Azriel Clary is no stranger to the ebbs and flows and high and lows of life. At just 24-years-old, she is a survivor of one of the most horrid and controversial cases of sexual battery, she has had a large portion of her life – and most vulnerable moments – showcased on television screens, and she has even been the target of widespread backlash and ridicule, despite her role as merely an underaged victim.
Today, Clary is reclaiming her identity. She is no longer allowing her story to be dictated by the terrible events that have lined her past. She is stepping into her childhood dream of becoming a musical vocalist and professional artist. And she is even using her voice and artistic visuals as a way of showing other survivors of sexual trauma that they, too, can reclaim their power.
Read as Clary shares how she’s been able to move past her trauma in stride and positivity, what practices keep her feeling her best day in and day out, what listeners can expect from her debut album, the importance of good mental hygiene and more.
When the world last saw you, you were in a completely different space. Can you tell us why it was so important to you to not only reintroduce yourself through your love of music, but to also reclaim your identity?
I feel like it was very important because a lot of people only got to see one side of me that was very vulnerable – that was very scared. A side of me that was taken advantage of. And I think it’s super important right now for people to really get to see who I am, not only as an artist but on a personal level. I think it’s important for people to get to see my personality, how bubbly and full of life I am. And I think it’s super empowering – for me – for the world to really get to see who I am. It’s definitely a redefining moment.
Like you said, there’s so much more to you – you are a native of Virginia, you’ve always been fiercely passionate about music and have a strong background in music theory. Can you give our readers more insight into who Azriel Clary was in childhood and through your early adolescent years?
When I was in high school, I didn’t have the luxury of taking classes like culinary and ceramics like everyone else. I actually had six choir classes. So, while everyone else was doing cheerleading and stuff like that, I had choir and I had directors that believed in me. And I believed in myself, more importantly, to be able to take all of those choir classes which taught me so many different things.
It’s super fun to know that I dedicated a lot of my time to my craft and now I’m in the position where I can devote even more of my time to it. It’s always super inspiring when I think back on all of my directors in high school.
You reintroduced yourself to the world through the lens of music with your debut single “Sounds of an Angel” which is described as an “ode to the beauty of growing out of a broken place.” Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this song and why you chose it to be your debut single?
I thought that it was very important to lead with this single because I really was growing from a broken place. When I wrote “Sounds Of An Angel,” I was in a very happy place – mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. And it was me reflecting on my growth and how much I had persevered through.
A lot of people are not able to grow through things. It’s very common for people to get stuck and get lost in it, and I was so happy to see how much I had grown. I had just moved into my new apartment, I had gotten a team together [for my music], I had new friends, and I was just so happy because I realized that I had grown tremendously. I was proud of that and I wanted to highlight that with this song.
You start the song off with “Sounds of an angel/ But you ain’t heavenly/ Came with a halo/ But that ain’t mean a thing.” You’ve always spoken very candidly about your use of therapy in healing from trauma, and continuing to grow as a person. One specific facet that you highlighted about therapy is that it’s given you the ability to differentiate between people with good intentions from those with negative intentions. Can you share more with us about what you’ve learned, and how you actively apply this to your everyday life?
It’s really just a lot of discernment. When you go to therapy, you learn a lot of the things that can be avoided in relationships, such as love bombing and gas lighting. And you learn what is healthy and what is not healthy – whether that’s in a friendship, business relationship, or personal relationship. And I love that I have the ability to learn those things, because I didn’t know it when I was younger.
Now, as a grown woman, when I see a red flag it’s very easy for me to avoid it. It’s very easy for me to disconnect myself from a conversation, or recognize that moving forward I may need to disassociate myself from a particular person. And I think that is such a great tool as far as maintaining your mental health and your peace.
Outside of therapy, what are some other practices that you use on the daily to keep yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually at your best?
Empowering myself and speaking positive affirmations is something that I feel is super important for me – and for any other person that wants to focus on their mental health. I also like to rollerblade a lot. And I love to take time to be connected with nature. I’ll usually go to the park with my dog, and take a blanket and a bluetooth speaker and listen to jazz and just relax. I also like to focus my energy on my chakras and crystals – that’s super important to me right now. And more than any of that, is focusing on my creator and having a bond with my creator and giving all of the glory to him.
Your second single, “Inside Me,” will be released on May 27th. And it exemplifies you taking back control of your sexual freedom and sexual expression, while also upholding the importance of “healthy boundaries both physically and emotionally.” How does it feel to be re-claiming your freedom in this realm, while also boldly asserting your needs as a woman?
I think it’s amazing. I feel like a lot of women who have gone through sexual trauma deal with a lot of victim shaming, and they don’t feel confident enough to really enjoy their sexuality, or step into their sexuality. And I really hope that this song gives women the confidence to be happy within their sexuality and own what it is that they like. Everybody has sex – it’s just the world that we live in and we’re all adults. I think that it is super amazing that I have the opportunity to highlight that for women who may feel like they don’t have the voice to express how they feel, or have that confidence in their sexuality.
I really hope that this song helps a lot of women and makes them feel confident, empowered, sexy, and elegant. That’s pretty much what I really want to deliver with my music, even outside of this song and future projects. I’m very classy, I’m very discreet, I’m very private. So anything that I ever showcase sexually or intimately, I want it to be empowering for women. I don’t want it to be too overbearing or too raunchy. I’m elegant and timeless so I want it to be seen as that.
