Seattle’s “hardcore popstar,” TeZATalks

TeZATalks explores mental health, bodily autonomy, her upcoming album Black Girl American Horror Story, and a whole helluva lot more.

By way of Oahu, Seattle’s “hardcore popstar,” TeZATalks has created a lane all her own. She is the rockstar we all wish we had growing up. A powerful queer Black woman who says exactly what’s on her mind, encourages her fans to live authentically and activates them to “fuck shit up.”

We caught up with TeZA before she performed at this year’s Treefort Music Fest. She announced she’d be playing TMF on Instagram by saying, “Idaho has one of the strictest bans on our bodies and I can’t wait to crash the party.”

The first time TeZATalks performed at TMF was in 2022. She remembers Governor Brad Little claiming that there wouldn’t be an abortion ban.

“The day that we played [Treefort Music Fest], the exact opposite happened,” TeZA told RIZE. “We played and sang, ‘Not Your Body’ at the top of our lungs.”

Not your body

In a state as conservative as Idaho — which just passed a bill that would criminally charge those who help pregnant minors get an abortion across state lines without parental consent — this is major. The city of Boise is the liberal hub of the state, and Treefort Music Fest draws people from across the country but there were still folks in the crowd who TeZA says were upset about her unapologetic advocacy for abortion rights.

“The overturn of Roe v. Wade was devastating, but was not a surprise,” TeZA said.

TeZA believes overturning Roe V. Wade is just one step in a targeted attack on anyone who isn’t a cis white male. In an effort to take a stand and platform voices who are not only being harmed by these hateful policies but are most often silenced in the fight for equity, she started the “Not Your body” campaign.

“Not your body campaign started with us going around the room, talking about how we felt impacted by the decision and what it meant for us as women in society, as queer people in society, and I realized, these are the stories and the voices that aren’t getting heard,” TeZA said. “I wanted to create a safe space for people to feel encouraged to share some of those harder stories.”

If you’re in Seattle, you might have seen the Not Your Body posters across town. Since starting the street campaign, people have been moved to reach out to TeZA and share their own personal stories with her.

“The overall goal with everything is to just try to provide a constant conversation and urgency around the situation because it’s a long fight,” TeZA said.

Ancestral activism

Photo by Luna Reyna

TeZA comes from a long line of Black activists and community organizers. Her father, who she says she looks up to immensely because of his grace and his overwhelming dedication to serving the community, is the Director of Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of Washington state which helps minority and women business owners. Her grandfather was involved in the civil rights movement by establishing homeownership in St. Louis for Black families in white neighborhoods and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King.

“The experiences of having people come to the house with guns and fire and just hate and rage, and then staying resilient and not budging and building from a place of power and not fear is what inspires me,” TeZA said.

Her grandfather on her mom’s side was one of the first Black men in the military to lead an all white brigade but his principle of leading with love in life, regardless of the other person, has stuck with her and she hopes to translate that into her music.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone at a show being on stage and two people that would never be caught having a conversation outside are standing side by side singing lyrics or dancing together or crying together,” TeZA said. “That is what I truly think is going to create progress in our society and evolution into a higher consciousness and into a more peaceful society. That’s how I hope to influence any political or social activism.”

Black Girl American Horror Story

If her latest singles are any indication, we have no doubt that TeZA’s highly anticipated album, Black Girl American Horror Story, will be powerful enough to influence progress. As a queer Black woman, TeZa says the music industry hasn’t been kind to her or her peers and while she has faced adversities and turned them into power, it doesn’t remove the horror from it. That’s where the direction and message of Black Girl American Horror Story came to be.

Photo by Luna Reyna

“It has actually made me embrace the horror within myself,” TeZA said. “…[they] think that these horrors are happening to me but in fact, I am the one to fear because of my resilience, because of my light, because of my perseverance, because of my fight, because of all the ways that [they] cannot break me and only I can break myself because I’ve made friends with my demons because I have continued to get up again and again and again. [They] can never, ever put me down or keep me down.”

TeZA wants her fans to realize that they don’t have to let anyone else narrate their story or their life and that they are the main character of their own unique life experience. Nobody can take that away. We are all working through the horrors of our own lives and that is our story to tell.

