Wow! We are so close to rounding things up here for the 2022 Refashiond Magazine Features!
We have a few coming at you super quick in this last month of the year, Today I get to bring you Stells.
Stells is a local musician and artist, she composes songs, she plays multiple instruments, she comes from a beautifully long line of other musicians (many you have likely heard of) and her voice is absolutely beautiful. She also invests her time and uses her voice for betterment in both the domestic violence and human trafficking arenas.
The first time I heard Stells sing, at the Simply Hermosa Fashion Show, I was taken by her voice. She is a powerhouse in the music world, which is not without its frustrations for a woman, I'll let her expand on that more below.
I think you will love her as much as I do! Check it out below.
Interview with Stells di Rossi Hurst
Jessica: What does RED symbolize for you?
Stells: Funny coincidence is that my maiden name is Estella di Rossi, for those that don’t speak Italian that literally translates to the Red Star.
Rossi, our family surname, which is from Sicily, literally means red in Italian. So I associate and incorporate red into everything I do, wear and a lot of my art designs. It reminds me of family, tradition, powerful women and a legacy that goes back centuries.
Coming from a multicultural background as an Afro-Sicilian-American is interesting. Having ties to my Egyptian and Sicilian parents' culture has always been a sentiment of mine.
Women in African countries are often oppressed and silenced due to patriarchal tradition, yet Sicilian culture is matriarchal. American culture is more liberal- so when I wear red, it is for my mothers family in Egypt to liberate the women and to pay tribute to the power of my Sicilian lineage.
Rossi means the color red in Italy and Sicily and it stands for many things including power, passion, love, faith- so I represent both as a Rossi and as an empowered woman when I wear red. I'm the red Star.
Jessica: What does Success REfashiond Mean to you?
Stells: Breaking through societal constructs to reinvent or evolve is literally a passion of mine.
It is not so much about blame, or what is wrong or right for me it is about progress and evolution. Society has come very far for women and minorities however we still have work to do and a long way to go.
People have often down played the struggle of women and especially female minorities in the arts- a lot of people are set in their ways. Without game changers, movements, enlightenment, and as you say "refashioned success" we as a people would never advance on so many levels.
So to me it means the future, progress and above all hope and I am excited to be apart of it and meet many other amazing women and people breaking that glass ceiling.
Jessica: Tell us about you.
Stells: My family is awesome. I come from an international and multicultural tribe that’s got roots on a global level! I have relatives of every race, culture and pigment which is why I have always identified as a citizen of earth more so than a pigment, race or stereotype.
Having a rainbow tribe growing up really shaped a reality for me that is culturally different than what most people experience on average. Being exposed to other countries, languages, cultures and customs through family at an early age, really gave me a sense of how beautiful humanity can be.
Because of that influence I truly do try advocate for equality, inclusion and hold it as a cornerstone of my ethics. I raised my son in two different countries between touring and met my husband in Tucson. So the world is something I see differently than most people. It’s an opportunity to experience much more than the A typical comfort zone that most people consider “normal”. For me it’s a celebration of people, life and culture to experience.
I love painting, cooking and music. I spend a lot of time working with my various projects. If I'm not painting or designing something for Loco Wear, my fashion line; I am isolating to brainstorm up a creative musical sessions or ideas for my radio podcast.
I have a home studio office and we hold sessions at Roca Rossi Headquarters. Working from home has its blessings and curses but I get to be close to my son and husband and our family pets.
Its a balance but I also like and enjoy modeling, writing, and being half Sicilian and Egyptian its all about the food and family time. My family loves to cook. It’s how we come together to nourish, connect and be apart of one another’s day to day worlds. Traditionally it’s always important for the family to meet and connect at the table.
Jessica: Tell us about what you do.
Stells: I'm an artist of many talents.
First and foremost I am a musician, instrumentalist and composer. I have been a musician since I was 2 years old and come from a creative legacy of artists, writers, poets and famous people on both sides of the family. Growing up a legacy is different than aspiring as it’s part of the family ecosystem and you start young.
