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Let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to childhood viewings of the timeless classic Mary Poppins. The most magical nanny of them all, what contributed to Ms. Poppins being so particularly poppin’ was her infamous bottomless bag filled with everything you could imagine and then some. Mystical and exciting, you just never knew what she would pull out of her weekender next. Much like Julie Andrews’ movie prop, choreographer-turned-recording artist and Wilhelmina model Sharaya J is a metaphorical never-ending bag full of surprises.
The protégé of hip hop legend Missy Elliott, daughter of 90s Billboard chart-topping rapper MC Sugar Ray of Double X Posse, and child of the world-renowned House of Labeija, this multi-talented artist has been groomed for greatness since birth. The leader of her own movement, the BANJI creative is declaring her stardom not only with her various talents, but by celebrating individuality within herself and others. Slaying with love, talent, and unpredictability, you never know what you’ll find Sharaya J doing next.
Tell me a little about your BANJI movement.
BANJI is an acronym that stands for “Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality.” I use it as a model for myself and for other people who are just out in the world to try and encourage them to be fearless, love the skin that they’re in, and embrace their uniqueness and individuality. That’s pretty much the gist of the whole movement.
What have you learned about the music industry since making the transition from choreographer to recording artist?
I’ve realized that it’s a different ball game. You have to be more conscious and put more thought into the way you move and function in the business because your name is out there; you’re the front-runner. You have to really step your game up.
Your visuals and overall presentation are very detailed and vivid. Would you say you’re a perfectionist or a control freak?
[Laughs] I am definitely a perfectionist and I’m sure a bit of a control freak, too! I think I’m my worst critic. I always try to put out the best content that I can. I am that girl that double-checks and rechecks; details matter. When you are that passionate about your work, it shows in the final product.
How do you believe your House of Labeija roots groomed you for your career?
I really love the underground, ballroom scene because there are tons of creatives on every level. People there were just doing what they wanted to do and nobody cared. Actually, they were living for you the more outside the box you were. I do think it had an impact on who I am and how I am today because clearly, the BANJI movement is straight lingo from that scene. I think that whole era of me being in that scene definitely helped mold who I am fashion-wise, musically, and even as a dancer.
What kind of gems of knowledge has Missy blessed you with?
Missy, particularly as an mentor, really drops jewels not just about the music industry, but life. She’s a big advocate for being yourself; that’s how we connected. [She talks about] the importance of loyalty, keeping a good name, and making sure your reputation is solid because as long as you have a good name, you will always get a check. That’s a daily thing in our regular conversations; she’s just dropping jewels. Missy is a teacher and a musical genius. If you’re going to spend time around her, you’re going to learn something.
LADYGUNN sharaya_7-30-1515642

Coat / KTZ. Leather bikini / Carla Dawn Behrle NYCsharaya_7-30-1515811Latex suit and skirt, Vex / Boots, KTZ sharaya_7-30-1515730Jacket, Christian Benner sharaya_7-30-1515430Corset, Viktor Luna / Trousers, Lisa Perry / Cuff, PLUMA


Interview / Miz Kane

Photos / Jayme ThorntonCreative

Creative Direction / Jennifer Stevens

Styling / Izzy Ruiz for The Cannon Media Group

Hair / Barukhakhad

Makeup / Felicia Graham

Manicurist / Narina Chan using LVX

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