We Love H.E.R.: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Songstress That’s Taking Over Music
Since arriving on the scene roughly four years ago at just the age of 19, Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson infiltrated the music landscape as we know it. She came in hard, with heavy hitter anthems which all solidified her as an artist to watch. Since, H.E.R. has made major strides: number one album releases, performing alongside industry giants, and even celebrating the 60th birthday of the supremely adored former president, Barack Obama.
Her mystique has become a part of her persona, and her sun-shaded anonymity is what TF she does. In fact, as her career elevates to newer levels, who she is as an artist becomes more revealed, and the less we know about her, leaving us all with our hands out and wanting to know more. We decided to compile a list of the journey of H.E.R., from how she got started, all the way to songbird that she has emerged into. Here's 7 things you didn't know about the songstress taking over music:
1. H.E.R. spent the early part of her career working to keep her identity under wraps.
H.E.R. released an album in 2017 with just seven songs, no biography, and only a mysterious full-body silhouette on the cover of her first album. She spent the greater part of the beginning of her career declining to show or confirm her identity. Who is this person? What is this music? Why won't she show her face? But it wasn't all just a gimmick. While she went to great lengths to remain lowkey, according to Billboard, fans figured out who she was after digging through SoundCloud, with Janet Jackson and Drake both raving about her and revealing H.E.R. identity on social media.
She would then go on to wear her signature sunglasses in order to continue to conceal her identity, a practice she still does today. When discussing why she created this image of herself, she told ELLE:
"I think it has allowed me to make the music the focus, and for people not to care about the superficial things or who I'm associated with, what clique I belong to—all those things that don't matter. It's really made people focus on the music, and that's what's special about it."
2. Yet, ironically enough, H.E.R. stage name is an acronym for "Having Everything Revealed."
Today, although H.E.R. has almost entirely shedded her secrecy, she does still gaze at her adoring fans from many a pair of stylish sunglasses. It's almost ironic, actually, that as her name is an acronym for "Having Everything Revealed." But amazingly, her shades serve as a metaphor for what her career is about as they are often extremely reflective, so when you try to look directly in her eyes, you see yourself.
"I try to always stay focused, and stay true to myself, because as a woman, it's easy to look at other women and feel like, Maybe I should be doing this. In the age of social media, you look at other women who get attention, or compliments, and we start to question ourselves. I think the pressure is not just on me as an artist. I think it's on everybody."
3. She signed her first record deal with Sony at age 14.
H.E.R. had been singing and performing since girlhood as Little Gabi Wilson, singing in her dad's cover band and, at age 10, making her way to the Today show where she covered Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You." When she was 12, she got her big break as one of five finalists in an American Idol-esque radio show contest, hosted by Radio Disney.
She ultimately lost the competition but was signed to her first record label, Sony at 14.
4. H.E.R. can play five instruments. FIVE.Giphy
In very Prince-esque fashion, H.E.R. has taken a page from the Purple One's book and has managed to learn (self-taught) to play multiple instruments. A pianist, drummer, and masterful guitarist who can solo with the electric, acoustic, and bass guitar, the woman can get down with the best of them (likely because she's one of the best of them). She told Rolling Stone:
"Playing guitar is part of who I am, since I was a kid. I remember watching a video of Lenny Kravitz and Prince [from the Rave Un2 the Year 2000 concert] when I was a kid. That video changed my life—it made me want to play guitar just because of how rock star it is."
5. Her greatest career advice came from Alicia Keys.
If you ask her, it's no secret that one of H.E.R.'s greatest inspirations is the one and only Mrs. Problem-On-The-Keys, Alicia Keys. In fact, some of her greatest advice came from the giant. She told Refinery29:
"Alicia Keys told me that when it comes to music, all you need is three chords and the truth. I think you can apply that to life, too."
