thing about being an artist is that you see the world through a different lens that’s more open to interpretation.  I’m obviously heavily inspired by other musicians, but I’m also inspired by my daily experiences.  Sometimes I’ll get inspired by something as simple as how it feels to let the AC run next to my face or if a puppy laid their head in my lap in a particularly compassionate way.  It can really be anything and everything.  


Tell me a secret about yourself.

Hmmm, a secret.  I try not to keep too many, they can be really toxic, but I do have a random lesser known fact about myself.  I used to suck my thumb until I was about ten years old.  Super gross habit, so glad my teachers sprayed perfume on my thumbs until I stopped.

By Ade Oluokun
Photography by Diahann Williams

Meet Aziza Nicole

Meet Aziza Nicole

I’m a painter, a sculptor, and a builder. I’m a handcrafted artisan. That’s what I am, that’s technically what the term is because I work with my hands. So when it comes to building, I know how to do it. When it’s time to sculpt….I’m a sculptor.

Meet Trae Harris

Meet Trae Harris

Spending time to figure out who you are, I feel like you never quite know.

Meet Elise Peterson

Meet Elise Peterson

Being around women can be very affirming. It can be affirming in terms of our strength and our weaknesses.