Princess Nokia In Conversation at Brown University

Princess Nokia In Conversation at Brown University

SPEAKER: Thank you
so much for being here and welcome to the final
event of Women’s History Series 2017. Very excited. We’re so, so excited and honored
to be hosting Princess Nokia in conversation today. And the event is the
culmination of so many months of work, and weird
delays, and confusions, as I’m sure you all can tell,
luck has not been on our side. But now it’s happening
and it’s great. So, for my co-coordinator
and I, Sofia, putting together
Women’s History Series has really been like
truly a labor of love. We’re both so committed to
influencing conversation on campus towards deeper thought
on issues of race, and gender justice, and
revolution, and we hope that this event will bring some
of those ideas forth today. Our theme for Women’s
History Series this year is Healing for Resilience. And under that banner we’ve
been attempting to, as I say, kind of put forward
a vision of politics that can hold space
for spirituality and self-preservation. And so we hope that,
through this event and through your engagement
with Women’s History Series, in whatever capacity,
you’ve come away with some new thoughts,
some new plans for action on topics of sustainability,
healing, resilience, and resistance. I want to give a
really quick shout out to the Sarah Doyle
Women’s Center, which is our home on campus. As I’m sure many of
you know, Sarah Doyle is the holding space for a
lot of wonderful programming and thought on issues of
gender, and politics, and race, and justice. So come by, see the
house, it’s great. I have a couple
of business notes. In the event of a
fire alarm, please proceed calmly to a nearby
exit, leave the building, and move away from the doorway. Please note that the location of
nearby exits, the closest exit, may not be where you
entered, and be aware that the way you entered may
not be the most direct way out. Sitting or standing in
the aisles and doorways is not permitted. Smoking is also not allowed
at any university building. Please turn off or
silence all cellphones. We would also like to thank
our very generous sponsors. Sarah Doyle Women’s Center,
the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office
of the President, Office of the Provost’s, Office
of the Dean of the College, the Division of Campus
Life and Student Services, and the Undergraduate
Finance Board. So now I want to introduce
my wonderful co-coordinator, Sophia Robledo Rower. She’s going to be facilitating
this very exciting conversation today. A little background on
Sophia, Sophia Robledo Rower is a queer, white, Latino
Libra from New York who co-coordinated
Women’s History Series. All the important details. She is a junior, concentrating
on Africana and ethnic studies. She is co-editor in chief
of Blue Stockings Magazine and founding member of Students
Against the Prison Industrial Complex, a prison
abolitionist organizing group. Sophia is a novice herbalist,
a young healer, and a farmer. And I’m also so, so excited to
introduce Destiny Frasqueri, otherwise known
as Princess Nokia. [APPLAUSE] Princess Nokia is an independent
artist from New York City. She released her debut
album, 1992, in fall of 2016. She’s returning from her second
tour of Europe and the United States, and has been featured in
Fader, Vice, Bustle, et cetera, and is also, maybe,
performing tomorrow. Some of you might have heard. [APPLAUSE] SOPHIA ROWER: I’m
not a musician. PRINCESS NOKIA: Hello, hello. Hi, Brown University. How you doing? What a beautiful,
beautiful crowd here today. Some gorgeous folks in here. SOPHIA ROWER: True. These are like, the
best folks on campus. PRINCESS NOKIA: No, I
completely believe it. Thank you for having
me, by the way. I really appreciate the
love and the support. SOPHIA ROWER: Yes, thank you
all so much for coming out. So maybe we’ll just take a
deep breath and settle in. PRINCESS NOKIA: I’m going
to take my shoes off. SOPHIA ROWER: Take your
shoes off, do whatever. PRINCESS NOKIA: We all
family in here, right? We should be. SOPHIA ROWER: So I thought
that we would start by– maybe I’m going to
start by asking you about your live shows. Because anyone whose been to
your live shows know how much you care about centering women,
and centering women of color, specifically. And actually saying that
and intentionally making that space. So I was wondering if you could
talk a little bit about how important that is to
you, and how it has changed your shows, if it has. And in general, why
you choose to do that. PRINCESS NOKIA: Well, I think
essentially, when I primarily first started performing, it
was a really awkward experience for me and I didn’t like it,
and it was like this phase that I had, where I’d rush and
I didn’t care about myself. So I didn’t care about my
art, and I didn’t’ put effort into it. And then I– you know,
I evolved as a person and I evolved as an artist. And I started to take
art really seriously and I thought that my art
wouldn’t give something to me if I didn’t
give something to it. So I can’t just wait until
last minute to get ready. And I used to play like
a lot of nightlife, like club shows, very
late at night in New York rave, underground, queer scene. And it was a very different
spectrum in audience to which I perform to now. But when I wanted to
re-evaluate how I performed, or when I started
being Princess Nokia and really, really started
giving a lot of effort and evolution to the
whole process and schism, I think that I just want to
create a really cool, brown, radical kind of space. You know, like that was like
encompassing the hip hop energy but had, like, really,
really nasty, punk, like unapologetic
energy, as well. Which I think comes from the
Riot Girl influence, right? And then I think that– I’m an extremely
emotional person. I connect to people,
regardless of where I am. I don’t know how
to be any other way completely, to be
honest with you. So with that being said. I think that I’m a very big
fan of science and music and all these different
attributes of life, and I encompass
them all together. And I believe that artists,
they create spaces of energy. They create spaces of
environment, you know? An artist really has the
power to create an environment for its audience. And I kind of always
knew, and just how I feel, how I relate to myself
and my artistry is I have a beautiful
bravado about me. But I don’t have like, ego. So it’s not like I’m
like separating myself from my audience,
it’s a room of love. They come to see me. So how dare I act like
I’m better than them or that they should
want to hear me perform? No. It’s not like that at all. I think that I’m very
conscientious of the audience and the young souls that
are in the audience. And they’re beautiful. And I like to look at
them and it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to look
at someone in the face. So I think that creating
these safe spaces, I just wanted to create a
safe space where it was fun and happy and joyful and safe. Because I have been
to places in my youth where things weren’t safe
and they weren’t inclusive. And it really pissed me off. And I think that’s why I
started rapping and performing in the first place. So I just wanted
to create spaces of love that were not fake. They were real love, they
were really based on love. And that’s kind of
where it is, that’s kind of where it comes from. SOPHIA ROWER: So in
the Fader documentary, you talk about going
to a place of fantasy. And I was wondering if you
could say a little bit more about the relationship between
that space of fantasy and maybe the space that you try to
create when you’re onstage, or how you think about
a space of fantasy. PRINCESS NOKIA: Well
I think that music is my primary escapism, right? And I have used music as a tool
to deal with so much trauma or pain in my life. And it’s the healthiest,
most wonderful, most gratifying
escapism I’ve ever had. And that is a place of fantasy. Escapeisms, in some
facet, are fantasy. My music is a fantasy for me. As you know, before 1992
I did Metallic Butterfly, I did Honeysuckle. Those are experimental
albums that have no correlation
to what I do now. And they were like
schisms of fantasy, where like, I cos-played. I’m a nerd at the same time. So I mean, when I say I go
home to a place of fantasy outside my own, I’ve
always been a loner. I’ve always been an awkward kid
who daydreamed a lot, you know? I’m like clairvoyant, my
head is in the clouds. I can’t pay attention to a lot
of things, I fantasize a lot. And I’m OK with that. I know that about myself. It’s healthy, it
isn’t very negative. So I think that with
fantasy, whether it’s like my fantasy with
daydreaming or my fantasies with the comic book world
and superheroes and cartoons and anime and comics,
and all that fun stuff, I have a very innocent spirit. So when I do have
like pain or trauma, my escapisms are
always with fantasy. I’m always reading like,
little girl princess books and wearing like a
unicorn onesie, and like, sucking on a pacifier. Like some really odd,
out the world shit. But like, that’s my
fantasy and that’s where I go to make
myself feel happy. And it’s OK, because
it’s healthy. I’m not self-deprecating. I’ve been there before. So now my adulthood,
my evolution, I like healthy fantasies. SOPHIA ROWER: So
kind of going off of that, what is your personal
relationship to Princess Nokia, then? How do you think about the
relationship between Destiny and Princess Nokia? PRINCESS NOKIA: I think
that m both are the same. You know, it’s definitely
so much the same. But with Princess Nokia,
