Alessandra Licul: on Being Unique as a Musician, Positive Changes During the Trump Presidency, and Being Taken Seriously
Alessandra's new single Talk Me Down can be found on the bottom of this article.
On being unique as a musician: I’m sure every musician thinks they’re unique, but what I find to be unique about my project is my influences. I love bedroom pop and feel like pop music in the mainstream is having a renaissance right now. What I truly love about pop music right now is how it’s blurring the lines between high and low art in music. My influences are really different: I take a lot from musical theater, pop punk even, lofi, hip-hop and classic rock and come up with one cohesive thing. The most difficult part of the creative process is matching what you want your music to sound like to what it actually sounds like. That’s what I’m working through on the upcoming EP.
On information about female sexual health: There isn’t enough information out there about our bodies, feelings, and functions. I’m a full grown adult lady and I still don’t feel like I have a firm, purely scientific and factual understanding of female anatomy or sexuality.
On work and career: I work in influencer marketing, but the word career is terrifying. I have so many random things I’d love to do in the future that have no connection to each other career-wise. I do think a goal is touring through the UK and Japan with my music. I’d love to work as a museum docent or go back to school for music or art history.
On traditional femininity: To me, traditional femininity exists in two forms. The first that comes to mind is some Jane Austen, Alice in Wonderland, girlie, frail, waif-ish lady etc. The second would be like a Titian Venus who just exudes sex appeal, confidence and basically only exists to be beautiful.
On pressure to be perfect: On one hand, I feel the pressure to always look beautiful, no matter what the activity or setting. On the other hand, I also feel pressure to subvert the ideas of “perfect womanhood.” Every time I shrink away from saying my opinion in groups of guys or in a meeting or dumb myself down to appear more attractive, I feel my inner feminist get disappointed and angry. That is a type of pressure as well.
On being “feminine” in public: Femininity is often associated with being quiet and gentle. I’ve never really felt confident speaking up or taking more of a lead on things for fear of being perceived as bossy. There was always the subconscious thought that the boys and men around me were smarter or knew better. (That isn’t really the case, but the subconscious fear was there. I think the hardest thing for me is being taken seriously.) Speaking of traditional femininity, I feel like because I fit so easily into that mold it’s very difficult at times to be taken seriously in an intellectual or professional capacity. And that’s an unconscious bias, so you can’t really go up to someone and say, “Hey you aren’t taking me seriously because I’m a lady,” but it’s something you can definitely feel.
On how womanhood is perceived in different generations: My mother is an extremely successful and powerful woman who I’ve always looked up to, but it is astounding how even just with one generation between us our opinions on the expectations of femininity differ so greatly. As she worked and developed her career in the second wave, she’s more in the school of “you have to act like a man to be taken seriously.” Recently, I’ve felt that women are moving more toward a positive reclamation of traditionally feminine qualities like sensitivity, showing more emotion and tenderness, willingness toward open communication, and I love that.
On favorites: Films: Pretty In Pink, Dirty Dancing, Casablanca. Books: The Virgin Suicides, Norwegian Wood, Please Kill Me, A Lover’s Discourse, Love In The Time of Cholera, Valley Of The Dolls, The Bell Jar.
On the “perfect woman”: The perfect woman, to me, is confident. Confidence is something I really admire in people, especially women, because everything in society is practically designed to attack our self-esteem. A woman who is intelligent and strong enough to remain confident in this world is amazing to me. The perfect woman, according to the standards of our society, is extremely thin, has perfect skin, never complains about anything, never feels strongly about any particular thing and is always lounging around with a $300 hairdo, full face of makeup, lingerie and a men's button down.
On pressure to be perfect: On the one hand, I feel the pressure to always look beautiful, no matter what the activity or setting. On the other hand, I also feel pressure to subvert the ideas of “perfect womanhood.” Every time I shrink away from saying my opinion in groups of guys or in a meeting or dumb myself down to appear more attractive, I feel my inner feminist get disappointed and angry. That is a type of pressure as well.
On representation of women in the media: There have traditionally almost only been Madonna and Whore representations of women, but I’ve always felt more personally victimized by “the cool girl” who is incidentally beautiful under her glasses, brilliant under her quiet demeanor, bombshell sexy under her super chill hoodie and effortlessly wins the affections of dozens of men, women, and children all while achieving her dreams accidentally with zero work. This is the most unrealistic, harmful and annoying depiction of women for me personally.
On catcalling: One of the most disturbing parts of catcalling to me is that on days when I don’t get catcalled, I’ve caught myself thinking “do I just look bad today?”
On advice to little 16-year-old Alessandra: I have so much advice to my 16-year-old self. Know that things get better. Every feeling that you could ever possibly feel is temporary. Be confident in what you want to do. Be confident in how you feel. Your thoughts and opinions are not any less valuable than anyone else’s.
On objectification: I think that the limited depiction of women in media often contributes to men’s limited ability to understand women, and as a result, they often fall into being attracted to“types” instead of seeing women as whole people. “Hot girls” and “cute girls” have extremely distinct personalities and never the twain shall meet, in the minds of men. I have also felt objectified as a vocalist time after time. Male musicians have always treated me as a disembodied female voice without any valuable opinions on lyricism or musicality, which was a big contributing factor in starting my solo project this year. I really wanted to escape all of those head trips.
On female friendship: Extremely candid discussions about men and sexuality are one of the greatest pleasures of female friendship, in my opinion. I think women’s close relationships with other women is a secret weapon we have against men because men don’t and can’t relate to each other in the same way.
On feeling competitive with other women: I catch myself feeling negatively competitive with other women all the time. Unconscious bias is something I started working on in college and am always trying to keep in check. It’s insane to me that as a younger girl when I saw an extremely beautiful girl my first thought always was, “she must be so stupid.” How can women vilify and judge other women like that? The tentacles of the patriarchy are embedded so deeply in our minds that we turn on each other. I try to keep this in check as much as possible, and I’m happy to say my relationships with other women have flourished ever since.
On skincare and makeup: I’ve definitely fallen deeply into the universe of skincare, I love masks and serums and oils and everything but I’ve never felt too positively about makeup. It’s always felt ridiculous to me that eyeliner, a dumb black line around your eye, can make all the difference between being beautiful and hideous in our society. Men have NO equivalent product and have never been told they aren’t good looking because they don't have black shit all over their eyes.
On female role models: I’ve had many positive female role models in my family, both my grandmothers were incredibly strong women who left war-torn Croatia and immigrated to New York. My mother has also been an amazing role model for me, as she worked full time, raised children and excelled at both activities. I’d love to be 1/10th as strong, intelligent or capable as these women one day.
On positive change during the Trump administration: I think that in New York specifically, the Trump election really woke people up to true misogyny occurring in our country. Living inside of liberal bubbles had, in my opinion, been keeping progressives complacent. Being a woman has changed along with the political climate because you now do not have the luxury of not knowing better.
On changing after Trump’s win: I think now I am generally more aware of and passionate about politics, especially at a local level. Living in Queens, I was closely following the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign and I don’t think that social media would have paid as much attention to a grassroots, local campaign in any other political climate. I feel that people, as a whole, care more.
On advice to little 16-year-old Alessandra: I have so much advice to my 16-year-old self. My advice is to know that things get better. Every feeling that you could ever possibly feel is temporary, and such is the definition of a feeling. Be confident in what you want to do. Be confident in how you feel. Your thoughts and opinions are not any less valuable than anyone else’s.
On advice to future women: BE CONFIDENT.