Pop singer-songwriter takes action for mental health awareness in latest single.
Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Mencel, better known by her musical moniker ROZES, continues to take a stand in her latest single "Call Me," which thematically tackles the hardships of mental health and promotes mental health awareness.
This past year the Philadelphia native has been a part of numerous movements and initiatives, including Alicia Keys' She Is The Music camp and The Women's March, which featured her single "Halfway There" as this year's anthem.
PopDust was able to talk with the singer about taking a stand for inclusivity, female empowerment, and what she hopes her latest single "Call Me" will inspire for her fans.
Since last summer, you've been a part of many incredible projects and campaigns. What has been the highlight of your year so far?
Oh gosh that's so hard to pick!
I'll make it easier then! What are the top three highlights?
I would definitely say working at the She is The Music camp with Alicia Keys was a career highlight. Then I would for sure say the Women's March, which was an amazing event. My song "Halfway There" was written for a fight so its connected to the cause and people picked up on the message. I think for the last highlight, I've been seeing my songs lately on shows like World of Dance and American Idol and that's been really cool for me! These are all shows that are so obviously music heavy and for however many millions of songs that these people could've picked they chose mine and I think that was something very validating.
What was it like working with an all-female team during the Alicia Keys camp? How did you get pulled into the project?
I was asked by Universal Music Group because they were the ones that helped Alicia put the camp together. They were recruiting women who were in New York at the time and I was home and it was the perfect storm. Being able to work there with Alicia Keys—I mean she's always been one of my biggest idols, and since being in the industry I've had to numb myself to meeting people. You don't ever want to be starstruck, you gotta always be cool. So I think being invited to something that my idol was putting on in and of itself was a dream come true. Being able to chat with her and talk to her about music and to be able to sit down and share her struggles and how they relate to us as women was just so crazy. When I was working with the team that I worked with for my song "Call Me," Alex Hope and Sophie [Frances], it was so educating for me because I was realizing that as far as inequality in the industry, we have to be the ones to set the example. We have to be the ones putting women in the room. Every session that I'm in is mostly men and I'm the artist, so it should be my say to say "I need more women in this room." I think the process of that camp was very eye-opening as a female empowerment supporter, as a feminist, as a human, it was very eye-opening. I've always been in situations where it's hard being a woman in the industry and then I also saw how I was the problem by not having enough women in the room. I think the camp was amazing. Being able to sit down with other female writers and being able to connect on a level that you don't get too often with male writers was awesome. That's what opened up the vulnerability for the track "Call Me."
"Call Me" obviously grew out of a vulnerable place and has a clear message for listeners to pick up on about mental health, but what does the song mean to you?
As a person who has always struggled with mental health—I mean I've struggled with it my entire life and I still don't know how to exactly cope with in all the right ways—but what I think one of the things that have definitely helped me has been knowing that people are there for me and get what I'm going through. They are the people who make me understand that I'm not isolated and I'm not so alone. I wanted to portray someone saying, "You know you can call me," because it's such a huge sentiment. It means so much. Whether it's me saying it to someone else or someone saying it to me, to have that on the table is such a huge, healthy pathway for people struggling and having a tough time.
What line from "Call Me" speaks to you the most?
I think my favorite part of the song is the bridge. There's a line that goes, "you're wide awake and everybody else is sleeping," and I think that can mean so many things. It can be literal, meaning you are wide awake while the rest of the world is typically sleeping or it can mean that you are the only one who feels this emotion while everybody else has it turned off. For me, that's an important line because it shows how far the isolation can go.
Other than listening to songs like "Call Me" and using whatever platforms available to promote supporting mental health awareness, what else do you think fans can do to continue the discussion of mental health?
I'm not an expert but I think a big part of it is to be honest with yourself and how you're feeling and accepting your own emotions. I noticed a lot in myself and in others that we have a hard time admitting to ourselves when it's more than just a feeling and it is actually anxiety or depression. It's more than just sadness or a sad day. I think the biggest thing is to just admit it to yourself and allowing yourself to open up about it.
Speaking of starting important conversations and being more real, your song "Halfway There." Did you write the track with the intention that it would be used for the Women's March or was it picked up later? How did it end up being the anthem that it is now?
I was in Nashville working on my next album and I found out that my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's really young and for me, it created a lot of anger at whatever the universe had in store for that kind of fight. I was just so upset and couldn't understand my emotions. When I was going into the studio, I really wanted to write about this and I didn't know how I was going to do it and I didn't know it was going to be that day, but for some reason, I just knew we were going to do something. One of the co-writers on it is my brother, the one not married to my sister-in-law with cancer, and we were just in the same boat of dealing with this news and we just started writing and it became a song about a fight. It was inspiring the way it came about because my sister-in-law has a way of inspiring fight in others, so it was kinda ironic the way it got picked up by the Women's March. I was happy that this song that stemmed around the fight of a woman could be relatable and translate.
I know throughout your career you've had the opportunity to work and collaborate with many artists including The Chainsmokers and Galantis, for this next record and for the future in general, who would you love to work with?
I have a lot of songs lined up for the summer and I have a lot of collaborations ready to go. I'm still so open to collaborating with anybody. I don't think I have my eye set on anyone in particular. I'm just leaving all lanes open. I think it's an exciting time and I feel like I have an identity with my music right now. I feel like I'm accepting of whatever comes my way.
How would you describe the direction you're taking with your next album? How would you describe the identity that you've found in your music?
I think that right now I'm saying things that are important to me. I'm standing up for things that need to be stood up for. I think that right now with my music I'm really trying to send a message and I'm really trying to unite a lot of people and gain an understanding from other people. I think it's really important for my fans or really anyone that listens to my music to understand who I am and so I'm making sure that through my music it's very obvious. it's an exciting time because I used to write about a lot of love and, ya know, I was younger so I was going through a lot of breakups and whatever and ended up boxing myself in heartbreak. I think that now that I've opened my box, I'm becoming a more mature writer.
What are some of the things that you do want to be writing songs about now that you've developed into a more mature and self-aware songwriter?
I really believe in free love and that people can love who they want. I'm a huge ally for the LGBTQ+ community and I'm obviously a huge women's rights activist and believe in equality for all. I'm just overall a very inclusive person and believe that everybody deserves to be seen and heard equally regardless of who you love or what gender you identify as or what color your skin is, so I think with my music I just really want to be inclusive and kind of send that message. I also want to be very open with my mental health so that I can maybe help somebody else in their times of struggle and maybe they can use my music to share with others, to show how they're feeling. I guess I just want to be able to be a voice for people who are too afraid to speak.
Hypothetically, in this stage of your career if you could have the ultimate dream show with three other acts on the bill, who would you pick?
Oh man that's a good question, this is tough. Probably Lizzo, she would definitely be one. Ideally, I'd love to tour with all women but it'd be so awesome to tour with Twenty-One Pilots because they are electronic based but they bring in all these other genres that they kinda dip in to.
That would definitely be a cool show to see! Anyone else to fill out the last space on the bill?
It's so funny, but when I think of this question I think of the logistics of it. Like, if I tour with them would the fan base and the sounds match up? There's so much that goes into thinking about this question! I think my last space would go to Charlie XCX or Tove Lo.
Check out ROZES's latest single "Call Me" below!
Call Me www.youtube.com
Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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