INTERVIEW: Ayanis Talks Social Isolation, Her Favs, #BlackLivesMatter, New Music + Dream Collabs

Interviewed by Rachel Wilson for IGTV | Photographed via FaceTime by Jimmy Fontaine

The Texas-born and Atlanta raised singer and dancer began singing in church choirs and did youth beauty pageants, ultimately deciding at a young age that she wanted to be a professional entertainer. Ayanis recently caught the ears of industry notables and inked her deal with Island Prolific/Atlantic Records. Ayanis sat down with Glitter to talk about her sound, how participating in beauty pageants helped influence her career, when she started music, her musical influences,  her new single, “Little Boy, Big Talk” featuring Queen Naija, and her thoughts on #BlackLivesMatter. We’d love to see a collab between Ayanis and Drake! We’re helping manifest this right now. Read on to find out more on this talented singer and songwriter, who smooth sound and moves may remind you of a new age Aliyah who is all about female empowerment.

GLITTER: So where are you currently isolating?
AYANIS: I am isolating in Atlanta. I live in Atlanta, so. Yeah.

GLITTER: Where did you grow up and how did you realize that you could sing?
AYANIS: I was born in Texas. It’s a little town called Wichita Falls. I’m a military kid. My dad was in the Air Force. So, yeah, I kind of got my start in church. So me, my sister, my brother, were in the choir. And that’s like, when I started singing. I was really young… two, maybe three or four or something like that. Yeah. But, Texas and then I moved to Georgia, and then my dad retired here. So, yeah, southern girl (laughs).

GLITTER: So what made you realize that you wanted to pursue singing as a career? How did you know that you wanted to pursue singing and writing music as a career?
AYANIS: When I was younger, I’ve always just been a very, I don’t know, like an outgoing kid, very like: “Look at me” (laughs). I think that just carried over and I love music. My parents played such good music growing up when I was little because I was born in the ’90s. So, you know, they played R&B, and they played Pop. They also played Rock. They played like pretty much everything. When I was like, nine, I was like, yeah, I want to be a singer. And my mom was like, “That’s cute” (laughs). I was like, no, for real. When I was 14, I was in a group for  a really short amount of time. In high school, I did YouTube covers and that’s where I  got started and hit the ground running. Like, I’m going to sing, like, this is what I really want to do.

GLITTER: How did beauty pageants influence your music career?
AYANIS: I did beauty pageants when I was young. It was a big thing at the time. I did them in Texas and I think that I, did I do some in Georgia? I think I did some in Georgia. But it wasn’t too many. But I did a few. And I don’t know. I enjoyed them. I feel like they taught me, you know, poise and, like, posture and different things like that. Yeah. It was fun for sure. I did like, dancing and stuff and then talent competitions and different things.

GLITTER: Did that help you perform in front of people?
AYANIS: Yeah. When it comes to being in front of people and performing, it’s just like, I guess, natural, you know, when it’s time to. It’s weird because before I go on stage, I would definitely get butterflies. Like, I get like “Oh, girl.” I will get so nervous. But once I step on the stage, it’s like, I don’t know what happens. Just I don’t know. I’m just ready as it happens I guess.

GLITTER: How did you start making music?
AYANIS: So, okay, 14, since we’re doing timelines (laughs). I was in the group and then I did YouTube and then one of my good friends at the time when I was in high school, we kind of were like recording in the closet. And then there was a producer I was working with by the name of Mello The Producer, and I was working with him for some time. And then recording. I was recording with him and then my A&R, he stumbled upon me because I had been like, you know, out here in Atlanta, grindin’, you know, going to events, performing different things like that, and my A&R just saw me working. He reached out and we had a meeting. Then I met with my A&R Chris Jones, Island Prolific Records, and Prince Charles. And we recorded and did a couple of records. It was just chemistry, instantly, the music just naturally was flowing, and I just, I don’t know, that’s how my meeting came about with Atlantic.

GLITTER: Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
AYANIS: I have so many, but I’ll just say a few. I love Michael Jackson. Obviously, he’s a performer. Janet Jackson. Amazing. Rihanna. Aliyah. Those are like, definitely some of my inspirations. They are amazing. And all the girls right now in R&B are killing it. So, yeah, those are some of my inspirations.

GLITTER: How do you find inspiration for the songs that you create?
AYANIS: So, girl, let me tell you. A lot of these songs are like situations that happen; I need to write about this. A lot of these young men, you know. Yeah, you know, but for sure, like relationships or experiences, and, uh, different things, just that may not even happen to me, maybe like, you know, me and my homegirl are just having a convo. I’m all about my women and supporting my women.  I just really want to stand for that. And that’s where most of my inspiration for my songs come from. Honestly, it’s just like we gotta’ stick together, girl, cause these boys, they, they, mmhh (laughs).

