Leading Women Defined by Mom: Sheila E

The legendary musician shares the best advice given by her mother.

Posted: 05/02/2014 01:05 PM EDT

Sheila Escovedo, known by her stage name, Sheila E., was born and raised in a musical family. Even though she started playing with the family instruments at the age of 3, she didn’t grow up realizing she wanted to be a musician. She did, however, grow up thinking all girls played percussion. At the age of 17 her music career started to take off, being asked to record, tour and play with legends like Herbie Hancock, Lionel Richie, Prince, Babyface and the late George Duke. She quickly realized there weren’t many female percussionists and drummers out there.

Thankfully, her mom, Juanita Escovedo, has always played a very influential and supportive role in her life. Her mom would always say, “Go for it.” So she did. “What people need to realize is that we’re great musicians, we just happen to be women. I think being a woman is a gift,” she says.

Sheila also credits her mom with instilling in her a strong sense of self-confidence and the ability to honestly look at life and accomplish the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead. About her 76-year-old mom, Sheila says, “The best advice my mom gave me was to always be true, be honest and be yourself.”

Self-described as “a big pot of jumbo,” a proud reference to her Creole roots, the Grammy-nominated singer, drummer and percussionist is also passionate about working with and mentoring youth across the country. As co-founder of the Elevate Hope Foundation, founded in 2001, Sheila is dedicated to providing abused and abandoned children an alternative method of therapy through music and the arts, as well as funding special services and programs that assist the needs of these children using these fundamental methods. She understands the power of providing music and the arts as life-changing tools desperately needed to help children accomplish their goals, enrich their lives and strive for greatness.

About her ongoing commitment to the Elevate Hope Foundation, Sheila says, “We’re going to go around the country and elevate any city that will allow us to come there and, really, just mentor the kids, helping them with music and arts, helping them fulfill their dreams and really express themselves.” While many would view this commitment as a task too big to take on, Sheila credits her mom with instilling a can-do attitude and “don’t take no for an answer” approach as the fuel for success and for believing in the power of promoting self-confidence in youth through music, the arts and human compassion.

This Mother’s Day we join Sheila in celebrating and honoring her mother, Juanita.

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