- Portrait: Mariah (Riah)
- Art: Singer, Songwriter, Dancer, Choreographer
- Known for: All kinds of things
- Age: 24
- Location: Davis, CA
- Instagram: @riahmusic
- Website: www.riahmusic.com
Tell us about you, your defining moments (i.e. anything that is significant in giving you identity, meaning, human shape)…
I started performing with my father (a blues musician) at open mic nights at the age of five, and I first entered a recording studio when I was 13. At 24, I’ve accumulated over 10,000 hours honing my craft. I have been in and out of the formal music industry since 17, all while acquiring a second-degree black belt, several personal training certifications, and a college degree. Maintaining my unique identity has been a struggle in the industry, as it is for any young (more specifically: young female) artist. I use performance art, songwriting, and physical training to find my own power, and my ultimate goal is to lead by example to help other young artists do the same.
When did you know you had artistic talent/s? Do you specialize in one area or have multiple artistic leanings?
My talents as a singer/songwriter have been apparent since I learned to speak. My father used to refer to me as his “traveling canary,” because I was constantly singing as a child. I started writing songs when I was nine years old, and I have received top-notch coaching in songwriting and singing fairly consistently over the past decade. I started martial arts training when I was five years old, and I started dancing when I was 11. I have always been creative to the point of obsession, and that is what has driven me to be as successful as I am.
My main medium is singing/songwriting/choreography. I got my degree in Dance Composition from UC Davis where I was able to build my performance composition skills portfolio. I have found that my performance art skills have aided me greatly in the fitness field; I have learned to communicate myself efficiently and clearly, and I have also learned to convey confidence, even on days when I may not feel confident.
Are you in a position to pursue your art on a full-time basis? Would you want to (if you are not already)?
I currently pursue my art on a part-time basis. I learned early on that desperation or lack of a backup plan can be a huge weakness for emerging artists. When I got my first development deal, there were five young women that were being developed for a girl group with me. We saw the worst sides of the industry: “casting couch” antics, body shaming, physical intimidation, manipulation, and everything in between. Most (sane) individuals would have left the business altogether after an experience like that, but I used it for inspiration and strength.
There is a common misconception amongst industry professionals that, when you aren’t willing to sacrifice absolutely everything, you don’t deserve success. That belief perpetuates a culture that can be manipulative and abusive to emerging artists, and I aim to change the status quo. I have learned that, by maintaining balance and discipline, I retain creative and personal integrity and autonomy. However, should the right full-time opportunity arise in the music industry, I would take it in a heartbeat.
If you had the chance to do it all again, what – if anything – would you do differently? What else would you like to share about your story? What else would you share with other artists, specifically?
If I had to do it all over again, I would go back in time and tell my young self that there is a fine line between humility and submissiveness. Keeping an open mind and being willing to learn are absolutely essential in the growth process, and it’s also very important to form your own opinions and your own identity. In the world of business, there is absolutely no one that will advocate for you the way that you will advocate for yourself. I would go back in time and tell my young self that I have every right to ask questions, and to listen to my instincts.
I am always open to collaboration! Check out some of my work below.
Editor’s Note: Riah is incredibly talented, in addition to being intelligent, mature, and infinitely creative. To the reader, she’s an emerging artist; to me, she also happens to be my niece. I think very highly of her, her accomplishments, and all that I know she’s poised to do. The world is waiting.