I think I kind of take it from the place where I
came up with the name. And Princess Nokia, like
a couple of years ago, I was in this is really
different, interesting paradox, where I had become a viral
sensation, like very lowly. And I avoided all
the label stuff, but I had been across
seas in Europe already, and I was just this, like,
person in the music world. But I remember I was broke. I’ve been emancipated
since I was 16. I bought my own laptop,
I didn’t have anything. I lived my dad but I had
to provide for myself. I didn’t have
Wi-Fi in my home, I didn’t have a laptop
for a long time, and I didn’t have a cell phone. I Would always be at the
library getting Wi-Fi or being on the computer. Most of the business
transactions, touring, a lot of stuff
I did in the early days, I was at the library doing that. I had an Obama phone, like
government Obama phone. And I remember being in high
school, my later– like 19, 20 years old. I went back to high
school, I had dropped out. I was Wavy Spice at high
school, or Princess Nokia? I don’t know, I don’t
remember actually. I think I was just Wavy Spice. However, I was just
doing all this cool shit off this little phone. And I think it
takes a lot of balls to admit that, number one. And number two, it
takes a lot of balls to be able to be so
resourceful with so little. And I have just encompassed
like, I’m like a gutsy little resourceful kid. You know? And that’s just me, and
that’s Princess Nokia and that’s where it came from. Princess Nokia has evolved
into something so much more, but it’s very, very much me. It’s not like my stage name or
like, I’m two different people on and off stage, I’m not. And the only thing is, I don’t
really call myself Nokia. Like, I’ve realized
that that’s your name, people call you that. So you like refer to
yourself like that as more. But I’m always like, yes, hi
I’m Destiny, Nice to meet you. I think that’s because
I like my name a lot. And just because I never
called myself Nokia, it was never a thing
like, Hi I’m Nokia. Like, hey it’s Nokia! Or, “We’re only
calling me Nokia now.” No. I don’t think I ever did– no. It’s just a cool name. I’d be funny though because
remember that thing that Nicki Minaj did against Remy Ma,
she was like, I’m the iPhone, you the Nokia. I was like, that’s me! I was definitely
the lower grade. And that’s OK with me. The Nokia got Snake
on it, so come on. They got the game Pong too so
I’d rather go with the Nokia. I’m the Baby Phat Nokia too. SOPHIA ROWER: So
I’m from New York, and so I’m really
interested how– you said you found
Princess Nokia when you moved to the Lower East Side. And so I’m wondering what
about the Lower East Side, or what in the Lower East Side,
really changed you in that way, or gave you that creative jump? PRINCESS NOKIA: Well I’m
originally from the Lower East Side and Harlem. My dad is from the Lower East
Side, my mom was from Harlem. I always lived in
the Lower East Side. I moved, permanently,
to Lower East Side when I left foster care. I was very sheltered,
I wasn’t allowed to do nothing, really
have friends or go out the way teenagers can do
when they are in high school. But I was still pretty wild. I just was like– oh, I wish I could show you
those pictures I just showed them of me in high school. It was like me drinking a
40 naked in the bathtub. But when I got to
the Lower East Side, had got to live with my dad
and I have ultimate freedom. I started really going to
raves, really going to parties, really working in the art
world, in the fashion world, and just being downtown. And if you’re familiar with that
schism of New York downtown, anything happens, anything could
happen in a New York minute. You go to a party, you meet this
person, you end up somewhere. It’s like synchronicity
of the art world scene. You know how Madonna has
all these pictures of her in Basquiat and is real casual? That’s very New York
downtown, and that’s very much what I experienced
when I moved there. I just would be in the
middle of the street, just in the thick of it. Real, real beautiful
New York moment, and I just got to be free. Just got to be free, man. And I just got to
really engross myself in the arts, in that art world,
and be around other people. I went to a parochial school
that was corporate work-study. I wasn’t allowed
to be myself, I had to wear slacks and a
collared shirt every day, had to conform. I got sent home for wearing
a skirt that was at my knee, you know like lot of things like
that that just really stifled my creativity. So when I went to
the Lower East Side, I really did become
Princess Nokia. Essentially I just became
like that underworld– for my first album,
I refer to it as this, like, graphic novel. Princess Nokia was
this high school girl that was a nerdy, awkward high
school girl by day and then like a singer and nightlife
person, go-go dancer by night. I was a go-go dancer,
used to hit all the– I was everywhere. You know I mean? Everywhere. And that was it. And in the graphic novel sense,
that’s what Princess Nokia did, she went to school, didn’t
really talk to nobody, smoked a lot of weed. And then at night, I
would wear orange wigs and I was like,
eccentric as fuck. And I think yeah, I got to be
myself and I got to be free. And then I got to see the
hustle between the art world and the music world and me,
and what I could do with it. That’s when I pushed
myself further. SOPHIA ROWER: I used to
also go to weird parties when I was a
teenager in New York. And you know, it was weird. PRINCESS NOKIA: Very much. SOPHIA ROWER: Like
to be a teenager too, like seriously underage,
seriously queer. It took like a lot of toughness
to go into those spaces, where either you were pretending to
be older or like, hey, um hi. You know? And so I was wondering about– I know you’ve talked about
being torn between feelings of docility and also feelings
of power and toughness, and I was wondering if you could
talk a little bit about that and maybe how that played out
in going to those parties, but also now, and
how that’s changed? PRINCESS NOKIA: Well,
I think as a young kid I was really into going
to parties because I just loved to go dancing. And I’m a raver. Like real old-school
raver, before EDM. And I think that
was my get-down. I just wanted to have a beer,
have a couple of drinks, and just let go. I lived in a really abusive
home for many years, and every chance I could let go
or be somewhere else, I would. And that was the beauty
of my adolescence, I just let my freak flag fly,
and anywhere I go find fun, I would. And that was really beautiful
and the spaces were cool. You know? They were interesting, it
was like the New York rave, underground warehouse scene. Very interesting
part of my life, don’t remember a lot of it,
honestly I used to drink a lot. And I don’t want
to laugh at that because I don’t drink anymore. And I don’t disregard
drinking, drinking is cool. But I just don’t
drink anymore, like I used to do it do it too much. My memory is weird. But it was great and it was
beautiful, and it was kinetic. I remember having spiritual
experiences of those lasers hitting me and hearing
the drop in the music, and vogue-ing and
shuffling and raving. I wasn’t on no drugs
either, really. I was just moved
by a high of being by myself for the. first time. And all the things
I used to fantasize about at 12 years old, or
read about the Village Voice, look at online, look
at in movies and shows, I was living it. I was like, oh my
god, I’m doing this. I wanted to do this and I
got out, and I’m doing it. That feeling– it was like
the Waiting for Tonight video. Like beautiful, gorgeous. Essentially, when I
became 19, 20 years old, I started to embark
on a spiritual shift within my own personal,
individual self. I could no longer attend parties
the way I used to, actually. I became really sensitive
to the energies around me and I realized that essentially,
my energy or my intentions, or whatever I was
about or feeling was very different from
everyone around me. And it was very apparent. And then I realized
that I started becoming really anxious
and nervous at parties, and I started realizing
how people saw me, and it maybe wasn’t the
most positive thing. And the shadiness just
wasn’t worth it at all. And it just wasn’t
fun for me anymore. And then I kind of looked
back on my life and was like, OK I’m going to
retract from this and I’m going to just
focus on me and my art, and kind of things
that I was starting to be into at the time. I started to be really
into hiking and praying, and that kind of took
over my party life. And it’s funny, because I think
about, oh my god, I really be up in there. And then my life just changed
and I’m grateful for both. I wouldn’t trade
it for the world, it was the funnest
time of my life. No, this is my funnest
time of my life, but it was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. SOPHIA ROWER: Yeah. PRINCESS NOKIA:
I’m very lucky too, because I used to walk
around a lot by myself at odd hours of the night. A little girl in
no clothes, I got to be honest with you,
that’s not advisable. I would say don’t do
that, that was not cool. But I had guardians all around. SOPHIA ROWER: I’m really curious
about your relationship when you’re performing,
energetically, with the crowd. And where do you feel
the spirits in that if you do feel the
spirits in that? And how do you
negotiate those energies and being able to identify
that energetic feeling when you’re performing? PRINCESS NOKIA: I think
that, more than anything, I’m moved by God. And my definition of God may