I'm a guitarist, bassist, violinist, cellist, violist, singer, songwriter and producer. Basically- musical expression is my favorite past time.
I write, score and arrange music as well as produce and distribute globally in several genres.
I'm known for my main rock band Method to the Madness internationally. I’m also the fiddler, guitarist and singer for Maiden Mother Crone a gypsy project. I’m also the mastermind behind the electronica project The Velvet Crush.
I founded and own Thor Media Productions an arts based charity that promotes artists to give back to the community.
I am a published model and actor, I also have a clothing line and home décor fashion based on my original paintings and artwork. People have also seen many of my cameos modeling, doing runway shows, interviews and advocating as a plus sized model.
I am a full time creative machine and I also advocate and do humanitarian efforts in the Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking arenas globally and nationally.
Jessica: Why is the work you do so important?
Stells: I feel like when I was younger, being in an arts family that I was pigeon holed. I am what they call a Legacy, and in the music and arts industry that means you have several famous relatives that paved the way rather than being discovered on your own. It can be a lot of pressure.
My family is in Motown, R&B and Rap genres but my heart was elsewhere and I wanted to break the "sun down music mentality" for people of color.
I noticed there was no one that looked like me to look up to in Rock, Metal or Country. I noticed that there were no plus sized female black rockers. And of the ones that society felt were rockers they were actually Pop, R&B, Blues, Funk or anything but Rock, Grunge, Punk. If they did exist they were all fairer complexions, thin and of the few that are they had little to no mention in mainstream media. It was astonishing that no one else noticed. Some still don’t realize how rare it is in these modern times.
It baffled me in grades school and onward to college- still even as an adult actually. So I quit the symphony and started M2M in California in the late 90's. By the time I got to touring Latin America in the 2000's it became apparent to me that the rock and music industry was male dominated but predominantly Caucasian. It was like the few people in color in rock stood out. And again few were female and few were plus sized.
I had heard stories about my grandfather touring and working in the 50's with Motown acts about how he'd dealt with what they called a “Sundown Music Industry."
This refers to segregated times when America was still very openly racist, music and people were also divided by racial stigma. But after the civil rights movement a vast majority of society still upholds stereotypes that cause gender or pigment based bias despite progress- we have a long way to go.
Women of color are being overlooked or silenced that have tried to break this glass ceiling by changing stereotypical creative bias. I had heard about how my own mother was silenced and my grandmother and other female artists of color trying to break into other genres beyond gospel and blues.
I grew up seeing firsthand how many women were made eye candy, objectified, not allowed to be more than a mere vocalist despite talent. And this struck a chord with me. Why is this still a thing in our modern era?
Most female front singers are thin, attractive and you don't see anyone breaking that stereotype as a mold. So for me being a woman of color, a rocker, plus sized and empowered; I made it my mission to not only break the glass ceiling but to destroy what I consider the triple glass ceiling.
I've spoken about it and people can't believe these atrocities are still happening because micro aggression and society have rebranded intolerance. For it not to be happening, it still seems mathematically impossible that the majority of creative minds happen to be male, and the majority of musicians in certain genres are all of the same pigment. Art should have no pigment, gender or stereotypes- It just doesn’t make sense.
Its not been questioned enough. How on a planet of creative souls, are all majority of rock musicians mostly male and it doesn’t quite represent the way real people look?
So my very presence is so out of the box, most people over look it and or unsettled by what I have to say because they are against it. Its like being a unicorn, with wings.
Jessica: What’s a common myth about your industry or business? and can you debunk it?
Stells: Black female rockers don't exist.
I debunk that every day. People see me on stage setting up and want me to be a jazz, blues, gospel or funk artists- anything is easier than accepting me as I am, a rock artist.
