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How Singer Lorine Chia Used Hair Braiding Skills To Maximize Her Music Reach

The alternative R&B artist, who recently released her 'Drill & Blues' project, has also become a much sought-after hair braider for stars including Erykah Badu.

Lorine Chia has spent the past decade serving as a legitimate artist within the national indie alternative R&B scene. The Cameroon native raised in both Cleveland and Baltimore has an aesthetic and creative style that’s truly distinct. From her large natural hair to lower throaty vocals, it makes sense as to why she’s grown a fanbase with favorites like “Mood Home Alone” and “Fly High.”

As a songwriter, Chia has collaborated with notables including Janelle Monae and Jeezy. Meanwhile, she’s become known around her current home of Los Angeles as a premiere hair braider through Braids by Lorine. Chia’s hair stylings even became popular enough to count Kelly Rowland and Erykah Badu as clients. She’s simply an all-around creative that’s uniquely self-contained.

Speaking with BET.com, Chia reflects on her career to this point, recently released album Drill & Blues, and getting into professional hair braiding.

BET.com: You’re ten years deep into your career as a singer and songwriter. What’s it like watching the music industry change from that time when you dropped projects like Naked Truth and Lorine back then to like now?

Lorine Chia: Sometimes it's a bit depressing because the music industry is so oversaturated. So now it's like, okay, me as an independent artist. I already have to work full time to make the money for all my dreams to come true.  I don't really have much time to be posting and stuff online, but now it's the influence of artists who are posting online and making it. And then it's like, well, dang, now I gotta start posting online. So it is tough, but it's also very like, okay, I could deal with this because we have more access as artists. We have more access now to like sync companies for placements. We have more access to promoting our own music and putting out our own music on all music streaming platforms and making sure that it's on everything. So I think it's like give and take. I don't know. It's half and half. Sometimes it's overwhelming. Then well, I woke up this morning and I feel like releasing this song. So I'm gonna do that right now.

Lorine Chia

BET.com: Recently I wrote about the plethora of indie R&B artists like yourself following Diddy’s “R&B is Dead conversation.” Do you feel as if you have a responsibility to do your part in holding the genre up?

Lorine Chia: To be honest with you, my music is so eclectic that I kind of just have to be in a space where if I put it out and people enjoy it, they enjoy it. So for me, no. I've been in the music scene and listening to some of these R&B artists. Like sometimes they don't like people who can run or do runs and stuff. Sometimes they don't really respect artists that sound like me. Cause it's like, they feel like they are like better singers and this and that. There's so much of us and there are so many variations of us. We're all R&B.

BET.com: You have a very unique voice that makes you stand out. Was there a feeling when you initially started that you wouldn't fit in?

Lorine Chia: Yes in middle school. I was in the magnet choir and they did not like my voice. They used to make fun of me because I could sing the lowest out of all the girls. So it really started this like, okay, maybe I can't sing, but I do like writing songs. That’s how I started off as a songwriter when I was 15. I started playing guitar and start writing songs. Then when I was 19, I put together an album, but I really never thought I could sing. I really just thought I was writing songs and singing notes. I was thinking, sound cool. After I released my first album, people were like, girl, you're a voice. They just kept talking about my voice. I was like, oh, okay. Maybe this is a thing. Growing these last 10 years, I realize I'm dope as f*ck like this. It's a unicorn in here.

BET.com: You recently released your latest project Drill & Blues. In an age where R&B and Hip Hop are blurring lines and playlist algorithms are taking over, has that changed your approach to music making?

Lorine Chia: It's been great because I really love trap music. I love drill music. UK drill, New York Drill like Pop Smoke, Chicago Drill artists like Chief Keef. I love all of it it. I love the way they use their voices on tracks. I've always been infatuated with how people use their voices as instruments and then be swaging on it. So I think, OK, I can mesh this with other sounds cause I listen to Coldplay and like Corinne Bailey Rae. Let me put all of my favorite sounds together and see what it sounds like. I would do that at home. Just like, let's try some drills and trap drums. Ooh. Let's try these real bluesy keys on there. Let me try to sing to that and see how that sound. It all just worked out.

Lorine Chia

BET.com: You also have Braids by Lorine which feels very on-brand and has some serious celebrity clientele. Where’s the intersection between that and your music and how did you make that work for you?

Lorine Chia: I started braiding because my mom messed up my hair one day and I was like I’m never going to have this happen again. Then I started braiding for money because I’m in the United States and because I’m here under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. That means I have to get an employment author authorization card and will be able to work in the United States for two years at a time. Before that, I didn’t have any status. I couldn’t get a job. So I had to make some money. I started braiding hair and it was something I became in love with because I love everything about Black hair. I love educating people about their hair and it’s like therapy sessions.

It actually brought me to LA because I think every city I move to, I would try to do music. Everybody wants their hair done so it was also a great way for me to do my art and meet artists. I would connect with them while braiding and they’d say that my music was dope and invite me to the studio. In LA, everybody here wants to look good all the time. Through working out here, I was able to gain my clientele through a lot of word of mouth. People would come for the experience and eventually tell people I was dope, I was professional and timely. That’s how I garnered all of the celebrity clients and clients I have now. It helps me pay for my dreams.

Stream Drill & Blues on Apple Music or Spotify. Follow Lorine on IG.

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