We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheilava and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sheilava, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Up until this year, I would have said ‘You should never give up!’ with utmost positivity and fervor. But after recent world events and personal hardships I’ve experienced, it’s just not that easy for me to say anymore. The idea of giving up comes across everyone’s mind at some point in time. For many, it can be a yearly or seasonal struggle, but for some it is a daily struggle. Giving up on your passion might seem easier overall and maybe even the smart choice (or the only choice) if your basic needs or your family’s need aren’t being met. But giving up can also be even more mentally and emotionally stressful than taking a leap or pushing through. It’s a tough battle, especially nowadays. Every situation is different and within a single month you could very well experience the highest of highs followed by the lowest of lows. How does this depict what you do when going through the extremes? This is where I realized there is an in between. Sometimes you want to give up, sometimes you want to keep going, but sometimes you just need to pause. Even as I speak, a lot of creatives are on pause right now because the world is hurting. Many of us aren’t going to give up but we are very much aware of everything that’s going on, so instead we pause and shift our focus. Small businesses and communities are hurting, people of color are hurting, the LGBTQ+ community is hurting, and creatives are hurting. We are hurting because of everything going on, but we are also hurting because we care so much. Up until last week, I would’ve said ‘Keep going! You can do it!’ even throughout all of this because yes, the world still needs our creativity and our light. The world still needs all kinds of voices to help express the things that aren’t always easy to talk about. But on any given day, you might be fighting these battles and perhaps even more that no one else knows about. Recently I experienced a roller coaster of a week where I found out I was pregnant and felt over the moon, and then woke up several days later to the horrifying realization that I was have a miscarriage. Then followed several days of extreme grief, pain, and a barrage of emotions I still can’t quite describe. In that one week, I gave up. In that one week, I wanted nothing to do with the outside world. I had nothing left inside me to fuel my work. I had no desire to do anything but lay down and quit. As I went through each wave of grief and depression I knew deep down I couldn’t live like that forever, but I did need to take that time to heal and to let the pain come as it did because pretending everything is okay doesn’t do any good for anyone. As I healed, hour after hour, day after day, and into the next week, I started to open my heart back up to the rest of the world. I started to look at the beauty around me and was reminded that although there is extreme sadness in loss, I am not alone. Although things are painful, I am not alone. Although times are hard, I am not alone. I now look back at that week as a pause. I did not give up, but I did take the time I needed to grieve and heal as needed. By taking the pause, I was able to rest and regenerate a new love for everything I’d ever done and further feel utmost gratitude for everything I still have. My advice to anyone now is: don’t give up, but don’t force yourself to keep going if you need to take some time for yourself or your loved ones. Instead, take a pause, in whatever capacity possible. Create if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to. If you want to be the best version of yourself then you should give yourself the love, light, and space you need.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is a culmination of music, film, writing, and modeling. I produce. I direct. I act. I write. I pose. I compose. I’m a singer, songwriter, flautist, voiceover artist, and a private lesson instructor. I love combining multiple art forms and collaborating with people of all backgrounds. Although paid gigs and projects are always great, it takes a certain kind of mentality and a whole other level of dedication to start your own. Creating something from nothing is one of the most powerful things you can do, and if you do so with passion and positivity, the experience provides you with a different kind of reward in the end. What sets me apart from many is that first, I’m willing to take on anything and everything. Second, I am not in this field for the money or the fame, but for the utmost thrill and creativity. I do everything I love, therefore I love everything I do. That energy compounds upon itself and always pushes me to take on more unique and challenging projects. This cycle has challenged me so much in such a short amount of time and the results show in the art I make and the people I work with. I can’t say how incredibly thankful I am. But how did I get here and why do I love doing what I do? It all started with a flute and a crazy obsession with just wanting to play music and get better at something. Everything else sort of evolved from there. Upon graduating