Rolling Stone

Voices of the Movement


Welcome to Voices of the Movement, a sponsored series presented by Olay Body. Rolling Stone and Olay Body are committed to elevating women who are a force of change in the music industry. In this series, Olay Body brought together some of the most dynamic and inspiring female leaders from across the music industry to talk about their journeys and how they’re fighting for inclusivit­y and representa­tion. They are mold breakers - women who rose to the top of their occupation­s and are constantly searching for ways to uplift those just starting out.


SUNI MF: In the 90s, I felt like I always had to bring an extra energy to rapping, because I felt, as a woman, it was a little bit harder starting at the bottom at the open mics and trying to see if you really got what it takes. When there was a woman that went up, everybody would lose interest in her versus a guy.

I remember looking for someone who looked like me on TV, you know, looking for some type of representa­tion. People always used to say Queen Latifah and that is something I felt like I needed just so I could see myself through her.

YULI: The path wasn’t clear to me right away because I was trained as a classical musician. When I was younger, I would see people play in an orchestra and wonder what comes after that. Once I got into college and started doing small ensembles and started listening to popular music, I saw people playing and writing in a more commercial space.

That led me into the studio culture. Once I was in the studio, I saw how songs were created. I got a second education after I graduated from college because I was in the studio watching how people put things together. Once I was there, I fell in love and knew it was my path.


SUNI MF: I think we have great representa­tion now. Now there are all spectrums of women in music. You got all different types of flavors. I used to have to go against people who didn’t think a gay female rapper would really thrive. I used to be shocked and appalled. I just didn’t understand. I used to have people telling me they didn’t think the world was ready for a gay female rapper.

YULI: I feel like there hasn’t been a huge shift. Most of the time when I work in a studio, the engineer is a guy, the other producers are guys. It’s a boys’ club.

But I will say that I’ve had great experience­s when I’ve done camps that make it a priority to invite women. I did one recently in Nashville and there were a lot of talented female songwriter­s and artists that I connected with. There’s also been more dedicated spaces within the industry where they’re like, “Look, we need to tackle this.” There are also organizati­ons like Girls Make Beats that I’ve worked with before. It’s a beautiful studio, and they’re teaching these little 10- and 11-year-old girls how to DJ and produce and it’s dope.


SUNI MF: Spend more time thinking and planning. Have time to think about big ideas. I feel like the more time alone you have, the more time you can really sit and think about what you want versus being pulled this way and that way from the masses or from the influence of social media or from your peers. Success is so different for everybody, and a lot of people try to shove one definition of success down your throat. There are so many ways to make it in the music industry. Success is different for everybody, just like every time you hear a beat or a melody everyone has a different song in their head.

YULI: Number one is to not compare yourself. We’re in a social media age. People compare themselves all the time. When you do that, you rob yourself of the opportunit­y to be you. If you’re worried about what everyone else is doing and where they are on their path, it leaves no space for you to figure out what you’re about and what your voice is.

You also must be patient with yourself and be patient with the process. You don’t know what song is going to hit. You don’t know what’s going to connect with people. It could be tomorrow, it could be two years from now, it could be a song you made three years ago, you just don’t know. When you’re so focused on the outcome, you miss the journey and rush yourself

Women in music have always been forced to look, sound, and act a certain way. But that’s changing, and artists like Suni MF and Yuli are at the forefront of that transforma­tion. The work still isn’t done, of course, and won’t be until women are allowed to bring their entire selves to the stage and recording studio without feeling the pressure of expectatio­ns. As Yuli said in our interview, “I would love to see a world where there are prominent artists that are just chilling, being themselves 100%.”

Olay Body is committed to exploring the intersecti­on of science and beauty, creating products that reflect every hue and shape. Grounded in their dedication to representa­tion and empowermen­t, Olay Body is supporting women who are fighting to make their profession­s more inclusive.

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