Mellifluous troupes and unsurpassed virtuosi manifest from the soot of the bygone and hackneyed infernos of their predecessors in a circadian rhythm, and the lion’s share of musical aficionados will aver that this “circle of life” is the genesis of production and its momentousness. In fact, a groundbreaking soloist in emergence from within the silhouettes is pop genre perfomer, songwriter, and premier dancer, Azra.
Trademarked by her social insurgence toward “empowerment, individualism, and unconventional wisdom”, Clara Lee—alternatively and professionally, Azra—is illustrated within her earworm refrains as, “—a mixture between pop, rock and dance. Her soulful voice, powerful belting abilities[,] and vocal range define her unique style.”
At her crux, howbeit, her personality attributes and the disposition of her roller coaster lifetime escapades, comprised of an epoch-making resettlement from South Korea “across the pond” into San Jose, California, are of, “[inspiring] people through her music [and] her ventures and [sharing] her experiences with others while exemplary living life on her own terms, authentically inside and out in her own unconventional way,” according to her accredited bio.
Amongst Azra’s musical vocation, she is prestigious for her astuteness for the fashion modeling industry. To delineate, with reference to her aforementioned website citation, “While she was modeling for the LA International Fashion Supermodel show, she sang one of her most favorite songs ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston. Azra was also chosen as the winner of the America’s Next Top Model Finalist for the CW28 New England division. This led her to sign with modeling agencies in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles where she walked the runways for designers for fashion week shows, appeared in print ads and in commercials.”
Presently, this visionary Renaissance woman is distinguished from her accompanying maestros in her advocacy and activism for the championing of the LGBTQIPA community. In a notification, Azra broadcasted the inauguration of her Pride Festival Tour, which was documented throughout her Instagram: “I am very honored and beyond excited to be touring and performing at the Pride Festivals this June! I have always felt connected with the LGBTQ community not just through my friends and family who are LGBTQ, but also through my own personal life long struggles of coming out my shell and becoming the artist that I am. Since I was a little girl, I always felt that desire to sing and perform but was hesitant to embrace it publicly because of social pressures around me, telling me ‘not to be different’, and ‘stay in the background’. After decades of hiding my passion, I finally broke free three years ago, accepted who I am and started to pursue music professionally. Now I finally have self-acceptance, embraced being different, and stoutly challenge societal norms through and doing my art. This is what the LGBTQ community and Pride events inspire us with, to be ourselves and accept others no matter the challenges, shine through, and move forward together, as one. I am honored to sing and share songs from my latest EP FREEDOM on stage for Pride because I will be able to sing for what we all are standing for – celebrating our beautiful individuality.”
Thus, upon my vehement agreement to a scoop on this astounding individual, I, Alexandria Piette, a Women’s Republic staff writer, scavenged for a keyboard to collate the ensuing inquiry as a sensational candidate for our Women in the Spotlight.
Q. In rousing commencement, I must emphasize my unquestionable privilege to be interviewing you, Azra, through the Women’s Republic platform. My accompanying staff of ascending journalists and I—principally, as a bisexual woman myself—monumentally revere LGBTQIPA Pride throughout our publication. Therefore, we are ecstatic to communicate a sensational thank you to yourself and your management for the arrangement of what will patently be stimulating and all-inclusive dialogue! To abide to my self-proclaimed trademark: can you divulge into your utmost noteworthy eccentricities? A pre-performance superstition, an unexpected habit—the bandstand is yours!
A. Thank YOU, for inviting me to interview with the Women’s Republic platform. I feel honored to connect with your readers and get involved with the LGBTQIPA community.
Hm, my utmost eccentricities. . .well, I have a huge obsession with drinking hot water and I am a huge proponent of eating before you sing [sic].
Q. First and foremost, your fatherland is within South Korea; however, upon the age of nine, your immediate relatives and yourself immigrated to The Golden State, USA. In the beginning, did the relocation positively or negatively influence you? Does your heritage appreciably personate a mantle in not exclusively your day-to-day lifestyle, but your musical profession?
