An Authentic Voice

STEVY MAHY is a singer and entrepreneur from Guadeloupe. Through her art and various actions, she aims to empower women to see themselves as worthy and to express their full potential. Her strong desire to develop great self-awareness and to live a life that is in harmony with who she truly is has led her onto a profound and rich inner journey that has a great impact on her art and on the way she shows up in the world. I invite you to embark on the beautiful moments I shared with her as she unfolded her thoughts with me.

I know that you are a singer and an entrepreneur who created her music production company ATARAXIA in 2015. You also design accessories under the brand MOUN and you initiated the Renaissance Woman Project. This description focuses only on what you do. Who would you say IS Stevy Mahy?
I love it! I love your question because we keep focusing on what we do and not on who we are. Most of the time people ask, “So what do you do?” I hate it. I tell myself: “What? Don’t you want to know me first? You just want to know what I do?” I would say that I still try to define myself every day and I love it! I am trying to understand more who I am. So far, I would say that I am a woman first, which means that I am part of the supposedly “oppressed people” in this world. I am black. I am Caribbean. I am an Afro descendant. So that’s a lot. I would also say that art makes me feel alive. Creation. Creating makes me feel alive. So I would add that I am trying to be in tune with the creator in me.

What led you to pursue a singing career after a break of several years? How did you sense that singing was a path you were to follow?
Singing has never been something I wanted to do actually. I started singing when I was fairly young. That was something natural because my mother is a singer. My father was a singer as well and my grandfather was a musician. I grew up going to the studio with my mother. I enjoyed singing but that was not something I wanted to pursue. I actually wanted to be a dancer but I am not good. The first time I decided to write songs was because I felt that if I didn’t express myself in that way, I would have regrets. I was not actually trying to be a singer. I was simply trying to express myself through songs.

After the release of my first album “Beautiful Side of a Kreyol Folk Trip”, I started asking myself questions about what I was doing. So before working on my second album, I asked myself: “What do you want to say to people or say to yourself?” I needed to go back to myself and live, to do and experiment stuff so I could come back and have the need and the desire to write again and express myself through songs. This break lasted six years and I am now working on my album.

As a woman artist who has chosen music as her main activity, what do you believe your mission is? What messages do you wish to convey through your art?
That’s a question I have been asking myself lately. I feel that we can touch people’s lives with our art. I think that the main message we have to convey to people is that they are able to do much more than they believe they can. Life seems to be so hard but there is another way to approach life. There is another way to look at life that can make it easier for us. For me, the way was to go back to myself and to love myself. So this is what I am trying to tell people. To love themselves. It’s okay to be the way you are and to embrace it because we don’t have a lot of time to spend here so at least, let’s try to make it count and be happy.

What motivated you to create your music production company ATARAXIA and to produce your next album “Renaissance Woman”? What can you share about this daring experience?
I wanted to take full responsibility for what I do because with an album, it is so easy to say that if the producer had done things differently, or the musician, the album would have been better, and so on and so forth. I reached a point in my life where I told myself I had to embrace who I am in everything that I do. I realized that the only person who truly understood what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it was myself. That does not mean I don’t work with people. I do work with others and I do have a team but I needed to do create ATARAXIA and to produce my next album.

I have a dear friend who keeps telling me, “You have to embrace your leadership. You have to embrace your leadership. You have to embrace your leadership!” I was wondering what he was talking about. I came to realize he was actually right. Yes, you do have to embrace your leadership. You have to! Leadership is not necessarily about leading people. It is about taking responsibility for who you are deep down. Even the idea of the name of my album “Renaissance Woman” stems from that approach. I wanted to share the message that you can do so many things and not be afraid.

I feel I actually always acted like an entrepreneur but I was scared. I always wanted someone with me so if we fall, we fall together. If we rise, we rise together. But I reached a point in my life where I told myself, “Yes! Just do it!” It’s really not an easy journey. I thought that it would be a process that would be faster but actually it requires so much patience, and strength, and not letting go, and focus. So I would say that when you are an entrepreneur, it’s not about what you do. It’s really about what you are because you have to build something inside of you to be able to project something better on the outside. It’s not easy because you have to work on yourself while doing what you have to do to achieve your goals. It’s not easy, but it’s a good feeling at the end of the day.

What was the trigger that enabled you to move away from your fears and to take your leap of faith?
The fear is the voice telling you: “You’re not good enough. You’re not good! Why do you think people will like what you do? Why do you think that people will listen to what you have to say?” That’s the biggest fear I have. So what I have to do is face my fear and not try to get rid of it. Instead, I have to listen to her, talk to her and tell her, “Okay I hear you but the question is not about whether people will like my work or will listen to it. It is not about the outside, it is about myself. I need to be at peace with who I am.” It’s hard because I am a perfectionist. When I do something, I tell myself, “Oh my God! This is not how I wanted it to be, not that way! I wanted it to be better!” I have to be gentle with myself by saying, “At that point in time, that’s what you were supposed to do and what you were capable of doing. So, you have to be at peace with yourself. It’s okay.”

The leap of faith. You actually have no choice. You have to have faith! If not you won’t be doing anything. When you wake up and you breathe, you have faith that you are going to breathe again, the next second, the next two hours. Faith for me is not something that I am trying to work on. I feel like I have no choice because if I don’t have faith, what am I going to do? I’m just going to stay in bed and wait for me to leave.