Segregation pigment based association with creativity is just silly. Art and music are suppose to represent cultural aspects as the voice of the artist. It’s what feelings sound and look like that we all experience on this planet not a pigment based stigma or social stereotypes because of social disease.
We as a society really need to begin to question why art is still segregated. And why people aren’t seeing that even film and tv are divided into categories rather than having inclusivity- it’s like having separate creative water fountains rather than separating to celebrate cultures. Why is it that everyone else is style it genre but secular mainstream is very racially bias. People haven’t noticed that.
Why are we putting people in pigment based categories? Its as bad as separate but equal social constructs deemed unconstitutional during the civil rights era. The arts have not addressed this.
Break through artists like Eminem, Joss Stone, Adele, Tina Turner and Christina Aguilera have all tried to cross that invisible line with music. Some succeeded but they all faced discriminate bias for being themselves in a culture where racism and chauvinism are coveted and excuses are made.
I still see terms like " Black Music". To me this is racist. Artists like Charlie Pride had to go as far as hiding what they looked liked before touring because of racism in the country music genre. But today we see collaborations like Little Nas X covering Jolene by Dolly Parton. This to me is progress.
Artists being creative not based on pigment but for the love of the arts itself. Being able work together without stereotype. But Lil Nas was slammed, until Dolly herself spoke up and gave her approval. We need more of this in communities. People willing to support break through artistry.
As humanity and society evolves and we begin to learn more about other walks of life; we have to ask ourselves why we are still segregating the arts. Why we tolerate rebranding segregation as cultural sections. We don't do that for mainstream artist that aren't people of color. They are separated by type of art not classed in a section based on cultures. Why?
During June of 2020 the orchestral community, the country music community and rock genres faced this argument as to why people of color aren't more openly given opportunity outside the stereotypical " black music" labels. That conversation is still on the table sadly, with no takers. Just denial.
Think about it how many black rockers do you know of other than Jimi Hendrix? How many aren't fairly complected? Now bigger question, how many are female? How many female fronted bands do you know that play hard rock, punk, alternative, country or grunge that aren't fair complected, thin and what society considers acceptable? How many are plus sized? How many break away from the typical association of Gospel, R&B, Blues and Jazz stereotypes?
Music and Art can still have a culture without a pigment. American Music is American, Latin Music is Latin, but only in America is an artists pigment associated with their genre sadly. Touring abroad taught me this sad truth about our society.
America has closeted racial practices that have been rebranded, minimized and just overlooked good ole boy style far too long. I want to not only shed light on this by starting a conversation but ask others to test it and challenge why.
Jessica: Do you think being a woman impacts any part of what you do differently than it might otherwise? If so, how?
Stells: Absolutely. In the early years of my career I would have to rely on men as negotiators and as I've progressed I've learned to stop doing business with people that don't support women.
I’ve had people refuse to speak to me because of my race or gender - I just no longer work with or support those kind of people, or those that tolerate it.
We have been overlooked for events, shows, and opportunities because fo the gatekeepers and good ole boys. That sadly is something that needs to change.
Despite public requests and questions we have an industry that would rather have the same people perform the same cover songs and a few of their friends that might have an original or two rather than support new ideas, artists or anyone different.
You get told " That's just how it is". Well let's change that. Firstly by speaking out about it publicly. If the public isn't aware of its choices we aren’t very well capable of having a democracy right? If more people knew they would also not support stagnation and outdated practices.
I've found the more I break the ice and support others, the more you meet people that ask why I've been silenced or kept secret.
My response is that people are set in their ways, without speaking up nothing will change. Stagnation is the death of mankind. It is not natural to not evolve, grow and build futures as a community when you keep people out because of comfort. The general public isn't suppose to be segregated or divided technically we as communities need to be more inclusive.
Who knows what future generations will do if we open the gate to new ideas from all walks of life. These attitudes are what is literally killing business, commerce, tourism, and our socio economy. If you can't provide selection then we are loosing in the end for being limited.
