Taylor Jasmine, also known as Cravetay, is a 20 year old singer/songwriter who after getting her start on Lifetime's "The Pop Game" received online hate and backlash for what she says was an orchestrated narrative created by producers. An epidemic that many people of color who got their start on reality tv have faced. We had the opportunity to speak with Taylor on the effects of social media and cyber bullying, along with her creative process as an artist living in quarantine. Her neo-soul meets pop and R&B inspired tracks explore the multi facets of her creativity with vocals almost reminiscent of Tinashe.
So nice to talk to you! I've been following you for years. How's quarantine been?
It's been cool for me actually. It's not really too much of a change from my normal life I'm naturally just a homebody and I'm out if I'm doing something concerning my music career or my art but this honestly just feels natural. It feels good.
Where are you from initially?
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
You were on a reality show called The Pop Game back in 2017. What was the audition process like?
Well they reached out to me and I was 16 at the time - I'm 20 now. It was just a multi step process with a video call at first where they had to interview me a few times and then I eventually got to LA and was able to audition in person. So it was a few auditions before I actually got on the show. It was a little nerve wracking but I had a supportive team around me so I would say I was well prepared.
That's so exciting to work with Timbaland at such a young age.
Yeah it was really cool.
How did you feel being portrayed as the "villain" on the show. Do you feel that your intentions and your words were kind of misconstrued or did you feel accurately portrayed?
Being 16 at the time and knowing my heart and knowing myself and then seeing the television back shocked me a little. I was bothered at first because I didn't feel like it portrayed who I was but I'm strong and it didn't break me or take a huge toll on me. I thank Lifetime for the opportunity but I felt like the editing was unrealistic. To anyone who thinks reality television is real... it's really not. Like sometimes producers tell you what to say and stuff like that and the suspenseful background music in combination was also an element. They definitely portrayed me the wrong way. But I do thank Lifetime.
Obviously it expanded your platform greatly and you gained a lot of success from that but you've totally grown and gotten stronger as we all can see. Do you keep in touch with any of the cast members?
We still follow each other on social media but as far as texting... nah. But I'm still cool with them.
That's such a trip to go through that at such a young age. Reality television is crazy enough. So who inspires you musically?
There's so much that inspires me musically. My team and the people that I work with. My producer, Mike Kalombo, definitely inspires me. Sometimes I'm just inspired by being outside. I'm not afraid to say that I inspire myself too. I'm really just inspired constantly.
Are there any specific artists? Like what was played around your house growing up?
Growing up I heard a lot of old school music. My mom would play Anita Baker, India Arie, growing up I listened to Rihanna a lot, Babyface, Boys II Men. I just heard so much so I think it made me well rounded as an artist. I would listen to emo rock too like Green Day and Panic! At The Disco.
Wow that's quite eclectic. I can definitely hear those influences in your music. Can we talk about India Arie for a second? She's incredible.
Yesss let's talk about her. I really like her.
What are your favorite India Arie songs?
I love "I Am Not My Hair" and I like "Purify Me" also "Brown Skin."
"There's Hope" is so amazing.
Oh yeah "There's Hope" and "India's Song" is also great.
I have her "Testimony" Vol 1, Life & Relationship" album on vinyl and it always just puts me in the best mood when I listen to it. She's such a queen.
She's such an icon. She's in her own world I feel like and she's just created her own heaven. I love her messages in her songs.
So how involved are you in production and writing for your songs?
I would say I'm very involved as far as the writing process. I have a lot of creative say working with Mike Kalombo and Kalombo Records. I have the freedom to say what I want in my songs and it's a very collaborative process. We create from scratch and it's just a vibe.
Have you learned how to produce and do you sometimes get hands on?
I learn a little bit about production here and there but I'm really not the one producing my songs. I do know how to record myself.
I was watching an interview you did where you talked about how you were bullied in school. How did you deal with that as a kid?
Being bullied when I was younger bothered me initially because I'm a friendly person and people have a pre conceived idea that I'm mean because I have a resting bitch face and I
look like I have an attitude but growing up and having to deal with people's negative perception of me made me introverted in a way and I feel very misunderstood as a person. I don't open up too easily.
