Figure Skater turned singer/songwriter, philanthropist, and Miss Michigan Teen USA 2020, Aneesa Sheikh will be releasing an upcoming single titled, “Red Lipstick” (Release date August 2020) which shares a universal message of friendship which appeals to the pre-teen and teenage groups.
Born in Kentucky and the youngest of 5 siblings, Aneesa was a go-getter from the start. Having an athletic family, she dabbled in swimming and skating leading her to pursue competitive skating, at the age of nine. At one point she was skating eight hours a day and traveling back and forth from Kentucky to Michigan to train. While she has a talent for skating and was captain of the varsity figure skating team at her high school, her true passion was for music. Inspired by Miley Cyrus, Aneesa learned to play the guitar at age 8.
The sooner she became comfortable with a guitar (acoustic and electric), she began to write her own music. One of her first singles “Bad Thing” was intended to open the eyes of teenagers to toxic relationships. The music video accumulated over 138k views on YouTube. Her most recent single “Tough Times” held an emotional note for her as it was written for her ailing father who has previously suffered from two strokes. She felt the underlying message explores resilience, determination, and hope in response to anyone’s personal trauma, timing this as a reminder for those needing courage and strength during these precedent times.
The young beauty may be at the beginning of her adult life, but it hasn’t discouraged her from pursuing other passions such as philanthropic work. Her non-profit organization, Music4M.I.R.A.C.L.E. is an acronym for Music, Inspires, Reaches, Accepts, Captures, Loves, Equally. She founded the non-profit as she truly believed that music was a miracle to her father during his rehabilitation from his first stroke. Her goal through Music4M.I.R.A.C.L.E. is to spread music therapy and give hope to those who are experiencing a medical crisis. She has been given the opportunities to perform at many charities such as St. Jude’s, the Healing Notes Foundation, and many rehabilitation and nursing centers. During COVID-19 and the shutdowns, she has Skyped with many institutions and singing for patients who have been isolated from many outside visitors.
Her dream is to live a life where she can utilize every talent and skill that she was born with to help others. Through her music, she hopes to encourage others to live a courageous life without regrets. Currently residing in Michigan, Aneesa likes to spend her free time dancing, jump roping, and loves everything involving beauty and fashion.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Aneesa to discuss her journey in the music industry and here’s what went down:
How did you get started in the music industry? How were you actually ‘discovered’?
I was eight years old when I picked up a classical guitar. I LOVED IT! It has been my ‘go-to’ ever since. During my youth and into my teen years there has not been a single day that has gone by where I didn’t play guitar. At fourteen, I began writing songs and performing. I spent mornings before school and late into the evenings after homework and ice-skating practice, developing my skills, and perfecting my craft. Then, in August 2019, when I was 16, I attended the “International Model and Talent Association” convention (IMTA) in New York City where I was awarded a scholarship with Jetsetter Music Group to record an original song, along with nearly 50 model and talent callbacks from agents and managers around the world.
What do you like most about singing?
My favorite part about singing is the feeling. It’s different each time depending on my mood and what I am writing/singing about. It’s kind of like sewing with different colors and fabrics. When I sing different melodies it’s like weaving through different fabrics to make an entire piece of clothing, but in this case, a song. There is a certain pattern to it, but each piece comes out unique and different. Just thinking about all the possibilities of songs is endless.
Can you tell us about your upcoming single titled, “Red Lipstick?”
“Red Lipstick” is a very fun, upbeat summer song! It is about surpassing negativity and rising above — Constantly being positive through any negative feedback and intentions others have while enjoying every moment of life. Learning from mistakes and experiences, while being unapologetically yourself! I feel that teenagers will relate the most with this song because we are constantly learning from our experiences every day.
What sort of person is going to love this album?
I think many teenage girls will relate to the messages and inspiration behind the album because I’m a teenage girl and am living through similar experiences. However, I feel as though each song speaks to people uniquely, and relates and ignites experiences, memories, and feelings that are different for everyone. I believe that every individual will love this album for different reasons.
What inspires you to be creative?
My heart! I have always said my creativity comes from “my heart to my art” as cheesy as it may sound — it’s the truth. A lot of the time, if I am in a dilemma or irritated about something, music is my problem solver. That’s when I pick up my guitar and just start singing and writing down lyrics and melodies. By the end, all the stress from before disappears.
Is there anything special that you do to get into a creative mindset?