Not to mention its unwelcoming and a silly approach because the only color that matters in business is money - and even that holds no gender, race, creed, or division, You'd have to be silly to keep it to just one avenue as a business model.
Jessica: Do you feel like your industry is male dominant? If so, has there been improvement in this area in recent years? why?
Stells: Yes, According to Billboard Magazine 2012-2017 analysis by the New York Times, of the top 100 out of 600 songs only 22.4% were female artists. In six years there were only 1,239 artist in the study. The music industry is extremely male dominated and predominately Caucasian.
The numbers for minorities also reflected that female acts were an even lower percentage. Hence the rise in feminism in music these past 5 years. This lead to things like the She Rocks Awards which almost no one knows about. I myself wasn't aware of it until i was nominated in 2020.
Another study held by Statista referenced criteria between 2012-2019 stating women made up only 20.2% of the entire global music industry. Take that in, its 80% male. Sadly female producers as of 2020 are a mere 2%. That's right production, sound and such is 98% male dominated.
According to other sources 2/3 of the industry are male as of June 2021:
A&R Executives and Artist
67.8% Men 31.8% Women less 1% Gender Non Binary.
34.2% Caucasian Male, 33.8% underrepresented Males,
17.4% Caucasian Females, 14.6% underrepresented women.
In a planet of creative souls, it is obvious there is definite gender and race bias in this industry. Not an equal opportunity to be a woman or a female unrepresented minority. We are not only segregating art, we are also dealing with a lot of sexism - its a boys club and racist one.
Jessica: What was a struggle you remember facing when you began?
Stells: When I first began, I dealt with micro aggressions of racism and misogyny. I still do. Having men come up to me and tell me to loose weight to be taken serious as a performer.
I've had my share of #metoo scenarios, verbal abuse, racial slurs, mansplaining. List could go on and on. The worst on was having male musician spread rumors to black ball us, being spat on, having beer bottles thrown at me. Told to stop playing guitar and to just sing " black music".
I've been told I am not accepted by the black community because I perform to white audiences, and I can't help but thin is this what Josephine Baker faced in the 20's? Is this what my grand father experiences playing with the Cleftones in the 50's? This is still happening in 2022?
I, at first, would cry. I would be heartbroken and it would really shake me up. People would say it was isolated and that racism and such doesn't exist - it does. For a while I even accepted it and stopped performing. Then I realized they won.
So I got it together, rebooted my band, stopped playing covers only and started writing the truth. The band took criticism for being angry at first. We were told we were too loud, too angry. They made every excuse under the sun to try to discourage us when the public loved us. I noticed every complaint came from a certain type of individual set in their ways. I realized it was generational conformity.
More modernized concepts have been adapted but not really. People know you're not supposed to be openly racist or sexist so they try to make a joke, or say you misunderstood - they minimize. And I realized I need to not disappear, I saw that my idols and peers were standing up against sexism. So I started speaking up. I began to work more supporting other women and men that also shared an interest in ending stigma like this. I made it my mission and life work to advocate for minorities, women, LGBTQ, and others that are marginalized and silenced by the Good Ole Boys. I declared war.
Jessica: What was a moment where you felt like you had to be brave? Something that was scary for you, but you got through it anyway?
Stells: Tucson Sentinel got me to open up about my story. A lot of people haven't quite gotten hear that I am a human Trafficking Survivor.
So when the interview became public was terrified. But I did it in the hopes that people would realize I'm not angry, I'm just voicing a truth that people are oblivious to.
The fact that art saved my life literally, I came from being prior for 10 years, homeless, broken and built, a career, an empire, found love again, raised a great child as a single mother and really took life by the horns would help others.
I wanted to be a beacon of hope and light for others out there struggling. I truly believe by sharing our experiences, and opening the conversation of vulnerability to what we have endured we can be a light to inspire hope in others that need it.
Jessica: Do you have a favorite word? What is it and why?
