Words and photographs by Emily Nardini
This is Shani Cherry. Shani is a 26 year old Singer from London. If you’re already a fan, Shani Cherry is known for her 90’s feel single ‘Next To You’ and her EP Launch of ‘Shani Cherry: Lost in Wonderland’ that went down like a ‘Eat Me!’ treat. She’s also performed at O2 Islington and been on the same stage as Jessie J when performed at ‘I Luv Live.’ What you may have not known is that Shani has psoriasis, however she unapologetically embraces her body. Shani Cherry is a fearless beauty queen and Ultravenus want to hear her story, her fem views and her next moves
E – Shani Cherry, tell us your story in your own words…
SC – Well I was born and bred in Swindon, I have an amazing family along with a super supportive ‘rent a family’ as I like to call them. Like a step family but better. I moved to London almost four years ago and it’s been very testing, a lot of things to push through. Learning to balance a full time job and build a career in music, finding time to actually explore and have fun but most importantly building up the Shani Cherry brand! Figuring out my sound, what I wanted to create for myself and what I could bring to other people’s lives. I studied Musical Theatre and I loved it! I decided it wasn’t the career I wanted though, there were a lot of things I didn’t like. I wanted to sing and perform in my own way and not as a strict copy of the performers before me. It was hard to get used to, I was so used to being a character but overtime I realised I myself, am a character. I learnt making mistakes didn’t have to be embarrassing, it could be made into a little joke to bring you closer to your audience. I learnt that being unapologetically yourself actually connects with people so much more than a ‘character’ you’ve made up. Maybe not in everyone’s case, but for my own. I already loved being myself so why not bring it into my performances and music? Now I want other people to learn what I am trying to teach, for themselves and to inspire others they’ll meet
E – When you sing, how do you feel?
SC – I mean I sing constantly, literally all the time. When I’m sad, I sing. I’m angry, I sing. I’m happy, I sing and probably about something weird and silly. It’s my celebration, my comfort, my release. No matter what is on my mind or what I’m doing, singing will always make me feel better or just help me enjoy what I’m doing. When I’m performing it just feels natural, I love when you know you have their attention. When your audience respect and listen to your words with the possiblity of finding some comfort or familiarity within them
E – When did you first discover self love within yourself?
SC – That’s hard. You will always have days when you question yourself or parts of yourself. Whether it be your looks or what’s inside you. My psoriasis appeared when I was 7 and it hasn’t ever left me since, this could have been something I was ashamed of or hid but with my Mum at my side I knew it was not only part of me but that it would make me into who I’m meant to be. It’s actually so common but so many people hide it because they’re embarrassed but you can’t take your skin off. I mean I get it, it’s hard. People make silly and ignorant comments and it hurts much more than you’d care to admit. I found that through this I learnt the real meaning of compassion and will always have that towards others. I know that even through doubts or insecurities if you push through them and embrace who you are, you will inspire others to do just that without even knowing. People have always complimented me on my confidence and throughout my life I’ve had plenty of people ask me for advice to come out of their shells more, be happier as themselves. No one really wants to cover up because they’re embarrassed, they want to do whatever they want and for themselves. That’s exactly what everyone should do, it’s your life. You feel your happiness, you feel your sadness. It’s important to remember that. People will always stare, it might not be because of your ‘imperfection’ at all. It could be they like the way you look, they like your hair, they like the top you’re wearing, they don’t like the top you’re wearing or a many number of reasons. One man I gave advice to I asked him…’you hold hands with your boyfriend in public right? I bet people look and judge you but you don’t stop doing it so why are you covering your skin for them to not stare?’ Whatever you think your biggest imperfection is, it’s not. It will be that very thing that makes you, you. Makes you strong, makes sure you learn the lessons you need to in this life to be happy and it will give you the tools to help others reach that same place
E – What is your definition of ‘feminism?’
SC – I think this is hard for people to define, sometimes people get really uppity about feminism. It’s the smallest and simplest things…supporting other women. Encouraging them and building them up. Knowing your worth and that of every other woman. As women we deal with a lot, we are expected to deal with a lot. I know people hate to discuss it but this whole rape culture, women are taught how to not be raped but men are not taught how to not do it. In better words, what consent really is. This is not a so much a mans flaw, but society’s. We have to deal with this every single day, women should be able to wear what they want, drink without worry and stand up for themselves when they feel they’re being poorly treated. We should be appreciated and applauded for speaking our minds instead of being called a ‘bitch’ because we not only know what we want but what we deserve. There is so much strength in a woman, imagine how powerful we would be if women came together more! It’s not about putting men down or saying that we’re better, through centuries we had fought for our rights and we’re still fighting. We deserve to be seen as equal to men in every right. Women may be better naturally at certain things but so are men. Feminism is about embracing yourself and what makes you beautiful and happy but it’s also embracing, accepting and supporting other women in their views of this. A career driven woman is not above a woman who wants to stay at home and have ten children, if that’s what she wants then that’s what she wants. A woman who is of a certain size, whether it be big or small, is no better than another size woman. If a woman wants to make a change and you know how to help, then help her. Bonds between women are beautiful when they’re pure and heartfelt. We are bred to be in competition with each other but you should only challenge yourself to be better than you was yesterday, not the woman down the road. You are not the same person
E – Any advice for girls who don’t feel confident in themselves?
SC – You have to remember what makes you, you. We all have things we would like to change. If you can change it, then change it. Your body is a vessel, your spirit is what counts. You need to feed it with positivity. Remind yourself of all the things you do right, learn to accept your flaws. That thing you think everyone is judging you on…they’re not. When you carry yourself with confidence then most people will not notice that flaw. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to ignore that voice that says you should cover this or you’re not enough of this or that. Look around you, look at the people who love you and how they think you’re an amazing person! When you feel like you can’t find that self love, look at what you’ve attracted. You must have something pretty decent going on to have the love that’s around you, let that be your comfort when you struggle to find it within yourself
E – What’s upcoming for Shani Cherry?
SC – Well this past year I took some time out, my anxiety went awol and I had to recover, rediscover myself and work out the best way to control it. It’s inspired my new EP, this will be coming out in September (we think.) We’re still working on a few things for it. The project is all about self love, acceptance and to be honest it was not only a reminder of all the things I have been through lately (and won) but also messages to myself that I needed to hear. I really hope this helps other girls find a little extra love and strength in themselves. Last year I was Lost in Wonderland but this year I’ve become the Queen of Hearts. It’s only going to be upwards from here. I know who I am, I am comfortable with who I am and now it’s time for my music to show that!
Shani Cherry: Lost in Wonderland is available to stream on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0Jrt9gz5IsfsYndkfYaBdl?si=Yh52cJXc
Along with every other streaming service or you can find it on iTunes: Lost in Wonderland – EP by Shani Cherry