By Loriana Yaport
Bekele is a force to be reckoned with. Born in the Ukraine and moving to the United States as a young girl, this “Black Russian” is steering the wheel for the future of pop music with singles like “Popstitute.” Taking inspiration from iconic artists like Prince and Madonna, Bekele’s soon to be released EP, Memoirs of a Popstitute, will not only give listeners something to talk about, but embodies the strength, struggle and success she has encountered. Bekele took some time out to speak with YRB about her upcoming EP.
YRB: How was the transition from growing up in the Ukraine to moving to America as a young girl?
Bekele: Well, honestly, I was really excited because I heard all these amazing things about America. There [is] Disney World and Disneyland, and I was like, “Oh my god.” Because I was 10 that was big for me. It was definitely hard once I did come here just because things didn’t really work out between my parents. My mom and I living in a shelter and transitional housing was tough, but we got through it. Not knowing English, that was really tough.
YRB: You definitely bring a different sound in the music world. What artists inspired you?
Bekele: Uh, today umm… I’m not sure about today.
YRB: Justin Bieber?
Bekele: Oh god, totally! Although, I have to say, I saw his video [recently] in this hotel and was like, “Aw!” Let me see, I would say my all-time favorite is Prince and I love Madonna. I also love Mae West, she’s an actress from [the] ‘20s/’30s. I love Elvis. I like legends that were able to accomplish a lot with their career or in their career. I would kind of like to follow how they did it, the psychology behind all their moves. I really believe there’s a certain art to fame and music.
YRB: What do you mean when you say “there is a certain art to fame?”
Bekele: It’s just certain moves that these artists make. For example, I was watching this documentary the other day about Prince and [how], when he first came out, he was on American Bandstand and he didn’t say anything when Dick Clark was interviewing him. People said that was actually a calculated move and the next day it was all over the news: ‘Prince didn’t speak. What is wrong with him?’ Just things like that. The psychology behind all their moves, especially in today’s pop culture. It’s hard to get people’s attention, so it’s kind of interesting to figure out ways to grasp people’s attention.
YRB: How did you get the nickname “The Black Russian?”
Bekele: The Black Russian? Well, my mom is from the Ukraine and my dad is from Ethiopia, [so] basically I’m the Black Russian. I remember going out, I don’t know a couple of years ago, and there was a drink called the Black Russian and I actually never knew about the drink. I was like, “Oh my god, that’s me!” [Laughs] So I was like, I’m so going to run with that name, and that just kind of became a nickname of mine.
YRB: Has being from the Ukraine influenced your music style?
Bekele: Honestly, I never really listened to music in the Ukraine, so not really. But right now, I’m working on a new song and I’m definitely using the super Ukrainian or Slavic melody that they use in some of the folk songs. I’m using them in the music I am doing right now.