I was about 17 when I first heard of the singer Lady Donli. I still remember how it happened. She was being interviewed on the talk show Moments Z about her life, career, and what it meant to be an “upcoming artist”. Her answers struck me as one marked by a deep intelligence. It was her aura however that drew me.
From her locs, to her skin, and right down to the calmness that pervaded her eyes, it was clear from the get-go that she was a woman committed to living her best life without external pressure. I also remember going right after the show to listen to one of her earliest songs with Tomi Thomas.
Titled Ice Cream, its cool sound and down-to-earth lyrics drew me in the same manner that taking ice cream in Coldstone on a hot Lagos afternoon would have done. Her voice was soothing and calming.
For some reason I cannot point out, I was no longer invested in what was named “alte” music. I think it may have been the criticisms about the artists but I do know that my interest in Lady Donli remained; only not as a burning flame.
That changed though during the lockdown in 2020. That year remains significant because I had a menstrual period that lasted for four months. I was using social media in a very unhealthy way and I couldn’t find the strength to complete my final year thesis.
I was also stuck at home with my parents and had just gotten a new iPhone. On my Apple Music, I remember as well that her debut album Enjoy Your Life came up as a suggestion.
It was the words in her album that guided me to not only write and complete my thesis, but to also seek help from online feminist doctors about my prolonged period. In one song the lyrics read: “Go back to school sis/ Use your brain…”. Each time the feeling of resignation overcame me, I reminded myself that I had a degree to obtain and I left my phone to research my thesis.
That year too also saw me add weight incredibly and again, it was a song from her that helped me deal with the feelings of low self-esteem that pervaded me. In the song titled FLAVA, she said: “My skin is beautiful. Thanks be to my Creator. She gives me so much flava…”. Each time I felt that my body will never be mine to have seeing as I dealt with health complications, I reminded myself of those lyrics and stuck to my resolve of not seeing my body as a mistake.
But by far what I learned from Lady Donli, is that shame was not to be my name. Through her songs, I found a way to not only graduate from school, but to use social media to put myself out there and seek job opportunities.
Her music also played a fundamental role when I was healing from the bullying that came with calling out the man who had assaulted me in 2019.
I knew from songs like Around and Corner Corner that I was never to place my happiness in the hands of another or hide my head in public spaces.
Towards the end of 2020, I decided to get locs as well. They were to signify a new beginning away from traumatic experiences. I have to admit that Lady Donli was a huge part of even my decision to restart a hair journey.
One thing I’ll always be grateful to Lady Donli for is that through her I was able to rise from the rubble of shame, particularly around my body and sexuality.
I no longer live in fear or fret over the fact that people know that I am also attracted to women.
Lady Donli has taught me without knowing it that once I strip away the fear of “what will people say”, what lies at the other end of the spectrum is glorious unbotheredness.
For that, I praise and honor Lady Donli.