Challenging perspectives: An interview with Daléa

Sophia Carter catches up with singer and campaigner Daléa to talk about her goals, dreams and successes

By on 31 May, 2014 Filed in Arts

Daléa is an alto artist with big dreams, a bright future and a huge presence on the New York scene. With her raw talent, pure determination and fight against the odds to achieve her dreams, Daléa is truly challenging perspectives and helping to change lives through her advocacy and awareness movement Girl Comet.

You are an accomplished musician and have many accolades and brilliant reviews, how did you start your music career and why?
I have been interested in music and singing since childhood, but growing up with so many emotional – sometimes self imposed – road blocks, I could not bring myself to work on music professionally until 2008, when my father passed away from a seven year battle with cancer. He was my adoptive father and my first hero, so his passing hit very hard for me – harder than all my fears of success. Him leaving woke me up, and shortly after I begun this journey I am still on. I begun as I have started most things in my life – by jumping in head first. I started with vocal training, looking for my own singing style, and I also begun looking for the right music producer to work with. I didn’t find my perfect match until early 2009, in the form of Swedish composer Patrick Rundblad. We have been working and growing together ever since.

What have been the hardest challenges you have faced during your career and personal life?
As I thought about my response, I realized that for both areas, the hardest challenge has been learning self-love, not in spite of whom I am, but because of whom I am.

In my career, it was letting go of trying to fit in with the rest and believing that I could still have a place in the world of music. First of all, I am an alto with a contralto voice range. So many people are so used to hearing female vocalists sing in the super-thin, soprano-like and persistent head voice space, so I thought I needed to do that as well in order to fit in. But trying to be what I am not only made me limit my music, and at times even my vocal cords suffered too.

I am not comparing myself to anyone, but for a good example, imagine if someone like Tina Turner had tried to sing as someone like, let’s say, Katy Perry or Madonna? It would have been a disaster, not to mention a great disservice to Tina Turner, because what works for one does not necessarily work for another. Having a recognizable voice is actually a good thing, once I learned that, it all began to unfold much better for me. But still, ‘overnight success stories’ take years to make.

In my personal life, the hardest challenge was accepting and loving myself completely. I think probably for all of us, it is the hardest battle we will ever undertake. Being an intersex woman, fears and forms of shame plagued my entire life. Things such as: Would I be loved if the person loving me knew about me? Would I be cast out by my female friends if they knew I was not exactly as them? Would I be publically shamed if I were to become a famous vocalist and my story ‘leaked’ in to the public?

All wasted energy, based on fear, and for what? All fear does is paralyze us and limit our full potential. The interesting thing is, after all the years of self-judgment and shame, it was actually by my own words that in May 2014 I released my coming out video. Isn’t life interesting?

Through such challenges, what has motivated you to carry on?
Gratitude and my dreams! I have gratitude for what I have and for all the people that have believed and still believe in me. That, combined with a clear vision of my dreams for my own life – as well as for what I hope for this world – fuel everything I do. I believe that we all came here to manifest all the beauty that our human spirits have to offer. Based on my belief, I am attempting to do just that.

Dalea, you have built yourself careers in fashion and music – arguably two extremely tough industries – how have you managed to succeed where so many others have failed?
I am a work in progress, I have so far to go still. But for what I have done until now, I can tell you that I believe success is a matter of philosophy. I believe that those who are willing to die for their dreams are usually the ones that get them. When your dreams matter to you, you tend to work the extra hour, train extra hard, sacrifice play time for work time and push beyond human exhaustion. Do that day after day, and success of some form will follow. Anything I have done or will do in the future is a direct result of my philosophy in life.

When you perform and write, who do you do it for?
Great question – thank you! First, I write about the things that move me or the things that I am curious about or want to bring attention to – so in a way, I write for me and I am sharing it with the world. But also, in every compilation of work I try to always include a song about inspiration, survival or inner fortitude. I do this because I know that music can touch people in a way nothing else can, so I always hope someone can take something positive from what I do or perhaps ask questions they had not thought about. For example, in my upcoming debut solo album I have a song titled ‘Invincible’ all about inner fortitude after being beaten up metaphorically by life. Another song is called ‘Anunnaki’, which explores questions regarding other worlds, civilizations and planets. For these two songs I actually released early music videos, available at daleamusic.com.