be different from other folks. My definition of God is the
highest, supreme feeling of beauty and light and
happiness from up there. It’s not no man with
no beard, ain’t nobody trying to smite me down. No, it’s light. It’s light, and that’s all it
is, and I know it very well. And when I’m in stage, it’s a
wave of feeling, I can feel it. I can sense it,
I can breathe it, and I can see it in
the people’s faces. And it’s back and forth and it’s
exchanged, and it’s kinetic. And that’s what I feel
more than anything. It ain’t really no spirits;
it’s good spirits if anything, but it’s godliness, it’s
happiness, it’s uniqueness. And I’ve had like, severe
pneumonia and a long series of anomalies, medical. Like I’ve been almost
deathly, like going to die, and then I’ve gone on
stage and completely have shifted my entire
physicality because I am so moved to perform and put on a
good show and have a good time. I have completely healed
myself, and the whole show I didn’t break no breath,
I didn’t break a sweat, I didn’t cough. Soon as I got off stage
I was sick as fuck. However, it’s just beautiful. You know? I think it’s like the
energy, and it’s the Epi-Pen that gives you adrenaline. The adrenalin,
that’s such a rush. And it’s a positive
rush, and it’s like me, and I throw the
punk energy into it. I’m jumping up and down and
acting a whole bunch of fools. And I can’t look like– I’ve done the best I can with
my appearance today, yes. But like, I won’t look like
this by the end of the stage. I don’t know, I don’t
know how women do it. Like, I’m still trying to figure
it out because I go on stage and at the end of the show,
I look like a wet mop. And that’s cool, that’s great. I was jumping
around and sweating and crying and rapping, and
my makeup is all the way off, you know? And it’s cool because
it’s worth it. I’m just jumping around and I’m
just getting so live and crazy, and it’s just so amazing. I can’t be demure and
walk around and just be like who that is, ho? I don’t know, it ain’t my style. So, my style is to be really– I’m just so cocky
and fun, and I’m just like headbanging and
humping speakers. I used to do a
big split onstage, I used to bust it open. I don’t do it any more
because I literally injured my knee so many
times, and it just cool and it wasn’t funny anymore. But I used to like,
bust it open on stage. It’s just the opportunity
to be whatever you do and whatever you want to do. Just be nasty and wild
and messy and free. And that’s the
whole reason why I like bringing punk
energy to hip hop, or breaking down
those taboos that you have to have like 1,000 fucking
people on stage with you. I show up by myself,
that’s all I need. Me. It’s cool. I don’t need a whole bunch of
people, I need an entourage, I don’t need like a hype person. I’m all of that
together, you know? And it’s dope. You know? And I think that
was different, what I wanted to bring to Princess
Nokia, what I facilitate. I’ve toured many
countries now, many shows. I’ve seen it all. Three weeks after
my first album, I had an entire sold out tour. That is numbers that no
underground artists does, you know? And that’s love. And I’m just like, we’re
going have some fun. SOPHIA ROWER: Tomorrow
is going to be fun. PRINCESS NOKIA: A
lot of beauty in it, SOPHIA ROWERS: So you’ve
spoken a couple of times about getting a lot of
almost power from isolation and going into yourself. Can you kind of talk a
little bit more about that and how you kind of
figured that out? It’s something I
know I struggle with, and I’m sure lots of folks
here struggle with as well. PRINCESS NOKIA:
Listen young bloods. I spent a lot of time alone
because I was different, I was weird, and
I was very unique. And a lot of people
didn’t understand me. So I was forced to spent
a lot of time alone. I was forced to spent a
lot of time at home alone because I wasn’t allowed to
have friends or play dates. All up in here, with
a lot of love though. Thankfully. Thankfully I didn’t
become a dog person. I think that I’d always
spent my life alone in some facet or another. I was familiar with it. But when I began studying
spiritual discipline, you learn that solitude,
spiritual solitude, is a huge component
in self-evolution. And when you want to
evolve or you are evolving, regardless if you
want to or not, like someone like
myself who is developing clairvoyant abilities
by the age of 20, because there’s my
genetic disposition as a Caribbean person,
it just comes to you. It comes to you and
you have to accept it. And you could you could
denounce it if you want, it’s going to be a hard
life after that though. You’re going to be at
odds with yourself. So I started understanding,
studying, reading. It came to a point where– it says in many books, many
esoteric, spiritual books, that it’s going
to come to a point where you’re not going to
relate to people anymore. And people are not
going to relate to you. And the things that you used
to share your time with, or anything, whether it be the
parties, girls, men I was with, the friends I used
to be friends with, they didn’t relate
to it no more. So there was a time where I
had to have solitude and force myself into solitude
because I wasn’t going to try to play myself. If something wasn’t
right for me, I couldn’t force myself in it. My body was rejecting it,
my mind was rejecting it, my spirit was rejecting it. So I had to be alone
and then I accepted it. And I was like OK, this
is what comes with it. It’s a gift and a curse. In order to advance
as a spiritual person or a clairvoyant person, the
Caribbean witch that I am, I have to accept these
things that come with it. And solitude is one of them,
and that is OK with me. Better than be an
average and mediocre. SOPHIA ROWERS: Can
you talk a little bit about being a Caribbean
witch and maybe what Afro-Latina means to you? PRINCESS NOKIA:
Yes, very much so. So, my identity is
very multifaceted but it’s very deep
rooted in the genetics of my country and my family. And I am and
Afro-indigenous woman. I’m Puerto Rican, which
means I’m triple-raced. I’m black and white and
I’m Native American. And I’m mostly black and white,
and a lot of Puerto Ricans don’t like to admit
that to themselves. Some do, some don’t. Whatever, I don’t want to get
into that schism of colorism and self-hatred within the
Caribbean countries because of colonization. However, as a mixed person, I’m
very, very honest with myself. How do I look? What do I look like? What is my skin color, my
hair, my mother, my family? Where do our customs come from? Our traditions? I look at my family personally. Santeria, [INAUDIBLE],
and the Aruban religion has been in my
family for centuries. It’s just passed on, baby. And I can’t deny that, and
it’s a very special part of my identity because it’s a
powerful part of my identity. It’s all that I
know and it’s all that my mother left
me with when she died. People don’t realize
that, my mother left me orishas before she died. So my connection to my blackness
is very powerful and strong. And I’m very prideful. And at the same time, I’m
very aware of my privilege as a light-skinned woman. But at the same time, I’m not
going to deny that I’m black. There are a lot of
Puerto Ricans that do. I look black, come on. Let’s think about that. So when it comes to the
schism of accepting blackness, I grew up in a really
Afro-centric home. I grew up with dark women
around me, my mother’s dark. So I think that those are just
things that come natural to me. With the schism
of a mixed person, I think, yes, I’m mixed. And I try to honor each
part of my identity equally. But the Afro-Latino
part in me is so huge and it’s played such a role
in my identity and upbringing that it’s kind of like
all I know, sometimes. You know? And the identity of being a
mixed person is really hard. Being a Caribbean
person is really hard. Being a magical
person is really hard. But I’m very
intellectually stimulated by bringing all those truths and
those large parts of my family together because they
give me strength. And as Queen Afua
said, she said if you don’t know the
people that bore you, you’ll never know yourself. And I think that’s
very important because in my quest of
understanding my womanhood, I just wanted to connect to
my ancestors, and my family, and the spirituality
that I am bred from. That’s one of the largest
parts of my upbringing and my genetic upkeep. So, as an Afro-Latino witch,
I realized many years ago– because I introduced the concept
of me being a witch in Metallic Butterfly when I did
go to Corazon in Africa and when I did Young Girls. And I think that when
I wanted to start making art of substance, because
I’m not very fond of the art that I first made,
like Bitch, I’m Posh and Vickie Gotti,
Versace Hottie, that’s cool. But I’m not proud of that. That’s not art. But I started to make when
I started really evolving as a woman. Because when I started making
music I wasn’t evolved. I was a little teenage girl
with a stick up my ass, with a big ass ego who thought
the world owed me something. And I looked
different, and I looked more euro-centric, I looked real
rude, like you know, whatever. And then I started
finding myself. And I started realizing
a lot of things. And I realized that I’m
a woman of substance, I’m a woman of magic, I’m
a woman of a lot of beauty that comes from a really
core place in my country and in my family. And it was becoming so apparent. It was not something that I
could hide for the life of me. And it was something
that I thought was so beautiful in
my self-discovery, I had to share with the world. Because to me, it was
the most beautiful part I’d ever discovered