6. Grammys are inevitable, but H.E.R. is an Oscar winner as well.
Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images
After five EPs, one album and a cool 12 Grammy noms in just three short years, 2021 has been a year of recognition for H.E.R. that's extended beyond her talent, which is an 'ask about me' flex we didn't know we needed. One of H.E.R.'s latest accomplishments, is an addition of an Oscar to her trophy case for the song "Fight For You", her soulful addition to Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack that picked up the Academy Award for Best Original Song. To pay homage to Prince, she rocked an outfit similar to the outfit Prince won his Oscar in that night and proudly said:
"All those days of listening to Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye really paid off, so thank you dad."
Additionally, she has taken the moment to reflect on the bigger picture of her career: finding a balance of being herself and using her voice, and welcoming the journey of responsibility of giving a voice to the voiceless. She told NME:
"At first I didn't realize activism was part of my artistic purpose but I guess my voice matters."
7. She believes her superpower is the ability to be all things as a woman.
In the same way that you can't place H.E.R.'s music in only one genre, a young Gabi Wilson refused to be defined by either of her cultures growing up (she Filipino and African-American). She told GlamourUK:
"There were times where I felt too Filipino for the Black kids and too Black for the Filipino kids. Or when I was going to the grocery store with my mom and people [were] like, 'That's your mom? Her hair's straight, your hair's curly. And it's like, 'I come from both places. This is what you get."
"I was just trying to figure out what that all meant and not put myself in a box, because people always tried to do that. You know, they need a point of reference. But sometimes you can be all things… and I think that's been my superpower."
"I'm always trying new things, always recreating things that I love, but honestly, I think it's all about doing you. It's cool to be on new trends or whatever but how does it make you feel? What do you feel like? It's dressing from the inside out. Sometimes I want to be a rockstar, sometimes I want to look like Lenny Kravitz!"
Well, if Lenny Kravitz is anything like us, he wants to be you too.
Watch the video of her latest single, 'Come Through' featuring Chris Brown below:
Her album, Back of My Mind, is available on all streaming platforms right now!
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Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Get That Dream Internship: Let Natalia Bryant's Beyoncé Tour Experience Inspire You
Natalia Bryant, the daughter of Vanessa and Kobe Bryant, made news recently when her name was spotted among the credits for Beyoncé's Renaissance World tour. She's reportedly serving as an intern for Parkwood Entertainment, a management, production, entertainment company, and record label founded by Beyonce in 2010.
Bryant is a film student at the University of Southern California, so it's no surprise that she'd take on the gig since we've all seen the fabulous and innovative TV and film projects Beyoncé and the fam have blessed the world with. Parkwood's body of work (think Lemonade, Cadillac Records, and Homecoming) speaks to the power of owning your narrative as a Black creative while offering an authentic and unique voice in telling other stories of Black culture as well.
And I'm sure the opportunity to network, work with, and learn from the best of the best in entertainment aren't bad perks, either.
When it comes to landing a dream internship that will indeed set your career on the right path, there are a few important things to remember:
1. Make the most of your current network and the networks of those who love you when pursuing a top internship (or any job opportunity.)
You could be reading this article and thinking, "Well, it is Natalia Bryant. She has privilege and her mom has access to the who's who of sports and entertainment." Well, maybe.
But, that's not the point.
When it comes to the family we are born into, the place where we live, or other major aspects of our lives, we must think about our resources and how we can tap in. We all have the play the hell out of the cards we have in our hands in that regard.
Whether it's your parents' colleagues, your school's alumni, or your close vicinity to a company's headquarters, use every advantage you have, speak up, and pitch yourself for the internship (or other job opportunities) of your dreams. Be sure you're professional, you know your stuff, and you're able to humbly follow the application process without the expectation of a "hook up" or "special treatment." You must indeed be an asset.
Even if you're not just starting out but want to break into a different aspect of your industry, make a career pivot, or change careers altogether, it might be a good idea to apply for an internship, externship, or fellowship as a side hustle to get the experience, gain the contacts, learn the lessons, and get your foot in the door.
