Inspiration from Beauty and Fashion comes from all sources in life. If you have not heard of the band Soraia, brace yourselves….you soon will. This Philly Fashionista is a rising star who recently was discovered by Jon Bon Jovi. I sat down with Soraia Mansour and we discussed music, her new album release, and beauty and fashion. After our conversation, it was apparent why she is destined to be a star. She is a strong woman who has overcome many obstacles in her life, learned from them, and made the choice to not just survive but thrive. Soraia is ready to inspire others to do the same.
Julie: Your name is so beautiful and unique. What is the origin and meaning of it?
Soraia: Thank you so much! From what I was told by my father, “Soraia” is an Arabic name, though I know it has origins in Persia and Farsi as well– from what I’ve read, It has many meanings dependent on where you see its origin, but the Arabic deviation means “a bright guiding star” and it’s named after a particular constellation. Funny thing is I used to be embarrassed by my name because it was so “different” and people often would pronounce and spell it strangely, but I am surprised how many Soraia’s actually exist. AND, I love my name!
Julie: Did you always know you wanted to be a singer/songwriter?
Soraia: I did not. Actually, I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I was once told that you have to write your own songs, and to be honest, that’s the thing that made me start doing it. But then, I also remember I started writing songs very early: the first song I ever wrote, I was about 11 years old and it was called “Push it”. I have no idea of the lyric, I just remember rhyming a lot! But I was a singer before I was a songwriter…since 2nd grade I knew what I wanted to be. But the joy I get from writing is a different thing for me. It makes me feel accomplished and engaged in life. To be honest, when I’m really in the flow with writing–whether it be a song or poem– it’s a very surreal experience for me.
Julie: What inspires your songwriting?
Soraia: My songwriting is definitely inspired by my life experiences – past and present. And also how I observe people I love. With my life, it’s a sort of looking back at the past or looking at my present circumstances and a striving to understand it. I’ve always been an analyzer – really, an over analyzer – of life circumstances and mistakes and successes and whether or not people really love and what I think love really is. I’m still child-like and open-minded in my attempts to understand things and I am always re-evaluating my experiences. I think this is a huge asset with songwriting, it helps me see things differently every time. Putting that into words and then putting it to music, well, there’s the glory!
Julie: How is this album and songs different from your past material?
Soraia: It’s more thoughtful. That’s the best way to put it. The writing of the lyric, the production of the songs, the amount of writers involved in each song, the musicians who added their take of the song to the recordings. Everything about this record was thoughtful. I really loved that. I angst over a word or lyric like you wouldn’t believe. The difference between a feeling one word gives you versus another. For example, the idea of “He swears I’m his only shining star” vs. “He says I’m his only shining star.” To me, WHOA! what a difference in meaning– and also feeling from that one word. A swear is a promise. So much deeper than “saying” something. So, yeah, everything was more thoughtful. Down to every background vocal and tone used on a guitar. All to serve the song.
Julie: How did Jon Bon Jovi hear your music that inspired him to request to write music with you?
Soraia: Our producer Obie O’Brien was playing some of our demos/listening back to how they sounded and Jon was in the room with him. That’s the most I know about it. What Jon heard that made him want to write with me, I suppose you would have to ask him. But, I do know that once we worked together from the first time, it inspired me to aspire lyrically and be more thoughtful about all I was doing song wise (which goes back to the last question). It also made me reach out to Billy Falcon to keep writing. I had a hunger to experience more and more of that collaborative process. I’d collaborated with Travis Smith and Obie O’Brien for years, so it was interesting to sit in a room and finish a song together. It’s always been a much more personal process for me until then. I still love writing on my own, always will, but it was such a great experience to have. So I’m glad he did!
Julie: What songs on the new album did Jon Bon Jovi co-write with you?
Soraia: Jon co-wrote “Good Ain’t Good Enough”, “Runaround”, “Want What I Want”, and “Like a Woman Would” with myself and Obie O’Brien. Jon co-wrote “Hell-Oh” with just myself. He also co-wrote a few more that aren’t on this record, including “Against the Wall”, “What You Say (Ain’t Always What You Mean)”, and “Just Drive”.
Julie: The song “Hell-oh” is sure to be a top hit, is there a story behind it?
Soraia: Yes. I could tell you particulars, but ultimately, it’s a story of true love. It’s about that moment of falling in love in a sheer instant, and breathing it in intensely. But, in this story, the fire of that feeling leaves her burned in the end… haunted by the experience. I think we’ve all had that. Hell-Oh is about the glory and tragedy of love.
Julie: How has your back story affected your life in terms of your desire to go after a music career and how you handle failure?
Soraia: Well, I grew up always feeling different than everyone else and carrying around many secrets everyday– it was a huge weight. I also had a huge alcohol and drug addiction I fully immersed in. I’m sober today, but I still have my demons– though not of the drug or alcohol variety, and most aren’t physically debilitating anymore. I feel you have to love and forgive yourself despite how you feel from one day to the next. What I’ve overcome has made me a strong, vibrant woman, and I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve had and just to be here. To be fervently going after what I’ve always wanted to do is such a hopeful thing; not just for me, but for anyone. I don’t want to just ‘get by’ or survive. I want things for my life, for the people I love, Intangible things. Feeling passionate about music has always been so real for me. To settle for something else would be soulfully dishonest, I couldn’t live like that. My failures are sometimes really hard on me. I have an inherent “not good enough” thing I am always wrestling with, so it’s hard, I’m not going to lie and say I have it all together. I don’t. But I move ahead in spite of the failures, and I try to learn from them as much as I can. Life’s a process. Living is a process. It’s not about getting it right. I do the best I can.
