SHAVONE on Disrupting Tech, Culture, and Femininity
The modern Renaissance woman maintains passionate advocacy for women of color in tech while trailblazing an uncompromising artistic path all her own.
Musician and multimedia artist SHAVONE is a modern Renaissance woman. Former Head of Global Music and Youth Culture Communications at Instagram, she left the position to focus on entrepreneurial pursuits, and has since founded the creative collective, Magic in Her Melanin, and has been lauded by the likes of Forbes for her enduring influence in tech culture.
A first-generation college graduate from UC Merced, SHAVONE uses her visibility and influence for good: she maintains passionate advocacy for women of color in tech while trailblazing an uncompromising artistic path all her own. PERFECT NUMBER caught up with SHAVONE about her current projects and inspirations in life and style.
PERFECT NUMBER: You’ve recently transitioned out of your tech jobs to focus on your music and other creative projects. Why is this the right time for you to do this? And why is this the right time – on a broader cultural or social level?
SHAVONE: My artistry and dedication to musicianship and community work all led me to my path of working in both music and tech. Music has always been the main vehicle and source of inspiration powering my entire career path, as an artist, multi-hyphenate creative, and Woman of Color (WOC) in the tech industry.
Along the journey, I’ve always tried to stay in tune with timing in regards to self-growth, challenging myself with new endeavors, and solving new problems. Being a woman of color in a tech space, the overall creative industry, music, and America, I’ve had a front-row seat to serious systemic issues that have to be faced head-on, with dogged resilience. Sitting comfortably behind a desk in a really cool, corporate job is easy but ultimately an unfilling route for me to take because it requires turning a blind eye to issues affecting women like me – women who haven’t been afforded the same resources or opportunities that I have.
PN: So your presence in the tech world is now on more of a community level?
S: Yeah, I think it’s important to be present in your community; it’s an ongoing responsibility we all have to shape the world around us. This can be done in any phase of your career, but I’ve found a lot of fulfillment and urgency in the work I’ve been able to do with Magic in Her Melanin recently, in the current social and political climate. Being at the heart of this moment as a creator and supporter of the community seems…necessary right now.
PN: Can you tell us more about your creative collective, Magic in Her Melanin?
S: Magic in Her Melanin seeks to elevate the stories of underrepresented voices, and curate a safe space for progessive ideas, in collaboration with entities across the tech and creative industries. I want the collective to continue to be a platform that gives access to underrepresented creatives to create both community and disruption. I also want Magic in Her Melanin to continue to foster the current (and usher in the next) generation of creatives with boundary-pushing work, and encourage collaboration with like-minded individuals.
PN: How has LA and the Southern California area influenced the type of creative work you’re interested in?
S: Community and West Coast/California culture have always been mobilizers and huge points of influence for me as I represent my journey alongside where I’m from. I’m from Southern California, more specifically Southeast San Diego. So much of who I am is a result of my family, the community, and the culture around me. I grew up in gang territory, with my parents and brothers, where music and creativity were some of the only means of channeling struggle through self-expression and positive outlets. My parents both had black-owned businesses – a hair salon and restaurant in SE San Diego that served our community for over 20 years. From an early age, I’ve been acutely in tune with the real culture of the community and our everyday struggles.
PN: What interests does this feed into?
S: Fashion and music have consistently been staples of self-care and self-expression for me and my community. Outside of immediate streetwear fashion, sartorial influences came from my neighborhood. Also, much of my fashion and music influence stemmed from my parents exposing me to hip-hop, R&B, and island culture. My father’s side of the family is all from Trinidad, and that heritage has also played a major role in my respect and affinity for non-U.S. centric clothing, structured fashion, and eclectic prints.
PN: Do you see streetwear and its culture as a way to communicate your personality, as well as a tool for your creative endeavors?
S: Absolutely. Fashion is literally therapy for me. The act of piecing together a look for yourself is the ultimate act of self-care and creativity. Getting dressed each morning sets the tone for my day, which is why it’s crucial to tune into what I’m feeling in that moment as I pull a look together. I see outfits as customized superhero costumes we put on to accent our personalities and/or moods. You need to feel unstoppable in your own skin – and clothing is the one guaranteed message you communicate when walking into a room. I think especially as a black woman in tech and creative industries, it’s important to own and occupy your space with the most honest individuality you can.
PN: How have you come to understand – and, ultimately, define and express – your own femininity?
S: When I think about my understanding of femininity, I immediately think of the women in my family and heroine authors who have helped narrate and direct my journey: my mother, my grandmother, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, and many other women. I am in a permanent state of gratitude and continual understanding about what it means to be unapologetically feminine and black, as well as write your own story to make sure the world gets it right.
PN: How does this conception evolve and change?
S: My expression and definition of femininity continue to grow and evolve as I do. Also, for me, the spirit of femininity isn’t confined to the individual; it mobilizes through the power of the collective, of women coming together to support and fuel one another. Femininity is reminding myself and other women of their worth and magic. It’s walking in my shoes every day, as present and unapologetic as I can be.
PN: What is so important about the act of disruption in art, society, and communities?
S: We are in another contemporary renaissance movement for underrepresented creatives — with accessible resources like the internet and social platforms — at the forefront of storytelling and the creation of safe spaces for disruptive art and self-expression. We have to dare to stand in our truth and creativity, unapologetically, to facilitate the change and shifts we want to see happen around us.
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