When I spoke to singer/rapper Melii on the phone, her East Harlem energy penetrated through the phone. The 22-year-old’s vibrancy isn’t only present in her conversation but also in her music, something her fans love about her. Melii, born Audrey Ducasse, has been making her mark on music as she rises to stardom. Besides collaborating with artists like 6lack, A Boogie With the Hoodie, Gyptian, Meek Mill and Lil’ Wayne, her first single “Icey,” was recently featured in Beyoncé’s latest ad for her Icy Park collection. So if you don’t know who she is, you need to get familiar.
Melii’s connection to her fans is something near and dear to her heart. Besides speaking to her fans through her music, she also connects with them via social media. She encourages her fans to reach out to her and vent. Since mental health is so stigmatized in the communities of color, she takes the time to respond to her fans who reach out to her to share what is on their heart.
“Mental health isn’t taken seriously,” she told me over the phone. “Sometimes you get in a funk but sometimes it’s not a funk and you really need to talk to somebody. Growing up, my siblings were going through their own trials and tribulations so I really couldn’t speak to anybody so that’s why I kept journals. I know I am giving hope to my supporters through my music so when they hit me up with paragraphs and stuff like that I thank them and reply. Maybe one message could have saved somebody’s life so even though I can’t reply to everybody I take my time to deliver messages that are aligning with [what they are going through].”
The “Way Too Soft” singer said that she recently “forced herself” into going to therapy to maintain her own mental health. She spoke about the crucial need for more Black therapists and how it being difficult to find one held up her search.
“Way back when I tried to commit suicide I was assigned to a therapist and when I went to the session I didn’t feel a connection,” she said about being assigned to a white therapist as a teenager. “You need that. You need to see someone that is familiar and that you can relate to.”
One of the difficult things Melii has faced on her road to stardom is dealing with men in the industry. She told me that after dealing with a share of male directors and being tired of being objectified by them and hearing their thoughtless remarks, she made the decision to strictly work with female creatives.
“I took a break from music and when I came back I didn’t want to do any music videos with male directors,” she said. “There was one time where I hadn’t eaten and the director– I don’t think I was hungry. I think I was mad or something– and he was like ‘you know women. They gotta have something to eat’. That just rubbed me the wrong way. From that point on [i decided that the] the next time I was going to book women because they understand our bodies. They understand the mood swings. They understand the things that only women would understand.”
Being an Afro-Latina in the music industry comes with a lot of misconceptions about who she really is, another hurdle she has had to deal with. Women of color are often subjected to ridicule over their assertiveness, gestures and overall Blackness, something Melii has caught on to early in her career. Melii said that in order to adjust, she has had to tone herself down and be “extra nice” so she isn’t misunderstood, a compromise that is frustrating for her.
“When you speak up for yourself you are considered a b**** but sometimes you have to be that b**** because that’s when things get done,” she said. “You gotta be extra nice and that blows mine. I should be able to look a certain way and not have people look at me like ‘oh, she has an attitude.’ There’s situations where you have to be extra nice in order not to hurt people’s egos and it’s refreshing [speaking to a Black woman] because I know if I say something you’re going to understand the character or the feeling behind it. Other people would be like ‘oh she’s being called aggressive’ or ‘she’s talking like this so that means that she is mad’. So you have to carry yourself a certain way in the industry.”