Auckland-based artist Tali Sheppard is saying a big fuck you to the objectification of women in her newest single, "Powerful". Sheppard wrote the song because she was sick of hearing about the inequalities women face in their careers and decided to say something about it. The statement is clear in the music video, which features friends like Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern staring defiantly at the camera, and support from rapper Melodownz.
"Powerful" Is being released in partnership with Women's Refuge. Sheppard is donating all proceeds from the song to the charity, which supports victims of assault. We talked to the musician about the issues women face, and why she feels this song should be heard.
VICE: Why did you decide to do a song for charity?
Tali Sheppard: I've just been feeling really annoyed and frustrated lately, listening to a lot of women, especially in the music industry, relay stories to me about how they've been treated unfairly in certain aspects and how they're afraid to speak out about inequality because they're worried that doors of opportunity in the future will be closed for them. It's quite a patriarchal system that the music industry is run by, unfortunately. And so, I wanted to write this song more as like a middle finger to that whole sort of vibe.
I didn't initially set out to make it a charity thing but then I thought this is getting bigger than me, how can I make sure that this is a song that people hear and is strong? Okay, I'm going to give it to charity, and Women's Refuge fits perfectly.
Who are the women in the video? There are a few recognisable faces in there.
Yes, one of the faces that you may recognise is Jacinda Ardern, Labour MP. She's not only a friend of mine but she's somebody that I really respect and admire because she stands up for what she believes too. She and I have had conversations in the past about how often people don't like us or they see us as aggressive because in our careers, we're seen as very forthright, and ruffling feathers and making people very uncomfortable. So, who better to have in it than someone like Jacinda, who's definitely blazing trails and ruffling feathers, and good on her for doing so.
And also, DJ Aroha in there, she's another incredible woman I've worked with who's very talented, very ambitious, and who's certainly had her share of shit thrown at her, and yet she just keeps on keeping on.
What advice would give to young girls or other women who are in male dominated/patriarchal industries?
Well, see it's hard because on one hand I want to be like, don't stop, and say what you think and don't be afraid! And I do encourage that. But I also think, be careful. If you want to be in the music industry—I can't really speak for other industries, but music obviously I know a lot about— be prepared to be judged, be prepared to be criticised. Be prepared to be hated. Be prepared for the negative shit because it exists.
When do you feel your most powerful?
I often feel very powerful when I'm on stage, especially if I'm with my husband DJing, or my girl Aroha. I feel very powerful when I'm onstage and I'm giving my energy and I'm giving my love, and the audience is giving back loads of love. There's an awesome connection between us, and it becomes less about individual power and more about the positive power that's in the room
What about your least powerful?
I feel my least powerful when I'm in pain. I'm somebody who prides myself on being fit and being strong, and when I'm in physical pain it often makes me quite down and quite depressed because I'm not able to be as fit and strong as I like. I mean PMT man. That's got to be when everybody feels the least powerful. When I'm curled up with my hot water bottle!
And also, I feel powerless when I see things that I can't change. Things that are bigger than me that I can't change on my own, that frustrates me too.
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