It’s easy to get lost in the sea of highlight reels on social media. I’ll sometimes find myself scrolling and wondering if I’m living to the fullest. Then I get on a video call with blonde bombshell Chel, who excels in singing, modeling, and is an empowering force in the industry. Her demeanor is confident, strong, and sweet. I’m immediately thinking she’s got it all figured out. As we talked, I got to know who she is beneath the surface – a deeply considerate, non-judgmental, and sensitive human being. Though she’s walked the runways of New York Fashion Week and garnered tons of brand endorsements, she wasn’t always pouring out confidence.
In the beginning of her music career she was bullied by peers, while button mashers would leave negative comments on her videos. Fast forward to last year: Chel released “Nasty Woman,” a song where she subverted the infamous insult into a rallying call. The Los Angeles-based artist celebrated “nasty” women as sexy, fearless, and unbothered by hateful onlookers. Since the song went viral, she has become an advocate for mental health, racial justice, and body positivity while emphasizing self-love, proving to industry naysayers that she was more than a hunched-over girl in oversized tees.
As a songwriter, Chel typically leans toward atypical narratives – especially on topics she’s passionate about. “When it comes to mental health, we only show our best sides on social media, not the down days,” Chel points out. “I struggled with my own mental health. I find an importance in all these things, so I make it a part of what I do.” She admits that she’s had difficulty with relationships, tending to run away from them, so it was only natural for her to also steer away from writing love songs. “With writing breakup songs, I never wanted to be a ‘woe is me’ type,” she tells Audiofemme. But then, she found herself writing a song with friend and collaborator Stan Genius. His sentimental piano parts worked well in the context of a love song, so Chel went with it, though not without hesitation. “We were writing the melody and after I was singing the hook, I was ready to trash it,” Chel reveals. “He said, ‘No, you’re going to go for that!’”
Solo piano carries both voices through “By My Side.” With Chel’s powerful vocal harmonizing flawlessly with Stan Genius, the message comes alive: “You don’t need money to make me love you more/All of the reasons that people need to survive, I just need you by my side.” Chel says she’s never been a material person, or believed in money solidifying love. She tells Audiofemme, “The sentiment in the hook is one-hundred percent what I believe in. I was tapping into the media and what is projected on us – that we should be looking for financial security, somebody who can give us all these things. At the end of the day all that matters is the love you share.”
The single looks back not only at romantic relationships, but at experiences Chel has had with others close to her. Really putting her heart into “By My Side” was uncomfortable, but necessary. For Chel, it was not just a love song, but a way to share her bad days too. She understood the importance of her platform. “If you have people listening, you have a responsibility to be a voice. If I can influence one person and make them feel supported, I give them a voice,” Chel says.
While being an advocate for the voiceless around the world, her time is split between her brand partnerships and modeling, though her first and strongest love is creating songs; she recently stumbled over an old tape of herself singing in front of her second-grade class. “My parents joke that I came out signing. I always make time for it. If I don’t, I get depressed and need to re-adjust my life,” Chel says. “That’s part of why I struggle with relationships – I always choose music first.”
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