Sometimes, but other times I don’t. For example, the other day I was two minutes away from home and pulled off the side of the road, got my guitar out of the trunk, and wrote a song in the backseat of my car. For me, Inspiration can strike at any time. On the other hand, I do like to zone out and relax sometimes for a bit and dive deep into how I am feeling and my deeper subconscious. To do this, I put my phone down, dim the lights, and tune out all outside noise and distractions. I have had some great ideas when I do this.
What message, if any, do you try to put into your work?
I try and reiterate a message I’ve learned from personal experiences in each of my songs. In general, I want to share the message that we all have passions and skills that one can utilize and make something out of with practice, persistence, and being fearless!
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
I can’t narrow that down to one – three events come to mind. Singing at the “Healing Notes Foundation”, “International Model & Talent Association” convention singing finals, and performing my original song “High on Hope” at St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital annual charity show in Detroit.
Do you ever find yourself unable to express your creativity to the fullest? What kinds of things inhibit you?
I do! I have always played guitar and it became a crutch for a while, almost like a safety net. Coming up with lyrics to music tracks was very hard at first. I still find it more challenging to be creative without my guitar in my hand, but I am working on it to grow as a musician. I honestly believe that just trying something that is outside of your comfort zone over and over again is the best way to get accustomed to the differences and figure it out. Just like when I began singing in front of an audience, it was nerve-wracking at first, but after constantly doing it, it has become just like singing in the comfort of my bedroom or studio.
Who is your greatest influence?
In life, my greatest influence has to be my mentors and family. Shannon Grace Sokol prepared me for the Miss Michigan Teen USA pageant but also has made a positive impact on how to be ‘mindful’ while being in a very fast-paced industry.
My mom is the one who supported me taking guitar and singing lessons when I showed the desire at a young age. Music has brought us even closer because everything I do in my career, she is right there supporting me and guiding me with advice in all aspects. She is truly my best friend and cheerleader throughout this wild journey. We think a lot alike being creative and strategic.
Jewel would have to be my biggest music influence because of her heart. She has used her talent in music in a philanthropic way by supporting emerging musicians who were in similar shoes as she was starting out.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
I feel as though music is my destiny and that I choose it every day, but it also chose me in a way. God gave me a talent and I am so grateful. My personality needs music as an outlet. My brain is like a Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes and music allows me to slow down and be mindful. Songwriting is my diary where I get to express myself and relate to others. Music has been a blessing in my life – it is a therapy for me and for others. I feel that everyone has a path and destiny, but hard work and personality do play a big role in shaping that path.
If you hadn’t chosen your field, what would your alternate field have been?
Acting! In high school I realized I loved the forensics team (speech team). I even became a team captain my senior year. Plus, I was not shy to perform in front of others due to being a competitive figure skater.
Academically I am drawn to Economics. For me, it is interesting and easy to understand. I also like learning about social issues and inequalities in the world. Thus, I might have blended those in some sort of career path. I will be attending either New York University or the University of Michigan to study Economics and business with a minor in communications to learn how to market and manage my music endeavors.
How does being a pageant queen crossover to your singing career?
My experiences as Miss Michigan Teen USA 2020 intertwine with my music endeavors in many ways. Pageants have taught me to use my responsibilities as a public figure to spread positivity with my online presence. I’ve learned how to be authentic and stay true to myself through pageants, which help in the music industry because there are people always giving input on my image and what to wear, say, and act, which all play a role in who I am, and my image. At the end of the day, pageants have developed many attributes that allow me to be one step ahead in the music industry.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
I plan to continue using my voice through my music and outside of my music to connect with individuals across the world and share my experiences to promote others to follow their dreams fearlessly and not take “no” as an answer. In five years, I want to have a Grammy — not because of the shiny gold trophy itself; but, because the achievement will embody my growth throughout each step of the journey to get to that point. Outside of the industry, I plan to self-reflect daily and set personal goals to make new habits and break bad habits. I want to continue to strive to be the best version of myself so that I can share this self-growth path with others and inspire them as well to do the same.
The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie you’ve seen: Legally Blonde
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? A person pushing themselves out of their comfort zone to grow and follow their passions fearlessly. Also, if someone lives life with the motto “live, love, laugh!”
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I really want to go skydiving!
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” swim in lakes without worrying about not seeing the bottom or the fish nibbling on my toes.
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Not restricting my actions based on others’ opinions and fear of being judged. Some say being as “free-spirited” as I am is a flaw, even if it is, I wouldn’t change that trait in my personality.