Do you consider yourself a private person?
I'm a very private person. I like to let the music speak.
What's the process of creating your songs?
Creating a typical Taylor Jasmine song with the of course Mike Kalombo starts at the piano. He'll start playing something and I'll start humming or sometimes he starts off with a melody. We just go from there and it's like a back and forth. Sometimes I'll just go on the mic and freestyle. Then I'll add lyrics later but we try to get the vibe and the melody down first. It's a build.
It sounds super organic and collaborative. What pushed you to change your name from Taylor Jasmine to Cravetay to Taylor Jasmine?
I changed it like 3 times haha. They're both me. Some people still call me Cravetay but just going from the show where I was known as Cravetay is such a whole different vibe than where I am now. I really just wanted to detach myself from that "character" and that image. My instagram is still Cravetay of course but as an artist, I feel like Taylor Jasmine is more true to who I am. It's more me. On the show I said Taylor Jasmine was boring but it's really not boring. It represents who I am. Cravetay is an alter ego I guess.
What would you have to say to those who receive a lot of online backlash and cyber bullying?
I would tell them to ignore it which is easier said than done but you cannot live a life to please people. That's miserable. I learned in life you're not going to satisfy or please everyone no matter what you do. They'll cancel you today and love you tomorrow and then hate you the next day. I'd rather surround myself with people that love me and love what I do. I'm learning to not care what others think.
You can't feed into that. That's so toxic. What was the adjustment like from normal life to quarantine for you?
It's crazy to see everything that's happening in the world right now. Like I said before I'm naturally a homebody and I just like to stay home and write music so it's not too much of an adjustment from my normal life. I did used to go to the movies all the time so I miss that but I just like being home. I think I've adjusted and I try not to look at the negatives but people need to social distance and flatten the curve.
Were you performing before the pandemic hit?
Yes I was performing.
Have you been experimenting with digital shows?
No I haven't done any digital shows. I don't think they would be weird for me as long as it sounds good. It's almost like being on Instagram live or recording a video of myself dancing which I do anyways so if I were to do a digital show I think I'd enjoy it.
Do you think there was anything in your childhood specifically that inspired your career path and do you have any specific childhood memories that were indicative of your choice to go into music?
I was very shy as a child so it's kind of shocking to me that I'm in the space that I'm in currently where the world is hearing my music and I'm performing. I'm still a little shy but I was really shy growing up. I used to dance a lot with my sisters and we used to do these shows and record ourselves and perform for our families so I feel like performing is in my blood.
Did you ever have any second thoughts about your career? If you weren't in music what do you think you would be pursuing?
Even now I don't feel that I'm just a musician. I love fashion, writing, editing, etc so there's a lot of different creative things that I do. But if I wasn't in music I would probably go into fashion.
Who are your fashion influences?
I don't think there's rules or boundaries in fashion. I don't really pay attention to trends and I think I just like what I like. I think my mood determines my fashion choices and I think I definitely express my mood through my fashion. If I like it I wear it. Like I love those butterfly clips in your hair. So cute.
Thank you! It makes me feel like the butterflies are flying off my head. I've been getting so into Pinterest lately for fashion inspiration and I have so many boards and subsections of outfit ideas.
I do that! I have a Pinterest and that's where I get inspiration. I just scroll and find different outfits that I like. I do the same thing that's funny.
It's so fun like it's addictive.
I know. I'm on there all day just scrolling.
Is your family support of your music and your career path?
Everyone has a different opinion on you when you're in the limelight and doing what I do. Even your own family. Your family will have opinions on where you should be right now in life and I don't try to focus on that anymore. I'm at a point where I do what I want to do and I believe in myself no matter how many people supports me. I've just realized that everyone will have something to say or an opinion to voice on my career. It's something I try not to listen to and it's something that I mainly tune out.
Is your mom still your manager?
Oh no she was never my manager! That's how you know reality tv just isn't always real. It's quite the opposite. And I'm not trashing reality and I'm thankful for the opportunity but I don't think I'd ever do another competition reality show. She was never my manager though. She played a roll as my manager. If I could redo it you probably wouldn't recognize me. I've changed so much since doing that show.