Is there a song that you are most proud of?
From released work there is a song called ‘Danse Macabre’ from the last album I did with my band Quimera Music. The album is called Immortal and the song is about how with our carelessness we are destroying our planet. This double album came out in 2012 and since then, so many new studies regarding the state of our planet have released. Most notable, recently, the news broke that a big chunk of the ice caps have detached due to global warming, and how this is now irreversible. From my upcoming new solo album Visitor, due in the fall, I have many favourites. I have evolved a lot musically and vocally. And now that I am out as being an intersex woman, I have a new found freedom of expression.

As I was researching I came across the statistic that 30% of intersex people under the age of 30 have attempted suicide. As a woman who was diagnosed with AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) was there a point where you felt you couldn’t carry on?
Yes, there was, at fourteen years old. My mother had a friend that she knew for years and confided in, regarding me and my body. This woman had an older son, about 17 or so, and she told him about me, and then he went on and told others, it was like wildfire. I began being bullied daily – then one day he and his guy friends were waiting for me outside school. My heart sank as soon as I saw them. They begun to follow me and scream horrible things at me, including that they were going to undress me in front of everybody. I ran and ran without looking back, and hours later I reached the edge of my town. I found myself at an abandoned building and I went in, then up to the third floor and stood on a window, ready to jump and end my pain. But then, inside me, a voice said, If you jump, it will be all over, you will no longer feel pain and you can end your story here. But if you decide not to jump, you will learn that there is a whole world for you to see, but you must give life everything you got, and go on to fulfil your destiny.

I chose life.

Memories such as this are the reason I am whom I am now – why I need to be visible. If me being visible can be of service to just one kid, or just one person, I will truly consider it all worthwhile.

As only 4% of the population has been diagnosed with AIS, do you feel that there is enough exposure or support for the intersex community?
No, there is much work to do. I do feel that we are slowly beginning to come out, and there is a growing level of support, but there is much more needed. First of all, intersex bodies come in many colours, and the variations can manifest in many ways and intensities. One of the biggest issues is when a child is born with ambiguous genitalia and the parents consent for doctors to do cosmetic surgeries on them as babies – most of the time turning the child into a female. This to me is outrageous, because basically what if the child self-identifies as male when he begins to grow up, but they took away a part of him? In my book, you gave an innocent child a sex change without their consent. Most of the time it has nothing to do with making the child healthier, it is all about the discomfort that doctors and parents feel with a non-binary status (boy or girl). It is incredible that this is still happening in the USA, but I know it is bound to change soon with the growing exposure.

Are there certain perspectives you have come across regarding AIS that have been derogatory and how would you like to change that?
Yes. For example, I don’t like when people use the word ‘Hermaphrodite’, but I understand it is all based on ignorance in the subject.

I also find skewed perspectives due to ignorance in the fact that there are many kinds of intersex bodies out there.

In my specific case, one thing that always surprises people is the combo of XY chromosomes and androgen insensitivity [androgen = testosterone]. Some people think that because I have an XY chromosome, I must be masculine or I maybe be stronger than regular girls. But it is actually quite the opposite. I am not very strong nor muscular, in spite of the fact that I work out a lot. At 5′ 10″, I actually have a very small bone structure compared to average girls. I want to help change perspectives and assumptions by being visible. Interviews such as this are just perfect to bring light the subject.

One of my main platforms and objectives, which I touched upon at a United Nations meeting in December last year, is my request to permanently add the ‘I’ to the LGBTQ acronym. I truly believe that it will lead to conversation and with conversation understanding and compassion follow.

Being an intersex woman (or man, or neither) is something that an overwhelming majority keep quiet, mostly because of fear of disconnection. Connection (or a feeling of belonging) is the one constant thing all humans seek, but if we are afraid that our truth will make others reject us, the fallback reaction is to hide it whenever possible, because standing on our authenticity may cost us rejection, pain or isolation. The more of us that are visible, the more we will help children and teens see themselves simply as just one variation in the wonderful rainbow that the entire human species really is.

