Tinashe’s career has been a tortuous road full of lessons, but with her latest album, she may finally be on the right track. “When I enter the space in Downtown Los Angeles that’s serving as the photo studio for a session with rising songstress, Tinashe, she is already being ushered by her glam squad from the matte black backdrop into the hallway to switch into another look.”
Tinashe emerges minutes later in an all-black, leather ensemble that is finished off with a pair of matching black sunglasses. She takes her mark near studio ephemera that ranges from a neon “open” sign that you’d see outside of a corner bodega, and a painting of Tupac Shakur holding up his iconic “Westside” pose. As a total package, she looks like Jackie Brown meets Johnny Cash; sexy, confident and with an outlaw’s swagger. The photographer’s lights pop with each frame taken—creating a rhythm not unlike a hi-hat on a drum kit—that she uses as a prompt to effortlessly change poses.
She later admits that photo shoots still excite her, but the repetitiveness of doing interviews grates on her nerves. It’s certainly understandable after feeling that her comments were taken out of context in a June 2017 profile by The Guardian which insinuated that she believed that the music industry only allowed for a certain number of women of color on the top of the pop charts.
At only 24 years old and fresh faced—with auburn highlights peppering her curls—Tinashe is challenging for a top spot. Her Hollywood aspirations began when she was quite young after relocating to Los Angeles from Chicago with her college professor parents, Michael and Aimie. Even her grandparents were educators. Thus, there was already an established precedent for her to enter and excel in the world of academia. But there was never a thought of pursuing such a path.
“God no!” she states of the prospect. In the moment, it’s like asking an airline pilot to roll down the window. She wanted gold records, not golden rules.
Whereas this disinterest in a career in education may have created conflict in certain family dynamics, her parents have always been advocates of her quest to entertain—whether as a child model, actor or singer.
“I’ve always wanted to do music and entertain. They’ve always been supportive in everything since I was young,” she admits.
During middle school, Tinashe fed her acting bug with parts on Cartoon Network and CBS that often took her out of class for months on end. As kids that age tend to do, her peers channeled their jealously into anger and began bullying her. She went from a near straight-A student to becoming completely disenfranchised with her entire school existence. By the time she was in ninth grade, school and acting were both afterthoughts as she honed in on her love of music; opting to test out of high school to pursue her ultimate goal of landing a record deal.