“Renaissance Woman” is the name of your next album. However, beyond that, it is a project you initiated “The Renaissance Woman Project”. How would you describe the Renaissance Woman and what is the objective of the project?
Renaissance Woman is about sorting your fears. At first, Renaissance Woman was simply the name of my next album because in my songs, I wrote about the four principle stages of the cycle of change: the shock of death, denial, letting go and being awake. It was my personal journey that I was sharing with people. I then realized that my journey was not only mine. There were a lot of women, a lot of people actually, who could relate to that journey of learning how to let go, to end the cycles. It motivated me to start a group on Facebook because I thought I would perhaps find people who would understand my vision and share it. I realized that there were more and more people in the same stage of rebirth that I was experiencing.

The Renaissance Project began because I had to ask myself what I was supposed to give back to this world. I decided to contact Justine Masika, a Congolese woman activist who works in Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with women who have been raped. I asked her how we could work together to help these women. In Haiti, I would like to work with ‘restavecs’, child slaves, with the foundation Maurice Sixto. Another objective of Renaissance Project is to bring awareness to our community and mentorship because women don’t have enough mentors.

A Haitian gentleman once sent me a letter in which he wrote, “I like your music. I like what you do but when you come to Haiti, you never come to us. You never come to the people. You go to clubs we cannot get into because we don’t have the money to get in.” I was so in shock! I told myself I needed to do something different. I needed to go to these people who couldn’t afford to come to me. So initially the Renaissance Project was to bring culture, music, empowerment to the people in need.

It’s a lot but today, the main idea behind the Renaissance Project is to empower and mentor women and instill in them that they are worthy and capable of doing much more than they believe they can.

How can people who are interested get involved in the Renaissance Project?
I have a  website, the Renaissance Project. The Renaissance Woman Facebook page is more about women discussing their issues. It’s a space where they can share and get inspired. As for the Renaissance Project, people can follow that page and send me messages so we can all work together. I am currently setting up an association to be able to work on the various projects. So everyone is welcome to join the movement!

There are so many women out there who long to live a life which is in harmony with who they are, with their aspirations. They experience pain because their lives do not reflect their true being and potential. What can you share about your inner journey and your life experiences that could inspire and empower these women to express themselves fully and to transform their lives in a powerful and meaningful way?
I would say that the process is an inside out process, not outside in. Most of the time, we focus more on the outside. So I would tell them to be ready to be comfortable with themselves. Being comfortable means that you have to be comfortable with the light inside of you, but with the darkness as well, to fully understand who you are. You have to start by not judging yourself because it’s just a process. It’s just a path. There are no mistakes. That’s what I’ve learnt. There are just opportunities to learn so you can go back to your highest self and understand who you really are. But sometimes, to understand who you are, you have to understand who you are not, and you are not your mistakes. You are simply trying to figure out who you are. Your mistakes, the pain, the hurt, that’s not who you are.

It’s hard because the message out there is the contrary. People keep telling you that you are your mistakes. That you are your achievements. That you are your relationships. That you are whatever. But it’s not true because all that can change the moment you change. The more you love yourself, the more you see your outside world change. When in religion they talk about the Good News, I would say the good news is to try that. Try to love yourself and you will see what happens. Try to love ‘you’ unconditionally and you will see the change! It’s powerful!

Where do you see yourself in ten years and what legacy do you wish to leave? This question is not limited to your professional life.
In ten years I hope that Renaissance Woman won’t exist anymore because people won’t need it. In ten years, I think I will be wiser. I will be in a house with white walls drinking tea and listening to music. That’s it because I hope I won’t have to worry about being an activist and trying to change things. Sometimes I think that maybe all that is vain and maybe we should just chill, enjoy, let go and observe. We are fighting right now but we shouldn’t have to fight. So maybe in ten years, this is what’s going to be and I will have long white dreadlocks.

As for my legacy, my wish is that concerning the Afro descendants especially, the young women, the young generation will understand who they are and that they won’t feel they have to ask for permission to be whatever they want to be. I hope that the Renaissance Woman Project would have contributed to that. I hope there will be more love between us and real sisterhood.

Today is International Women’s Day. What message do you wish to share with both women and men?
I would say that we are more than women and men. Gender is not that important. We are people and that is what matters. It’s more about the feminine and the masculine energy and those energies can be different between women and men–not because they are women and men but because of the person. So what I would like to say to both women and men is to let go of the ego linked to the gender. The man thinks that because he is a man, he is supposed to be and act a certain way, but he doesn’t have to. He should be comfortable with the feminity in him because that makes him a balanced person. It should be the same for women.

When I talk to women, the first problem that I hear is, “How do I communicate with men? How can I be in harmony with my partner?”  I answer, “Maybe you should be in harmony with yourself and shouldn’t be as needy. We’re always trying to take the energy of someone else. We’re always trying to be loved by someone else. We’re always trying to be comforted by someone else because we are too afraid–or whatever the reason is–to do it for ourselves. Why do you expect someone to do it for you if you don’t do it for yourself?”

This day, I would add, is not about the day of women. It’s about the rights of women. It’s not about equality, it’s about equity. Being a woman is difficult. It shouldn’t be difficult. Let’s try to work on equity and not compare women to men. It shouldn’t be about women wanting to be like men. It actually has nothing to do with them. It’s about having the rights that you’re supposed to have because you are a human being.

Enjoy Stevy Mahy’s song Haïti chéri!

Renaissance Project:   http://renaissancewomanproject.com/
Renaissance Woman:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/268605256651826/?source_id=133101453387878

 

Interviewed by Aïda