The People Who Shaped Me: Cabaret star Symoné talks inspirations and influences


We all have those special people in our lives who have been there at just the right time to positively impact our journey, almost as though the universe has made those encounters happen. This week, multitalented cabaret artist, choreographer and mentor Symoné talks to Jason Reid about the people who shaped her… 


It’s been ten years since I was first exposed to this musical duet and my love for them stays strong. Around the first years I discovered them, I knew I wanted to do “something artsy” when I was older, but didn’t know what. So for a while I delved into film photography, painting, fashion styling and ukulele. Cocorosie were kinda part of this experimental art journey when I was discovering who I was and what I wanted in my life. I’d often listen to them when I was working on a project. Also, they gave me the first glimpse of what queerness and drag was – which felt special. They made me realise that I was a little offbeat, as are they, and that difference is really beautiful and should be explored. 

My Mother

I had the same pep talk from my mother for years. “Don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable” she’d say. If any of your peers or teachers say or do anything always speak up for yourself.” Sometimes she’d even say: “When appropriate, don’t be afraid to curse them out.” I always thought she was overly harsh, so I let people walk over me growing up. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned to use my voice, trust my gut and stand up for myself. Her words really have made me an empowered confident version of myself young me never would have imagined. 

My Father

My family and I moved every 2-3 years because of my father’s job, so I grew up around the world. I lost contact with friends, and the constant readjustment meant that I had to relearn how to make these new cities my home. It was rough with the changes, but I remember feeling grateful for the adventures. What my father taught me – without saying it – was that life is impermanent; things, places, people come and go and you can’t control everything.

Shpongled Hoops  

As a self-taught hula hoop artist, YouTube was my source of inspiration. Shpongled Hoops was one of a few hoopers I followed online and has always affected my memory. Her surreal grace of movement still trips me out; she has this slow-mo style of hoop dance that I still rarely see. She was one of the first hoop performers that inspired me and made me feel the potential of performing full-time with this skill in my own way. Our styles are vastly different, but what Shpongled Hoops exposed me to was the creativity of hoop dance. Her signature music of Shpongle and psychedelic costuming showed me that she was on a different frequency than other hoop artists and inspired me to be who I am when I perform and not feel the need to conform.

Jessica Nelson 

Jessica and I have been friends since high school and she’s one of a few friends that kept in touch. She introduced me to underground rave culture which became a huge part of my life. In the US it’s really different from the UK. There’s this family structure in some parts of the states (Jessica was my rave mother) and a kind of commonplace belief for PLUR (peace love unity respect). So, it was the first time I was exposed to a bunch of wild characters and felt comfortable, experimented with psychedelics and experienced some pretty epic life-changing experiences in nature learning about the universe.

Kia Labeija 

Kia is one of my favourite voguers to watch. I met her three years, saw her perform a trio voguing performance in tribute to people with HIV and it has never escaped me. What I’m so drawn to about Kia is the way she vogues is so simplistic yet holds so much power and control behind it. I really love artists with multiple skills and disciplines – she’s a fine art photographer and writer, and I can see that she does everything with her soul. People often think of Madonna when they hear voguing. No shade to Madonna, but Kia is one of hundreds of iconic voguers that deserve so much credit.

Symoné will be performing at Certain Blacks present Circus, Circus, Circus at Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NH
on Friday 22 November. 


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