Mental health + music

As an artist, TeZA bravely and authentically models these intentions. Her song “STFD”, off of the 2017 Chaos EP is a great example of this. She stopped making music in 2016 after she signed her legal name away in a bad record deal and was unable to get it back. That was what birthed TeZATalks, her creative counterpart. A close friend and producer, Steven Trueba, encouraged her to start writing music again so they headed to Hood River, Oregon where she wrote the Chaos EP and “STFD” was created.

“In full transparency, I was a ball of depression and anxious energy and very much trying to heal from the experiences I had just gone through in getting my name back, and living in LA, and just being a young Black songwriter,” TeZA shared. “I was diagnosed with BPD which is called borderline personality disorder and I was trying to understand it. The way it was showing up in me was that I didn’t feel like I could reward myself with certain just normal things like drinking water or being able to go outside. It made my world very much black and white. It made me very isolated in my relationships because I didn’t feel good enough to be around people that I loved and cared about and looked up to because I was constantly listening to this voice in my head saying that I’m not there yet. I’m not there yet, wherever ‘there’ is.”

While in Hood River TeZA says she remembers sitting on a bed in the downstairs basement studio to record and feeling frustrated and tired of not feeling good enough and that’s when the lyrics poured out of her.

“I just started to speak from my soul, from my spirit that felt very much pushed down by the voices and so “STFD” is that healing record, or that healing poem that I wrote for myself as a reminder, as I continued to deal with some of the side effects and having BPD to not let those voices be my truth.”

Photo by Luna Reyna

Although healthy conversations about mental health are more common than they used to be, there are still very real, dangerous stigmas attached to mental health diagnoses and specifically BPD, which is why it was important for TeZA to share her experience. She hopes to utilize her story, her experiences, and her music to inspire others to find a creative outlet to help them through life’s adversities and to create real transparent representation as a Black woman with BPD.

“In Black culture, it’s frowned upon to have anything wrong with you, especially mentally, and you can’t really talk about it, and you should rely on the Lord to help you through your problems,” TeZA shared. “I’m not saying it’s not okay to find security in those things but I do think it’s just as important to acknowledge the very real mental health concerns and coping mechanisms that help someone get through the evolution of their life in this human experience.”

TeZA continues to take the horrors of life and transform them into something captivating and relatable. The song “Panic Attack” on the 2019 Apart to Chaos EP starts with deep labored breathing and gives her fans a unique lens into her challenges with extreme panic attacks. During the pandemic TeZA’s panic attacks got so bad that she had to wear a heart monitor because she thought she was having heart attacks.

“It’s almost like this other person inside of you takes over your body and you’re just like sitting there in the passenger seat strapped to the seat as someone’s going 100 miles per hour in the car and I wanted to give people a very real sense of what that feels like,” TeZA said.

Through breath work, cultivating a trusted support group around her and hearing others in their experience of how panic attacks have affected their life, the intensity of her panic attacks have subsided.

“Now when performing the song it’s almost like we get to share in this very real experience together but we celebrate the fact that it’s not controlling our lives anymore, but we’ve taken control of it,” TeZA said.

Her latest single breathes new life into Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”. She performed the cover of the 90s rock single at TMF and it had the nostalgic alt kids of her generation collectively head banging and screaming the lyrics with the new generation that has rediscovered 90s rock music. For those that were new to TeZA and the song, TeZA’s performance and the crowd’s energy were a euphoric experience. TeZA has made the cover of “Break Stuff” her own and it takes on a whole new meaning and purpose with her behind it.

“So many people are upset but more importantly, people are coming together and realizing that who they are and what they stand for, deserves a place,” TeZA said. “We want to break everything that society and the system has told us we are confined by and are limited by. As a Black queer woman doing this song, it means something different now, it looks different. Here’s a reminder to go fuck shit up.”

TeZA wants her fans to feel fired up through her music about issues that impact the most marginalized and realize that there’s strength in numbers in order to create equitable change.

No word yet on when we will be getting the full TeZATalks Black Girl American Horror Story album but with her latest single and video releases our hopes are high.

Until then follow her on Twitter, and Instagram, stream her music, and go buy some of her sick-ass merch.

Luna Reyna

Luna Reyna (she/ella) is the founder of RIZE Entertainment. She is deeply invested in shifting power structures and centering and amplifying the work and voices of systematically excluded within the arts. She believes that art is vital for revolutionary practice and movements and hopes that RIZE can be an instrument for amplifying art that expresses the conditions of an unjust society and facilitates healing.