Lafemmebear Is Letting Her Work Speak For Itself With Her Fourth EP Just Around the Corner, We Spoke To LaFemmeBear After Her Performance At Madame Siam!
HOLLYWOOD, CA – On her Facebook fan page, Lafemmebear proclaims in her bio: “I don’t want to be tokenized for being a Black transgender woman. I want my work to speak for itself.” It sure does. With her big, soulful voice, and her empowering music- both lyrically and sonically- Lafeemebear’s current repertoire are hidden gems that’ll get you hooked with one listen.
LeahAnn “Lafemmebear” Mitchell has been in the music game for a minute, working with artists like Boyz II Men, Grammy-winners The Jackie Boyz and Eric Dawkins of The Underdogs among others. When she came out as a transgender woman in 2013, she “was effectively blacklisted from the industry despite her skill and accomplishments, including a 2012 Grammy nomination for album engineering.”
It has taken a little while, but over the past few years since she came out, she has been developing and growing as a solo artist as Lafemmebear. With a handful of self-produced EPs under her belt, she’s ready to drop some new music this Fall, her fourth EP, Blaq* The Story of Me. and even made some history this past Pride Month when she became the first Black trans woman to headline the state of Utah’s Pride Festival in June.
Her performance at Madame Siam was simply amazing. With a grand swagger that matched her grand voice, Lafemmebear, accompanied by her friend Bella King, absolutely laid the smackdown on those who were in attendance. She definitely earned a fan in me, and I can’t wait to see her perform- preferably for us 😉 – again.
I was able to catch up with LeahAnn recently, and we spoke about a few thing LGBTQ, what she’s been listening to recently, and what she’s got planned for the immediate future.
First of all, thank you and Bella for coming out to Los Angeles and performing for our showcase. From what I understand, it had been a minute since you performed in Los Angeles, and I gotta say that you really killed it for us. What was it like being back in your old “stomping ground”?
It was great to be back on good footing, with a lot of projects and career opportunities on the horizon. I left LA in 2017 to refocus and grow and ruminate on what my artistry means to me, and if it was something I even wanted to continue pursuing. Returning to LA feels like the successful culmination of a lot of personal work, and I’m glad to be in a much better place mentally and artistically now.
It’s hard for me to fathom that a talented artist like yourself ever doubted your own artistry, but based on what I know about you and your history, I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of roadblocks and obstacles there were. I know it may be a personal issue to touch on, but would you mind talking about the forces that made you feel like LA was no longer home?
At the time, LA didn’t feel like a place that could support a queer Black artist struggling with mental health; at the time, I was three years into my transition, but the LA music scene was so dominated by cisgender, heteronormative men that I often felt actively pushed out of the culture. Prior to beginning my transition in 2014, it looked like I had a solid future in the music industry, but once I came out as transgender, folks didn’t want to work with me. It didn’t feel like there was any room for me there, frankly. I chose to move to the Bay Area because of its promise of LGBTQ communities, hoping it was a place I could be myself freely.
In the 5 years since you left, do you personally think that the music industry is slowly changing its attitude towards LGBTQ artists? I would think that certain genres/categories of music are more open to change, but if I’m being real, I think that it’s much tougher for an artist making soul/hip-hop/R&B music to “break in” unless they have some kind of co-sign from a huge artist.
I agree with that statement about soul/hip-hop/R&B artists. However, I do think the industry is generally becoming more open to LGBTQ artists… but I think that’s largely because folks have figured out that queer musicians have a considerable audience willing to buy and invest in them and their craft. Basically, LGBTQ artists sell – look at the Billboard Pride/Hollywood Reporter Summit that just happened, and how the longest standing No. 1 song is now held by a queer Black man. Personally, that’s fine with me. Queer musicians and artists have fought hard to showcase their excellence, and if the industry is finally willing to pay us what we’re worth, I can only support that growth.
But don’t you think it’s a bit an of an entertainment industry double standard that Lil Nas X only came out after his song sat at the top of the chart for weeks? Do you think he still would have gotten that kind of shine from radio stations… country radio stations no less… if he had released that song as a gay man? I personally think that “Old Town Road” wouldn’t have seen the light of day if that were the case.
No, of course not. But… first, that doesn’t change that the song is good, and second, that doesn’t change the fact that Lil Nas X still took a huge risk coming out at all when he was so much in the public eye, no matter when. If you look on his Instagram page, there are countless comments putting him down, especially by his former male fans. But even with all this, we’re still being shown irrefutable numbers that his song is not only excellent enough to stay at No. 1, but a record-breaking No. 1 at that. I still think that’s an indicator of some kind of progress.
True that. It’s hard to ignore hard numbers. Are there any other artists that you are your feeling right now, whether on the musical or social justice front?
SPELLLING (with three L’s); she’s a little weird and sonically very interesting. Her album “Mazy Fly” has given me a lot to think about, creatively. Also tobi lou, a Black Chicago artist who makes music full of joy; his aesthetic is also uniquely adorable, maybe slightly feminine (also a sign of change, I think, that Black men are embracing styles and aesthetics traditionally considered feminine). And Terrace Martin, who I feel like is the bridge between hip-hop and jazz for the next generation of listeners, especially his work with Robert Glasper. My own work is jazz-inspired and I’ve learned a lot from them about how to blend jazz and modern hip-hop.
What can we expect from LaFemmeBear for the rest of the year? Can you break us off a little 411 on what we can expect musically from you? Any new drops we should be keeping an eye out for?
I just saw Terrace and Herbie Hancock play the Beacon Theatre in New York; it was … really amazing, really a whole other level. The music video for the single “IF” off Blaq* A Note to the World is dropping in September, followed by a brand new EP. This one will touch on themes I started to develop in the last EP, but will focus more on learning to love yourself in a world that is actively working against your self-acceptance. And it’s under construction right now, but by the time this interview goes up my new website will be live (lafemmebear.com), where you can keep up with my live performance schedule etc. I’m also featured on def.sound’s new album ‘Colored,’ which everyone should definitely listen to right now. I’m also composing part of the original score for Kinetic Light & Disability Danceworks’ new piece premiering at The Shed in NY in August 2020, which is still in early development.
def.sound is scheduled to rock it for us on October 26th!
Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat a little bit about what’s going on with you, and know that you’ve always got an open invite with us as long as we got a spot open for you. Anything else you want to add? Any Lafemmebear pearls of wisdom?
I guess the closest I have is: The universe responds to authenticity. So just keep being you and doing your thing, and things will eventually fall into place. I really appreciate your taking the time to interview me, and thank you!
No, LeahAnn. Thank YOU.
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