about myself. When I found God, when I found
out that I was really a witch, man, it changed my life. And I no longer hated
myself anymore or did drugs. I was like wow, my eyes are
open, the veil was lifted. I come from a mother who
has borne me out of magic. It’s intense and it’s powerful. That’s who I really am. And I like the girl I used
to be but is really who I am. And I had to stop
and check myself. And when it comes
to Afro-Latinidad, I know there’s a lot
of intersections that are complicated and
difficult. I can’t apologize for being mixed,
but what I can do is try to erase the demonization
of blackness within my country and within our culture. Because everybody is
OK with being Taino, but nobody wants to be black. You know? And for me, I even got friends,
I even got people from my tribe that I grew up with since I
was four years old, look down at me for wearing
[INAUDIBLE] Coming into a pow-wow in all
white with [INAUDIBLE] on. Real black. And that’s OK,
that’s up to them. I know that we have an
obligation to our ancestors, and that’s why I
really stay with it and that’s why I’m so
adamant on my culture and explaining why I am so
proud of being Afro-Latino. But I don’t identify
as Afro-Latina, I identify more so
as Afro-indigenous because I am a Taino woman,
I am Native American, I’m Afro-indigenous. And yeah, very white too. And I’m cool with that
too, and I’m proud of that too, because I’m
not just Spanish, I’m Irish and Italian as well. And I try to find beauty
in my whiteness as well. And it’s funny because
if I go to Spain, people look at me funny
like, you’re not Spanish. It’s like a weird placement
no matter where I go. So fuck it, like, I’m here. And that’s the best that
you try to do I think. And, you know, when it comes
to my sisters, my indigenous sisters, or my
sister-sisters, I’m trying to be are both
planes with them, but I’m trying to I’m
trying to do it respectfully and I’m trying to do it
by checking my privilege and I’m trying to
do it with respect. But I’m also trying not to
hide myself because I am mixed, you know? It is an interesting
field, but I think I try to play
it as well as I can. SOPHIA ROWERS: Yeah. That was such a
beautiful answer. Thank you so much. I was also wondering
if you could talk a little bit about
the spiritual or different religions that were
around you growing up, and how you like
negotiated all of that. PRINCESS NOKIA: I
grew up so liberal, it’s like so cliche and corny. It’s really like a moment. OK, so I grew up
in New York City. New York City is pretty
diverse, pretty liberal. My family is a very
eccentric fucking family and I’ve lived with
different people. So my family was
primarily Catholic. Catholic, Catholic. I was baptized in a church. Went to church all my life– well, no. Went to church up
until the age of 15; that’s when I left and didn’t
want to go back to church. For a big portion
of my childhood, my father was actually
a devout Muslim. My father had turned
to Islam for therapy when my mother died. My father found Islam
in prison and him his best friend had
converted to Islam and became devout Muslims. My father used to go by
the name of Allah-mean. When I was a child my father
prayed five times a day on his mat, my father read
the Qua-ran, my father and I would wear matching keffiyehs
because my grandma would have had a heart attack if
he try to put a hijab on me. And it’s a funny thing
because people are like, what? And I’m like, yeah, there’s
a lot of Puerto Rican Muslims in New York, actually. It’s like, I grew up with them. I knew this woman named Fatima. Her daughter was [INAUDIBLE]. They was like Puerto Rican
chicks and they was Muslim. And I grew up with them. It was just like, a thing. I don’t know. My dad was a devout
Muslim until I was about the age
of seven or eight. And then my father had
not denounced Islam, but he just like, took
a step back from it. My father then became a
Santero, a very devout Santero. And the mother of my sister had
brought him into the religion. So they were Santero
couple, and my sister was even born out of magic. So that was around me a lot,
but it was never put onto me, it was just familiar. Seeing my parents in
all-white, altars in the house, and I would smoke my dad’s
cigars when I was little because I was a weird kid. So I was just
like, I don’t know, I was always just
trying to smoke. And I remember,
like, you know, boom. That was a big part of my life. I attended a Hebrew Jewish
camp at the 96th Street Y for 10 years. So Judaism was a
big part of my life. And as well as my grandma, she
wasn’t cool with her family. She was a very
interesting woman; my grandmother had schemed
the art world in New York, and she had acquired these
really wealthy Jewish friends who became– that’s a real fact– my brother was a
violinist and there was a lot of movies that
were done about his violin program and himself. My grandma weaseled
her way, she became best friends with the director,
the producer, and the funder. That’s a true story. Every weekend I would
be at the Kaplin house, or the [? shoyah ?] house,
or the Miller house. With a lot of Jewish people,
like my aunties and uncles. Kind of my extended– we were
called the extended family. They were Jewish, so I had
a lot of Judaism around me. I can pray in Hebrew, it
was so around me that much and I thought it was
a beautiful faith. Like, it really is. And I had so many
Jewish friends, my first boyfriend was Jewish. I could sing a [? moti. ?]
Like, that was cool. I grew up Catholic,
went to Catholic school. It’s a very big
part of my family. My grandma was a Santera. My maternal grandmother,
my mother’s mother, so a big part of my life. It came back to me
in my adulthood. It came full circle when
my mother passed away. My mother was a magical woman. My mother and my grandmother
and many relatives, I had later found out were
practitioners, magical women. My mother, before
I realized this, or before I knew even
the orisha Yemaya, I have a tattoo of a mermaid
on my thigh, on my hip. I’ve had it since
I was 16 years old. Before my mother died,
she made a book for me about a mermaid named Destiny. Excuse me, I’m about
to get emotional. My mother made a
book about a mermaid named Destiny, and
before my mother died she made my entire room mermaids. Everything was mermaids. I don’t know what it was
with this woman and mermaids. No Tweety Bird, no
Winnie the Pooh, the things that I associate
most vividly with my mother were mermaids. And I loved mermaids and
aquatic, nautical life all my life. That’s why I called myself Wavy. And then when I came into
the religion, my godmother and a medium who explained
to me my family’s history, because
that’s very possible, people can explain to
you your family history, spirits can come, your
[INAUDIBLE] can come, your relatives can come. It all came forward. Like, this was all planned out
from before you was even born. I said OK, that makes sense. Not weird to me. And those were the
religions, you know, based around in my life. Like, kind of all
around the board. And I’m lucky– I’m privileged to have
had so much openness and like culture around
me because a lot of people don’t have that at
all and you know I was able to like went
to camp with Jewish kids, went to school with
Muslim kids, you know? It was a very unique upbringing
and I’m grateful for it because I have love
for everything. I’ve never been close minded
a day in my life, you know? And I understand
religion really well, I studied religion in Catholic
school, like many religions. I know theology really well. I’m not a religious person,
I’m a very spiritual person. But religion, all
around the board. I have so many different
kinds of friends and family members and I’m grateful– honest to God I’m
grateful for that, because I know how hard
it is to grow up secular, I know how hard it is
to grow up orthodox, I know how hard it is to grow
up sheltered from other cultures or be sheltered by your culture. So by the grace of God, that
was my funny, cool upbringing. SOPHIA ROWERS: So in
the opening to Brujas, you have a prayer
to Yemaya and I was wondering what
role the orishas play in your creative process? And how is your song-making in
relation to the orishas, also? PRINCESS NOKIA: Well I
have a very, very singular relationship with
my orisha that is very different from a lot
of people who intersection with those West African
religions in the Caribbean, right? My relationship is not even
deep-rooted in the religion, it’s deep-rooted in a really,
really genetic kind of sense. It has to do with
my mother, it has to have a singular orisha,
Yemaya, the mother of ocean. I was left without a mother. It all correlated
to me, my womanhood, who I am as a woman, everything. So when I made that song,
I wanted to honor her. I made the video as an ebbo. That’s the offering that you
give to receive the ashe. And my relationship to Yemaya
is a very motherly, loving one. I don’t involve myself in
the religion or Ocha houses because our magic is as it is. I don’t need to be in amongst
other people in experiences like that. My relationship to this
orisha is so maternal, that that’s all she asks of
me, to honor her with love as a mother or daughter would. And that’s what I give to
her, and that’s what she says. She says that’s enough, she says
don’t do your initiations yet, don’t go to a Ocha house
here, don’t get crowned yet, she says what you
do for me is enough. You would love and
you revere me so much, you keep me in your
home, you keep me in mind when you make your
art, that’s OK. Your intention is pure, you
don’t use me for other gain, you use me because you
