Stories from Songwriters and Musicians

Presented by Indie Music Bus™

In Search of the American Dream

by Sonia Grace

When singer and rapper Sonia Grace arrived in Cedar Falls, IA, from Kenya, she expected a magical world, just like she’d seen on internationally broadcast shows such as Charmed and 7th Heaven. Instead of flying right into the American dream, she found herself trapped in an endless cycle of body insecurity, racial identity, and severe depression.

In Kenya, she sang in choir and formed singing groups with her friends but in America, her confidence plummeted so much it hindered her love of music at times. When she wasn’t crying because of how unsatisfied she was with her looks, she was trying to figure out if she should identify as black or Kenyan. In most African countries, people identified with their tribal communities but never by race. In America, she was hit with a rude awakening when she realized that race played a big role in people’s identity. Each race had specific traits that defined it and kept those who didn’t fit the criteria outside. For Grace, race in America was a double edged sword. Her black skin left her isolated in her predominantly white town. Her heavy Anglo-African accent and different cultural upbringing didn’t fit into the box designated for African-Americans. Redundant questions and comments about her ethnicity and identity ostracized her at school, at work and in the community.

Sonia Grace knew the only way to fit into her new town of Cedar Falls was to give up parts of her Kenyan identity and adapt to an American one. This led to her aspiring to an unattainable body image that was very far removed from what was considered beautiful in her African culture. Women with fuller bodies, but not fat, were the ideal beauty standard but in the small town of Cedar Falls, and American TV, thin was the holy grail. She spent hours looking at photos of thin, mostly white models, thinking if she exercised for long hours and didn’t eat, she would look like a cover girl. When she couldn’t achieve a runway-ready body, she consoled herself by hoping to emulate the musicians who were also famous for their curvy bodies. Although their perfect hourglass bodies with a tiny waist, voluptuous butts and pornstar breasts were a better alternative, they too, looked nothing like her.

It wasn’t until she started watching Behind The Music on vh1, that she saw a light at the end of a tumultuous tunnel. Stories of musicians who’d inspired her to do music from an early age, such as Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot, proved to Grace that she too could overcome all of her insecurities and identity crises, and become successful. She reclaimed her passion for music and made it a tool to make peace with her body and her identity.
Drawing from her two idols, she turned her experiences into storytelling lyrics. She used old school hip hop, pop and spoken word to write from an honest place. She chronicled her reconciliation with identity in “What The Hell Is Regular Black?” and acceptance of her body with “The Body Song (#LoveMyBody).”

Sharing her story through music has given Sonia Grace the power to control what things she let’s affect her. Instead of agonizing over what people say about her accent or if she’ll ever look like a model, she’s learned to love herself as she is. And for the Kenyan native now living in Los Angeles, that is better than any magical world on TV.

Artist Info:

Sonia Grace – Singer/Songwriter/Rapper/Producer


Note: Portions of this story appeared in "ShoutLA" and "88 More Ways Music Can Change Your Life"

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These stories where included along with music submissions here at Indie Music Bus. Many of them are really good so we decided to share them with everyone here! All stories copyright the respective authors.