A. Great question. You know, in the beginning, even before immigrating to Cali, I did not want to move – I was perfectly a happy child there. My immediate family pretty much decided to move to the states for my brother. . .and I, of course. Well, my brother initiated it. One summer, he visited my relatives in NYC and came back with a skateboard on one shoulder and a bag of gadgets and toys in his other hand, and asked my parents if he could live in America and go to school there [sic]. He definitely had a good time with my relatives. . .this was also around the same time my parents were contemplating moving to the states to join the rest of our relatives, so it all happened serendipitously for everyone—except for me. I was having a great life as a kid in South Korea, doing music ranging from singing, dancing, playing the piano and violin, performing in musicals and playing lead roles in local plays, kicking butt in school and social life. So, in the beginning, it was rather difficult saying [goodbye] to all of my friends and leaving my home behind. Furthermore, once I got to California and started my first day of school as a [fifth] grader with very little knowledge of the English language, it was daunting and chaotic, to say the least. The experience was biphasic; there were definitely days when I asked my parents to take me back home to Korea, and times when I would be so ecstatically happy to have made new friends at school, even though I couldn’t speak the same language as them in the beginning. It definitely was not easy going from all around “involved” little citizen in her community back in South Korea to a kid who is seen as a foreigner with no knowledge in the spoken language and culture. Nevertheless, as steep as the learning curve was, so was my enthusiasm to start something new, and thankfully, my new community in America was very welcoming and receptive to my energy. Now my home and identity is all connected here.
To finally answer your question: did the relocation positively or negatively influence me in the beginning? I’d have to say positively influenced with foundations of many learning lessons and hard work. . . if that makes sense.
To answer your second question, my day-to-day life style is typically similar as every other ambitious person here, [which] I realized when my old friends from Korea said in 2015 that I’m totally American now, and that I’ve been gone for too long (18+ years)—but yes, my music is influenced by my own past and present experiences. Having lived in a different country before definitely influenced my musical career in some way. My music does have some influences, but I always strive to evolve as music is always changing.
Q. Through the American and a diversification of alternative arts, you adeptly honed the English dialect. How taxing was that undertaking for you? Were there determined compilations of musicians, ensembles, musical theater productions, et cetera, that shepherded and inspired you?
A. I learned English within the first six months of being in America. This was an intense experience, but thanks to my teachers, family, and friends, I got through it. I also formed girl bands and joined a musical theater group at school, which absolutely helped me. I definitely believe that my continuous love and involvement with music and the performing arts helped me learn the English language better than I would have through just the traditional didactic books and lectures. Using the universal language of music and expressive arts, I was able to hone and continue to develop my expressiveness, creativity and passion, while, at the same time, incorporating a second language into the mix.
There were definitely some determined compilations of music, artists, productions around me that shepherded and inspired me: parents, my girl group members, school musicals. . .and of course Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and the Beatles.
Q. Furthermore, amongst your artisan enterprises and throughout your tutelage at Boston University, you instituted an entertainment brand consulting company, CLÚ INC, that has flourished within the industry for approximately six years. What, at the outset, inspirited this corporate venture? Can you describe its initiative? What impelled you to launch its record label department?
A. When I was diagnosed with glaucoma of my right eye during college, I was forced to stop all of my passions in singing, dancing, and performing to focus on getting better. During this time of my life, I relied on books and focused on personal development to work on my psychology and get through the daily struggles of recovering from this rare juvenile eye condition. This led me to publish a book called The Cupcake Theory through CLÚ, which is a self-help inspirational book for youth and women on self-confidence and healthy relationships. I also focused on expanding my knowledge in business development, branding, and consulting, as I had always been naturally excited about these aspects of business. Through my college career, I took on various internships and part-time jobs in entertainment, film production, talent agency, hospitality, [and] financial and management consulting companies, where I learned about business, marketing, management consulting, and relationship management. Then, during my senior year of college, my eye recovered (though I still can’t wear contacts on my right eye), and I decided to start freelancing and help businesses develop their brands. My first few clients were boutique spas around Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. That is how CLÚ started. Then, I joined a consulting company that led me to consult for various global companies around the world. As for starting a label division, when I had decided to focus solely on my music career and finally get back on the path of following my passion in music, it just seemed right for me to start a label and put my knowledge of business into this venture. Don’t get me wrong, I have so much more to learn about the music business, and I am excited to team up with more people and expand my squad in the near future. All of my business ventures sprouted from my personal life experiences, and because I gained so much from my own lessons, I feel passionate about giving back to others through my company.