just want my companionship. That’s beautiful;
that’s ashe right there. So I’m filled with ashe as
it is, because her love is so strong, because
she is the mother that has guided me my entire life. And that’s why I
made that video, because that was
really my relationship like with the ocean. Every time I go to the ocean,
I move to the point of tears. Who feels like that? Anybody at the age of 23? Nobody has that mental
capacity to be like, this is my mother
speaking to me, this is my ancestors
speaking to me, these are the
mysteries of our people that have been hidden
for many, many years. So I’m just like, this
is as honest as I can be. I don’t try to overexert it,
I don’t put it onto people. It’s my thing, not yours. If you like it, and you can
identify with it, beautiful. And if you can
appreciate it, great. It’s done with good taste,
it’s done with my identity– because there are
some people that don’t agree with that video,
and some people from the Ocha houses that were like,
this is a bit much, you’re cursing in the video. But trust me, if I would’ve done
something wrong, I would know. So, she loved it, she knows
who I, am I revered her. That was it. SOPHIA ROWERS: That
was so beautiful. PRINCESS NOKIA: Thank you. Thank you. SOPHIA ROWERS: So you’ve
talked a little bit about the importance
of femininity and, I mean, Yemaya
is like, the mother. And so I wanted to
know if you could talk a little bit
about masculinity and hold a masculinity
and like, tomboy-ness. And we talked a little
bit about this earlier. PRINCESS NOKIA: We
did, I was really happy I could bring
a masculinity, because it’s such a big part of
my life, my identity, who I am, my work, my art, my very
attitude, like, I have so much masculine energy, I got
more chin hairs than a Baptist church lady. I swear to God. And I’ve always been extremely
masculine-identifying and androgynous from the very
edges of my childhood. I was always very
gay, very queer, love making out with girls. Saying like let’s play doctor. And you know? My grandmother–
it was unfortunate. This was maybe a little sad, but
my grandmother really, really didn’t like to exonerate
my beauty unfortunately. None of the woman I lived with
wanted to exonerate my beauty, they tried to hide my beauty,
they cut my hair short, they made me wear, like,
fake name brand clothes, like things that people would
just get made fun of in school, or takes away,
like, I don’t know but I had hair down to my ass. My grandmother cut
my hair no reason, my hair has never been the same. I was marked as a child. My beauty was stripped
from me, like my crown. You know? And I just wasn’t
allowed to be pretty. Like, nobody did my hair
before I went to school, I was left to be like, I looked
really rugged, really ragged. And I just adapted to
it, I became OK with it, and I was like, cool. But my identity as an
attitude was very rough and really gutsy and full
of moxie and full of like, “Ahh my dick is out.” that was just me,
like I’ve always been that type of person,
always identified as a kid, I always knew I was
extremely queer. Always just knew that like, I
think that more than anything, there is this savant-ness
with androgynous people. That like, the alpha female
does not exist in you, and that don’t exist in me. I’m the alpha female,
but I’m not a queen bee. I realized that
really, really early, that I didn’t have
this necessity to be dominant over other
women or feel insecure. I just was like, I felt a dude. I was all, she’s so pretty,
she makes me nervous. And like, she’s acting
like crazy, let’s bounce. I always had like
gentlemen-ness to me, always had masculinity
in me, Like energy. Very gentleman-like. Like, hold the door for a girl. I was also brought up with
impeccable southern manners. It was my foster mother, so just
very conscientious of women. And like, I don’t know. And then as I became
a teenager, I just was really about being
as gay as possible. Because when I was
young, that was like taboo and odd, and
still very considered weird. I went to school in
the early Millennium, so when I went to school,
for me that was amazing. I wanted to make
people uncomfortable with my queerness. I wanted people to talk shit
about me because I was like, y’all wack, y’all boring,
y’all basic, and I’m queer, and I’m a raver, and these
are my gay bracelets. I used to wear like,
candy up to my wrists. And I used to have whip, I just used to be
a bit exagerrative. But it was just like, how
I wanted to express myself or how I wanted to be, and how
I wanted people to remember me. I wanted people to remember
me as that weird gay kid. And I was a theater
kid, I was a drama kid, I was every gay cliche
you can imagine. You know, I started the LGBT
coalition in my Catholic school my freshman year of high school. You know what I mean? Like that was just it. I was just with the
shits from jump. You know? And I am a queer woman, I’ve
dated women, I’ve dated men. And I just love my masculinity. What I did with 1992
and Tomboy, it was like, I began to realize
that the men in my life loved me for my
unconventional body. I remember it was the men– because I was insecure
about my body, that it was an woman-like,
because I’m a Brown Caribbean woman. You seen the measurements
on our women? It’s crazy. Y’all some gorgeous,
buxom woman. Holy shit. I don’t look like that. So I was always really insecure. I didn’t feel fat, I didn’t
feel like that poppin’, like you know, I didn’t
have no ass and titties. Boom. I wanted to get
surgery, it was it was a thing I played
with for long time. I was always trying
to get my ass done, trying to save money
to get my titties done. Then one time, this
man in my life told me, you know how much money you
would make at a strip club? I said, what? And we sort of went
into this conversation. And he was like,
you don’t know this, but big, buxom women
come a dime a dozen. But your body type is very rare,
and very singular, it’s unique. He said, that will
make the most money– this was like a man
who was into sex work– he was like, yeah, your body
would make the most money. And I was like, really? And he was like,
yeah, it’s exotic. And I was like, I’m exotic? and. Then I started to realize,
holy shit, I am exotic. This is some other shit. And like, I have no titties. I got basically
all areola, right? It’s just like a
big, brown patch. It’s a button, it’s a pepperoni. And that’s what somebody
called me in fifth grade. My best friend, Sage,
who wasn’t my best friend for like
a good six years, but we became friends again– I am learning to
forgive and let go. She said I had
pepperoni nipples, it scarred me for life. Yes. Oh my god. She’s she grabbed my My
Chemical Romance pin off my bag and she was like,
it look like this. And i was like,
oh my fucking god! Oh my god, oh my god. I’m blushing because it was so– and then, years later, I
turned that and I was like, oh, this is beautiful. This is like sexy. This is like fetish-y. It she like, ay dios mio. You know? And then I started realizing
that all the men in my life really liked it, they
liked my body type. And another thing I
wanted to dismantle, with my little
titties, my fat belly– yes, I know I’m not
big, I’m very slim. This is where I come
from, the fat belly part. I been allergic to most food
all my life and didn’t know it. I had a large gluten allergy,
like big allergy to food. I also used to be quite
thick back in the day; I’ve lost 25 pounds, I
used to be quite thicker. Like, I used to be chunky,
and I lost 25 pounds, boom. But I had an indigestion
problem, really severe indigestion
problem that would engorge my stomach
to the point where about five months pregnant. I’ve had it many times,
it used to happen more often when I would eat
food, any type of bad food or any– it’s crazy my
stomach would engorge and I have passed at the
airport, stores, movie theaters for being pregnant. I’ve gotten away with a lot
of shit looking pregnant. I used to scam high school,
get on the elevator, anything. I always look pregnant a lot. I used to look pregnant a lot. I used to have a small frame
and look pregnant a lot, and that was my fat belly. And I had a boyfriend
one time that would be like, oh, I
love your little titties. and your fat belly. And I would be like– [LAUGHTER] And I remember I wrote a
poem on Thanksgiving Day because, you know those
body-con dresses at Rainbow? They’re not for people like
me, they’re for video girls, they’re for the girls
on the Instagram, they’re not for people like me. So I was wearing this dress. It was all like, you
know, them dresses, and my stomach was so big. And I know my body proportions,
I’m not ashamed of it. But let’s be real, my
stomach exceeds my breasts. I look like the Grinch. It’s funny, it’s cool,
I’m aware of that. It’s cool, I’m open
about it, I’m not trying to put myself down. That’s how my body type looked. So it was like a little fat
belly with little titties; it was always bigger. Nobody really has that
type of body frame. People don’t have small breasts
like I do, this is very rare. It just is. Like, I’m a AA– that’s smaller than a A-Cup. I just got a big black– though. The masculinity of my body type
and bringing that to Tomboy– I wrote a poem on
Thanksgiving Day, where it was like,
with my little titties and my fat belly, I could take
yo man if you fixin’ to let me. And that was the poem
I wrote, and then I remember writing music
a couple of months later and I was like,
that poem was phat. And I just remember writing
in the my thing like that. And I came up with a song that
really glorified where I’d come to about my love for myself. And then around a year
