Monique DeBose is a mixed-race woman who spent most of her life oscillating between two worlds, that of her African American father and her Irish American mother. She has spent so much of her life doing the internal work to embrace all the parts of herself, to shift from living life in black and white to living life in full color, accepting and loving who she is as a whole and not one or the other. In addition to music, she has channeled these tools and what she has learned about living an authentic life into a rewarding and successful career as a coach — working with people who have a vision for their life and feel that they more them to give, to find their authentic voice.
DeBose honed her craft as a jazz artist in Billy Higgin’s famous World Stage jazz club in Leimert Park, as well as in various jazz bands. She is a trained jazz vocal improviser and once led a community of over 500 improv singers across the world. In 2005 and 2007, she quietly released two albums – Choose the Experience ( featuring Kamasi Washington) and Choose the Experience 2 – and performed internationally in India, China, London, and Amsterdam. This idea of “Living Life in Color” is the driving force behind her artistic output. DeBose received rave reviews for her one-woman show “Mulatto Math: Summing up the Race Equation in America” winning the Producer’s Encore Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival before being transformed into a workshop which she has performed at UCLA and Mind Valley.
DeBose recently released her latest single “Brown Beauty” in June and shares with us the backstory.
I wrote this song originally from my own experience of being half African American, half Irish American.
Tell us about your new music and the inspiration behind it.
I quickly saw that as the song healed something in me, I got real clarity that the song was not only for mixed-race women; it was a song for women who have been marginalized in this country, specifically speaking to Black women and women of color. To me, this song makes sense for anyone who has felt like they’ve had to navigate multiple worlds.
What was the songwriting and recording process?
I wrote this song when I was doing a body of work, around 2015. I had this vision of writing this amazing album all about my experiences being a mixed-race woman. If I remember correctly, this song actually came to me quite easily because it was really speaking to my experience of coming from two unique or distinct cultures, specifically in the United States, and not being able to have the privilege of just living in one of them. I like to sit at my piano a lot of times and just see what comes out of my fingers, so I’m pretty sure the music came first with this song. It’s just a haunting kind of vibe and kind of felt like a meditation of sorts for me.
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
I’m hoping listeners take away that Black and Brown women are more resilient, and specifically, the Black and Brown female listeners. Those are the listeners I’m speaking to right now, and I hope we take away that we’re more resilient than we might have thought we were, that we are beautiful, and can define beauty for ourselves. That we are masterful at navigating worlds that sometimes seem to oppose each other, that we are strong and understand the necessity, the necessity of moving beyond binary thinking.
When did you first start playing the piano, and what drew you to that instrument?
The piano is an instrument that can create so much color. I loved putting my fingers on the keys and hearing what came out. I loved learning the 2-5-1 chord turnaround. I started playing the piano when I was about 12 years old.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Tracy Chapman
I will be releasing a beautiful gospel-inspired song called the “Human Condition,” featuring master coach, speaker, author, and transformational leader Preston Smiles that comes out July 30th.
Connect with Monique DeBose