VANESSA LU - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
SINGER AND SONGWRITER
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My stage name is Vanessa Lu, and I am a 22 year-old Congolese-Canadian. I come from a family of 10, 8 kids from which I am the second youngest. French is my first language. I grew up in Regent Park which is known as a one of Toronto’s roughest neighborhoods. When I was 14, my family and I relocated to Ajax. I’m glad that I have been able to experience both worlds (an inner city neighborhood and the suburbs) because it molded me into the strong individual I am today. I wasn't always going down the right path until one day I decided that if I really want to be a musician, I better be serious. I began to start taking music seriously, and started focusing on myself and where I wanted to go. I then noticed how much of a difference it makes surrounding yourself with like-minded people. In grade 8, I had the opportunity of singing for Pinball Clements - which then lead to me singing for the Toronto Argonauts. My family couldn't afford vocal lessons so I just sang at the top of my lungs every day until I started getting better. I am currently focusing on perfecting my live performances, so I've been doing a lot of live gigs. I also enjoy giving back to the community, and I've done so by speaking to many young girls and sharing my story with them. One of the organizations I did this for was UrbanArtsTO.
I love taking pictures! I am also very passionate about fashion and promoting the self-esteem of all types of women. I've taken this passion and created an instagram account which is all about loving yourself, appreciating yourself and being fashionable! I now have over 7500 followers (@PlussizeVixens). The page features fashionable, everyday plus-sized women from all over. I want to be known as more than a singer-songwriter. I want to be a role model. I have gone through a lot, and struggled with much insecurity. One day I decided it was now or never and turned to God. Ever since, I haven't looked back, but instead I've put everything on the line and have been working really hard to make my dreams come true.
Tell us what many people may not know about you?
People know I love music, but don’t know that growing up I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to play the drums and the base, but I tried and failed miserably. I am a singer-songwriter, but I cannot read music. I was definitely the loud, crazy kid and I’d be lying if I said I've changed since then. Also, I absolutely hate cake; sweets aren't for me but real food – now that's a problem!
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
Real musicians inspire me. By real musicians, I mean artists with great voices and beautiful souls. I surround myself with people who are striving for success as well as people that are already there. That is what motivates me! Believe it or not, being physically active definitely keeps me motivated!
How did you get to where you are now and what more should we expect?
I got to where I am now by sacrificing a lot, and working my butt off! I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, but I’m well on my way. There is nothing glamorous about turning a dream into a reality, but it is very rewarding if you keep at it and stay positive. You should definitely expect some new music, visuals, live shows and an EP from me this upcoming year. Those things are my main focus right now.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as the singer who always gives it her all on stage. I’d like to be an icon. I want to be remembered for the songs I’ve written, and for the ways I engage an audience. Most of all, I’d like to be remembered as me - the plus sized girl who became someone and beat the odds. I’d like to be remembered as Vanessa Lusamba Kalala, the person and not just the Singer.
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
I would be lying if I said it was easy because there's nothing easy about it. As much as I’d love to see my friends and family, and get to do whatever I want every day - I can't. Someone will always be out there working much harder than you, so it is up to you to work consistently and remain a step ahead of it all. I spend time with my friends and family when I can, but right now I am very focused on getting to where I’d like to be. Most of my spare time is spent in the studio. You have to sacrifice things to get where you'd like to be, and those who love me completely understand and support me every step of the way.
What's your favorite food, book, music and movie?
I don't think I have one specific favorite I’m all over the place, so I love a little bit of everything. I love ethnic food such as sushi, Indian cuisine and anything that my mom cooks.I love books that discuss social issues such as racism, and sexism. As well as autobiographies, that share the lives of people who have overcome the obstacles of life and accomplished their dreams. In terms of music, I definitely have the weirdest IPod. You’ll hear anything on there from Rock to punk to pop to reggae to r&b, and of course Drake. I love anything that I can relate to. I’m definitely a movie lover whether it’s watching movies on the Family Channel, or action movies. I’m usually in the mood to laugh though, so comedy is at the top of my list!
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
I find that many people turn a blind eye to this. Toronto is amazing because it is very multicultural, but at the same time I have definitely experienced racism. I just don’t want to be seen as a stereotype, so I work really hard at everything I do. I once went on a road trip with some friends to Nova Scotia, and I will say not every stop along the way was pleasant. That’s when I realized that Toronto is multicultural, but some of the other parts of Canada are not as accepting of other cultures. I am very proud to be Canadian though!
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like TD Jakes, Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET, etc.
I feel like Canada is definitely growing and I am hopeful that that will happen here in the future, but as of right now it seems that the majority of opportunities for artists are in America.
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models?
I really respect and adore Drake for all of the doors he's opened up for Canadians. Pinball Clements is another person I admire. He’s gone through a lot and decided to turn his negative experiences into a positive. He has reached out to children in different communities, and has helped them grow.
Should & do Blacks support / patronize black music, events and businesses?
Unfortunately, I don't think we do as much as we should. The support isn't there as much as it should be - which is very sad. There's a strong disconnect in the community and instead of uplifting one another and working together, many of us work against one another.
What’s your understanding of Black History in Canada?
I don't know too much about it, I feel like it isn't something that is discussed as much as it should be. Perhaps if it was, more black people would work together and try to do more positive. More of us would stray from the stereotype, and aim higher. Growing up in school, I was definitely never taught much about Black history.
Few words from Vanessa to an uninspired person?
You can either keep doing what you're doing, or turn a new leaf and work hard at something you are passionate about. It is up to you to become someone. You can be anyone you want to be, and go to places you've probably never imagined. It all starts with you!
You can find Vanessa Lu in the following social media & links:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/VanessaLuMusic
Vanessa’s Performance at Honey Jam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRojA8PXjpI