high school, I was torn between going to school for music and pursuing veterinary medicine, but ultimately I realized that performing and creating was the only thing I ever felt any good at. Pursuing a degree in music was risky though. It was a costly investment with no guarantee that I’d get anything in return, so all I could do was hustle and try to make my own opportunities. One of my favorite mantras is that if you shine bright enough people will start to see you, or in my case, start to HEAR you. But it was a rough journey at first. I waited tables and bartended for almost 13 years in an effort to keep myself afloat before, during, and after college. After graduating with a Master’s in Music Performance, I was so excited to see where life would take me but also knew that I was going to get crushed by student loan debt if I didn’t continue to work my rear off. I took a job at a bank and shortly after that wound up selling cars for Ford. That enabled me to pay off my student loan debt faster, but the hours were daunting… and some people have it much worse than I did! I was always thankful to have my family’s support, but especially grateful to have the support of my husband… I wouldn’t have made it through anything without him. We were both pursuing a career in which 1 in 100,000 people would ever succeed at. He decided that if we were going to survive the real world together, there’d have to be sacrifices. So he put down his trombone and picked up a JavaScript book. He taught himself how to code, got his first job within several months, and six years later became the 1st employee and engineering manager for the start up company First Dollar. Seeing how quickly he was able to succeed in his own way is an endless inspiration to me. Working with people came natural to me, but I’ve also been able to push myself to new extremes for as long as I can remember… it was only a matter of time before I embraced the life of an entrepreneur and took the leap to carve my own path doing the things I love with the people I love. I started by teaching music lessons and reaching out to other musicians for collaborations. It wasn’t before long that I realized I already had the skills and more than enough energy and dedication to be able to start my own home studio. I made the transition and was able to better manage my time and start working on all of the endless projects I had floating in my head on a daily basis. One thing led to another. Under the nickname & stage name Sheilava, I started writing more song lyrics and melodies and found myself working on more collaborations. In the Fall of 2016 I started an indie-electro pop duo with a keyboardist. We quickly turned it into a 5 piece band, started booking shows left and right, and began working on our first album. A year later, an old friend from college reached out to me and invited me to go to a photography and modeling event. I was by means no model, but she needed subjects to practice her photography on and I needed better photos for my artist page. A month or so later I received a message from a Ukranian filmmaker who had heard of my music but noticed that I had no music videos. Those experiences introduced me to a whole new world of creativity. It was wonderful to imagine how my ideas could unfold with new outlets. I learned more in those next two years than I I’ve learned in probably half my lifetime. It was fascinating to see how my music and poetry came across depending on what still or moving images it was combined with. It was shocking to see how my physical self transformed from fragile or innocent in one photoshoot and then seemingly powerful or intimidating the next. I had two additional and seemingly limitless platforms upon which I could bring my ideas and thoughts to life, not only through music, but also now through modeling, acting, dialogue, props, set design, camera movement, special effects, and editing. It was magnificent, it was orchestral, and I was forever changed. It’s been a whirlwind. Within 3 years I played several dozen shows throughout The Greater Austin, heard five of my songs on KGSR / Austin City Limits Radio, performed live for the Austin Statesman 360 Studio Sessions and several episodes on multiple Austin Public TV shows, recorded two albums, a Christmas album, hosted several live showcases, produced my first music festival, modeled for over 30 projects with nearly 50 different photographers, became a published model, collaborated on several non-profit projects and events, worked on over 50 film projects, and won my first set of awards as a Producer, Actress, and Composer for the Austin 48 hour film competition. It is overwhelmingly hard work, but has thus taken me on a journey that I’ll never regret. For me, it is not enough to do one thing in life and call myself complete. I want to learn and grow as much as possible, in every capacity possible, so that I can use my platform to share light, love, and creativity in every way possible. Although life was something of a dream since 2016, it was not without it’s trials… I definitely learned more than a few lessons the hard way. Not everyone you work with has good intentions, so you always have to look out for yourself and your fellow