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Now your work has led you onto starting Girl Comet in May 2014. Was there a particular reason for this and was there a particular challenge you faced that caused you to want to create Girl Comet?
Girl Comet is an advocacy and awareness campaign. We promote self-esteem, inspiration and diversity awareness, for all but specially for teens.

I firmly believe that a better future lies in our children. I am forever hopeful that as a global society, we can all someday come together and make a better, more loving world. I don’t accept that ‘tolerating’ others is good enough, because that still carries some form of judgment.

Based on this dream of a better tomorrow, I know the work must begin now, as we educate and inspire our future leaders. There is too much name calling, too much bullying, too much cruelty, too much judgment, and most of it is learned behaviour that started in childhood. It is this hope of being able to be part of positive change that made me want to create Girl Comet. I believe in humanity, I believe that an inspired being is unstoppable. Can you imagine the possibilities for this planet if new generations were raised with love-based, non-judgmental mindsets? What kind of leaders could potentially rule earth in the future?

What difference do you believe that Girl Comet can make? Why do you think it can?
If you could see inside my mind’s eye, you would see amazing sights! But for now, as Will Smith said so well, I will lay one brick at a time, as perfectly as I possibly can, and soon I will have a wall.

As I said, I am happy if we can help children and teens one by one, but I am a global thinker and I am not discounting the power that inspired and united human beings have when pursuing a worthwhile cause. Why do I think Girl Comet can make a difference? Because Girl Comet has a beating heart and because I am willing to work hard, knock on as many doors as I have to, and make sacrifices for this belief to become a reality.

Now with the start of Girl Comet there must be certain goals that you want to achieve, where would you like to see Girl Comet in five years time?
In five years I would love to have a TV show where we feature the best side of humanity, children, teens and adults inspiring each other and speaking about their experiences in becoming their best versions of themselves. Humans inspiring humans for a better world.

I also would like for Girl Comet to feature fund raisers to help specific children and teens in a financial capacity. I am already doing it on my own, privately, but I am just one person … I want millions helping.

Has building this project taught you any new lessons and what challenges can you expect for the future?
Yes, Girl Comet is teaching me that that I am not a crazy dreamer. People are beginning to support us and I am beginning to be surrounded by more and more of the right kind of people – the enlightened ones.

As far as challenges, since we just started, my main challenge at this point is that the day has only 24 hours. I am splitting my time between my career as a vocalist, writing my new album, training, my life at home, and Girl Comet needs. But I’m not complaining – this is the best time of my life – the now!

I’m afraid it’s now time for those random questions that we all want to know!
I love this part!

If you had to be an animal what would it be?
A bumble bee, because aerodynamically speaking, it should not be able to fly, but it does!

If you couldn’t be a musician, and you had to pick a job, what would you do?
A painter. I actually paint, but have no time to do it at this time in my life.

Night out on the town, or night in with a DVD, duvet and popcorn?
DVD and the biggest, most obnoxiously large bucket of popcorn ever!

Favourite Book?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Name one role model you look up to?
Oh wow! Do you mind if I answer in typical me? Mother Teresa for her ability to love, Buddha for his wisdom, Oprah Winfrey for her spirit, Mozart for his gift of music, Leonardo Da Vinci for his visionary imagination, Bill Gates for his charitable heart, Madonna for her drive and Helen Keller for her attitude of gratitude.

What is the meaning of life to you?
We are here for a moment in time, spirits inhabiting bodies for just a little while, before returning to our energy source. What better meaning can we all give to our lives than to honour the gifts we have been given and leave this world just a little better because we were here?

It’s your last day on Earth and you have got to give just one message to a whole new generation of people, what would that message be?
Every single one of you is perfection, all wrapped up in a beautifully imperfect being. You all have goodness inside and something that you are supposed to do. It is important that you listen to the whispers of your soul, find that something, and set out to do it. In pursuit of your destiny, don’t fear that you may get knocked down, because you will – we all do at one point or another. Yet the only way that the true beauty and strength of your being will develop is to get knocked down and get back up. So go in to the world and pursue the highest version of yourself, because you need it in order to be happy, and because this world needs every single one of you.

I will be cheering for you, from wherever I am.

Sophia Carter

Sophia is a poet and writer based in Birmingham with a passion for LGBT issues, food, fashion and literature, keen blogger and lover of cats.

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