Like you said, it’s very hard for women that are victims of sexual trauma to reclaim that power. Was there a process that you had to go through personally that enabled you to step into this confidence so boldly and so proudly?
What was very important for me in moving forward was the fact that I have been celibate. I really didn’t give myself to anyone that I felt like was not deserving, or that I feel like is not deserving. And I feel like it’s very poor spiritual hygiene for someone to give themselves to any and everyone. And I think that is really what grounded me and helped me – the fact that I have the luxury of picking and choosing what I wanted to indulge in, and who I wanted to invite into my space. As opposed to being open to any and everything. And I feel like that’s also the beauty of my single “Inside Me.”
You’re also gearing up to release your debut project, what else can fans expect from your first full body of work?
They can definitely expect a lot of soul, R&B, alternative R&B. It’s definitely sensual and it has mystique. It’s very enticing. And it definitely has a lot of hidden messages in every single song. I think when people listen to the body of work all the way through, they’ll definitely get a better perspective of me. This EP is amazing. It’s beautiful. And I’m just really excited for everyone to get a peek into my brain, my thought process, and how I create.
I really love that you’re marking this time in your life with this project and by delving more into your musical career. Having this body of work to look back on 20 years from now, at this particular moment in your life and this mark of reclaiming your identity to the world, is really powerful.
Thank you. I appreciate that. I think it’s super important because when I look back on this body of work 20 years from now I want to be proud of it. I want it to be something that I can stand on, as opposed to something that other people wanted to see or hear from me. I think it’s very important that when people stand up for themselves and move forward in life, they do so gracefully and triumphantly. As opposed to how other people may want you to go about things. So this EP is an exemplification of that and I’m really excited for it.
Through your experiences you’ve probably been privy to a much darker side of the music industry that the public rarely gets to see. Do you have any reservations, or red flags of caution, that you’ll keep with you as you continue to make your way in your musical career?
My discernment is very important to me. However, the answer to that would be no. I’m a very honest person. I’m a very intuitive person, more importantly. And I cannot judge anyone on any past situations that I’ve gone through. I give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to meet people as open heartedly as I possibly can, and accept people as I can. However, once you give me a reason – that’s all different. But for the most part, no. I don’t think so. I just like to meet people and get a feel for their personality. I don’t like to base people off of things that I’ve gone through in the past. And I don’t really think that would be very smart of me to prejudge a situation. I can’t go through life with that anger and animosity.
In going through therapy, a big part of me being able to move forward was being able to forgive. And a lot of people don’t probably know that, but with where I am right now, I’m very happy. And I’m able to judge people however I choose to, as opposed to through the lens of past situations.
Right. You are moving forward in stride and positivity. What advice would you give to somebody that is struggling with that or being held back by bitterness or anger?
I would say for me it was really my creator because I woke up a lot of days, very depressed, very sad, very angered and I decided that I didn’t want to harbor those types of emotions in my heart. I didn’t wanna carry that baggage with me. I felt like I was entirely too young to be carrying that type of baggage with me. So I’m thankful that my creator was able to open my heart to forgiveness to allow me to move on with my life, which was a turning leap for me. And it was a full circle moment because there’s a lot of things I could be mad about. But I’m not. I choose to move on peacefully and gracefully and I choose to dedicate my time to my craft and my music, which also plays a very large part in my forward motion.
And the advice that I would give is, if you have a hobby or something that you absolutely love, use that as an outlet. Because for me – when I’m depressed, when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I feel lonely, when I just want to express myself – I can do that through my music. And I use music as an outlet to be able to express all of those sides of me. Although the public may not see or hear every single side of me, at least I have that outlet to create and get things off of my chest, as opposed to suppressing my emotions. So I would say to anybody, if you have an outlet, use it to your best advantage and use it to create and move forward because that’s what I’ve been doing.
Of course it is mental health awareness month, and you are such a pivotal figure in proving the power of the mind, and the power of the mind to take you beyond your immediate circumstances. What last thoughts or words of advice would you like to give our readers regarding the importance of taking care of their mental health?
Taking care of your mental health definitely provides you with the tools and insight that you need to avoid negative situations. Knowing what a healthy conversation sounds like and knowing what an unhealthy conversation sounds like is important. If you interact with someone and you notice that they’re just not on your frequency or don’t have the emotional capacity to meet you where you are, you’ll have the ability to recognize that and remove yourself from that situation. I feel like good mental health is super important because it’s a shortcut through all of that.
But even outside of that, the advice that I would give to anyone is to appreciate yourself and believe in yourself, more importantly. Appreciate the people that believe in you, that speak high affirmations into you, that believe in your craft and what it is that you feel that you can achieve in this lifetime. For me, those people are my team. That is my family. Those are the people that listen to my music. Those are the people that send me DM’s and messages all day long. Those are the people that speak highly of me, which helps me believe in myself every single day.
It’s very important that you speak highly into yourself because if you can’t speak highly into yourself, how do you expect anyone else to see the beauty in you? It took me a very long time to begin loving that beauty that I had to offer, and I think it’s so amazing now that I can showcase it to the world.
So, of course, we can expect your next single, “Inside Me” to be released on May 27, but do we have a date for the full project?
Yes. So, the EP is actually dropping in June. I believe it will be dropping the third week of June. The EP will have five tracks on it, and I promise when you listen to it from the beginning to the end, it will be a story.
Check out the official music video for Azriel latest single, “Inside Me,” below.