Michelle Pevide/Getty Images
2. Be an open-minded, deliberate, and creative thinker when applying for the chance to hone your craft via an internship.
As public spectators of this recent news, we can't be sure of Bryant's exact career goals related to filmmaking, but with an internship that involves working in any capacity on a major global tour, there are so many facets of creative direction, project management, communications, and other vital skills she might learn in the process.
That being said, don't limit yourself when it comes to a certain company or title when pursuing an internship. Sometimes going for a spot at a small business doing big things is better than competing with thousands of others for those same few spots at the Fortune 500s. Sometimes finding other ways to get in the door is better than going the traditional or popular route for an internship.
At 19, I applied to a program facilitated by a prestigious organization that my dream magazine was a member of, not directly to that magazine's HR. I knew that going through that organization would hold a lot more weight, I'd get prime placement, I'd get to network with other young journalism students who were chosen out of hundreds of applications, and I'd be offered certain perks that came with being part of their program.
Once in the office, several of the interns who applied directly to the magazine expressed to me, at the time, that they were getting coffee most days and doing "grunt work." I, on the other hand, worked closely with award-winning seasoned writers, got a cubicle of my own, and was mentored by an independent publisher within the company (who, by the way, honored me with an editorial assistant credit on a special book project I helped edit and assisted in producing).
I also got a published clip, something, by the end of that summer, was elusive to other interns there. I indeed had to work hard and prove myself---and the experience didn't come without tears, a bit of gaslighting, and early Devil Wears Prada-type lessons about the magazine industry---but being strategic and open-minded proved smart for me.
After the internship was over, I applied for---and was offered---a job with the publishing organization, as I saw that as a power move, but my path would lead me to continue to be a writer and editor. As the cliche goes, the rest is history.
(And to clarify: There's nothing necessarily wrong with getting coffee or making copies as an intern if that's something you can leverage, if you're forward-thinking when interacting with those you're doing those tasks for, and if you're not being taken advantage of via a waste of your talent and time capital.)
3. Find a way to stand out as an applicant in the most unique, authentic way possible.
Once you have the basics down---a well-crafted resume, a professional communication style, creative ideas, and a work ethic that speaks for itself---find something about yourself that stands out and work the hell out of that. If you're always in the know about the interesting or behind-the-scenes aspects of an industry, trade, or craft, be able to illustrate that when interviewed. If you're an innovator who does things in a different way, has a unique approach to processes, or can do something quicker and more efficiently than others, use that.
If you're a savvy speaker with a gift of gab or you're simply fabulous and know how to work a room, use it, sis. If you're the most emotionally intelligent, solid person who's relied upon during times of crisis and calm, talk about applicable situations in which that has been beneficial.
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Back when I was a student, I was always one to speak my mind--especially in class discussions or when asked my opinion on something. I attended an HBCU, so I was super-confident in taking up space and using my voice. I was also very well-trained in giving something 150% of effort---you know, that whole good-better-best, early-is-on-time type of college upbringing.
I'd always look at issues in a totally different light or add my own spin to approaching a story. This served me well when applying for top internships, as well as after landing them.
I once felt so intimidated by my peers during my time at a summer institute hosted by one of the top global newspapers that I totally flopped my first news assignment. To be honest with you, it was focused on a coverage area that I just wasn't particularly interested in, and I wasn't being true to myself.
For the next assignment, while others were writing about gruesome crimes in the community or some other elaborate exposé in an effort to impress, I chose to write what I knew: Black culture and its societal impact. The story ended up being a big hit and won over the editors of that newspaper. (I'd later work for the host newspaper and become an instructor at the institute.)
I tell that story to say, find what makes you unique and run with it. Internships are where you can shine while failing forward, but remember that being you is super-valuable as well.
If anything, allow the news of Bryant's internship to inspire you to go for your dreams today, get more deliberate about placing yourself in direct alignment to collide with success, and be super-unapologetic about it.
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