Fasika Ayallew is a 19 year old Sydney-sider who is taking the world by storm in music, academics and culture. A fan favourite on The Voice Australia 2017, Fasika sang her way into the hearts of the Australian public, earning a third place spot in this years series. If having the voice of an angel weren’t enough, Fasika is also studying Media Law, and is the host of online talk show Say It Loud.
We spent the day with this budding superstar and can proudly say we’re on “Team Fasika”, too! Blessed with a mix of Ethiopian and Filipino heritage, and an impressive mane of curls, Fasika was the natural choice to kick off our Satin Pillow Talk series.
R: Is Ayallew an Ethiopian surname?
R: What does it mean?
Fasika: The great.
T: You could go by Fasika The Great.
T: Have you worn your hair natural most of your life?
Fasika: My whole life, yep. But I didn’t really know what to do with it until I was 16, maybe. YouTube has helped a lot.
R: So you didn’t have any access to information in Sydney?
F: I think the natural movement started like 3, 4, 5 years ago. It started picking up a lot on YouTube, that’s when I started discovering. But I didn’t have access to products, so I would use like… agh I don’t even know what I used.
R: Why didn’t you ever relax or do the things that are normal in Australia?
Fasika: Well my dad never really let me but, like, I never really had the urge to. I think with my hair type it is relatively easy compared to, say, my cousin who’s like 4a, so I think for them it’s definitely a lot harder. Especially when you’re a teenager, and although it was hard at times and I wanted to straighten it, my dad was very encouraging. So even though it was frizzy and poofy and people used to make comments about it I think I knew that relaxing it wasn’t really the way to go.
R: Why do you think there was a lack of Australians like you on the internet? Why did you have to look overseas?
Fasika: I just think the African population in Australia is growing and is still relatively small compared to other western countries. That being said, I think there are a lot of talented black women that should, or deserve to be, in the spotlight or the media but Australia is not quite ready for that, I guess, or they are adamant to keep it a certain type of mainstream or something that’s a bit more palatable to the rest of Australia. I think growing up I understood that. It was difficult though when you’re young, so I always looked overseas to musicians, singers, actresses, primarily African-American, because they are in the spotlight. We’re growing, I guess, the African-Australian community.
R: Did you ever turn to a Filipino influence?
Fasika: No. My Filipino side, they’re loving, bless them, but in the Philippines, and in many parts of Asia, complexion is linked to your position in society. There isn’t really an acceptance for dark features in the the Filipino perception of beauty, so everyone is trying to whiten their skin. People would always say “straighten your hair you look like a bruja”, which is a witch, when my hair was really frizzy or wasn’t tamed or tied back, and that coupled with my Filipino family is not in Sydney so I never really thought to turn to them.
Although being Filipino is a huge part of who I am, I would definitely identify as black before anything else, just because of the way I perceive myself and the way other people perceive me. So I think it was natural for me to move towards my black side for comfort or solace, I guess.
Fasika:It’s crazy to me that a lot of women haven’t seen their natural hair texture until they’re like 20. They don’t know how their hair grows.
It takes a lot, when you’ve had relaxed hair all your life or worn weaves or wigs, to not only step outside with your natural hair but to also accept it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a weave, or wig, or changing your hair, but it’s about how you perceive yourself and I think if you know you’re comfortable with the way your hair grows out of your head, then change it up, wear a weave. I really want to get a lace front wig so I can have long straight just to see what it looks like.
R: Yeah, just to experiment, as long as it’s not coming from a place of self-hate.
Fasika: Exactly, and I think it’s very difficult to recognise self-hate because you’re in denial.
T: Talk to us about Say It Loud.
Fasika: We filmed it last year and it’s getting aired now. They wanted someone to host the show and I auditioned and got the part. It was a really fun experience. It was my first time ever doing anything like that, so I was very nervous, but it was good to be in that sort of environment with other like-minded people and discuss issues that run through your mind but can’t really talk about with other people.
I think we were all very honest in our opinions and it was a great panel. We all were connected by the same sort of topics we talked about so I think talking about personal issues wasn’t too difficult because we were confident in knowing that there were other people that experience what we do.
R: Why did you go on The Voice?
Fasika: To push myself. To grow out of the competitions and performing at different RSL clubs. Just a different kind of vibe, different kind of environment, different kind of people, so I can explore my music and things like that.
T: What advice would you give other young black women trying to make it in this crazy world?
Fasika: I like to think about if the roles were reversed and black people were the majority here or in the western world and how beauty standards would be, and if you look at it that way I think everyone would want darker skin or everyone would want afro-textured hair. So I think a lot of black girls think “I’m inherently ugly because of this this this” but actually it’s because of how society perceives beauty and I think once you understand that, once you truly accept that, being yourself is easy. And I think allowing your skin to get darker in the summer and not trying to be in the shade or allowing your hair to be the way it is and the way it grows out of your head, it’s just the natural thing to do and it’s not even a second thought for white people so why should it be for us?
I think, also, it’s a good idea to surround yourself with other like-minded people, whether that be other black girls or other curly-haired girls or just people that aren’t ignorant, it makes the journey a lot easier, in terms of accepting yourself.
In terms of hair, I’m always trying different products and I think there’s no one way to do your hair or style your hair. I think frizz isn’t a bad thing, I love frizz. ♥