ago, I was 23 or 24, I got to go point in my life
where I just loved everything about myself so
upon apologetically. So much, so maybe
too much, you know? And that was the masculinity
in it, the tomboy-ness. I like expressing my femininity
because it’s rare for me. When you see me on
Instagram or anything like that, when I got that
weave on and I’m looking glossy, that’s not an
everyday thing for me. So I savor that, because
that’s the femininity that I’ve always
searched for in my life, that I can’t do normally. It comes to certain
women naturally, or it’s the disposition
of all they know. All I ever knew was
being a messy kid, all I ever knew was wearing
baggy clothes, all I ever knew was being dirty. I was a skater, I’m a
soccer player, I ride bike, I hike, you know? So when I have the
opportunity– it’s interesting, when I can tap
into my femininity, this is like so spiritual. And it’s unique, because
that is not natural for me. So I like to play
with that and I think as a gay
theater kid who likes to play all these realms
of identity, it’s like, today I’m giving femme, today
I’m giving femme-realness, today I’m giving you like, girl
that Drake flew in to Mexico. You know what I mean? Like, the lips is plump, and
this is glossy, and porn, and oh, it’s sexy. And I’m like, this
is so interesting. This is like me, but
it’s not me, but it’s me. And I like I like
to play with that, I like to play with femininity. Like right now, I’m
masculine, I have my afro, got my regular
clothes, I don’t give a fuck. This is me, too. This is my masculine energy,
comfortable, you know? Unbothered. And I play with it– I like to play it back and
forth, and it’s a spectrum. And gender is a spectrum,
sexuality is a spectrum, we all know that. So on that spectrum, I
can go from the pH scale, from seven to one. And depending on how I feel
that day is what I want to give. And I think that’s
OK, that’s part of the art, that’s a part of
where I want to be in hip hop. It’s OK not to look
sexy all the time. And that’s really
hard because we are in this world of
looking to look perfect, and that’s what
I wanted to do is bring that, like, balls
to the wall, cajones, I don’t give a fuck. I can be either-or,
I can be both. That’s androgynous,
that’s two-spirited, that’s my gayness, that’s
how I seep it into hip hop, and that’s where I really– I don’t know. I don’t have no agendas,
it’s just what I do. SOPHIA ROWERS: So
I thought we got this really wonderful
question submitted that I’m just going to read
because I didn’t memorize it. PRINCESS NOKIA: Let Let, me
know If I’m talking too much. SOPHIA ROWERS: No,
you’re literally here to talk too much. PRINCESS NOKIA:
Because sometimes I just talk and talk and talk,
and it’s like, Destiny, shut the fuck up. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] PRINCESS NOKIA: Thank you, boo. SOPHIA ROWERS: So, we
started a little late. We’re fine. So this was a really
beautiful question, so I’m just going to read it. And it says, your
politics on urban feminism mean so much to me. However as a gender-queer,
low-income, Puerto Rican person from the hood in
Chicago, I can sometimes feel like my gender identity
will never be as synchronized as my other two. I would like to ask how our
gender-queer, non-binary, femme and trans folks, including your
politics on urban feminism, is there a place for us
in the Latino communities? And if so, how do you
work towards that? PRINCESS NOKIA: Can I
see that real quick? SOPHIA ROWERS: Yeah,
it’s the top one. It’s a long, good question. PRINCESS NOKIA:
Well check this out. Everybody and anything is
included in my politics. But I don’t have politics,
I have principles. I’ve done Smart Girl club
for three, four years. That was the motto– I’ve said this many
times in my radio show– this is about principles,
and not politics. And that’s why I’m very
careful with the gray areas that I go into why I’m not
so adamant on politics, because sometimes I
can’t back them up. But my principles
have clear intentions and they have clear accuracy
from where I see things. So if the sense
of urban feminism, urban feminism
applies to anybody who is an urban feminist
identifying person. You don’t have to identify
as a woman to be a feminist, and urban people come
in many different races. Urban feminism was something for
poor, black, brown, yellow, red girls– and that can be a
spectrum of many types– to identify with because they
didn’t agree, or identify, or have accessibility to
mainstream white feminism. And that is why I
coined “urban feminism.” Because yeah, I like Riot
Girl, yeah I like Bikini Kill, yeah I knew about different
parts of the women’s liberation movement– from suffrage, to
burning bras, to equal pay, to the 90s fourth wave,
but feminism really comes from the
existence of resistance. The strength that comes from
inequality and unfairness and oppression. So, for the sister right
here, I think that she always has a place in urban
feminism, because that’s what urban feminism is for. It’s for the women that never
could fit into any other box. It’s for the brown women
that have no binary. I don’t have no binary either. Yes, I’m on some spectrum,
I’m more subdued, and maybe my identities
are my labels. But, with that
being said, I think that if she is a gender-queer,
non-binary person, why would she be excluded from
the Afro-Latino community? I just don’t see how
is that possible. Is it from the machismo
or the taboo-ness in it, or the traditionalism? Perhaps. That don’t got to
do with me, though. You know what I mean? So I think that in my
podcast, what I’ve always done with urban feminism
and Smart Girl Club, I always said this is a
safe space for everyone. Because I didn’t want to get too
particular with intersections, and I don’t want to
step on nobody’s toes or have my foot in my
mouth, or exclude anybody. I just said from off the
back, Smart Girl Club and what I did with urban
feminism is for everybody. It’s not about politics,
it’s about the principles. And that’s where I stand
on it, continuously so. Everyone and anyone– no matter
the identity or the binary or the intersection– is truly, truly truly
identifiable in my scope, because my scope is about
the emotion of the heart and what is right, and not
what’s like, right on paper. SOPHIA ROWERS: Mhm. And I think this is going to
be our last question because– it’s not? OK. I thought you were
saying “two questions.” OK, we’re chillin’ then. OK, good because I was curious
why the aversion from politics, in that case? Could you get into
that a little bit? Because at least on
this campus, politics are like a lot of things. PRINCESS NOKIA: Because I’m
under-educated in politics and I don’t want
to fake the funk. And that’s why I say that; I’m
under educated in politics, and I don’t like
to involve myself in them because they
have dark spaces that I do not want to touch. And those are for my
own personal reasons. So with that being said, I know
that limits me in my knowledge, and that may be a poor answer,
but it’s an honest answer. I don’t involve
myself in politics because they are extremely
intricate and complicated, and they’re always
demised to oppress. And politics are really, really
intricate and complicated, and I’m just too fucking
lazy for all of that shit. But what I do have in my
heart is of intellectual value and humanistic compassion. And that is why I tee
the lines of politics. Because people say, well
your music is very political. And I say, no it’s not. You never heard me
talk about no politics, my music is very
principle-driven, very culturally-driven,
very core-driven. Feminism? I don’t consider that politics. I consider feminism
a birthright, a way of life, a
lifestyle, a way for women to uplift themselves, and heal
themselves, and understand the truth about oppression
through history. Some people can
say, yes, feminism is a big part of politics. And you’re right, but that
is your understanding, your knowledge,
they’re knowledge. My knowledge comes from a
really, really humanitarian, spiritual,
compassionate component. And that’s why I don’t
involve myself in politics. I just don’t have
the mindset for it. And that’s cool, I know who I
am and I know what I’m about, and I say it first
so I never have to fake the funk after that. That’s what it is. SOPHIA ROWERS: I
appreciate the honesty. PRINCESS NOKIA: Thank you. SOPHIA ROWERS: Kind
of switching gears, I’m really curious–
since you do have such a grueling schedule,
like you literally just got back from Europe. PRINCESS NOKIA: I did. SOPHIA ROWERS: And I’m
wondering what, if any, are your rituals of
self-care and how do you keep yourself whole and
healthy doing so much shit? PRINCESS NOKIA: Well, OK. So, the keys on
self-love, self-help, is that you have
to commit to it. And I read this really wonderful
book, that I’m still rereading. It’s called Sacred
Woman by Queen Afua. She’s a wonderful,
wonderful African-American herbalists, like,
humanitarian, contributor to the cometic,
philosophetic community, that wanted to raise the vibration
of holisticness and health in the black community
in the last 25 years. I read her book– she says that in order
to change your life or to prolong a healthy
life or a sacred life, you have to commit
to health first. If you don’t, you
don’t have anything. So health is a really
big part of my life. It was something that I
began to change and evolve when I became 20, and I just
couldn’t eat processed food no more, couldn’t
drink alcohol no more, couldn’t sniff cocaine. It was like, everything– bad, bad, bad. And I was like, OK. Holisticness. Five years later, navigating