Julie: What is your signature makeup look?
Soraia: I like to show a warrior spirit the best I can, but yet keep a feminine, softer edge to what I wear both clothing-wise and makeup-wise. For the eyes, I go for an exotic, heavier take on the 60’s cat eye. Black liner wedged outward and to a point, like a woman ready for battle.
Julie: You always wear red lipstick, is this symbolic?
Soraia: I love red lips because it’s a fire color. I love the boldness of it, and I also love that it’s a classy color. All the old film actresses used to wear reds, and I feel such a sense of attachment to the past.
Julie: What inspires you to choose your wardrobe for performances?
Soraia: Same as my makeup, I like to keep balance between being a warrior and being a lady. I don’t want to come off too fiercely, but I DO want to be fierce. So I wear my leather jacket almost always, with the “Peace and Love” emblem on the back with a dagger through it, because that speaks a lot about who I am. I wear a lot of dresses. The types of dresses I wear — I’m going for Janis singing at Monterey, or Tina singing in the 60’s on all those tv shows, so I try to stay to that look: sort of mini dresses with flowy sleeves. Lately, I’ve also been attracted to very classy, flowy longer dresses. There’s just a freedom and classiness expressed by the wearing of them. I don’t know quite how to incorporate that on stage yet, however. And sometimes I’m just being that tomboy I’ve been my whole life, wearing some beat up pants with a flowy black tee. I feel like a woman is always playing dress up from the time of 5 on. You’re always evolving, and as long as that’s staying true to who you are in that moment, that’s the best way to wear style!
Julie: Is your everyday look completely different?
Soraia: Oh yeah. A lot of white or black tees and sweats or black jeans. Just a more classic look…and sometimes just rocker tees with some sweatpants is all I need. I always love wearing cool tee shirts. I keep it relaxed and casual during the day, depending on what the day brings.
Julie: Do you have a favorite place to shop?
Soraia: My current obsession is ASOS online. It’s a UK-based store, but there’s a US store online as well. Go there and you’ll see why. From accessories to clothing, they just have more unique stuff.
Julie: Do you have a favorite accessory you always wear during performances?
Soraia: I have a necklace with three silver charms my father had bought for me in Egypt back when I was about 11 years old. The left eye of Horus and a bell are what I carry with me always. It just makes me feel loved and a connection to who I am now, and who I was when I was a kid, too. It’s more like my personal good luck charm.
Julie: What fashion designer would you personally love for them to use your music for a runway show?
Soraia: Oh God…let’s see. I love Versace’s stuff. I love the Denim and Supply clothing line by Ralph Lauren. Most of the pieces really capture something vibrant, independent, and free. Very flowy and also grunge-y pieces in that collection. Anything that reminds me of that classic look of James Dean and also a 60’s festival kind of energy to jewelry and clothing –and an inherent toughness– all these make me happy.
Julie: What song or songs on your new album do you think a fashion designer might choose for a fashion show?
Soraia: I would think “Love Like Voodoo”, “Wild Imagination”, “Like a Woman Would”, and even “Hell-Oh” would be the best choices because they make bolder statements in terms of mood in music and lyric.
Julie:What is your favorite beauty product that you can’t live without?
Soraia: YON KA Phyto-Contour Eye Cream. I’m so particular about taking care of my eye area.
Julie: What is a beauty ritual that you implement every day?
Soraia: A clean face followed by moisturizer and eye cream and pore reducer are my biggies. My Mediterranean skin has large pores, so I always use pore reducer products, I especially like Clinique Pore Refining Solutions. That product works really well for me.
Julie: What is your favorite beauty tip?
Soraia: Stay healthy by exercising and eating right as often as you can. When I’m doing the right thing for my body, it shows on the outside. Self care is the biggest deal in beauty, I think.
Julie: What is something about you that would surprise your fans?
Soraia: I love being alone. I would think most people think a lead singer loves attention and the spotlight, but I love being by myself a lot and reading at the bookstore with a cup of coffee or tea. That’s thrilling to me! I like using my imagination and hanging out in sweats at home. Not a big fan of parties and stuff. I’m kind of a nerd, to be honest. And I like being one.
Julie: Where can our readers find out about upcoming show dates?
Soraia: Go to Soraia.com for all the latest show dates and news. That’s where the most current information on the band always is.
Julie: Where can your album be purchased?
Soraia: Right now, anyone can purchase the record from www.Soraia.com in our “Store” link. You can purchase both the digital download as well as a physical copy of the cd. Pretty soon, we’ll also be on ITunes, Amazon, and CD Baby, as well as other outlets.
For our Philly Fashionistas, Soraia has shared the song “Hell-Oh” from their new album “In the Valley of Love and Guns”
Please click on the link below