GLITTER: So would you say that your music is empowering for women?
AYANIS: Yes, most definitely. I have a song called “FIYT,” “F Is You Thinking” I won’t say it on here because I don’t know, if there’s some young people in here (IGTV), but, yeah. I have a song called “FIYT,” which is definitely female-empowering, I have a song called “Aww Yeah” which is also female-empowering. It’s like a happy breakup song. It’s kind of just like, you know, moving forward from the things that don’t serve you anymore. A lot of my music is about self-worth and just really knowing your worth and sticking with that because sometimes it can be super hard when you want to go back to something, you, it’s just comfortable. Like you want to go back, like, you ever been talking to somebody and you like, are just like, so comfortable with them. You what to go back to them, but you gotta remind yourself like, girl, we moving forward, we can’t be going backward, you know. Yeah, it’s definitely, just important to know we’re just, you know, we’re gems. We’re jewels. We’re precious. And my music is that. Also just having fun. A lot of my music is also fun and a good time because like I said, I’m from the south. So we are very much people who like to celebrate like, party, we like to turn up.

GLITTER: With your music, was empowering women always something that you wanted to do with your music, or as you progressed in your career and your songwriting, did it just kind of become what you wanted to do?
AYANIS: Yes, and you know what I forgot to say, obviously “Little Boy, Big Talk” for those of anybody who’s in here, just now logging in on the live, “Lil Boy, Big Talk” is a female anthem. Okay (laughs). To answer your question, I definitely think that was from jump, something that I always want to do because of the people that, you know the artists that inspired me, how I’ve always felt like. How cool is that? You know what I’m saying? Like making songs for the girls. But for a little girl like me who’s in their room at home that wants to grow up and be a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, a painter, whatever they want to be. I just, I feel like, you know, a lot of the times, like I said, referring back to my songs being about relationships, you know, you’ve got to have that confidence when you’re trying to go out there and do what it is you want to do. And just, yeah, I’ve always wanted my songs to be for them. I think I’ve known that at a young age, probably just because, I don’t know, I have friends and like, I just love it when I’m with my girls, you know what I’m saying? Like, I just love it. I mean, I like all types of music, but there’s nothing like when your when you’re with your girls, you know.

GLITTER: What are your thoughts on the current state of our nation and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?
AYANIS: I feel so many emotions every day. It’s hard to pinpoint just one. What I can say is that what I have seen in the last few weeks have been challenging and life-changing. The challenging part is that there is so much work to be done and that the world is finally acknowledging the racial pandemic that we’re living in. The one shining light is seeing the global unity, celebration, and love towards Black culture and the Black Lives Matters movement.  It makes me hopeful. Progress is happening and I just want it to continue. We as a people have to continue to uplift one another at this time and keep pushing for change.

GLITTER: What can others do to show support?
AYANIS: What people can do to show support is to continue being active. Whether it is through protesting, donating, signing petitions, voting, educating ourselves and others, letting your voice be heard. Take action in whatever way works for you. We are making a difference.

GLITTER: What have you been doing for fun? Like, to keep yourself occupied and entertained on isolation?
AYANIS:  Oh my gosh, I have just been trying to stay busy, stay creative. I got a ring light, this has been, like, such a great thing in this quarantine, you know, get it done with the ring. I just put my phone up here. Man, I have just been, you know, staying creative, staying busy, working out. I definitely like go out and get some sun. I feel like that’s really important. Cooking. I’ve been cooking. I’ve been trying to get better because. Yeah, my cooking, I’m working on it, it’s getting there. You know what I’m sayin. We’re gonna get there. Yeah. And then just, you know, always practicing singing and dancing, staying creative.

GLITTER: When isolation is over where is the first place that you would like to go.
AYANIS: Ooh, I’m missing the studio heavy right now (laughs). So headed there but also probably a beach whenever I get the time, you know, I’m going be getting back into work, like I definitely am rehearsing. I miss rehearsing so much. I actually have a lot of fun just rehearsing. But a beach too, because, girl. I got a little bikini and I’m tryin’ to wear it and uh, yeah (laughs).