Q. With regards to orchestrating albums, you have freshly circulated your debut EP, FREEDOM, which, “—encourages listeners to be their authentic selves and live in their own unconventional way.” Esteeming one’s self-acceptance and unorthodox behaviors is a foundational principle of who you are, and what the nucleus of FREEDOM is. What was your innovative musical approach like throughout the composition of your EP? What incentivized you to inaugurate yourself within the musical business so thematically strong-willed and impassioned?
A. I wanted to write on my past experiences. I feel that the best way of writing music is to focus on looking within one’s self and transcend the feelings and thoughts in visions before putting it in writing and melody. My firm belief is that if you can genuinely feel a vision and idea physically, internally, and externally, then others are bound to feel them as well once it’s alive. That was my approach with FREEDOM: to truly speak out the inner desires and feelings about my past experiences, learning, and expression.
I always say, “Inspiration is the motive and music is my passion.” Singing and performing professionally is what I’ve always wanted to do since I was [four] years old. I want to contribute my passion in music to serve my mission of inspiring others to speak up and go after what and who they want to be, do, and have for themselves. Many people in this world hold back on pursuing their dreams due to various societal pressures, environments, and inner conflicts. I have definitely been there and I know how much that can hold you back from reaching your potential, letting go, and living out your dreams. I want to help with that and inspire others to have the courage to take initiative and go after what they want boldly, fearlessly, and freely.
Q. With the merriment of Pride Month 2017 underway nationwide, you have been scheduled for appearances at Baltimore Pride on June 17th, and Philadelphia Pride on June 18th. Previously, upon June 4th and June 10th, you performed at Queens Pride and Capital Pride, respectively. Consequently, what does Pride Month mean to the essence of yourself? On the akin token, what are your favored perspectives and facets of the LGBTQIPA community?
A. To me, Pride means standing up for what you believe in, being true to yourself, celebrating your and others’ individuality, hope, and being free. It’s a word that holds so much hope to the LGBTQIPA community and everyone else. One of the facets I look up to in the LGBTQIPA community is acceptance.
Q. As our conclusion materializes, I have a “dime a dozen” inquiry with what invariably has inspirational responses: if you could counsel your nine-year old self, what would you impart to her? Did you ever, upon any occasion, foresee yourself as who you are and where you are presently?
A. I would tell my nine-year old self that what her heart wants is what she should go for, give her all, and that it’s never too late. Life is all about doing and taking steps towards what you want to be, do, and have.
Yes, I always saw myself as a singer, performer, and an individual who connects with others and helps and makes them happy in some capacity.
Q. Lastly, yet doubtlessly not least: where can the spectators of Women’s Republic follow you, Azra, across the social media latticework? Moreover, where can your EP, FREEDOM, be downloaded and/or streamed? Do you have a full-length album amidst productivity for us to thrillingly anticipate?
A. You can follow me @theazraofficial on all social media platforms. My FREEDOM EP can be downloaded/streamed here, and my [the information on] upcoming tours/shows/et cetera can be found on my website.
As for what’s next, I am always writing and making music, so stay tuned for what’s to come and catch me at my shows!
In adjournment, a wholehearted and finalizing thank you must be pronounced to Azra from the Women’s Republic workforce and myself for this galvanizing collaboration. Additionally, our astronomical gratuitousness is to Hayley Brinkman, an administrator of media correspondence for Azra through Big Picture Media, for orchestrating our contact for this eye-opening communication.
Collectively, we will hound our impending lifetime with the guidance of being veracious within who we are—not who we possess preconceptions of what we “need” to be.
“Society tells us one thing, to fit the mold
But my mind tells me otherwise
Don’t always do what you’re told…”
— “Shine”, FREEDOM EP