Young and Ambitious
As a 18-year-old living in California, the biggest challenge that Zhavia (she goes by Zhavia Ward, by the way, contrary to what Google may tell you) should have faced is whether or not her calculus test was going to include rotating 3D objects around an axis. Instead, she’s focused on her first album; she finished high school online at age 16 before pursuing her musical career full-time. After appearing on The Four: Battle for Stardom in early 2018, Zhavia’s career accelerated as millions of fans demanded new music from her (in addition to “Welcome to the Party” alongside Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump). She incorporates a variety of different musical genres: pop, R&B, reggae, and hip-hop. “A lot of people say that they don’t know what they would call it, but it’s just kind of like my thing,” shares Zhavia, whose musical icons include Jessie J, Post Malone, and Pat Benatar. Her own lyrics in the tunes like “Candlelight”, “Deep Down,” and “100 Ways” reflect her intention to be her most authentic self: a huge part of the reason her fans follow her so avidly. “Nowadays, online, and social media, everyone writes what they feel. For me, it’s always been something that I’ve felt was important to me as a person, and who I am, to share with people what I’ve learned through my hard times in my life, and how I’ve overcome them,” she candidly says.
The songs she performed on The Four stayed well within her wheelhouse with artists like Drake, Rihanna, and French Montana. However, her recent songs reflect influences from older artists, as heard in the hook of “Deep Down.” In collaboration with her producer, she resurrected Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” From the instant that he showed it to her, Zhavia was captivated. “I loved how it had that old soul element to it, and I wanted to bring a more urban, hip-hop vibe to it,” Zhavia explains of the song. “Even though my voice is very soulful R&B, I still kept it really rhythmic to kind of balance each other.”
Moreover, just like most Generation Zers (millennials’ younger brothers and sisters), Zhavia’s creative interests go well beyond her production of music. She experiments with art – traditional forms of painting and music, and her passion for makeup. As a part of her identity and style, Zhavia frequently tries on different makeup looks. “I like to match my makeup to my outfit as it really completes the look. I love making my eyes the centerpiece of my face so eyeshadow is something that I focus on a lot,” says Zhavia, adding that makeup is an extension of herself, just as music and art are extensions of emotions. She also expresses herself through her stylistic choices, embracing a street style paired with dreadlocks. Despite her skyrocketed position to fame, she maintains a youthful sense of self that has the potential to capture millions of more fans.
It’s worth mentioning that due to her age, Zhavia was unable to vote in the most recent midterm elections but her efforts behind the camera have already affected millions of people in a comparable way – and will continue to do so. “There’s a lot of things that I want to do. The one thing I know I can do for sure is to put out great music that has important messages and important things that I want to share with the world. I can only hope it’ll help people and help them realize things that help them get to where they want to be,” she confidently shares.
Writer: Margaret Mallison
Photographer: Seung Lee (www.kokumastudio.com)
Photographer Assistants: Mason Kim & Hyejin Pak & Mark Tecson
Videographer: Wanhi Lee
Stylist: Jennifer Austin
Hair: Randy Stodghill
Makeup: Dillon Pena (for TheOnly.Agency - using NARS Cosmetics)
Videographer Assistant: Sandra Selva
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Will Gibbs, M.D. (@wgibbsmd - www.willgibbsmd.com)