Sharlene Hector, 39. I’m a singer and songwriter.
Few industries come close to being as superficial as the music industry. You can have the voice, but if you don’t got the look… oh well. Or, the version that’s even funnier to me, you can have the look, but if you don’t have the voice… that’s perfectly fine. Sharlene, however has it all & something more. Something that not even a 12 pack can’t fix if it’s missing. She’s got that something that keeps you fixated, mesmerised when performing. She exudes great energy and charisma. She creates that bridge that makes you feel like you are connecting with the music, if not becoming part of it. And that’s what any artist should do. Because music should be about just that – music & energy, not body image stereotypes and well constructed fake personas.
1. What’s your first memory about music?
My first memory about music is listening to Maranatha albums on long car journeys with my mum and sister.
2. When did you decide to become a musician?
When I was 10 years old.
3. What are some obstacles you had to surpass on your way?
The only real obstacle I had was my mum not wanting me to be involved in the music industry. She refused to send me to a performing arts school or let me pursue any education in music apart from piano lessons.. she’s fine with it now! 🙂
4. Is it harder to build a career in the music industry as a curvy woman of colour?
When I first started in the industry, the look and sound of girls like me was ‘in’ so I worked a lot and made a lot of money. Since then, our sound is still in demand but our look has become less desirable. So if you sound like us (big black women) but don’t look like us, you’ll most likely do really well.
However, our sound and feel is unique and can only be emulated so much before the ‘real thing’ is required. What I have learned though, is that by changing my own attitude and believing in myself, work comes to me frequently and easily. Building a career regardless of what we look like is our own responsibility and we can’t make excuses if things don’t go well for us. We have to learn from our mistakes and move on. By the same token, my voice isn’t suitable for every gig, so if I don’t get a certain job, that just means it wasn’t meant for me.
I have, however, been fired once for being ‘big and black’ by an artist’s management, after the rehearsal. The musical director hired myself and a friend as backing vocalists. We did the rehearsal, met the artist, who was more than happy with us. The next day we got a call from the musical director saying that the manager (who hadn’t come to the rehearsal) had asked him if the backing singers he got were ‘big and black’. The musical director said yes and the manager said that he didn’t want that and we were instantly fired.
How did you convince your mother to support you in your musical career?
I didn’t really.. I had left home by the time I was a full time singer so I didn’t really need her support after that. The time that I needed her to support me would have been during my educational stage, when I wanted to go to performing arts school. However this just goes to show that you don’t need to study to do this when it’s what you really want to do.
What’s it like to be working with a band such as Hurts? (especially given the context of what you previously retailed, about artists being against “big and black” singers)
Working with Hurts is great! I enjoy the gigs and the band are lovely! Not every band is against working with ‘big black singers’…
What helped your confidence grow?
My confidence grew as I did a good job each time I was hired. Doing your homework and learning your parts will make your job a lot easier in rehearsals and on the gigs. Then you gain a reputation for being good at your job..and your confidence will grow from there.
8. How do you deal with moments such as the one you talked about before (artists being against “big and black” singers) and not let them deter you from your path?
Are you referring to being fired because of the way I looked…? If so, there really isn’t anything you can do about that. This is the only job where you can’t claim unfair dismissal if you lose your job because of the way you look…
9. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m performing as a backing vocalist during the Summer for a UK band called Hurts and I’m writing for a project with my group, LaSharVu.
10. What advice would you give someone who dreams of having a career in the music industry?
Don’t confuse fame and success. Don’t get into this industry because you want to be rich; Do it because you don’t feel happy unless you sing/play music. SAVE YOUR MONEY AND PAY YOUR TAX ON TIME.
11. When performing, you exude self confidence, sex appeal and power. Have you always been this confident?
Ha! Thank you very much! I don’t think I have always been this confident, no. My confidence grew over time and it continues to do so.
Besides music, what else are you passionate about?
I’m hugely passionate about make up and I also have a range of scented candles which I make at home in my kitchen. The range is called ‘Merle & Lette‘ (Merle sounds like ‘pearl’ and Lette sounds like ‘better’) and I make candles that smell like chocolate, lemon cheesecake, baby powder and coconut to name a few!