What’s more exciting than a female rapper dominating the field? A female rapper that empowers others, stays true to her multicultural roots, is a feminist, and still slays the game.
Meet The Secret of Mana. She manages to be all this and more.
Born in the US and raised in Iran, this young MC is working hard to succeed in the music industry, while creating a platform for women to amplify their own strengths. Music has always been a male-dominated and historically misogynistic environment, particularly in mainstream Hip-Hop, so to see this kind of performer shine is rare, but amazing.
Though she is no stranger to being snubbed by this closed-minded society, Mana is proving all the doubters wrong; having shared stages with notorious rappers like Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and KRS One. Her songs beautifully blend rhymes, rap and singing to deliver messages for progress and social mobility in both English and Farsi.
If her musical achievements weren’t enough, Mana also runs Lipstick Revolt, a platform that seeks to empower each woman in their own unique way. Focusing on creative endeavors, they highlight artistic and entrepreneurial successes as examples and motivation.
I recently had the chance to ask Mana a couple of questions about her music, and Lipstick Revolt. Check out her insightful, deliberate and thoughtful responses right here:
What does the name “Lipstick Revolt” mean to you, and what do you hope it says to your fans/supporters?
Lipstick Revolt came from the term Lipstick Revolution which is what a UK blog had called the women protesting in Iran. To me, “Lipstick Revolt” is the fact that as a female you are always making a statement without the intention to. If you wear lipstick, you are making a statement; if you do not, you are also making a statement. One of the things that every women in the world has in common is oppression. It doesn’t matter what country, religion, or culture you belong to because in the end the patriarchal societies push the needs of women to the side. I am not saying there aren’t sub-cultures which are different, but for the majority that statement stands true. Lipstick Revolt is saying: “while you are arguing about the existence of talented women, we are going to celebrate them.” whether they wear lipstick or not.
Lipstick Revolt showcases womens’ achievements and talents in the arts with a focus on social justice. Do you have any causes that focus on trans and non-binary individuals?
I work with a lot of different causes and any person that wants to be involved is welcomed and encouraged to. I support every human in their struggle for happiness and freedom. I did perform at the Capital Pride Festival in Washington, DC which is an amazing event that I support and I look forward to attending around the country. There are so many great causes out there where I wish I had more time to focus on. I look at it like every human comes from a woman and the best way I can help everyone is to create more love and understanding between people. Happy mothers make for happy children, make for happy societies.
As an American-Iranian, you rap in English and Farsi. Tell us about why you make this choice. Do you feel it connects you more with yourself? Your fans?
I love speaking Farsi and at times I miss it more than anything. When I rap in Farsi it shows people that the rules can be broken. We are always thinking things must be one way but music/sound is universal. When I rap in Farsi I feel connected with a part of me that I don’t get to show most of the time. I know a lot of people will say, “I can’t understand you, but I felt you,” and to me it means they too have an inner voice that they connect to. I made the choice because I realized how many people had no clue that Iranians do not speak arabic. Most people have no idea about the Iranian history and don’t know that the Islamic Revolution happened there in the late 1980’s meaning we went from a country which was known to be the first to develop human rights, being compared to France, to a country humiliated by being called a part of the “Axis of Evil.” I guess speaking both languages in my music lets people know we have more in common than we think.
You choose to focus on the power of positivity and progress to fight against oppression. How do you focus on moving forward and getting better when it can be so difficult in the social justice field?
I don’t see it as an option. I don’t think the sun ever decides that it’s tired or that it’s going to take a week off, or the responsibility to give life to everything is too much for it. I look at myself as the same (although my will power is definitely incomparable the sun.) I have my days where I’m down and out but I do believe this world is full of positivity just as much as there’s negativity. Sometimes it may be seem lopsided with media coverage but if you look hard enough it is absolutely there. We can’t control too much in this world but we can control the way we handle situations and knowing that everyone struggles, and you will too, makes the journey a little easier.
As a female MC, what have been some of your biggest frustrations? What have been your greatest successes?
Finding an angel investor the way a lot of these other rappers do. As a female artist, we are looked as a higher risk for investment than the males. When I first entered the DC music scene I was told, “female rappers don’t last;” “female rappers don’t get along;” “female rappers don’t hustle hard,” which is what inspired me to even create Lipstick Revolt, a women’s empowerment organization.
Being a female MC, I usually stand out immediately at any show I perform at. I want to say 90 percent of the time I’m the only female on the bill (unless it’s an all female showcase.) People always think that a female is a singer because rap is looked at as “masculine.” I enjoy proving them wrong on both accounts. I also get to talk about a perspective that is completely missing from Hip-Hop. There’s so many creative songs that haven’t been done as a female perspective. Its exciting to fill that gap.
What are your thoughts on the misogyny that is prevalent in music, primarily hip-hop?
It hurts my soul. It really does. It makes me want to hug these guys because clearly they are in need of some love… not sex… but love and healing. It’s very disturbing to hear how much hate there is towards women. It’s blasted on the radio and I just think to myself how is this even allowed on the radio? “These girls ain’t loyal” – maybe Chris Brown’s women haven’t been loyal ‘cause he’s not loyal, but sheesh to have that song bombarded for every little girl to hear, it breaks my heart. This is why positive rappers, and female rappers need to be supported. The other side of the story is getting no voice.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations in music, life and activism?
Oh man the list for this one is very long because I have been inspired by so many amazing people throughout my life that I honestly don’t know where to begin.
I guess I’ll start with my family and friends who support me and have helped me believe in me. As far as music, Nas is my favorite rapper but reggae is my favorite genre of music. I used to be obsessed with *Nsync and Backstreet Boys. I love house, dubstep, techno. I’m honestly inspired by so much. MIA is an artist that I love. I’ve also been blessed to be around some amazing artists like Wu-tang and Logic who definitely inspire me in terms of how dedicated they are to music.
As far as activism I am inspired by people like Manal Omar who works for the USIP making changes around the globe. It’s one thing to talk about, its another to put those words into action. I was recently involved with #March2Justice which was a march from NY to DC to help pass laws against the militarization of police, the organizers of that march really inspired me because they made real change. They walked 10 days to get here and got national attention for their efforts. I have always been fascinated by historical figures like Mother Theresa and the works Ghandi did.
What are the next steps for Lipstick Revolt, where do you see it expanding? How about your own music career?
Lipstick Revolt will be partnering with a lot of other awesome organizations to do some pop up events and it will have its annual show in March. We are always blogging about amazing women so stay tuned through the site.
As far as my music, I am getting ready to release a lot of new material through iTunes and other online distribution. It’ll be a range from me singing to reggaeton beats to that good ol’ hip hop that everyone keeps missing so much. I am also touring in the next coming weeks. Music is non-stop at this point. Creating music everyday, planning shows, performing. I am working with a lot of amazing folks that have international acclaim and I will make sure Fembot gets the exclusive.
Thank you again to Mana for providing an interview and the photos attached.