creatives. Some opportunities, however appealing or prestigious they may seem, are just not worth the amount of time and energy you’re asked to spend away from your loved ones. And I can’t stress enough how important it is to take a break every now and then. It is necessary to give yourself a day off once in a while… it is the only way you can continue to do your best work as the best version of yourself. If you’re ever too stressed to enjoy doing what you love, you’re doing it wrong! Also, there are so. many. times. I. feel. like. giving. up. Life gets hard, especially when it feels like the entire world is caving in around you. Everyone will experience the beauty and the pain in life. How you learn from it and how you let it fuel you is what can separate you from everyone else. Yes, I have my share of trials and failures, but (and to quote one of my favorite artists), “all I can is write ‘em in a song.” Take a pause, and move on. I like to think that my art and overall brand of creativity is colorful, encouraging, uplifting, motivating, and without boundaries. I’ve been inspired and literally saved in so many ways by so many people; I want to do the same for others. “Sheilava” actually started as a nickname given to me by a coworker who loved and lived life to the fullest and had an infectious personality that touched everyone around him. He gave so many people life and hope, but his life was taken too soon. The nickname Sheilava is a reminder that I, too, have the ability to make an impact on the lives of others. It reminds me that I can always do my best and work my hardest, but alongside that I should love, live, laugh, and learn as much as possible. Over the years “Sheilava” grew to mean so much more and now represents so many different versions of myself that are constantly growing and unfolding. Too often people go through changes or new chapters in life and don’t always know how to express themselves or they forget they have the ability to manifest their dreams and turn their ideas into something tangible. On top of everything else that life throws at us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and even hopeless. This is when I am then motivated to want to help, to let people know that it is okay to feel whatever you’re feeling and it is never too late to do what you love. And no matter what, you are loved and you are not alone. Whether my encouragement is expressed through songs and words of advice, messages of self-love and motivation, or stories of the endless rise and fall, I want people to know that no matter what’s happened, anything is still possible. This is the notion that embodies “Sheilava”; this is everything I stand for.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a sucker for live music of course, but it’s just too hard to pick a place because there are too many to name. All I’ll say is this: if you’re able to go out and support local artists, just do it. They need you now more than ever. Second, everyone needs to tour all of Texas in some capacity. It is the most (or second most?) geographically diverse state in America… don’t you want to find out why? Yes, you should definitely check out all of the big cities, but there is so much to see all in between and all around. You could get away from it all and drive for hours through the hills or plains, take a cruise along the Gulf Coast, go spend a weekend at Lost Maples or Big Bend, see why the desert area around El Paso is more beautiful than people realize, and maybe even say heck with it and go skydiving. You only live once, you might as well live right.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people I want to thank who have blessed my life in unimaginable ways. But first and foremost I am so grateful for my husband and every ounce of support, strength, and love he’s given me throughout my journey and career as an artist and entrepreneur. Also, I must absolutely give a shout out to Anthropos Arts, the non-profit organization in Austin that enables me and other mentors to give free music lessons to at-risk and underprivileged kids. Lastly, I could very well name at least a hundred other people throughout the Texas film, music, photography, and modeling industries who either took a chance on me or saw something in me before I ever did. Y’all know who you are. I’ll never forget the steps you helped me take to be right where I am today.

Website: https://soundcloud.com/sheilavamusic
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sheilavamodel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sheilavamusic?lang=en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sheilavafilmmusic/?eid=ARAq7HcqkjRRaIlIhzgB6_m4Z2KS5DxJ9kJye9wBCcWEK9xI1fWiQx1S1-hpdDTY991nTRtn11NRlPZI&timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=517888174&fref=tag
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deE-3JNyqbI
Other: IMDb (acting reel): https://www.imdb.com/video/vi2082193177?playlistId=nm10110545&ref_=nm_ov_vi Bandcamp: https://sheilava.bandcamp.com/album/christmas

Image Credits
Photos_by_Mkay, Jeremiah Brite, Christopher De La Rosa, Lisa Belcher, Pati Currie, Edwin Quinones, Sheilava, Sparrows Heart Photography, Opulence of Veree Photography by Ursula Rogers