GLITTER: So what do you like most about making music and playing music? What’s your favorite thing?
AYANIS: Oh. I like so many things about making music. It’s like several things, you know? I think it’s you know, it’s therapeutic. Once I write about it, it’s like I’m moving forward from it, or trying to anyway. Sometimes you relive this stuff, but you know, we ain’t perfect, it’s okay. And I think a lot of it is the connection that you get to make with people. You know, I was talking to my friends about how a lot of songs I can instantly remember, like, where I was at, what I had on, what I was eating like. It’s like a good trigger. Like, you’re like, “Remember when you was like, yeah, you know?” That’s what it is for me that, that connection, that thing that brings us all together. Because a lot of people also have been like, dancing to my songs and doing dance videos. And I just think that[‘s] dope, that like, wow they think my song is cool enough to do a dance to. So, yeah. Connection. For sure.

GLITTER: What would you say is your biggest break so far in your career?
AYANIS: Wow. When I got signed. Oh, my gosh. I had always dreamed of it. You know, I always wrote it down and I always just was like one day, like, and, it happened! And it’s been amazing. Like, it’s been amazing. Shout out to Atlantic. Shout out to Island Prolific. Yeah, I feel like, that was a moment. And also my first project coming out, my E.P. That was a moment too. I feel like those two have been pretty pivotal. I had some really great moments in my career, even though it’s very early. It’s still super, super early. But I just I’ve had some really great moments with those, too, I guess.

GLITTER: Who are some of the big names that you’ve worked with so far?
AYANIS: Ooh, okay. Man, um, like, who I often work with my friend, my brother, Prince Charles. He’s amazing. He’s an artist and a writer. And he’s worked with some amazing people that I love. I’ve worked with a producer named Super Mario. He’s really dope. Sean Garrett. Oh, my gosh. There’s so many people. I’m trying to think. Oh, Jermaine Dupri. He’s amazing. Legends, so I think that’s pretty cool. Some really dope people. There’s a long list. I’m sorry. I can’t think of everybody off the top of my head right now. But some really great producers and writers like, all around, like, it’s been really dope. Oh, and Jay White. He’s a producer. He’s really dope.

GLITTER: Any dream collaborations?
AYANIS: Yes, let me manifest this right now in this live (IGTV). There are quite a few people I want to work with, I’m just gonna name a few off the top of my head. Missy Elliott, I would love to work with her. I would love to work with Pharrell, I would love to one day work with Beyoncé or Rihanna. Both of them. Oh my gosh, it would be amazing. And, there’s one more, Drake!

GLITTER: So let’s find out some of your favorite things like favorite food, favorite beauty products, clothing line, hair products.
AYANIS: Let’s get into it, today. Welcome to my channel. Some of my favorites. I’m wearing Makeup Forever, Fenty Beauty, and Anastasia. I think that’s like, my go-to, like, everyday face. And then like with my hair, I don’t know because I do different things on my hair, you see I got braids, sometimes I do curls. Sometimes my hair is straight, it depends. But I like for curls… I love Miss Jessie’s. Really good, it smells so good. Oof, it smells like [fabric] softener, like, you know, like laundry detergent, softener? It smells really good! Like, I know that sounds weird, but, really good! And then, hair….yeah, I use a lot of different stuff on my hair, like Cantu. It just depends if my hair is curly or straight. Oh, and I always do my baby hairs. See, that’s real important, that’s essential.

GLITTER: What’s your favorite clothing line? Do you have stores that you like or any online stores that you like to shop?
AYANIS: I have so many, but I’ll only name a few. I love online shopping, and I love to shop from a few different places. I am Gia, I like. Oh, my gosh. Sorella. Those are just, like, a few boutiques that I could think of off the top of my head, there are so many brands that I would love to work with one day and collaborate with. Oh, I just took a picture in Baby Phat, and it was really cute and they made an edit. I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you. I love Baby Phat!

GLITTER: So where can fans find you most on social media?
AYANIS: On social media. I’m on everything, but mainly I always say Instagram. You can find me on here (IG) (laughs) and Twitter and YouTube! I’m going to start uploading a little bit more on YouTube. I keep saying this. I got my ring light now.

GLITTER: What are you working on next?
AYANIS: Ooh, great question. Everybody is like, “Where is the music?” It’s coming, it’s coming. I am really excited. I have a project that I have been working on. Yeah, I’ve been working on it. I’m really excited for it. I’m not going to give away the name, yet. I know the name. But I’m gonna save that for a special day (laughs). Yeah, I’m really excited about this project. It’s, I think it’s really special. And so before I get all giddy about it, I’m just gonna leave it at that, I have an E.P. on the way. But while you’re here, stream all my other music, including “Little Boy, Big Talk” and “One Night”.