“I was in the studio recording one day and someone said ‘Yo this sounds so magical’ and I was just like yea… really does. Then they go ‘Yo! You’re like a unicorn!’ and then something just clicked in my head, yea I am a freakin’ unicorn. Unicorns are rare, unique, powerful, magical, majestic, beautiful.” The girl with the purple curls, Justine Skye, indeed possesses all said unicorn traits. From Tumblr darling to rising R&B star, her evolution into a mythical creature has only just begun.
“I grew up in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn. Because my mother was in the industry I got the best of both worlds. Friday I’d be off to Miami hanging with Spike Lee or Russell Simmons’ kids, then Monday I’d be right back in Brooklyn going to public school. It helped balance me out. I knew there were amazing things and fun times out there, but I also knew where I came from.” During the Q&A portion of a Broadcast Music Inc. conference she attended with her mother, entertainment lawyer Nova Perry, Justine asked the only question she really wanted answered: “Can I sing for you?” The answer was yes.
An artist of the next generation, her rise to fame was largely rooted in social media. “I started using Tumblr in 10th grade – one of my high school friends told me I should get on it, and that it was pretty cool so I gave it a shot. She had like 3,000 followers, and I was so in shock! Then I got more into it and figured out how it worked. I slowly started to develop my own little following. I met some friends through Tumblr as well, and we all helped each other out when it came to promoting our craft.” In 2010 the stylish singer posted a video of herself singing Drake’s “Headlines” to YouTube, and it grew to over two million views. She signed with Atlantic Records in 2013, the same year she released her EP Everyday Living. “Knowing how to work social media in a way that can help get yourself out there is a huge part of how all of us got here today.” Justine currently has nearly two million Tumblr page views. Justine tore onto the airwaves with her track “Collide,” followed by “Bandit,” released in spring 2015, and accompanied by a rebellious music video. “I like to always have my girls with me, my real friends. I don’t like to have people I’m not so familiar with portraying best friends on camera, I want my girls to be a part of this with me. The inspiration for the video was just showing how badass we can be, while also having fun, and having a good heart. You gotta play these dudes a little,” she laughs.
As a sparkling female breakout star in the music business, Justine has witnessed the less desirable aspects of the industry, such as sexism. “They’ll call a man a boss and when a woman tries to boss up they’re just called a bitch.” For inspiration she looks to other powerful women who have risen above it all. Among others, Justine lists Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, and Janet Jackson as muses. Yet what truly inspires her is her own personal freedom. “What inspires me to write is the freedom I have to express myself. Whatever is on my mind I can put into a song…”
Justine is currently working on new music with producer DJ Mustard and begins a tour in September. Along with hustling on social media and tapping into one’s natural mystical powers, Justine advises aspiring singers to surround themselves with positive and ambitious people. “The energy you keep around definitely influences the moves you make. And always believe in yourself and remain as confident as possible. People will try to call you as many names as they can find and break you down, but when you have a strong support system and love for yourself, nobody can stop you.”
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine #GirlPower Issue
Photography by Anna Cole
Stylist: Melissa Infante
Make-up by Joanna Simkin
Hair by Dana Boyer
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a print edition of the issue today!