I had the pleasure recently to sit down and acquaint myself with artist and activist Stevie Rae Stephens. A California native, Stevie set her eyes for Nashville to spread a powerful message that frankly needs her ferocious passion.
She admitted at first, she didn't consider herself a feminist, but that would soon change.
"So I was not always a feminist, okay? And I wasn't not a feminist. I just didn't know what feminism was. And I grew up in a Christian, conservative household. Good household, happy family."
During her college years, her roommates offered her an opportunity to perform in The Vagina Monologues, where at first she was apprehensive.
"I'm just like, no, no, no, no, I can't. I'm trying to be an audio engineer. I'm working so hard in this degree. She was like, 'I want to see you get angry.'
I've done so much theater, but I never played the serious angry part. I always played a child. I always played the comic relief. I was always playing the ditzy blonde bullshit."
And so, Stevie found herself rehearsing with her fellow vagina warriors for an event that would change her life.
"For the first three months of rehearsals, it was like pulling teeth getting you to go, I enjoyed it, like, I loved it, and some days when I had time I was really into it. Other days, I didn't have time to bond. But, I also told myself, I had just gotten out of a heartbreak and I was like, you know, just go find some friends. Go make some girlfriends, because girls are hard to be friends with, and maybe that's what you need in your life. I didn't really understand a lot of it. I didn't understand what was happening, but I fell in love with my cast.
They all loved me. They all accepted me for who I was. I didn't have to do anything or have to prove anything. I was just myself. We all helped each other and loved each other and empowered each other, and then we all sat in a big circle, and our director Margot asked us to talk about why we were on stage, why we were in the Vagina Monologues. I didn't go until very late in the circle, but we spent three hours in which every single girl talked about their rapes and their assaults.
I had never, heard anything like that in my life, and it changed me, and I looked at my life. I looked at how fortunate I was, you know, my mom was abused. And I knew that and I mean, these girls have stories that were unimaginable, they were happening in broad daylight in the middle of parking lots in California, you know, not in third world countries, not in the slums, not in Chicago, not in, you know, dark alleys in New York. They were happening in Santa Clara, you know, rich neighborhoods, and they were happening, it was just, it was a flood, it was a flood of emotion and tears, and three hours of that, and I just watched in pain, you know what I mean?"
Stevie would experience the same pain her stage sisters endured on one fateful night.
"I was assaulted on my 23rd birthday, which was three years after I had done the monologues. So I was armed with knowledge, I knew what was going on. And I froze. I was at a party - it was my birthday and somebody reached out of a dark room and grabbed me by my hair as I was walking by, nobody saw. They pulled me to the ground and I immediately sobered like, I immediately knew what was happening.
I was like 'Oh my god, you know exactly what's about to happen because you've studied this,' I was yelling to myself 'You know exactly what's going to happen Stevie Rae, get up. Do you want your body invaded? Your mind splintered and your soul shattered? I didn't.'
I realized that my voice didn't work and I was so fortunate that my best friend opened the door and that I wasn't raped, but I was violated. If it wasn't the assault that jacked my head up, it was the fact that I was armed with knowledge, and yet my body did nothing. So a year later on my birthday, I decided to give myself the gift of martial arts so that it would never happen again."
Her martial arts journey would equip her with inspiration for her music. During that time, she was recording her album Burn, which the title track would be about domestic violence. For six days a week for two years, Stevie trained her body to be a weapon, going up to the black belt, but would move to Nashville before obtaining it.
Regardless, you fuck with Stevie, she gon' fuck you up big time, either with her fists or her fiery anthems.