the tools of my lifestyle, I am an old soul. So I’m not like a
stubborn kid who’s like, I’m going to party all
night and talk all night, and run myself dry. No. I knew from a very
early age, when I wanted to develop my career,
where I wanted to be in life. I don’t want to be
no internet artist; I want to be an iconic force. Many, many, many accolades
and accomplishments of excellence under my belt.
How does one progress to that? They have to have a very,
very secular lifestyle. They have to make very,
very sensitive choices in every aspect of their life. They have to sacrifice a lot. I’ve sacrificed a lot– of being a young kid,
being a normal kid, and being a normal person. Being mundane, being lazy– I’m naturally very lazy. I don’t want to be
bothered with nothing, I want to smoke weed and
Watch Totally Spies all day. SOPHIA ROWERS: Relate-able. PRINCESS NOKIA: However, when
Beyonce released the Beyonce album, my life changed. And I said, this woman
created an iconic album– no one knew it. She just made this
17-song, visual album. I saw that merit
of work and I said, I want to amount
to that one day. Whatever she has– I was like, what’s a 24-hour
day in Beyonce’s life? What hour does she
wake up, what does she do to accentuate
herself, what is she taking on every day? What is this woman’s schedule? I said I want to
amount to that, I want to be on some sort
of plane like that. You can’t be no
regular person and be a superstar at the same time. And I’m not average,
so I started sacrificing a lot of things. I eat really well,
I eat really clean. I have to force myself
to eat really clean, I’m forcing myself to even
alkalies my diet even now, because I just have to. I try to get really, really
sufficient good sleep, no matter. Unfortunately, I can’t hang out
with people after my concerts, I have to go right back to my
hotel, not speak to nobody, be by myself. Actually, you know,
holistic stuff. What am I consuming
into my body? It has to be godliness,
it has to be goodliness. I got to take time to myself,
take time with my health. I spend a lot of
time in solitude. Every morning I pray
for an hour, fully. Those are not things that
young people primarily go to first, in their day to days. That’s what I have
to go to in order to be able to travel
as much as I do, and then what I did was
1992– like I put out six videos in one year, I put
out an album, I did a lot, you know? I pushed myself constantly. I was like, with every
opportunity of time and energy, I’m going to utilize this with
the productivity of a genius. I’m not a genius
but I want to be. I want to emulate genius. I don’t want to hold
myself back any more; I’m lazy, I procrastinate; I
do a bunch of these things. I ain’t never
going to be where I want to be unless I
kick myself in the ass and really commit to this
whole, healthy lifestyle. This productive, hard-working,
hard-living lifestyle. And with self-love, I have
to reiterate every morning, like, we learn about self-love,
we learn about positivity, we learn about affirmation. It can sound corny,
it can sound cliche, but every morning I truly look
to the sky and tell myself, I am a beautiful,
beautiful woman. I am capable. I am limitless. I am infinite. I am magical. I am powerful. I am ascending. I have to tell myself
that every day, because if I don’t, I’ll
take Nyquil every day. I am a Gemini, duality like
you would never believe. One side of me is like,
skateboard, scumbag, stoner, lot a lot of terribly
sociopathic tendencies. Other side of me,
productive, highly genius, spiritually Afrocentric,
beautiful force of nature. I got to let go of
this girl right here. I’m still letting her go. In order to love myself I have
to make myself love myself. To take time for myself,
pray with myself. My self-love comes from,
whenever I have the time, I’m spoiling myself
as much as possible. I wake up in the morning,
I love to take my vitamins. Oh girl. I’m like, yes Destiny! You take your vitamins, girl. Love the sacredness, love what
you’re bringing into your body. And it’s positive, and it’s
sweet, and it’s joyful, and it’s colorful. So it’s like, there is
sacredness in everything you do. That’s self-love. When I wake up, I pray,
light my herbs, you know? Where my all white,
do my sound bowl. I get so much joy out of those
little moments with myself that are so holy and so special
and so innocent and so sacred. I get a lot out of
that, it’s my self-love. I’m doing things that
most people my age won’t do, or don’t do,
or don’t know how to do. But I know how to do them, and
I’m teaching them to myself. And I know that’s the key to
living well and being healthy, so that’s self-love. And the fact that I’m
practicing it is self-love. And the fact that I’m
trying to reiterate it even when I don’t want
to, sometimes I don’t, I’m very honest with
that, I still do it anyway. That’s my self-love. Make a nice healthy, clean
smoothie bowl for myself, a little nice, healthy omelet. Like, I fill my body
with love, you know? Cooking is magic, how you
prepare your food is magic. The love you put in your food,
I don’t rush to make my food. I put on my little
Southside, the Aruban songs I listen to, my lilttle
pano, my all-white, and I’m like a
little kitchen witch. and I’m like– [SINGING] Cast the spirit. And that’s self-love because
that’s the truest part of me, that’s me. I’ve been many things,
I’ve been many people, but that’s the woman
I like the most. That’s the woman I
like the most, that’s the woman that is
the healthiest, that is the woman that
loves herself the most. And I know that now. So my self-love comes from
those little routines, those consistencies, those
vibrational instances of sheer selfishness and love. Selfish people live longer. Remember that. And I got to be
selfish with myself. So yes, I practice. So with traveling and taking
on albums, working on a TV– I can’t talk about yet– show, you know? SOPHIA ROWERS: You
hear it here first. PRINCESS NOKIA: Being
a motivational speaker at the same time. Like, it’s a lot of things
but I want to be those things. I don’t want to be a
typical 24-year-old. And I love typical
24-year-olds, but that’s not me. I want to be fabulous. I want to be like Russell
Simmons, you know? I just want to have so many
things of accomplishment. I didn’t get to finish high
school, I can’t go to college. I don’t have the mental
capacity to do class yet. I tried it. I have been envious of people
who have saw and completed higher education
their whole lives, and have those more secular
lifestyles and day to days. All my life I knew I
couldn’t do that, that can sit in the office, that
can get along with people, that I have a short attention
span, I am going to get fired. All I ever did was get fired
from every place I worked. I had to find a way where I
could make it work for me. And now I made it work for
me, I want to do it all. Because I’m not just a
rapper, I’m an artist. And I’m not just
an artist, like I’m about to have a column
with Elle magazine now. I’m a writer, I
started in journalism. Those things still matter to me. I want to work on
my photography book, I used to be a
photographer in New York. Big-time photographer. All those parts of me, I
don’t want to denounce. I want to include them in
my art and include them in my vocation. That brings me to higher places. I want to direct
movies, I want to act, I want to write
children’s books. There’s so much in
my life I want to do, and I’m trying to do that
exceeds what a little internet artist is supposed to be. And I’m gonna do
it, God damn it. I swear to God. SOPHIA ROWERS: I think this
is a good place to end. Thank you so much for coming. [APPLAUSE] PRINCESS NOKIA: I
just want to say, these moments are
really humbling to me and I get really emotional. And they’re just
so humbling to me that my self-discovery
is shared and appreciated by my brothers and sisters,
younger or older than me. So I thank you for
taking the time and respecting me as a peer,
respecting me as an artist, respecting me as a woman,
accepting me, loving me, supporting me. I don’t come here with ego at
all, I come here and I think, is just my life? Is this truly my life? I am just like you. I am a brown, poor, oppressed
kid from whatever walks of life I came from. Yo, life is short. Make the best of it as you can
and love yourself, God damn it. Because you was made
to live in a world that tell you not
to love yourself. So loving yourself is the
most revolutionary thing you could do, because it
facilitates so much happiness within your path. It took me a long
time to learn that, but in these spaces I want
to share that with y’all. Loving yourself, having joy
for no reason, that’s the goal. Fuck anything else, those
are real hashtag goals. I appreciate you for respecting
my art, respecting my journey, respecting me as a
person, I really do. The applause, that’s
God giving me that. Truly. And I am in so much, so much
gratitude and appreciation. And yes, for all of you
beautiful brown folk at Brown University, I am proud of you. I just hope you are
proud of yourselves. This is something
else, institutions like this they take
a lot of courage, it take a lot of commitment,
they take a lot of strength, it takes a lot to wake
up in the morning, to keep going to do them tests. To be in spaces that some
people are just like, oh my god. What am I doing here? I know how college
is, I know how university institutions are. Y’all the real ones. I get to have fun. You work hard. I work hard too, but
you really work hard. So I commend you,
and I thank you for sharing this space with me.