When I was younger I also used to love "I Don't Need It" that was such a catchy song.
Awww that's dope. You're a real one for remembering that song. That was my first song ever.
Did you write that?
Actually Sasha Jones wrote it and Mike Kalombo produced it. And that was the first song I ever put out when I was like 14.
What made you make the decision to put that song out?
We really just went ahead and put it out and that was when I first started working with Mike Kalombo and I didn't really save it up for a while we just put it out it was the perfect song.
Did it just go immediately viral on Youtube?
From what I came from that was probably my biggest song that I dropped and people still play it. People always bring it up to this day like you just did. It's crazy cause I was 14 but music is timeless it doesn't have an age.
How important are visuals for you? Are you a super organic creator when it comes to visuals or do you put a lot of thought and time into your music videos?
I would say that it's a mixture of both. Most of the time the way I work is very spontaneous. What's planned will be the outfits, the aesthetic and the general idea of the video but it's not super mapped out. Or sometimes I have to learn choreography with other dancers.
And it varies from artist to artist. For some visuals are super orchestrated and thought out but for others they're super organic and relaxed.
Absolutely and certain songs need more complex visuals but others can just be filmed by myself in front of the wall. Sometimes an intense visual kills the vibe of the song.
Do you have any specific music videos that you feel particularly connected to and like you put a lot of work into them?
I think I put a lot of work into every video. Even if I'm just sitting in front of a wall by myself. All of it requires work but it doesn't feel like work because I love doing it and it feels so natural. I think I love all of my videos equally and I think I put an equal amount of work into all of them.
Your song "Sober" is one of my favorites. Was that inspired by a personal experience or did you take on a storyteller's role?
I feel very deeply connected to that song and it really came out of nowhere. I just created it like in the wee hours of the morning. I do have personal experiences that inspired that song and there's alcoholism around me. It made me cry when I made that song. I do have a deep connection with that song and I love that song a lot.
That's so incredible that you can look to music as your therapy and your outlet for such a personal experience. We've been very active in the Black Lives Matter movement and we made a subsection in our website with a bunch of different petitions and places to donate.
Yeah I think it's so important to be active right now. Whether it's signing petitions or donating to the Black Lives Matter movement. It's very important.
I've signed like 50 petitions or something. An epidemic in reality TV, and one of my greatest problems with it, is that they always need to portray the "black bitch" narrative. Even on Rupaul's Drag Race there's so much underlying racism and they totally racially profile people.
Yeah they did that to me on the show. Especially the scene with my hair. Like I'm a black woman and I have textured hair and they didn't show it on the show but she was just in my hair for like 30 minutes feeling it and looking at it. Like I have curly hair. But on the show it looked like I was being rude haha. And as an artist you're supposed to feel empowered to have say in your creative decisions including your hair. I would advise anyone to do what I did and to speak out if you don't like something about your look.
You kept the same vibe and everything but you just made it better.
Right! But yes there was a lot of racial profiling on the show but I don't speak on it too much. I don't try to get in my head about that and I just do me.
It's really surprising... actually it's not even surprising it's really disgusting that that still happens constantly on almost every reality television show. It's terrible and I hate that.
Yeah that's so true.
But we have to continue fighting and we have to continue to highlight people of color because that is something that doesn't happen enough.
So this pandemic has left a lot of artists in a financially unstable place and has left a lot of artists emotionally lost because they can't perform. How can we support artists right now?
A lot of performers and artists make their money from performing so it's important that we support the artists by buying their albums and listening to their music. Watching music videos and content. All of those are streams of income and it's so vital that we support them financially during this time.
And then finally, of course we're an organization for drag queens. Have you ever been to a drag show?
I've always wanted to go to a drag show but I've never been. I do love the makeup and the glamour of drag, so one day I will go.
When you come to LA I'll show you all the spots girl!
Yeahhh you have to. That would be so fun.
Do you have any social media or projects that you want to plug?
My next album "Emotionally Fly" is coming out soon on all platforms. Everyone can follow me on Instagram @cravetay my Facebook is "Taylor Jasmine" and so is my Youtube and my Twitter is @iamtaylorjasmin.