Miami-based R&B artist Savannah Cristina is here to amplify body positivity, combatting the stigmas around mental health and self-care through her lyrics. Her Self Care EP, released in October of last year, is a model of the messages women should be sending each other. Presented as mini melodic therapy sessions, Cristina gives you the real about mental health as a Black woman, self-love, loving your body for what it is, and being more than enough for yourself even when you’re feeling lonely.
With inspirations including Beyoncé, Jazmine Sullivan, and Jhené Aiko, Savannah Cristina has been letting us into her emotional world since her 2016 debut. The Broward County songwriter has demonstrated growth as an all-around artist since her earlier independent projects, 2017’s Mango Season and 2018’s Florida Girl. Every vocal run leading up to Self Care has impressed, and Cristina’s range, when it comes to her writing, has kept fans hooked for half a decade.
“I see myself becoming an artist that has made monumental change in society as well as the industry,” Cristina explains. “I want to change the way people look at Black women in leadership positions. I think a lot of times, we’re misunderstood in the workplace and all aspects of where we’re at. I want to be the one who changes the perspective on that.”
What’s the R&B scene like in South Florida, and how did you break into the industry?
Where I’m from is a place called Broward County, it’s right outside of Miami, and it’s home to many rappers like Kodak Black, XXXTENTACION, Ski Mask the Slump God. The R&B scene where I’m from is pretty much nonexistent.
When I started doing shows, I was doing rap shows, and I was the only vocalist at these events. It was pretty intimidating, but my community welcomed me with open arms. I kept going back to these rap shows singing these love songs, and they still showed me love. It was a way to get me to be very bold with my lyrics.
What’s the importance of self-care as an artist during the pandemic, and how have you evolved since the release of your Self Care EP?
I’ve evolved in that I’ve trusted myself more, and I’ve been more self-sufficient when it comes to supporting myself and my mental health. I do regular check-ins as an artist. A lot of people who you work with or maybe even the people on your team might not be as concerned with your mental health as you would be. It’s your responsibility as an artist to balance your happiness, your family, and all of those other things that keep you balanced as a person. It’s important that you don’t lose yourself in the game and lose your peace of mind.
How have you been honing your craft as an artist within the past year, and what has quarantine done for your artistry?
It’s allowed me to spend more time writing. I haven’t stopped going to the studio. We sanitize, we keep it safe, and I’ve gotta go to work like everybody else. I’m in the studio writing more lyrical content that I feel resonates with my fanbase because we’ve all been on Twitter together. I’ve communicated with my fans via social media so much during this quarantine, and we’re pretty much like besties now. Whatever I’m going through, I feel like they’re in sync with my emotions. The songs I’ve been making have been more relatable because we’ve all been on the same playing field—in the house, on the couch, doing the same things, and experiencing the same feelings.
What are your personal ways of indulging in self-love?
As of lately, self-care has looked like me doing me and being around the people I love—my friends, members on my team who I’ve known for a long time, people I trust. The best way to love yourself is to surround yourself with people who honor you. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to how important your crew is, your gang, the people who you keep in your ear all the time—they’re the people who help dictate your self-worth at times.
Being in quarantine where all we have access to is our personal friends and family, we have to make sure those people are positive, and they’re good influences. That’s the only way you’ll [stay] sane. Self-love for me is no longer isolating. It’s calling my mom, calling my friends, calling my grandma—whoever I know can put a smile on my face whenever I’m feeling down.
Tell me about the inspiration behind “Body Work.”
“Body Work” was actually a song I wrote when I wasn’t feeling my cutest. I was in the studio with my sweats on, and I said, “Wow, it’s been a while since I put on a tight dress and felt sexy.” When I did “Body Work,” it was me trying to take back ownership of my divine femininity, my body, and my confidence. I wanted to make a song that would automatically not make you feel like you were in quarantine for a year and sad on the couch. It was the call-to-action of feeling sexy again.
Why is it so important to uplift all body types, shapes, and sizes of women during and well beyond Women’s History Month?
We live in a time now where social media runs everything. It’s important that we create a space for every body type for women and men. I remember first coming into the music scene and feeling like I wasn’t enough because I didn’t look a certain way, I didn’t have a certain amount of money or designer clothes, I didn’t have a certain shape. I had to deal with that. People took pictures of me onstage, and obviously, there was nothing I could do to change the way I looked, but there was a way to change my mindset so I could be happy about the way I looked. Body positivity is so important, and everybody deserves to be comfortable in their skin.
Have you ever experienced any hypersexuality as an artist, and how do you combat it?
As an artist, I do things when I want to. Obviously, there’s this pressure saying, “You should twerk, you should do this, you should do that,” but I’ll do that when I’m good and ready. Yes, I’ve experienced people trying to push me past what I’ve felt like giving, but I’ve never given in to that. That was the beauty of creating “Body Work.” I went into the meeting like, “I want to do this song where I can dance and show this different side of me that’s part of who I am as a Florida girl.” The beauty of the industry is, yes, you’re going to be tempted to do a lot of different things, and you’re so welcome to do that but only when you’re ready. It’s interesting learning boundaries and indulging in new things.
Why is it so important for Black women to continue to uplift each other as we climb in the industry?
When I was first starting, I was so discouraged because there was a lack of mentorship, and it was hard for me to know how to handle things like my first music video or my first shoot. I was in need of someone who’s been in my position to uplift me. When I get on my Instagram Live and [fans] ask me questions about what it’s like to be an artist, I give them honest answers because it’s important for us to look at people who look like us and have prevailed through the same situations we prevail through. As Black women especially, because we’re still pioneering in many spaces.
Not only in the music industry, but I have friends who are A&Rs and owning their own collectives. It’s important that we’re not afraid to share the knowledge with the ones that come after us and for the OGs before us to not be intimidated by giving us game.
By D'Shonda Brown for Audiomack