If you ask me who I idolized most as a kid, I will always respond with the following answer: Lisa Turtle. Lisa was stylish, funny, popular, and most important, like me, she was black. I looked up to her and considered her on-screen life to be a sort of map for how I might find my place amid the glaringly non-diverse student body of my junior high school. Growing up in the relatively affluent suburbs of Philadelphia, my race didn't just make me different it also made me an outsider. At times I felt isolated from my classmates, but I also felt isolated from my peers of color, who complained that I acted "too white" and "too bougie" to hang out with them. Sure, Lisa was fictional, but due to my lack of black friends, I identified with her like she was my bestie or a super-cool older sister who could teach me how to accessorize like a pro and give me tips on how to cope with being black in white spaces. Thanks to her, I survived junior high and learned that being different and being black are things to celebrate, even if I don't fit the stereotypical mold of what both of those things mean.
LA's iRAWniQ channeled her inner Lisa Turtle with the release of her 2012 mixtape . iRAWniQ, who per her Instagram bio identifies as a "queer mom changing the world through music," also strongly connected with Saved by the Bell 's black heroine as a kid, and used Lisa's character to celebrate her own identity as a queer black woman while challenging our culture's misconception of what black womanhood looks like. Whether she's rejecting labels on tracks like "No Genre Needed Freestyle" or celebrating alternative black girldom on her latest EP, Black Girls On Skateboards , iRAWniQ has an incomparable sound, composed of sick backbeats and seriously life-affirming lyrics. Listen to "Pusha (I Got It)" or "FCK SHT," and it's instantly clear that she is pure truth. iRAWniQ's music is changing the world, one track at a time.
I got the chance to talk with iRAWniQ over the phone about how her childhood shaped her love for music, why she'd rather write songs that can heal and help others instead of hits that could make her rich, and, of course, Lisa Turtle.
Dianca Potts: In terms of career, what did you want to be when you were a kid? What was your dream job?
iRAWniQ: Honestly, when I was in kindergarten, I told my mom that I was going to be a lawyer or a doctor. Then I started growing up and started leaning toward sports, so I [decided I] was going to be the shortest WNBA player. I got introduced to piano around seven or eight, so it was always [going to be] either [a] band or sports, you know? I was good at both, but I didn't know which I wanted to do. By the time I was 17 or 18, I started writing poetry and started applying the stuff that I learned in school to my everyday life. I didn't think that I was going to be an artist per se; I thought that I would always be academically thriving and going to Yale or Harvard or some shit, because I was a really good student, but the arts just kind of pulled me, and I just went with it.
DP: You describe yourself as a songwriter, producer, actress, curator, mother, and activist. What is it like to balance so many roles in your life?