Photo by Everett Orr.

Though she stands in a crowded New York coffee shop, Raveena is not hard to spot. It’s not her floral coat that makes her stand out, nor is it her rainbow sweater. Those things are definitely worth noting, but it is her warm inviting energy that makes her easily recognizable. After listening to Raveena’s music for months and finally meeting her, the only way to describe Raveena is loving. She exudes love for herself, her partner, the world, and most of all, her music. This was the focus of our conversation as we spoke about the premiere of her new song, a bonus track on her EP Shanti, “Wherever U Go.”

UGOCHI: One of the big themes on your EP is self-love. What does self-love mean as a woman of color?

RAVEENA: I think that as women of color, we’ve been deprived of self-love. We see all these messages in the world and in the media telling us that we are lesser with both implicit and explicit racism. In order for us to advance, heal from intergenerational traumas, and reach our full potential as women of color, we have to recognize the importance of acts of self-care. We have to learn to love ourselves because society has been telling us not to for years.

And what are some of those acts of self-care for you?

Reading and music are both really important for me. They both get you away from that feeling of being alone and being on your computer and take you out of yourself in a way that you can’t do often. Other acts of self-care can be really simple like just taking time to do your hair or something like that. I think that indulgence can be radical for women of color. Meditating is also really good when my pain is more severe.

Developing my sense of style was really important for me to care for myself. I developed my own personal style in my early twenties. I think that for myself and for a lot of teens, style and clothes were very sexualized. So I took some time in my twenties where I just wasn’t in as many relationships and in that time I really started to reevaluate myself as a sexual being and not attach myself to that role as much as I did before. Changing my clothing really helped with that because as I learned to dress for myself and not a man, I was able to relearn to be sexy on my own terms.

You talk about that a lot in your music! I love the way that on the EP and in the bonus track, “Wherever U Go,” sexuality is something that is seen as beautiful and healing as opposed to the way that women’s sexuality is usually depicted in the media, as something that is controlled by a man. You own your sexuality in your music and it’s very refreshing and a great message for teens.

As a teen I had very sexualized images thrown at me. Also, the boys around me would sexualize and exoticize me, which I think really hurt me. Especially at a school like NYU where you’re around a lot of rich white boys who have a lot of backwards ideas about black and brown women. They see us as something to try out or experiment with, not as real people to love.

You present sex in your songs as something that doesn’t objectify women in any way.

Yeah, I try to make it more of something that’s dreamy and soft.

Yes! Which is the ideal way to think about sex, but a lot of women of color aren’t given the opportunity to do so.

A lot of men in my past would talk about sex in really harmful ways. Some would have straight up master-slave power dynamics that they wanted to bring in. Some wanted to make me this “spicy,” “fiery” person that they wanted to control. I think that combating that in my music is really important. I’ve always wanted to talk about sex in an interview! It’s so present in my music but no one ever asks about that.

Then I’m glad I asked! A lot of your music is about getting out of bad relationships. Can you talk a bit about that and how music helped you through it?

Yeah, music was my center. I’ve been in really bad relationships, some even abusive, and music was always the thing I could go back to. I would always be able to write and have my music be really reflective of my energy and headspace. It became something I could grow with and see how I’ve changed through time.

What else helped you when you came out of those bad relationships?

Being in a healing relationship has been amazing. I’m in that right now with Everett. We create all of the music together. The whole body of work that I have out now, he has produced. He has done that healing with me and loved me so much that he was able to help me heal my relationship with myself too. I think that love and time that he put in comes out in the music. I think our culture is very self-love focused, which is awesome, but there’s not a lot of talk about how relationships can heal you too.

In your songs “If Only” and “Johnny It’s the Last Time,” you talk about coming out of abusive relationships but you focus on your own healing and not what’s been done to you, which I think is very beautiful. Do you have any advice for other young women coming out of abusive relationships?

I’ve been there. I think it’s hell the first year–or even the first ten years–it takes a long time and a lot of work that you have to do yourself to sometimes even just process the trauma. In those moments of depression and self-hate, when you feel like your body isn’t your own, you have to keep pushing through. Keep connecting with other women. Keep making art. Keep meditating. Do what makes you feel like yourself and you will get out of it. It’s about building up in your body a sense of self worth and self-love.

It took me so much time to be able to build up the trust and strength to get into a healthy relationship. It actually took me two relationships before I was able to have that with Everett. A lot of people won’t be able to do the work with you. That’s ok–it just means that they’re not right for you at that time. But when you find someone that is willing to do the work with you, like hold your hand through the moments that you don’t trust them or be there when you’re crying from a traumatic reaction, you’ll know that it’s right. It’s hard to find those people, but they’re there.

That’s beautiful, thank you. Can you tell me a bit more about your background with music?

It started when I was about eight or nine. I was very introverted and didn’t have a lot of friends.I stayed home and just listened to all the greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Sade, Minnie Riperton. I came to New York when I was around seventeen and have been making music ever since. It took a lot of producers for me to find the right sound and when I finally started working with Everett, I found it.

And how would you describe that sound?

Hmm, I would describe it as cinematic, warm, spiritual, and sensual. It’s really inspired by ’70s music and ’90s stuff like D’Angelo and Aaliyah. We watched so much Soul Train when making this EP!

Raveena and I end our conversation with me calling up the people in my life who I thought could use her healing words. The warm energy that I spotted when I first walked into the coffee shop was something that I wanted to share with people dear to me. Raveena shares this energy with her listeners and pours it–along with her fantastic vocals and beautiful lyrics–into her music. ♦