  1. I been studying for so long then I come across nokia finally another puertorican women with my same thoughts….

  2. I'm a college student and the fact that she stood there and blatantly supports what I do as much as I do what she does , if not more, is definitely keeping me going with all thats stressing me out in my life right now.

  3. I love how she creates a safe space for all the outsiders and people who are usually neglected or pushed out of spaces due to differences or spiritual elevation..

  4. the part about her mom was really touching. i really love this & can relate, although im not a fan of her songs, she' has a beautiful soul.

  5. Princese Nokia is someone I'm trying hsrd to understand but she always comes across as unaware of reality and extreemly egotistical. Example, on IG naked in a bath with a baby girl telling her about self love. I think I was supposed to be in awe of her holliness however I was just sickened by her need for public validation and I felt pure cringe.

  6. amazing interview i love how her answers are long winded as hell but it doesn't fee like it at all listening to her is so enjoyable seriously, and every answer is so informed by many stories that you get the full spectrum of her opinion, and how she formed it, throughout her life.

  7. ive probably watched this video like 30 times and i get something new from it every time, shes such an amazing soul.

  8. Awesome interview. I have never heard of her until today. My spirit lead me to this video. She confirmed a lot of things I've been praying about. Peace to the queen

  9. Thank you so much for posting this Brown University and an even bigger Thank You to you Destiny for sharing your history, your life, your experiences… and speaking your truth… you healed a part of myself by doing this…and therefore healed a part of the world… when you started to speak about selflove it was just so wonderful that it made me cry… Can't express how greatful I am to get to hear your interview… May you always be blessed and protected!!! Much love for you!! <3

  10. What an artist, thats what she is a true artist!! Bless your beatiful soul and thank you for finding your path in this life, thanks for sharing who you are and what you love.

  11. I appreciate how articulate she is. Painting a picture for you to understand where she's coming from. She explains her POV so well. Listening to her really makes me want to find my spirituality.

  12. Her aura shines through the camera I can relate to her so much ! Love it I don’t even really listen to her music but I think I’m going to start

  13. Thank you Brown University for sharing this epic moment in time. So excited to continue witnessing the journey of Destiny, Princess Nokia Superhuman. <3

  14. I'm genderqueer, and she is everything I strive for. Like, even though I don't ID w femininity or masculinity, I can totally vibe w how she channels all that.

  15. Why did they invite this human being. She thinks she's some sort of intellectual person when she's not…😂💀🙅🤷

  16. Damn, she's so ignorant that she doesn't even use a lot her words properly. She's uses them out of their correct contexts.😂🙅💀

  17. Never heard of Princess Nokia until now. I am thankful for this video. I got the career and hate it, I have been forced to sit in solitude and the awakening phases are crazy. I have neglected my musical talent and now i'm forced into solitude to concentrate.

  18. I can relate to her so much💙 I would’ve guessed she was a Pisces. Haha. wow she stays true from the deepest parts in her soul. so dope, love all around the world

  19. The Comment On Politics Is A Copout… Principled Point Is The Same As Politics… Politics Are Unpopular Which Presents Indifference & The Possibility To Loose People Opposed To Just Taking A Stand On What U Believe & Accepting How The Chips Fall… I Like The Chic, But The Politics Point Is Her Being Scared To Loose Fans 💯👀🖤🤔

  20. She's such a beautiful human being 😭I felt so tuned in w her when she started talking about being a loner & spirituality. Especially being that she is Puerto Rican as well ❤️So glad to have stumbled onto her music

  21. Yoooooo, I cannot believe how similar I am to her. She literally described my life…I am learning how to express myself this eloquently. Something told me to watch this video…now I know why.

  22. I’m on my journey into finding self love and I guess living in the world where I can’t control other people but I can control myself and how I’m live , interpret , and react to things good or bad so I’m binge watching videos/ interviews that help me along my journey and listening to music that feed my soul . I’m 25 and I’m having my first child in July . And I want to give him the best version of myself that I can and giving him the right tools and foundation to thrive and be a successful black man in a world like ours . 💙🏁

  23. Fellow spiritual boricua, I been following nokia since tomboy came out💕 one of my favorite quotes of hers ever is "music is the battle between angels and demons"🕉 i loved listening to this interview, sending love and light🌻🕉

  24. 420 comments and I done phucked it up..str8 up!! All I wanted to do was say I love you princess Nokia..u r the realest..the illest..str8 up! Muah! cardi who?

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