It literally means the ability to find happiness in the happiness of others. Happiness is one of my favorite contagions. It comes in many forms and what I love most about it is that when people are happy and happy for others, it really builds a sense of community.
I recently was at an event downtown and saw an entire venue full of people singing, laughing, hugging and it made me smile. For days the sheer joy of so many people having made me want to laugh and smile. I was grateful to be a part of it, and see how others were also.
Jessica: Tell me something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Stells: I hear a lot that racism doesn't exist anymore from people that don’t experience it first hand. Some are so shocked, or deny it or even become combative when you mention it. It’s very disheartening.
Often people downplay the reality of things like racism and sexism because they haven't been exposed to it. Or they are so used to the “this is how it is” excuse they allow it to continue.
A lot of people aren't racist but segregated due to lack of exposure to others. This is a personal choice sadly. This choice is one that only we as a person can evaluate. Few people are comfortable doing that and are set in their ways. Hence stagnation and fear of change.
This is what I mean by segregated outdated concepts that people are unaware of. I have even caught people I know that truly aren't racist, not quite understanding that micro racisms exists because it's been rebranded. Same goes for chauvinism.
Some people even believe because they are victims of racism culturally that they can't be racist themselves which is not true. If you are being bias about a person for their skin color in any way - that's racism. If you can't be around other cultures outside your comfort zone you are not exactly being inclusive and segregationally. It works both ways.
Jessica: What or who most inspired you to do what you do?
Stells: My grandfather was a Motown gig musician studio artists for big names. I come from a long line of musicians, artists, and strong personalities. The thing that inspired me most was seeing my mother and grandmother silenced. I'm one of the first female musicians in my family to make it past the family stigma and break the stereotype musically. EVER.
So many were trapped in the segregated creative fence. It's something society hasn't recognized. Back in the 50's music was separated between white America and black America. It never really integrated outside the POP genre. Now today we still see modernized versions of that with things like Netflix, Hulu, music streaming in the attempt to educate but most people are not really open to going beyond general for an experience outside the comfort zone. So rather than be inclusive other cultures have a section. Sound familiar to the 50’s yet?
The civil rights movement allowed for society to integrate, we no longer have division publicly because it’s illegal but the arts is still pretty much sexist and racist.
I think it is time we as the public start considering that for music, film, modeling, acting, and stop using the excuse that the industry is mostly white and putting artists in categories based on pigment and culture.
That isn't celebrating talent or creative minds- its the same as having separate water fountains, bathrooms and sides of town. It is creative segregation rather than inclusion. How will we ever progress if this is still being overlooked at a national level?
Jessica: Tell us about your awards, accolades and notable mentions!
Stells: I recently was mentioned in Reggae by Night, a documentary book written about Neon Prophet the history of music in Tucson at the Chicago Bar.
I've headlined Lake Atitlan International Music Festival several times in Guatemala- once we headlined when Bad Company was there and the late Brian Howe was actually really nice!
I’m a 924 Gilman punk from Berkeley!.
I have graced the stage art the historic Doll Hut in Southern Cali.
I was casted in a genius award winning play by Carmen Moore and Ishmael Reed as part of the orginal cast of Gethsamne Park which was the world’s first Gospera.
I am Columbia Actors Repertory Alum and one of 10 female black rockers globally, and one of the only plus sized women of color grunge rock alternative female musicians to have a global foot print from the Arizona.
I've been nominated for a She Rocks Award. I've managed to have my music and following in over 300 countries, get international airplay- and yet I’m still invisible to my own community and state.
And in a few days I get to perform at Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas on the Rising by Stars Stage.
That says a lot.
Jessica: Where would you like people to go to find you or find out more about what you do?
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/method-to-the-madness/1270808821
Check Out Method to the Madness on ReverbNation! -
REfashiond Icon: Stells di Rossi
Photographer: Jessica Korff | Fleur de Lea Photography